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Finance and Staff Sub-Committee L. Astor of Hever

L. Boston of Faversham (Chairman)

L. Colwyn

L. Gladwin of Clee

L. Harris of Greenwich

L. Harris of Haringey

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B. Jay of Paddington

L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank

L. Strathclyde

L. Weatherill

L. Williams of Elvel

with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Administration and Works Sub-Committe L. Boston of Faversham (Chairman)

L. Carter

L. Colwyn

B. David

L. Evans of Parkside

L. Harris of Greenwich

L. Henley

B. Hilton of Eggardon

L. Methuen

L. Monson

B. Rawlings

L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

B. Richardson of Calow

L. Weatherill

with the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

Library and Computers Sub-Committee L. Ahmed

L. Avebury

L. Butterworth

E. Erroll

L. Evans of Watford

L. Hoffmann

E. Listowel

L. McIntosh of Haringey

E. Northesk

B. Platt of Writtle

B. Rendell of Babergh

L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn (Chairman)

with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Refreshment Sub-Committee L. Burnham

L. Carter

L. Colwyn (Chairman)

B. Darcy de Knayth

B. David

V. Falkland

L. Geddes

L. Graham of Edmonton

L. Harris of Greenwich

L. Stone of Blackheath

V. Tenby

with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Advisory Panel on Works of Art L. Freyberg

L. Gavron

B. Hilton of Eggardon (Chairman)

L. Jacobs

L. Lloyd-Webber

L. Mancroft

L. Palmer

B. Rawlings

Ly. Saltoun of Abernethy

with the Clerk of the Parliaments.

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2. Privileges for Hereditary Peers Excluded from the House under the House of Lords Act

The Committee have considered the question of facilities for hereditary peers excluded from the House under the House of Lords Act, and recommend that the following privileges should be granted:

    (a) Access to one of the galleries in the chamber.

    (b) On an experimental basis, the right to sit on the Steps of the Throne. This right should be reviewed if it causes inconvenience to the House, and in any event should be reviewed before the end of the current Session.

    (c) Access to the Library, except when the House is sitting, in order to consult Parliamentary papers, deposited papers, reference material, journals and periodicals held by the Library. This right would not extend to borrowing books, consulting material which would have to be brought from an outside library, using the PDVN or commissioning research by library staff.

    (d) The right to host any pre-booked function up to the end of the current booking period (31st December 2000).

    (e) A right to book a table for four people not more than once a month in the Peers' Guest Dining Room, to be reviewed shortly after the Summer recess 2000.

    (f) Access to the Peers' Guest Room, in conjunction with a Guest Dining Room reservation only.

    (g) The issue of a distinctive photographic pass.

    (h) The right to use Peers' entrance.

    (i) The Committee also recommend that excluded hereditary peers who were appointed by this House to be members of international assemblies should be permitted to make full use of the Library until the appointment of a successor (a maximum period of six months).

Lord Williams of Elvel rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end to insert "except for paragraph 2(b)".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. I shall keep my remarks as brief as I possibly can, but I should like to focus, if I may, on the question of the right of former Members of this House to sit on the Steps of the Throne--as set out in paragraph 2(b) of the Offices Committee report. My noble friend--if I can describe him as such--the Chairman of Committees has said that this is a "practical" matter. I will argue, as briefly as I can, that it is, first, inappropriate; secondly, impractical; and, thirdly, rather patronising. I begin with inappropriate. After the difficulties of the last Session of Parliament, which we all recognise created a rather bad atmosphere, I believe that it is time to draw the line below that and say that we should move on. After all, there are many legislatures where members come and go. If Parliament has decided--as it has in both Houses--that former Members of this House should no longer be Members of this House, that is something which should be respected. Further, I do not believe that one should try to amend that, as it were, through the backdoor. I rather regard this particular proposal as an amendment through the backdoor.

I believe that this measure will be impracticable. Perhaps I may guide your Lordships to the Steps of the Throne. The seating room there is not exactly extensive. As I understand it, there are some 600 former Members, perhaps more, who, if this proposal

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is carried by your Lordships, would be entitled to sit on the Steps of the Throne. No one believes that 600 or more people will come in, but perhaps I may give your Lordships a scenario.

Let us suppose that a Bill comes before your Lordships which is designed to ban hunting with hounds. Would any noble Lord expect former Members of this House who have an interest in the subject not to come and sit on the Steps of the Throne? Indeed, even if 30--that is, 5 per cent--of those who would have this entitlement came, the seating room would really prove to be very difficult. Further, those who are already entitled to sit there, such as Irish Peers, a sprinkling of Bishops, Privy Counsellors from another place and Members of this House, would probably be crowded out. I find this whole business to be impractical. I give way.

Lord Strathclyde : My Lords, I am much obliged. It is very interesting to watch the rather amusing style of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, but, in his excitement to amend paragraph 2(b), did he not take note of paragraph 2(a)? I believe that that deals with his problem rather effectively.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I certainly read that in great detail, but I do not believe that it deals with the problem at all. All that paragraph 2(b) says in that respect is,

    "if it causes inconvenience to the House"--

and I will come to that in a moment, if the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition will allow me to do so.

I turn now to my third point, and I intend to be very brief. I regard this proposal as being rather patronising. After all, in my not very long experience in this House--almost 15 years--I have made many friends. Indeed, I am very sad to see that many of my colleagues and friends on the Opposition Benches and, indeed, many colleagues on my own Benches are not here now as participating Members of the House. Nevertheless, to say to them, "You are second-class citizens. You have a special pass that says you are second-class. You're allowed to come in and sit on the Steps of the Throne, as long as you don't make a nuisance of yourselves and cause"--in the words of the committee's report--"inconvenience to the House. If you do make a nuisance of yourselves, like jumping on to the Woolsack, or whatever, we will remove that right".

I find this very patronising and, to a certain extent, somewhat offensive. So my argument against this particular proposal is that it is inappropriate that we should draw a line under what happened in the last Session. We must start to get on and move into the transitional House and make it effective. It is impractical because, at some point in time--I do not know when it will be--the already overcrowded Steps of the Throne will be even more crowded by the return of former Members of the House. I believe that it is rather patronising to former colleagues and, if I may say so on a personal note, friends. Therefore, I shall be inviting your Lordships to support me in my amendment when the Question is put on the Motion.

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Moved, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end to insert "except for paragraph 2(b)".--(Lord Williams of Elvel.)

Lord Shepherd: My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend but my approach will, I think, be slightly different, although the end product will be very much the same. A good deal of what I have to say centres around the drafting of the report. If noble Lords would care to look at paragraph 2(a), they will see that it refers to,

    "one of the galleries in the chamber",

but I am never terribly sure what constitutes the Chamber; for example, when the Lord Chancellor sits on the Woolsack, is he within the Chamber? He is certainly not within the House. So I do not know what that description means. The paragraph does not say that there should be a designated Gallery. In fact, one could be placed in the Public Gallery by one of the Attendants. Alternatively, if you are friendly with Black Rod, you may be placed in his rather important enclave.

We should be precise in this matter. If we are to give courtesies to the hereditary Peers who have been excluded, they should have the right to sit in a particular place as opposed to having to obtain permission with regard to the Gallery in which they are to sit. Therefore, I strongly recommend that the House asks the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees to undertake consultations with the House Offices to decide the most appropriate Gallery to be set aside as of right for the excluded hereditary Peers. That would give them a clearly recognised place in the Chamber.

I do not like the wording of the paragraph that we are discussing. If one gives a right, one should not say that it is provisional. Any right or privilege in this House is already subject to review. We can change anything we wish if circumstances so require. If we are to grant a privilege with regard to where Members may sit, I believe that it should be granted as a right, subject, of course, to a review, should circumstances so require. In this instance, I suggest that if a privilege were to be granted, we should leave any review to the end of the Session. Perhaps then the various sub-committees which have had oversight of those areas in which privileges have been granted could then be asked to report. The report would then be made available to Members of the House and any proposals for change could be made in the new Session.

As regards my objection to sitting on the Steps of the Throne, there are Irish Peers and Privy Counsellors from another place--and my son when he used to come here--who have never participated in the hurly-burly of political life in this House. However, many noble Lords who may claim the privileges that we are discussing have done so. They may look back on that experience with a degree of nostalgia. However, in my opinion, to allow them to sit on the Steps of the Throne within the Chamber--because I suspect that that would be within the Chamber--would bring them into too close a proximity to debates. We should allocate a suitable Gallery for the excluded hereditary Peers. I

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suggest that is a just acknowledgement of their status but would not cause difficulties with regard to debates of a particular nature that may take place.

I wonder about some of the drafting of the report which I consider to be imprecise. I recommend the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees to reconsider it, not necessarily to change the substance of what is in the report--unless my noble friend were to divide the House on his amendment--but to ensure that the drafting is precise. At the moment it is imprecise and that could lead to difficulties later. For example, paragraph 2(e) of the report states that a noble Lord could,

    "book a table for four people not more than once a month in the Peers' Guest Dining Room".

However, the provision does not state that he has to attend the meal. He could book the table for a chairman and a managing director. I may be giving an exaggerated example but that is what the provision states, although I am sure that was not what was intended. If a privilege is to be granted in this respect, the wording should be precise. I do not know whether the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees is willing to reconsider some of the drafting of the measure, but if my noble friend were to divide on the major issue I would certainly support him.

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