Report
House of Lords Reform Bill [HL]
12:15 pm

Motion

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

That the Report be now received.

Amendment to the Motion

Tabled by The Earl of Caithness

At end to insert "but that this House regrets that these issues are being dealt with in a Private Member's Bill, that it is being considered when there is a draft government Bill for House of Lords reform being discussed by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament which is due to report on 27 March, and that it contravenes recommendations in the report of the Constitution Committee on The Process of Constitutional Change (15th Report, HL Paper 177)".

Amendment to the Motion not moved.

Report received.

Clause 10 : Exclusion of hereditary peers

Amendments 207 to 215 not moved.

Amendment 215A, in substitution for Amendment 215, not moved.

12:30 pm
Photo of Baroness D'Souza

Baroness D'Souza (Non-affiliated)

My Lords, I should make it clear that if there is no unanimity on Amendment 215B, and in accordance with the provisions of the Companion to the Standing Orders, it will be negatived.

Amendment 215B

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

215B: Clause 10, leave out Clause 10

Amendment 215B agreed.

Amendments 216 to 218 not moved.

Clause 11 : Permanent leave of absence by reason of application

Amendments 219 to 231 not moved.

Clause 12 : Permanent leave of absence by reason of failure to attend the House

Amendments 232 and 233 not moved.

Amendment 234

Moved by Viscount Astor

234: Clause 12, page 5, line 30, leave out "three" and insert "six"

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Viscount Astor (Conservative)

My Lords, perhaps it would be convenient for your Lordships if I addressed Amendments 234 and 241, as they both relate to Clause 12. I am firmly in favour of the clause in principle and have no objection to it. My amendments in Committee were to seek clarification. I have since tabled Amendment 234, which proposes that a Session should exceed six months rather than three months, which seems fairer to noble Lords who might not be able to turn up.

The important amendment of the two is Amendment 241, which relates to subsection (2), which states that the reason given should be of reasonable merit for subsection (1) not to apply. I am not a lawyer, and I am always grateful for any advice and support from one, but it seemed to me that by putting down "merit" we were opening up a Pandora's box of discussion, which would not be helpful. The Bill would seem much clearer if it replaced "of reasonable merit" with "reasonable", so that if anyone had what was regarded as a reasonable reason not to attend, that would be satisfactory. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, said in Committee that he would consider the amendment. I was grateful to him for that and, on that basis, I have brought it back.

I intend to withdraw Amendment 234, but I hope that, if I do so, the noble Lord will consider carefully accepting Amendment 241, taking out "of reasonable merit" and inserting "reasonable". I beg to move.

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Lord True (Conservative)

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 234. I have had other amendments passed over which I am content to have had passed over because I had no intention of pressing them, although in the matters that are dealt with in Amendment 229 the House should proceed with the utmost openness and accountability. However, I do not want to stray out of order. I hope that my noble friend Lord Steel will accept the amendment that would replace three months with six, because, speaking from the standpoint of a local councillor, I know that you can be absent from a local council for six months without having to go through any procedure in order to establish whether you are away bona fide. We do not expect there to be short Sessions of your Lordships' House of three months, but, given the natural age profile of this Chamber, it is quite possible that people may be ill, and six months would probably be a fairer time. I would therefore be grateful if my noble friend considered that amendment.

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Viscount Astor (Conservative)

I am grateful to my noble friend.

Amendment 234 agreed.

Amendment 235

Moved by Lord Trefgarne

235: Clause 12, page 5, line 31, at end insert "or leave of absence for such shorter period of not less than one year as the body provided for in subsection (2) shall determine."

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Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)

The purpose of the amendment is self-explanatory and I do not intend to detain your Lordships on it. I beg to move.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

I apologise to the Speaker but it would be helpful to have the view of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, on the amendment before we move to a vote on it.

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

I think it is perfectly reasonable, but my noble friend said that he was not moving it.

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Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)

I did move it but I do not propose to precipitate a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 235 withdrawn.

Amendment 236 not moved.

Amendment 237

Moved by Lord Trefgarne

237: Clause 12, page 5, line 31, at end insert-

"( ) Subsection (1) shall not apply to any member serving in the armed forces, either regular or reserve."

Photo of Lord Steel of Aikwood

Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I am happy to accept the amendment.

Amendment 237 agreed.

Amendment 238 not moved.

Amendment 239

Moved by Lord Trefgarne

239: Clause 12, page 5, line 32, leave out "may" and insert "shall"

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, should explain to the House the consequences of changing "shall" to "may". It may be of some significance. The House is owed an explanation.

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Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)

My Lords, as I am ordered to explain, it is simply for clarity and the avoidance of doubt.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

I know that we are on Report but that will not do. The noble Lord's Bill is very clear on when the House may deem that a Member has taken permanent leave of absence. If we substitute "shall" for "may", surely that leads to a rather confusing picture. I rather resist this.

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Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)

I do not wish to delay your Lordships. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 239 withdrawn.

Amendment 240 not moved.

Amendment 241

Moved by Viscount Astor

241: Clause 12, page 5, line 35, leave out "of reasonable merit" and insert "reasonable"

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Viscount Astor (Conservative)

My Lords, I grouped this amendment with Amendment 234. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, indicated that he would accept it.

Amendment 241 agreed.

Amendments 242 to 252 not moved.

Clause 13 : Permanent leave of absence: consequence for membership

Amendments 253 to 261 not moved.

Clause 14 : Right to vote and stand for election to the House of Commons

Amendments 262 to 264 not moved.

Amendments 265 to 268 not moved.

Clause 15 : Conviction of serious criminal offence

Amendments 269 to 274 not moved.

Amendment 275

Moved by Viscount Astor

275: Clause 15, page 6, line 17, at end insert "for the duration of their sentence"

12:45 pm
Photo of Viscount Astor

Viscount Astor (Conservative)

My Lords, if it is for the convenience of your Lordships, perhaps I may also say a brief word about Amendment 288. When we discussed Clauses 15 and 16 in Committee, I made the point that I thought that the party of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, was the forgiving party: that once anybody had served their time and paid their price to society, they should be encouraged to come back into wherever they left and play their part. I realise that they have different rules in another place, but it seemed to me that in your Lordships' House we have already had two Members who have enjoyed themselves as guests of Her Majesty, and we are likely to have two more at one point.

On that basis, as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, raised the topic of the knighthood in Scotland, it seemed to me that we should have an amendment that peerages should be removed. Of course, when one looked at it one discovered that only life peerages could be removed, not hereditary peerages. That seemed somewhat unfair, because if you removed a hereditary peerage you would have the bizarre thing that a son could benefit from the misbehaviour of the father, which seemed even worse.

My reason for moving this is to ask the noble Lord, Lord Steel, a question about Clause 16 because should this Bill become an Act, as far as I can read it, a Member of your Lordships' House who committed an offence and spent time as a guest of Her Majesty for more than one year would cease to be a Member of your Lordships' House. However, if we then look at Clause 16 we see that there is nothing stopping them from standing for election to the House of Commons. It seemed bizarre that someone should keep their title and stand for election to the House of Commons. If someone should be forced to renounce their peerage and did so, as indeed hereditary Peers used to do when they inherited so that they could stand for the House of Commons, it would be slightly bizarre-

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Lord Phillips of Sudbury (Liberal Democrat)

Is the noble Viscount certain that the phrase in Clause 16,

"unless otherwise disqualified by another enactment",

does not catch the case he refers to?

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Viscount Astor (Conservative)

My Lords, I do not have a clue because luckily I am not a lawyer. As it seems that we have rather a long time available to us, and as I suspect that we will be very short on the remaining amendments, I am briefly moving my amendment to get some elucidation from the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and indeed anybody who is more qualified than I in the legal world. I have no qualifications at all to explain whether I am right in this concern. I beg to move.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, will resist any sense of moving away from Clause 15, which is absolutely right and makes it clear that a,

"person found guilty of one or more offences",

and who is sentenced to imprisonment,

"for more than one year, shall cease to be a member of the House of Lords".

That is a very important point of principle on which I know almost all noble Lords agree, and it is very important that this goes forward. Surely, on the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, it is a different issue in relation to elections to the other place. Obviously, there are disqualification provisions in relation to Members of Parliament. In fact, I believe that Clause 15 essentially follows the provisions in relation to Members of Parliament who may be sentenced to prison. However, if a person has served a prison sentence and then puts themselves forward for election, surely that is a matter for the electorate to decide-certainly not this House.

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I undertook in Committee to look at this matter and discuss it with the Ministry of Justice. I have in my hand four pages of brief from the Cabinet Office. I do not propose to weary the House with it but its essential conclusion is that the Bill merely brings the House into line with the rules in the House of Commons. The suggestion is therefore that we should resist the noble Lord's amendment, but if he is still anxious about it we can have a discussion outside the Chamber and he could raise it again at Third Reading. But, at the moment, I think we should resist the amendment.

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Viscount Astor (Conservative)

My Lords, I am grateful for the response from the noble Lord, Lord Steel. As I said, my amendment was put down purely to get some elucidation and clarity on the clauses. It would be helpful if the noble Lord felt able to put the response that he has had from the Ministry of Justice in the Library for those of us who have some interest in this to look at. I am grateful for his assurance that he will do so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 275 withdrawn.

Amendments 276 to 279 not moved.

Amendment 280

Moved by The Earl of Caithness

280: Clause 15, page 6, line 17, at end insert-

"(2) A person found guilty and sentenced under subsection (1) shall have the right to petition the Leader of the House of Lords to the effect that, notwithstanding that conviction and sentence, he or she shall, once that sentence is served, be eligible for reinstatement to the House of Lords.

(3) The Leader of the House of Lords shall set up a committee to the report to the House of any petition under subsection (2)."

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The Earl of Caithness (Conservative)

My Lords, in Committee we had a good discussion about this clause, as my noble friend Lord Astor has just said, and a sensible point was raised about detention overseas by what one might call rogue states. I do not think that it would be wise to name them, but there are certain countries in the world where one could find oneself in prison for more than a year without justification. From memory, it was my noble friend Lord Swinfen who raised this issue. My noble friend Lord Steel said that he would have a look at it. The point of the amendment is to try to cover that eventuality. Is this part of the Bill retrospective, or does it come into effect for the first time? In other words, if one served a prison sentence five years ago, say, and is still a Member of this House, is one excluded or will one still be allowed to sit here? I beg to move.

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The Earl of Erroll (Crossbench)

My Lords, the world is a complex place and rules very rarely work in it because there is always some exception. It is wise to have an avenue of appeal for special circumstances. It would probably never be exercised but it is wise to have it there as a fallback, just in case.

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, in answer to my noble friend Lord Caithness, no, the provisions in the Bill are definitely not retrospective. They start from the time of Royal Assent, if we ever get to that stage. On the amendment itself, I entirely take the point of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll. I am not enthusiastic about adding bits to the Bill at this stage, but if the House is minded to do so I would be quite happy for Amendment 280 to be carried.

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The Earl of Caithness (Conservative)

My Lords, I wonder whether it might not be better if I withdrew this amendment, talked to my noble friend and came back at Third Reading-I see the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, nodding-with amendments that were more tightly drawn. I think that everyone understand the point I am making.

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Lord Norton of Louth (Conservative)

If I can help my noble friend, my recollection is that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, must of which was lost in the wash-up at the end of the previous Parliament, had a provision to meet the very point that he is making. I suspect that if we look at that, we can find the actual drafting that would meet that point.

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The Earl of Caithness (Conservative)

I am grateful to my noble friend. I am even more inclined to withdraw the amendment and we can discuss this between now and Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 280 withdrawn.

Amendment 281 not moved.

Clause 16 : Right to vote and stand for election to the House of Commons

Amendments 282 to 288 not moved.

Clause 17 : Eligibility for nomination

Amendments 289 and 290 not moved.

Amendment 291

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

291: Clause 17, leave out Clause 17

Amendment 291 agreed.

Amendment 292

Moved by Lord True

292: After Clause 17, insert the following new Clause-

"Refusal or failure to repay wrongly claimed expenses

A member found by the House of Lords, or a Committee of the House of Lords, to have wrongfully claimed expenses and who has been suspended by the House in connection with a fraudulent claim for expenses, and who refuses or fails to repay money, or make provision for the repayment of money, whose repayment has been required by the House of Lords within a year, shall cease to be a member of the House of Lords."

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Lord True (Conservative)

My Lords, in speaking to this amendment, I make it absolutely clear that I have no intention of testing the opinion of the House. However, there is an important issue here on which I should like to hear some response from the Government, as well as from my noble friend Lord Steel. There is an important point that is very much in the public eye and undoubtedly reflects on the reputation of the House, as it reflects on the reputation of the other place. That matter is the misuse and wrongful claiming of expenses and the consequences that flow from that. I submit that if wrongfully claimed expenses are not repaid-my amendment suggests that up to a year might be given for repayment-for whatever reason, the person concerned should be excluded. Just as a person who commits an offence under the law serves some time, the person who refuses to heed the desire of the House and make restitution for wrongful action should be excluded from this House. That is a perfectly reasonable proposition.

In its Long Title, the Bill says that it would,

"provide for the expulsion of members of the House of Lords in specified circumstances".

We have just discussed the circumstances relating to criminal offences. At some point, which may not be in this Bill but in the other monster Bill that we keep hearing about, not only this House but Parliament needs to address the question that would arise in such a case. I am not referring to anyone in particular in making these remarks; it could be any of us down the line. If these circumstances arise, we should ultimately have the power to exclude such a Member.

Currently, the suspension powers have been used by the House with the full support of the House. It is not a matter for inclusion in my noble friend's Bill, but I think he would agree that it is a matter that needs to be looked at. I do not know whether my noble friend on the Front Bench will comment on whether this is a matter that the Government have under consideration. Maybe my noble friend Lord Steel has something to say. Ultimately, the public will not understand if we do not get to grips with this issue, which is why I took the trouble to put it before noble Lords-not, I hope, too much to their dissatisfaction. I beg to move.

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I referred to this matter in my speech. This is the point that my noble friend Lord Dobbs raised some weeks ago. I am very sympathetic to the amendment that the noble Lord has moved but I am not sure that it is entirely watertight. It suggests that the House would not have the power to expel someone right away if it was felt that they had behaved extremely badly. I wonder whether I could persuade my noble friend not to press his amendment today, subject to what will be said from the Front Benches. However, we should certainly come back to this on Third Reading.

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Viscount Astor (Conservative)

My Lords, when the Minister responds to this amendment, perhaps he could tell us what the rules are in another place. My noble friend's amendment seems very much to follow what happens in another place, which I think would have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Steel.

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Lord Grocott (Labour)

My Lords, the House is in a mood to reach as much agreement as possible on Report. We are not far from the end of the parliamentary Session; we all know that. I appeal to those who have been involved in the exchanges: could as many of these difficulties as possible be resolved quickly, so that when we come to Third Reading only amendments to which everyone can agree will be tabled? That will make it much easier for the Deputy Chief Whips present, as well as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It will then be much easier for the usual channels to schedule this Bill very quickly, knowing that it will not take very long.

Although the Bill is certainly not perfect in anyone's judgment, I hope that we can get it to the Commons between now and the end of the Session while there is still parliamentary time in which to deal with it. I think that we can take the Third Reading within three working days. I appeal to the usual channels-they are present-as well as to everyone else to get cracking on Monday and get the Bill scheduled for further discussion-at the very latest, immediately after we come back from the short Recess. We would then demonstrate to the Commons, at least, and I hope to a wider audience, that on key issues that need reform we have reformed ourselves. It will then be up to the Commons to approve the Bill-we hope. One must live life as an optimist.

1:00 pm
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Lord Cormack (Conservative)

I support what the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, has said. However, I ask my noble friend on the Front Bench and my noble friend Lord Steel to consider very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord True, has said, bearing in mind that the power of the Commons to expel, which it does have, is the power to expel from that particular Parliament. Expulsion from this place could be something very different. If we are to try to equate our rules with those of the other place, so far as they can be equated, all those things should be borne carefully in mind. That is why the offer of the noble Lord, Lord True, to withdraw his amendment should be accepted so that sensible discussions can take place on this issue.

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Lord Desai (Labour)

My Lords, I make the same request to the noble Lord, Lord True. Amendment 280, which was moved but later withdrawn by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, proposes that there should be a right of appeal in case something is not quite right. We must always take the charitable view that if someone cannot pay back what they owe, there may be a reason for that other than intent. We ought to allow room for exceptions in certain circumstances.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I take up the cue provided by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott-I think we are within sight of a relatively limited Act that would command consensus all round the House. However, this proposed new clause would take us beyond the possibility of consensus at present. I think it would be appropriate if the noble Lord, Lord True, would withdraw the amendment. Certainly, I think that a number of us may wish to look at this particularly complex additional matter, but it is important to make some limited progress. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, nods his head. That may be the best way forward.

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Lord Richard (Labour)

My Lords, I hope that I may say a word on this. We had this discussion some weeks ago. My own position on it was very simple; there should be a mechanism for deciding whether or not the non-payment was intentional or was due to circumstances beyond the individual's control. If the noble Lord, Lord True, persists with this amendment, I am afraid that I will have to oppose it. If, on the other hand, he wants to talk about it and withdraw it, that would be a very good result indeed.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

My Lords, I echo the words of my noble friend and the Minister. To get consensus on a short Bill that has a chance of going through the other place, we should focus on matters on which there is clear agreement. However, as the Minister was tempted to speak at this point, I will pursue the point that my noble friend has made. In light of the consensus that is likely to be reached today, will the Government find time for the Bill to be discussed in the other place this Session? If he is able to confirm that, it would be much appreciated.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, having been in government himself, I am sure that the noble Lord on the opposite Bench will understand that it takes a little time to get consensus in the Government. I can promise that consultations will continue within the Government but I cannot take matters further than that for reasons he will well understand.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I understand why the Government will take a little time to find consensus. However, I remind him that the Government have made an announcement. The Deputy Prime Minister made yet another of his speeches on the House of Lords. He said that the Government were minded finally to come round to the view that action should be taken in relation to Members of your Lordships' House who find themselves sentenced to imprisonment. Here is a vehicle to allow that to happen. I know that the Deputy Prime Minister does not think much of this place, but it is actually offering him an early vehicle with which to put his policy into action. Surely he ought to take it with open arms.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I hear very clearly what the noble Lord says. He understands the restrictions under which I must operate. We will take this back and of course consult. This is part of a process that is already under way, as all noble Lords here understand, and that some of us hope will go rather further. This Government are a formal coalition-rather different in shape from the informal and sometimes bad-tempered coalition of our predecessor Government, but we must therefore necessarily discuss this.

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

Perhaps I may add that I discussed this matter with the Deputy Prime Minister some time ago, and the last time we did so he agreed to look at it again in the new year. Once the Bill has had its Report and Third Reading, we will know exactly what is in it and what is not, and I will propose a further discussion with him. I am well aware of the difficulty of former party leaders telling current party leaders what to do, but I will do my best.

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Lord True (Conservative)

My Lords, I suppose that was a reply from my noble friend to the amendment. I made very clear at the start that I did not intend to press it, so I can certainly reassure the noble Lord, Lord Richard, on that-and of course I hear what he and the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said about the need for room to appeal. Indeed, we have just had that discussion on the criminal offence. I do not believe it is that complicated to bring the two elements into line in the drafting, and although I am perfectly content and recognise the need to make progress, and I always intended to beg leave to withdraw the amendment, we really must grasp this nettle. If that does not happen, however uncomfortable it is and whatever reasons are given in different places, it simply will not be understood.

I am willing to take part in any discussions, as is my noble friend Lord Dobbs, who cannot be with us. I completely disagree with my noble friend Lord Cormack-I do not think that this House has to be in line with the House of Commons, which has rules simply because it has elections every five years. We do not have elections every five years. The problems for us are different and relate to the Writ of Summons, and we are increasingly passing legislation that overrides it. There is a potential House of Lords solution and I would willingly take part in any discussions on those matters. I am encouraged by what was said by my noble friend on the Front Bench and, in light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 292 withdrawn.

Amendment 293 not moved.

Clause 18 : Voting at elections to the House of Commons

Amendments 294 to 299 not moved.

Amendment 300

Moved by Lord Trefgarne

300: Clause 18, leave out Clause 18

Photo of Lord Trefgarne

Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)

My Lords, this is a matter of some importance and principle. For centuries it has been the case that Members of your Lordships' House may not vote in parliamentary elections to the other place, and this provision in the Bill reverses that ancient principle. That is a mistake. We should retain the arrangement whereby we in this House do not vote for Members of the House of Commons, and I hope that your Lordships agree. I beg to move.

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Lord Dubs (Labour)

I am rather disappointed with this amendment, as we considered the provision in some detail in Committee and agreed to it. When the House makes a decision in Committee, I am not sure how appropriate it is simply to reverse it on Report. I am not even sure whether it is in accord with the way we normally do things to reverse a Committee decision just because you do not like it.

On the point of principle, I hate having to go over an argument which we used in Committee, but, as the noble Lord has used a counterargument, let me put it this way. It seems wrong in principle that we are virtually the only people in the country who are not allowed to vote in general elections to influence what is to be the future Government of our country. That is a clear statement, and to reverse it would be a retrograde step. I cannot think of any argument in principle-beyond the fact that we have always done it this way-that justifies our not being able to vote in parliamentary elections. We can vote in European elections, local elections and referenda. After quite a long discussion, the House decided quite properly that that was a good move forward. I very much hope that the House will not accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne.

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Viscount Astor (Conservative)

The House debated the matter. It did not make any binding decision, therefore it is perfectly open to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne to move his amendment. All I have to say is that I took my seat in your Lordships' House shortly after my 21st birthday, so I have never voted in a general election, but it seems to me perfectly fair that in order to sit here, I should be disbarred from doing so. I am perfectly happy with the arrangements as they are.

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The Earl of Erroll (Crossbench)

My Lords, I disagree with the amendment. Although I do not think that a few votes will make much difference in the general election, it is a matter of principle: no taxation without representation, on which a famous tea party was held by the Americans a long time ago. We may not vote on anything to do with financial issues. That has risen to the top recently with a whole lot of amendments by your Lordships on the matter of financial privilege, which is just stated to be such in another place. With the growing awareness of the split whereby we are not allowed any vote over financial and taxation policy, and with the increasing power of the Executive because it has so many members also sitting in another place, it makes it more and more logical to revisit the ancient principle.

When things were more balanced, it did not matter. I begin to wonder whether we should look at how the balance of power works. Perhaps this is a small move in the right direction, to give us some rights.

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Lord True (Conservative)

My Lords, I rather agree on constitutional principle with my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, but I do not think it is that significant a matter. I thought that one of the few advantages of becoming a Peer was that when a general election was called, canvassers representing my noble friends did not come to my door any more. It appears that, after this, they will.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Steel, will consider this point. Clearly it is an important principle whether Members of your Lordships' House should vote in general elections. In the context of wider reform, noble Lords need to consider very carefully what are the implications of your Lordships' House saying that Members of this House should have a vote for the other place. Members of the other place might take that as being an invitation, when the substantive Bill comes, to think about parity. That has wider implications.

Secondly, we surely agreed just now that if the Bill is to proceed in the other place, it has to be as simple as possible and to provoke as little debate there as possible. I worry that this issue might provoke a great deal of debate. The noble Lord might consider that between now and Third Reading.

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Lord Dubs (Labour)

I am rather disappointed by what my noble friend is saying. How many Members of the other place has he discussed this with? Every Member of the Commons I have talked to says that it is an anomaly that we do not have the right to vote; they do not object to that change at all.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)

My Lords, we speak of nothing else in Telford or in Kings Heath but this very important matter.

I caution the House that there are wider implications. It is all very well some MPs saying, "I don't see why you don't have a vote", but we need to see it in the context of wider reform. Secondly, if the House wants to get the Bill through the other place it needs to think whether this is likely to provoke wider debate in the other place. That is my fear. I entirely understand why my noble friend wants to pursue this, and of course he is open to do so, but we need to think about how we can get the Bill through in this Session.

1:15 pm
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Baroness Butler-Sloss (Crossbench)

My Lords, having listened with great interest to what has been going on this afternoon, perhaps I may add a word as a Cross-Bencher. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has spoken some words of wisdom here. If the Bill is kept extremely simple and anything that has the potential to be contentious in the other House is removed, we have a good chance of getting our own House in better order and that will have further implications at a later stage. I am absolutely certain that this issue needs to come back at some stage, but it could come back in another Bill and it could then be debated in a different way. Personally, I do not really mind whether I vote or not in a general election, although I can see the point of voting, but this may not be the best moment to deal with this matter.

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

Clause 18 was not in the original Bill; it was added in an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in Committee. I have to confess that we did not have a long debate on it but he was very reasonable in moving the amendment and perhaps I was too reasonable in accepting it at the time. However, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, makes a fair point. Perhaps we should stop for a second and consider what was referred to earlier as the "monster Bill"-not a phrase that I would dream of using. When that Bill comes forward, it will propose that this should be an elected House. Are we going to say that Members of the other place should not take part in those elections? Therefore, it gives rise to an interesting question. I think that the noble and learned Baroness is correct: it would perhaps be wiser to accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, take the clause out now and keep the Bill as simple and as short as possible when it goes to the other place.

Amendment 300 agreed.

Clause 19 : Commencement

Amendments 301 to 304 not moved.

Amendment 305

Moved by Lord Trefgarne

305: Leave out Clause 19

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

Having removed from the Bill the Appointments Commission and the section on hereditary by-elections, we do not actually need Clause 19 at all. Therefore, I suggest that we accept this amendment.

Amendment 305 agreed.

Amendment 306 not moved.

Clause 20 : Short title

Amendment 306A

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

306A: Clause 20, page 7, line 11, leave out "House of Lords Reform Act 2010" and insert "House of Lords (Amendment) Act 2012"

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Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I beg to move an amendment to the Short Title of the Bill simply because, having pared the Bill down to just two succinct issues-retirement and expulsion-I think it is rather grandiose to describe it as a House of Lords Reform Bill. It also runs the risk of being confused with the other Bill-I shall not insert an adjective-which is due to come before us. Therefore, I think that "House of Lords (Amendment) Act" is a better title than "House of Lords Reform Act".

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Lord Tyler (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I am sure that when other Members of your Lordships' House who have experience of Fridays in the other place looked at the Marshalled List today, they thought that we were in for a similar sort of experience. I know that my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood certainly had that tedious experience all too often of cloak-and-dagger assassins killing off Private Member's Bills. I hope that that will not become a habit in your Lordships' House because it is not only tedious but extremely frustrating.

Among the amendments today were a number of contradictory amendments-some from the same author. I thought that the expressions of good will in Committee indicated that we had consensus that the Bill in the form that my noble friend was pursuing had considerable support on all sides of the House. From the changes that have taken place today, in response to the wealth of amendments, it is clear that the Bill we thought we had dealt with in Committee did not have consensus across the House. Some 300 amendments would take out some very important provisions. We have been told on so many occasions in the past two or three years that my noble friend's Bill would not only enjoy widespread support but would deal with all the major defects in the stature, authority and reputation of your Lordships' House. The removal of Clause 10, as my noble friend said in his opening speech, emasculates the Bill. It would take out the most important provisions.

As so often at this end of the Building, the compromise that has been reached has been grabbed out of the jaws of chaos. We have to recognise that; it would be silly not to do so. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood would be the first to admit that nobody can be under any illusion that this exercise will result in even a modest step forward towards reform, hence his realistic assessment that this is no longer a House of Lords Reform Bill but simply a House of Lords amendment Bill, and we should recognise that.

The only logical conclusion must be that the sooner the government Bill comes forward-no doubt it will be improved by the very assiduous pre-legislative scrutiny that has been undertaken by the Joint Committee on which I served under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Richard-the better. When that Bill comes before Parliament I hope that we will not have another of these episodes when everyone says that they are in favour of doing something but, when it comes to the opportunity to do so, we have this sort of shambles that we would have faced today had all the amendments been moved. That does no good for the reputation of your Lordships' House. I hope that, having had this experience today, we will take a lesson for the future. We should have a methodical, careful, meticulous process, but we should draw a very important conclusion from the way in which we might have been faced with a similar experience that Members of the other House have every time there is a Private Member's Bill on a Friday.

Amendment 306, with Amendment 312A, makes the simple fact absolutely clear-piecemeal is not a way to approach the most important reforms to your Lordships' House that we will have to consider in the months to come.

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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Labour)

One of the things that I learnt in my youth is the saying, which I am not sure is parliamentary language, "Quit while you're winning". I think that we should, and not debate it further. My experience in this House is that often when one of us speaks, intending to calm things down, somebody somewhere gets offended.

Amendment 306A agreed.

Amendments 307 to 309 not moved.

Amendment 1 not moved.

Amendment 1A, in substitution for Amendment 1, not moved.

Amendment 1B, as an amendment to Amendment 1A, not moved.

Clause 1 : Commission to recommend life peerages

Amendments 2 to 4 not moved.

Amendments 4A and 4B, in substitution for Amendments 7 and 8, not moved.

Amendments 5 to 23 not moved.

Amendment 24

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

24: Clause 1, leave out Clause 1

Amendment 24 agreed.

Amendments 25 and 26 not moved.

Clause 2 : Commission membership

Amendments 27 to 93 not moved.

Amendment 94

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

94: Clause 2, leave out Clause 2

Amendment 94 agreed.

Clause 3 : Commission to determine rules and procedures

Amendments 95 to 99 not moved.

Amendment 100

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

100: Clause 3, leave out Clause 3

Amendment 100 agreed.

Amendment 101 not moved.

Clause 4 : Proposals for new peers

Amendments 102 to 113 not moved.

Amendment 114

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

114: Clause 4, leave out Clause 4

Amendment 114 agreed.

Clause 5 : Nominees to meet specific criteria

Amendments 115 to 135 not moved.

Amendment 136

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

136: Clause 5, leave out Clause 5

Amendment 136 agreed.

Clause 6 : Guidelines

Amendments 137 to 147 not moved.

Amendment 148

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

148: Clause 6, leave out Clause 6

Amendment 148 agreed.

Clause 7 : Certificate to be conclusive

Amendments 149 to 151 not moved.

Amendment 152

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

152: Clause 7, leave out Clause 7

Amendment 152 agreed.

Clause 8 : Principles to be followed in making recommendations

Amendments 153 to 188 not moved.

Amendment 189

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

189: Clause 8, leave out Clause 8

Amendment 189 agreed.

Amendment 190 not moved.

Clause 9 : Party leaders to furnish information to Commission

Amendments 191 to 200 not moved.

Amendment 201

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

201: Clause 9, leave out Clause 9

Amendment 201 agreed.

Amendments 202 to 206 not moved.

In the Title

Amendment 310

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

310: In the Title, line 1, leave out from beginning to second "to" in line 2

Photo of Lord Steel of Aikwood

Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, this amendment simply brings the Long Title of the Bill into line with its reduced content. I beg to move.

Amendment 310 agreed.

Amendment 311 not moved.

Amendment 312

Moved by Lord Selsdon

312: In the Title, line 2, after "creation" insert "and continuation"

Photo of Lord Selsdon

Lord Selsdon (Conservative)

Perhaps I may ask for clarification as regards the Long Title. One of the amendments I proposed earlier was that those of us who had been elected would be known as "elected hereditary Peers" rather than "excepted hereditary Peers". I am in a slight muddle about the Long Title and I wonder whether I can have some clarification.

Photo of Lord Selsdon

Lord Selsdon (Conservative)

I therefore feel slightly confused by the Long Title as regards where it says "hereditary peerage" and we still have the election process in place. If it is correct, I have no objection.

Photo of Lord Selsdon

Lord Selsdon (Conservative)

Yes, I was moving an amendment but I was asking for clarification. I apologise for that. Can anyone in the House give me some clarification?

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Lord Trefgarne (Conservative)

My Lords, my noble friend raises an important point. I think that the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, goes some way to give the clarification which he requires. If he is still confused-some of us may be-let us talk about it at Third Reading.

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Lord Selsdon (Conservative)

It is the simple matter that if the Long Title is wrong, it is wrong. Is it wrong or is it right?

Photo of Lord Selsdon

Lord Selsdon (Conservative)

It is right. That is all I need to know. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 312 withdrawn.

Amendment 312A

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

312A: In the Title, line 2, leave out "to restrict membership of the House of Lords by virtue of hereditary peerage; to"

Amendment 312A agreed.

Amendment 313 not moved.

Amendment 314

Moved by Lord Steel of Aikwood

314: In the Title, line 6, leave out "and for connected purposes"

Photo of Lord Steel of Aikwood

Lord Steel of Aikwood (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, this is an important alteration to the Long Title for the following reason. We have talked already about what happens when the Bill goes to the other place. Removing the words "and for connected purposes" means that the Speaker in the other place will find it much easier to rule out vexatious amendments which seek to hold up the legislation. If we leave that in the Long Title, the Bill could become a Christmas tree on which other pieces are hung. Therefore, this is more than just a technical amendment and it is important that those words should be taken out of the Long Title. I beg to move.

Amendment 314 agreed.

House adjourned at 1.33 pm.