Orders of the Day — House of Lords Bill
Ms Angela Smith (Basildon, Labour/Co-operative)
I do not presume to be able to answer that question; it is a matter for the Leader of the House. However, if delay is unacceptable, I am sure that hon. Members will communicate that fact to my right hon. Friend. The Liberal Democrats are ill equipped to comment about that issue as they gave us the current configuration of the House of Lords in 1911 and have not done anything further since then. I have more faith in my Government than in the Liberal Democrats.
Why should we accept the Weatherill amendment and allow peers to remain in the transitional House? Unlike the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), many of my hon. Friends and I stand by the principle that there should be no hereditary peers in the second Chamber. The arguments have been well rehearsed here and in another place. The issues were debated with more decorum here than in the other place, so I was surprised to hear the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) say that debates in the House of Lords were conducted with great decorum.
Fortunately, hon. Members' children have been far better behaved than the offspring of one of their lordships who, to the amazement of many, jumped up and down on the Woolsack. While claiming to defend tradition, he clearly showed no respect for it; while decrying the will of the elected House to be "treason", he showed no respect for democracy. In any other walk of life, such bizarre behaviour would disqualify a person from involvement in a given activity. Yet the Earl of Burford behaved in that manner in an attempt to defend his right to legislate on the basis of his birthright. It was a bit like the tantrum of a naughty child—and we all know that naughty children who throw tantrums do not get what they want.[Interruption.] Conservative Members groan; I hope that they are not defending the Earl of Burford' s actions.
The Conservative party's 1997 campaign guide was extremely illuminating on this point. I wonder whether the Conservatives were thinking of the Earl of Burford when they wrote:
An asset to democracy, hereditary peers bring colour, tradition, youth and a wealth of experience to Parliament. They are linked to the customs and traditions that formed and shaped this country".
We could do without customs and colour such as that.
The amendment is an interesting distraction, but let us consider the legitimacy of the second Chamber as a transitional House rather than the antics of one rather bizarre peer.