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Lord Richard: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him a question. Does he support the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, that his suggestions should contain a sunset clause; and, if so, for how long does he think the sunset clause should be?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, that is a perfectly fair question, and I will answer it directly. I think that the noble Lord was right in suggesting a sunset clause. In some senses his amendment today is less of a compromise than the one I put forward, which was accepted by the House last week. I would not start bandying times with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, across the House, but what I believe absolutely is that on any basis it would be wrong to allow the compulsory link between ID cards and passports to be brought into effect before the next election. The next
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election must be held, I think I am right in saying, by May 2010. But that is as far as I can goand that is generous.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I very much share the sympathy that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary expressed for the attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, to find a compromise. Anyone who knows the noble Lord will not only have sympathy for his proposal but huge respect for everything that he has ever done. The noble LordI nearly called him my noble friend because he sits on my Benchmade it quite clear that he was not attempting to make any mischief with the Bill or the Government. Of course, one enormously respects that view and his view about personal freedom. I have on occasion expressed my views about parts of the Bill myself. In normal circumstances, I could well have been tempted to vote for the noble Lord's proposal.
But these are not normal circumstances. This is the fourth time that your Lordships' House has rejected the elected House's view. One cannot help wondering, in parentheses, if 70 per cent of your Lordships were elected, how many times they would try to block the other elected Chamber. I am not sure how many of us would be here, because 70 per cent of us would presumably goI am not sure how.
The Home Secretary has been prayed in aid of the view of the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong. In fact, although welcoming what my right honourable friend described as the "helpful intervention" of the noble Lord, he continued:
"I understand the reasoning behind Lord Armstrong's proposal and am very grateful to him for his efforts to help to resolve the impasse. However, I have to say that while I agree that an opt-out might well make more sense than an opt-in, the reality would be the same. We would still be introducing a large degree of uncertainty into the plans for rolling out identity cards".[Official Report, Commons, 21/3/06; col. 182.]
Most of all, despite my huge respect for the noble Lord, I am extremely disappointed that he has sought to move the amendment. It would never have occurred to me to describe the noble Lord as na-ve. All my experience of him in government is far from that. But he must have seen beforehand that he was being used by the Opposition. If he did not see that beforehand, he must have seen it today. For a distinguished nominated Member of your Lordships' House to move for the fifth time to disagree with the elected House would not be sensible. It would be quite wrong. I hope that, on reflection, he will not seek to press the Motion.
Lord Saatchi: My Lords, in her closing remarks this afternoon, the noble Baroness took a small step from persuasion to coercion. I think I may summarise her message as: "Come to your senses. Resistance is futile. You know the penalty". She acts as though any minute now she is going to reach into some dusty drawer of
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history and pull out a barnacled old stick called the Parliament Act, wave it in front of our faces and watch us run for cover.
What is that ultimate deterrent, before which we so tremble? I stand to be corrected by noble and learned Lords, but I believe that a judge, before determining a point of law, considers what was in the mind of the lawmaker when the law was made. My noble friend Lord Kingsland, the shadow Lord Chancellor, tells me that the exact phrase is that the judge tries to discern the intention of Parliament when the law was made. So I wonder whether I can take the Minister back to 2 March 1911, when the Parliament Act was being considered. The then Liberal Prime Minister, Mr Asquith, is commending the Parliament Bill to another place on its Second Reading. He describes his intention very clearly:
"Take the hereditary principle. What can we get out of it? Hon. Gentlemen opposite have got a great deal out of it . . . a working instrument to frustrate and nullify the functions of this House when there is a Liberal Government in power . . . That is what the right hon. Gentleman gets out of it".
"Let it not be our master. So say we. It is because it has been our master . . . because it enslaves and fetters the free action of this House, that we have put these proposals before the House and we mean to carry them into law".[Official Report, Commons, 2/3/11; col. 584.]
But, of course, the hereditary House of Lords is dead; the Government killed it in the House of Lords Act 1999. That was why the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, then the Leader of your Lordships' House, speaking during the passage of the House of Lords Act 1999, said that the reformed Houseour House todaywould be,
The record seems to show that this intimidating Act has been overtaken by events. It may still have legal authorityothers will know better than I dobut it
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lost its moral authority when the Government removed the hereditary Peers from your Lordships' House.
Will the Minister consider taking advice from me? Probably not, but if she did, it would be this. Put the stick away and take advice from my noble friend Lady Anelay. Take your colleagues, special advisers and officials to a nice country house hotel over Easter, make a day of it and then return to your Lordships' House with something new to say that did not dwell on the past in the way in which I said the Government do at the moment. If she will not take my advice and look a little more to the future, will she take the advice of her own Prime Minister, whose favourite phrase was, I believe, "Forward, not back"?
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, was being na-ve or was being used when he tabled the amendment. It is a perfectly respectable amendmentI speak as one who has taken part in most, if not all, of the debates during the passage of the Bill. As it happens, I believe it is a very weak amendment which, if they had any sense, the Government would accept with open arms, because there is a precedent in the trade union movement for opting out of the political levy. Members, particularly on the Labour side of the House, will have a lot of experience of this, and they will know that the system for making political contributions to the Labour Party was accompanied, until quite recently, by the opportunity for people to opt out of the political levy. Of course, the number of people who opted out was so infinitesimal as to be almost imperceptible. If the Home Secretary wants to finish this debate with honour, I would recommend that the Government accept this amendment quickly, before it is withdrawn.
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