With Amendment No. 21 it might be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss Amendments Nos. 23, 117 and 205, in page 3, line 28, leave out 'seventy-two' and insert 'seventy'.
In line 34, at end insert:
'nor shall it be deposited by a peer who had attained the age of sixty-five years before the dissolution of the last previous Parliament in respect of the first declaration to be deposited by him'.
In line 28, leave out 'seventy-two' and insert 'eighty'.
I shall be as short and to the point as I possibly can be and I hope, though it is perhaps a forlorn hope, that hon. Members who follow me will also be short and to the point. My speech might already be written for me by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck), who made a speech on this point this morning, although he was supposed to be speaking on an entirely different matter but did not appear to notice that himself.
In my submission, this is a bad Clause as it seeks to limit to 72 years the age at which Members of the House of Lords may vote. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has already mentioned certain factors which might have a bearing upon this decision, but in my own view there is one factor which may have taken precedence in his consideration; that is, that people of 72 are perhaps too old to vote. He is probably thinking of old dodderers.
If people are old dodderers then let us stop them speaking rather than stop them voting, or stop them both speaking and voting, because if they are old dodderers they will probably go on and on, as do some hon. Members on both sides of this House, either because they like to hear the sound of their own voice or because they consider that it is justifiable for a minority in this House to frustrate the will of the majority by filibustering.
It is, and I would be grateful if my hon. Friend would allow me to make my speech. He made his this morning and I raised two points of order. If he wishes to do the same he may do so.
If people are old dodderers then let us stop them speaking rather than voting because they may take up the valuable time of the House. On the other hand, it can be argued—and I shall argue as forcefully as I can—that people of 72 are not necessarily old dodderers at all. They may be past it at 50, in which case it is unjustifiable that society should be burdened with them going on speaking and voting until they are 72.
I have had the experience in court, not necessarily when I have been speaking, of seeing, at half-past three in the afternoon, a rather elderly judge who has gone to sleep during the proceedings, having to be awakened by the loud dropping of a book.
I hesitate to answer my hon. Friend on that, but I have seen judges go to sleep, people who are past it, and who should have been eased out earlier.
It is my submission that these people, whether or not they are Members of the House of Lords, should be eased out if they are past it at 50, 60, or even 70. On the other hand, there are others who are not at all past it, who are useful members of society. Why should society be burdened with those past-it members of 50 and be deprived of the valuable services of others who have gone beyond 70, but who are as active and robust as ever?
I have taken the trouble to look up some ages which I would like to give to this Committee. Sir Winston Churchill retired as Prime Minister when he was 81. I wonder what would have happened if we had forced him out at 72? Lord Attlee, who retired as Opposition Leader when he was aged 72, in 1955, went on for very many years as a useful Member of the House of Lords. Sir Harry Brittain is still active at the age of 95. Viscount Samuel died at the age of 93 in 1963. He retired as Liberal Leader in the House of Lords when he was 85 and was a really useful member of that body.
It is not only in the House of Lords that this applies. Lord Goddard who, I am glad to say, is still in the land of the living, retired at the age of 81 in 1958. He was a most active and useful Lord Chief Justice up to that time. Lord Palmerston fought his last election at the age of 81 in 1865. Lord Birkett retired as Lord Justice of Appeal when 74, but went on in the House of Lords; and hon. and right hon. Members may remember that he made a brilliant speech on the Ullswater matter on the Wednesday of one week and was due to sit on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the Wednesday of the next week, but died on the Sunday in full vigour at the age of 85. Should he have been limited to 72?
Mr. Gladstone retired in 1895 aged 85, again a vigorous and active man. Baroness Asquith died recently at the age of 81. There are many such hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) is a most active Member. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) is a very active Member indeed; and although hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House very often disagree with his views, they listen with respect to those views because he is an experienced man in the field on which he speaks. His views are always listened to with respect.
Then there is my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). a very active, useful, vociferous, vigorous and virile Member of this House. But what does my right hon. Friend propose to do with him when he goes into the House of Lords? He does not propose to stifle him. He proposes to emasculate him immediately.
Parliamentary eunuchs have no place in our system of government. Therefore, I ask my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to reconsider this matter. Surely, there could be some machinery for easing Members out when they are a little past it. Perhaps a Committee of the House of Lords, consisting of Members under 60, could be set up to determine when someone had got a little too old—[interruption.] I know that it would be awkward, but it is just as awkward in the business world. When a man is past his prime and usefulness as a director of a company, the other directors ease him out. I know that it is awkward, but they do not feel that they should be burdened with him any longer.
We might be able to do it another way. Members could retire at 72 unless they were—I will not say reelected—renominated for a certain period by a committee of the House of Lords. But we have a difficulty. We would have the useful Members renominated so that they could go on, but we would have the useless Members going on until the age of 72 without any means of getting rid of them. I want some means of getting rid of Members of the House of Lords, whatever age they are. Therefore, I suggest that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General should consider the setting up of a committee which will decide which Members are fit to go on and which are not.
I realise that it would be awkward, but I ask my hon. and learned Friend to devise a means of ensuring that the House of Lords is neither burdened with Members who have become too old, nor is deprived of the services of Members who can go on after their 72 years. I remind the Committee again that the late Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' greatest judgments in the United States as a judge of the Supreme Court were made between the ages of 70 and 90.
I support the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck). I agree with the idea, elaborated so well a few moments ago, that it is nonsensical to think that people are past it at 72 years of age. The hon. Gentleman delved back into history and gave some very cogent examples of famous people who have been extremely active, and who were at the height of their powers at the age of 72-plus.
I should like to deal in more detail with one or two figures better known to Members in general in this connection. It seems utterly ridiculous that we should pontificate on a matter of this nature as it applies to the age of a Member voting in another place, yet we have the gall to suggest that the same rule should not apply here. Surely what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander——
I will give way in a few moments. I have only just begun.
Surely what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the Bill is enacted we will be asking voting peers to work a limited week with no constituency responsibilities. Yet we are prepared to allow Members of Parliament to discharge much more exhaustive duties in this Chamber with no age limit—as those of us who were up last night will have learned to our cost—and, in addition, to have the responsibility of handling constituency problems at the weekend. It is the height of arrogance on our part to suggest imposing an age limit on voting peers without consideration of how such an age limit should be applied here.
I think that the hon. Member for Watford is right in suggesting that subsection (3) should be left out. We have daily proof in the House of Commons of Members on both sides doing a fine job of work who are over the age limit of 72.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). Incidentally, I saw the right hon. Gentleman a few moments ago and told him that I should be mentioning his name in the debate. As soon as he learned of the context in which I was to mention his name, he was highly delighted and told me that I had his full consent to go ahead. He gave me a bit of information about himself. But I also found out, before coming into the Chamber, that the right hon. Member for Easington was born in 1884, which makes him 85 years of age. Seeing him from this side, I think that he does more than his fair share of Parliamentary duties in this Chamber. He takes more than a fair part in debates and more than carries his weight. Indeed, checking through the HANSARD index for the 1966–67 Session, the right hon. Member for Easington made no fewer than 20 formal speeches, and over 300 other speeches, questions and interjections were accredited to them.
The right hon. Gentleman was Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party at the age of 83. That is not a job for kittens. From what I know of the Parliamentary Labour Party, especially of some of the Members, it is a job for a man of the highest calibre who has really to be on the ball. He needs eyes in the back of his head in case he gets a dagger in his back. Yet the right hon. Member for Easington handled the back-bench committee's affairs in a masterly manner until the age of 83.
At Question Time I saw the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). I could not help thinking of him as a typical example of a good, active Parliamentarian at the age of 79. He does not perhaps contribute quite as much as the right hon. Member for Easington, and he is not so periodically on his feet, but I have always found his contributions to debates in the House of immense value.
I am glad to see the Under-Secretary nodding.
The experience of the right hon. Member for Llanelly as Colonial Secretary and in other Ministerial offices which he has brought to bear in our discussions across the Floor of the House on one subject or another has been of immense value.
In nodding I was agreeing with everything that the hon. Gentleman was saying concerning my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly. On the other hand, I beg him to remember that one of the most dangerous canons of false logic is to argue from the particular to the general. What the hon. Gentleman says about my right hon. Friends does not prove the general case at all.
I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman feels that he is right in what he has said. All I seek to do is to choose a few examples of elderly Members to show that, without exception, they are doing a particularly fine and noteworthy job which hon. Members on both sides recognise.
As I was saying, the right hon. Member for Llanelly has always brought his experience to bear in a debate and it has been of immense value to Members of the House. I would hate to think a person with that experience and statesmanship would not have his talents made useful in another place simply because we had written into a Parliament Bill the figure of 72.
I would turn to one other Parliamentarian, the Right Hon. Sir Winston Churchill, who was Member for Woodford and who was born in 1874. He led our nation to a brilliant victory in the war at the age of 71 and finally returned to the Office of Prime Minister at the age of 77, retaining that office until into his 80s. He did an unsurpassable job as a wartime leader and he also did a pretty good job as a peacetime leader.
Winston wiped away all the claptrap of controls, regulations and rationing—the old machinery that was left over from the war. It needed a man who was on the ball to dismantle all the old Socialist web of controls and restrictions, to restore free enterprise, to abolish the food rationing which we had, even until 1953, in respect of certain food commodities such as butter, bacon, eggs, sugar—in fact all the commodities.
It required a man of exceptional ability, exceptional skill, exceptional vigour and efficiency to carry out, as did Sir Winston during the years from 1951–54 the complete destruction of the fabric of rationing to establish once again the availability in the shops to the people of the foods and necessities of life. That was Sir Winston Churchill, who was in his 80s when he passed on the job of Premier to someone else.
I dare say that one would be in order if one seized on any person in his 80s and gave a little discourse on the merits of his career and applied it to this Amendment. I am not seeking to delay the proceedings. I am speaking of people I know, not only historical figures, but those who have impressed me by their ability.
There is one other great person nearing his 90s who is still very much "with it", a very skilled Parliamentarian who, I understand, the Members of both Front Benches, especially the Government Front Bench, treat with the greatest respect, and that is General de Gaulle. The General is more than a match for the Socialist Front Bench and probably a match in statesmanship for any Front Bench we have.
I am indebted to my hon. Friend. He has mentioned the President of Germany, Dr. Adenauer, and called attention to his remarkable age when he retired. He was the wizard who fabricated the wonderful financial structure which Western Germany enjoys today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Erhardt."] It was done under Dr. Adenauer's supervision as leader of the party. When he retired he handed on a heritage of the utmost value to those who followed him in Germany.
I would call attention to the ability of some of These people. General de Gaulle we do not know perhaps quite as well as some of our own colleagues. I well remember, however, when he came to London in his 'seventies about four or five years ago, and addressed both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall. He spoke to us in French for half an hour. On our chairs we had a written translation in English of what he intended to say. He spoke without a note in his hand and never diverged for a moment from the writen translation; not so much as by a full stop or comma. This was a magnificent feat in a crowded, short visit to this country to a high-powered audience in Westminster Hall.
From those four aged persons I have mentioned I suggest that the Committee can draw a lesson and, I hope, reject subsection (3) of this Clause.
We were all fascinated by what the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. John Farr) has just said. I do not think that the suggestion that General de Gaulle was necessarily full of vigour, because he spoke in French for half an hour, is a very good argument; it does happen to be his language. Many of the arguments he put forward are very valid, but I would not think that that is the best argument to be put in relation to this case.
I would say something to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck), who said that he hoped that all the speeches in this debate would be short. The hon. Member must know that all our speeches have been short; none of us has made long speeches in this debate at all.
I know, but I think that everybody would accept that we have kept to the minimum of words and have clearly expressed our thoughts in the concisest possible way. My hon. Friend should have no fears at all that any hon. Member is likely to dream of making a lengthy speech.
I agree that this Clause ought to be removed from the Bill. The Bill should be removed as well, but this Clause, in particular, should be removed. It should be removed because of this magic figure of 72. Why 72? Why not 70? Why not 80? Why not 92? Why not 102? Why 72?
We have tried to find out how many Members there are likely to be in the other place; no one knows that figure, it cannot be written in. There have been long arguments about how many Members there would be in the new, reformed second Chamber. No one can tell us; no one wants to tell us, but they can tell us it has to be 72. This is absolutely amazing. Let us think about it for a few minutes. Who was responsible for bringing in the Bill? My right hon. Friend, who is mainly responsible has now transferred his affections to another Department—at least, his affections have been transferred to another Department. He may have been the one who was captivated by the figure 72.
That may have been on my right hon. Friend's mind at the time. It is possible that it was, together with the temperature of the bathwater and a number of other factors. Anyway, we have the magic figure of 72. It is ridiculous to put such a figure in the Bill. I am against the whole idea of nominations for the second Chamber, but if we are to have a second Chamber of any sort it is ridiculous to impose an age limit upon its Members. It would not be long before we started imposing a limit on the age of Members of this House, or members of local authorities.
Some hon. Members have talked about Parliamentarians. I can think of first-class local authority administrators who have been councillors and aldermen for many years—and who have given a great deal of good service to this country—who are well over the age of 72. I can equally well think of some who should have departed from the scene long ago.
I remember a certain amount of frustration arising in Liverpool because a Member had said that he would never retire from the House of Commons except feet first—and that is what happened. It led to quite a bit of frustration on the part of the chaps below, who thought that he should have retired a little earlier. Such matters as these are for the constituency parties. If they are not satisfied with their Members, they are the ones to determine whether they should continue to stand for the House. A democratically elected second Chamber would be much better, but an age limit of this kind cannot be written into a Bill like this. It is one of the most absurd things that have ever been put before us.
That is why I shall support my hon. Friends and reject the other Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), who has suggested that we should reduce the age limit from 72 to 70. Perhaps he will enlighten us about the way in which he arrived at that mystic figure. I can understand people retiring at 65 if they have been in industry and have done hard work in the pits or on building sites. Then it is only right that they should retire at 65. But there should still be a certain element of choice about the matter.
We all know of men who have been in a certain job all their lives, and who have died almost immediately after being forced into retirement. If they had been given the opportunity to continue in their job they would probably have lived. This is a matter for individual choice. A retirement age should be imposed for industry, but a certain element of choice should be allowed within it. To write it into legislation is the height of absurdity, and I hope that the Committee will support my hon. Friend in dividing.
We hoard quite a bit yesterday, or today—I am lost because of the way that we have been conducting these discussions—about topping-up.
I thank my hon. Friend.
It was absurd to include the figure of 72. If we have the magic figure of 72 we have to top-up when there is a change of Government and each time a Member reaches the age of 72. Hon. Members should think of the problem that would confront my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, and the Leader of the Opposition.
And the Liberals.
Imagine the immense problems—the great deal of thought and energy that will have to go into deciding how to solve the problem, and whom should be put in to top-up the figures. My right hon. Friend must be spared this job. He has enough burdens and problems without having this additional requirement constantly to top-up the other place. We should remove the Clause from the Bill. My hon. and learned Friend does not need any topping-up although he might need some propping-up. He has no one with him at the moment, and the Opposition Front Bench is only a little fuller than it was yesterday.
I hope that at the end of the debate—which will not go on for more than five or six hours—my hon. and learned Friend will tell us that he accepts this sensible and wise Amendment.
I support the Amendment. I am against any rigid age limit or forced retirement purely on age grounds. No limits are imposed in either House at the moment, and until the Bill was produced I had never heard anyone suggest such a limit. The expectation of life, especially in the Western world, is increasing, and presumably people will be less senile in future than they are now at a given age. They will be more useful than they have been and are now.
If any example is needed, we need look no further than the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who made a very witty interjection just now. I looked up his age and found that he is 74. He belies any need for an age limit. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and others in the House who are over 70 have been mentioned. There are three or four national leaders, some dead and some living. Two at least will not be palatable to the party opposite, but they are able people. General Franco is about 77 and the late Dr. Salazar of Portugal was about 80 when he died not long ago——
I apologise to the Committee. My recollection was wrong. Other examples are Mr. Nehru, who was well over 70 when he died, and the Emperor Haile Selassie, who has had a long and distinguished career as Head of State and is still going strong at well over 70. President de Gaulle is another obvious example.
I start by expressing my regret that the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) has left us, overcome by emotion at the suggestion that the elderly should not be catered for in politics. I think that, in saying that I am sorry he has gone. I speak for everyone in the Committee. I believed, when I saw him sitting there so contentedly for a few minutes, that there had been a change of view on the Opposition Front Bench, and that that would contribute to our debates. I am not complaining, I am gratified to see other spokesmen who have come, and I hope that, throughout the day, there will be a dispensation so that Whips can speak, which will be of great assistance to us.
In this Clause, we have again the right to insist on the point which we have made time and time again, but which is justified particularly here. The Solicitor-General said this morning that this question of the age limit had been put in the Bill not as part of any agreement but as a decision of the Government and it was on that basis that he defended it.
My hon. and learned Friend shakes his head, but he will no doubt be able to explain more fully. If he is advancing the alternative proposition that it is part of the agreement, we will be equally interested. That will open up another fruitful line of inquiry. Either way, we shall be glad to have the authoritative opinion of the Solicitor-General about the source of this decision.
I once again plead that we should have from the Opposition Front Bench an indication of their view on this matter. I repeat that one of the reasons why these debates have been made more extensive than they would otherwise have been is that we have had an entirely novel situation of no advice being offered to the Committee by the Opposition Front Bench on issue after issue on which the Committee is entitled to their opinions.
Without the assistance of the Front Benches, let us try to discover for ourselves the origin of this proposal. Everyone who has heard the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) and other hon. Members has heard underlined the invidious nature of making a pronouncement that people are to cease to have their voting rights in another place at the age of 72. All have produced arguments showing that many people in our public life over many years, at a much more advanced age, have been able to make great contributions to our public life. Therefore, it appears absurd to have such a restriction. That is the common feeling in the Committee.
So let us see what the origin is. The place to turn to is the White Paper, which says in paragraph 44:
In the long term, however, it would be wrong for a working legislative chamber to contain an indefinite number of members, however distinguished, who were well beyond the normal age of retirement from active life: and …
this is the most essential part—
if members were to be paid (see Paragraph 52 below) it would certainly be wrong for membership
to carry with it the right to be paid for the remainder of a life-time. It is therefore proposed that after a suitable date a peer who had reached the age of 72 at the end of one parliament should be precluded from voting in the next.
The White Paper therefore leaves no doubt that the origin of this restriction derives precisely from the idea that members of the so-called reformed new Upper Chamber were to be paid. That is what both Front Benches said. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), in response to the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), said that the White Paper incorporated the agreement. Those were his words. So this is an agreement between the Front Benches that there should be payment of peers, and, consequent on that, the agreement about 72.
Therefore, it is not only a question, whatever the Solicitor-General may have said this morning, of the Government putting forward the figure of 72. That figure was agreed by the Opposition Front Bench.
Admittedly, it was agreed by the two Front Benches—and the Liberals, presumably. There was no dissenting voice so far as I know, although the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) will, no doubt, tell us if there was any dissent by his leader——
I should be most grateful if the hon. and learned Gentleman would convey to his leader the opinions held by many of us that it would be advantageous for the Committee, just as we have asked that the other parties to the agreement should come here and tell us precisely what they agreed, if the leader of the Liberal Party did the same, It is a justified assumption from what I have said that the leader of the Liberal Party also agreed to this figure of 72.
According to the White Paper, the reason for fixing it at 72 was that salaries were to be paid and it is not now a certainty—although many of us believe it—that they will be paid in the end. We believe that, eventually, a proposal to that end will be introduced which will, presumably, restore the validity of the arguments, if there is any validity, for 72.
would the hon. Gentleman take this matter a little further? Assuming that the noble peers do retire at 72 and they get: salaries, as we think they probably will, what are they expected to live on after retirement? Will they get a pension, the dole or what?
We must first discover whether they will get a salary up to the age of 72. I agree that we should then wish to establish what is to happen to them afterwards. In the White Paper, which was agreed by the hon. Gentleman's leaders as well as mine, it is said that the reason for fixing the level of 72 was because it was thought to be wrong to agree to pay somebody for the remainder of a lifetime. That is why a figure has been put in, not necessarily the figure of 72.
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. Harvey) here; he is a very influential member of his party. I do not know if he investigated matters in the 1922 Committee, but as we have been unable to get answers in the House of Commons, perhaps we should look for them in the 1922 Committee. We had information about what happens in the Parliamentary Labour Party, and it was not an inaccurate description, but I do not want to trespass on these matters.
It is no good the hon. Gentleman barracking me here. Any hon. Gentleman who dissents from the proposal for the figure of 72 must fight it out with his own leadership. He must first question his leadership on why it was agreed to insert the figure of 72, and he must then inquire from them why the figure was kept in the Bill when the proposal for making payment, which had been the cause of putting in the figure in the first place, had been removed. Those are the two questions on which we would like authoritative answers, but it appears that we are to have no replies from those qualified to speak on the matter. Many other hon. Members may demand answers, as may the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), but I am sure he will agree that his answer cannot be authoritative.
Will not the hon. Gentleman go further and agree that if we were to make the Amendment and leave out the subsection it would preclude the Government from paying Members of the House of Lords at a later date, because of the reason for putting in the subsection in the first place? In other words, these people would be paid until death, however senile they were. We could strike a major blow for victory if the Amendment were to be carried.
I will come to my attitude towards the Amendment in a moment. I was first seeking to discover why a proposal which appears so absurd to hon. Members in all parts of the House, should have been included in the Bill.
I come now to my attitude to the Amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne has an Amendment, which we are discussing with this Amendment, which proposes a reduction of the age limit to 70 in certain circumstances. Proposals are also made for fixing the age at which people can be appointed to the second Chamber. Those proposals are made to overcome other difficulties in the Bill. I will listen carefully to the arguments which my hon. Friend will put forward for his Amendment, because I am in general sympathy with his approach to the Bill.
I find it extremely invidious for this House to suggest that it will lay down an age limit, whatever may have been the original reason for proposing it. I object to the second Chamber continuing at all, but I do not think we should send up a Measure that is laden with fresh absurdities and fresh insults to Members of the other place. It is an insult that we should lay down precisely when we think people will be unqualified to continue to give their advice to another place, particularly when we are saying that we think ex-Ministers will be perfectly qualified to retain their voting rights in the other place but others will not. I do not believe in the distinction between ex-Ministers and non-Ministers. I do not like this process of Parliamentary apartheid, there is nothing to be said for it. It would have to be a very persuasive argument to convince me that it would be proper to send a Bill to the other place which suggested that an age limit of 72 should be fixed for everybody except ex-Ministers.
We shall be reaching the bishops some time after Easter. The division between the attitude expressed in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) and the attitude that may be expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ash-ton-under-Lyne shows the same division of outlook as in the previous set of Amendments. There is a division between the attitude of the Amendments suggested by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury and that of some hon. Members on this side of the House who were seeking to limit the occasions on which peers should be able to exercise their rights. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury was saying what is implied in some Amendments which we are now considering, that the only way to rescue anything from the Bill is to make the Members of another place as independent as possible. There is a great deal to be said for that argument. The hon. Gentleman says that we must therefore remove any restriction about when a person can be removed from the other place and we must ensure, once he is there, that he is there for life, which would ensure an element of independence.
His view seems to be once a peer always a peer; once a boy scout always a boy scout, and it is once a Chief Whip always a Chief Whip as we look at the Opposition Front Bench—that is sometimes the way in which we bring it up to date. The idea of once a peer always a peer does give a certain independence, but the difficulty is that the more it is pressed the more it comes up against the other principles incorporated in the Bill. The Bill is not designed to make independent peers.
If the Bill succeeded in what the hon. Gentleman is seeking to secure by his Amendments, that the peers would be independent, then my prophecy is that the resulting clash between the two Houses would be utterly disastrous. If we were to incorporate into the Bill a series of Amendments which fortified those who are ennobled for years to come, fortified them in advance with independence and security of tenure, then the result would be to undermine the central principles of the Bill, which seek to ensure that the Government of the day shall always have a safe majority in the other place. In other words, the more we put into the Bill Amendments designed to insert a degree of common sense into it, the more we ensure that accusations of bad faith will arise.
If a Government is threatened by a revolt of peers who have been sent there to sustain a Government majority, then accusations of bad faith will be made against individuals who turn against the so-called mandate which they have been given for going there at all. There will be accusations of bad faith as to whether people have a right to exercise their rights in these circumstances. It is an intolerable situation that we should set out to make an arrangement whereby there will always be the suspicion hanging over the Members of the other place that they are not abiding by the implicit undertakings which they had to give in order to be sent there, or that they are being obedient to those undertakings for motives which we would regard as desirable if they were attributed to ourselves. These are the inevitable consequences of the kind of Measure with which we are presented. On these Amendments, even more clearly than on some of the others, we illustrate some of the dilemmas in which we are placed in these discussions.
The hon. Member is obviously correct about the existence of an age limit, but surely his argument should not be pursued to the extent that the age limit should be 72. It could be a higher age.
As I say, I shall listen carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne. We all have to make very awkward choices in this place. When the vote comes some of us will have to choose whether to vote for this Amendment removing the age limit although it would remove the obstacles I have been trying to illustrate. I hope against hope that some Minister will try to answer these philosophical arguments, if we can dignify them by such a term, which underlie the Bill. The Government do not do that, nor do right hon. Members of the Opposition Front Bench.
Because these things are not founded on principle something is pushed through without the exact nature of what we are doing being revealed. Those on the back benches are seeking to reveal what we are doing and are showing that these will be the consequences. No one can deny that the invidious nature of the proposal for sending people to another place on these terms, whether they abide by the mandates or break them, will face charges of bad faith, particularly at times of great national crisis. The question of how the House of Lords will settle a matter will be of supreme importance only when the future of the State is at stake. In five, 10, or whatever number of years it may be, when the Government of the day, formed from whichever party, is shaken to its roots, the whole issue will depend on what is to happen in the House of Lords. Then inevitably there will be charges of bad faith against those members of another place acting contrary to the assumptions which underlie the Bill.
I thought that I had gone a little outside the bounds of order, but I must have been in order or otherwise you, Mr. Gourlay, would have pulled me up. If I did not pursue the matter it would be almost tantamount to a criticism of the Chair. I do not want to repeat what I have said, but I emphasise, because of some of the comments we hear about our debates generally and some of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford, that those of us who oppose the Bill do so because we believe that implicit in it, almost inextricable from it, is a constitutional clash of major importance. I think it almost a certainty that it will happen if we allow the Bill to go through in these terms. It would be a clash which would be settled only if it came to the point at which by the creation of peers and the exercise of the prerogative there were the exercise of rights which under this Bill the Government are supposed to be surrendering.
As the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) suggested, it would be possible to alter the nature of the Bill in some degree by altering the age limit up or down. Partly such objections are incorporated in the Amendment which follow, but that would be an invidious way of seeking our objective.
On balance I would vote for this Clause unless my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne produces overwhelming arguments in favour of his alternative suggestion. I make clear that in voting for such an Amendment, despite the apparent good sense of doing so, that would be only on the understanding that it would make even more difficult in some respects the operation of this Measure. The more we look at it the more the Measure becomes unamendable in any sense which would reform it altogether. The nature of the Bill itself is so diseased that the infection it contains can spread throughout the whole Parliamentary system. I cannot see that it can be remedied by any slight treatment of some of its symptoms. Only by a surgical operation, only by cutting its throat, can this animal be cured.
I shall try to answer some of the very powerful arguments which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) developed. I hope that he will not think me discourteous if I start by referring to one or two less important points.
The first of those lesser points concerns the suggestion by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) that there should be some screening to decide when old peers are senile. I support his Amendment and I was honoured to have my name coupled with his in support. I am a great believer in removing the age qualification, but the mind rather boggles at the thought of a screening committee for senile peers such as he proposed. I am not sure that it would not have to be this House which performed the function. I think we would have to shout "Object" to impersonalise the operation and remove any personal stigma from those by whom objection was taken. It was not a possible solution to the dilemma.
That is the nearest I have heard to a self-perpetuating oligarchy.
The White Paper contains this curious provision:
It is important that during the early days of the reformed House as many as possible of the more active members of the present House should remain available and continue as full working members to give the benefit of their knowledge and experience in what must inevitably be a period of adjustment, and the age of retirement would not therefore be introduced immediately.
So the argument is that there are many over 72 in another place who are extremely useful and should be allowed to continue. The burden of the Government's case that people over 72 are not useful was built into the Bill at the very beginning, which is an extraordinary contradiction in relation to the transitional period from the beginning to a later period when the House has transformed itself into a new House.
The fact that we have to invoke the services of old and senile men to get an organisation on its feet which by definition excludes men of that age because they are old and senile would be a sufficiently futile proposition to put to this House to start with, but it becomes odder still when we read how the Bill treats this provision in legislative form. At the end of subsection (4) these words appear:
or such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow".
I presume that the House there referred to is the House of Lords.
Here we have the provision enacting a White Paper that these old but useful Members will be allowed to vote beyond the age of 72 during the transitional period. It is phrased in exactly the words used by the hon. Member for Watford in his intervention—
as the House may for special reasons allow".
There is a temporary enactment of what the hon. Gentleman wants, and the House of Peers will solemnly shout, "Object" to its own Members to indicate whether those over 72 will be allowed to have the vote during the transitional period, whose length is not determined. For a period of unnamed years the House of Lords will be able to blackball some of its own Members who are over 72 until in its collective wisdom it decides to cease the practice and to blackball all of them who are over 72.
I appeal to the Government to defend the double proposition that I have outlined. It is clearly beyond defence in either logic or in law. The Solicitor-General will agree that there is no precedent in English law in words as loosely drawn as these—
or such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow".
What do those words mean? What is the legal authority for them? What is the machinery? Where is it provided in the Bill how this provision is to be interpreted? It is an insult to bring forward legislation as loosely drafted and as meaningless as that sentence.
There is the further small point that the Bill is so drafted that a peer is excluded if his 72nd birthday falls outside a Parliament; but if it falls the day after the commencement of a Parliament he gets a further period, perhaps five years if it is a five-year Parliament. So there will be peers sitting in the reformed House who will be within a few days of 77 before they are forced to retire. On the other hand, if the 72nd birthday falls the day before a dissolution the peer will be disallowed. So there is this rather large margin of five years between the lucky ones and the unlucky ones.
I do not want to labour the general proposition that to limit membership by age is a proposition we cannot support. I would only add to the anecdotes which have pleased the Committee, which is now in very genial form after the good progress it made earlier today, that I believe that Dr. Adenauer's eldest son was an old-age pensioner when he, Dr. Adenauer, was still Chancellor. If one can grasp that conception, it proves that age need be no bar to the successful wielding of political power.
The noble Lord, Lord Montgomery, moved an Amendment to the Homosexual Bill in another place to provide that the age of consent be 80. A real dilemma is thrown up by the wide range of different ages which have been suggested as "the chopper". There is 80 at the extreme, which Lord Montgomery, in the wisdom which is so much a speciality of another place suggested, right down to the old-age persion, which starts at 65 for men and 60 for women. I have never understood why women grow older five years quicker than men. The whole question of when someone is old varies from profession to profession.
The hon. Member for Watford, in his brilliant speech, argued that it would be totally inconsistent with the purpose of the Bill to give independence to peers, to give them the greatest possible sham independence, but independence within the system as proposed in the Bill. I do not think that the two instances he cited showed that there was much variance between us. The hon. Gentleman said that I had tried to abolish the retirement age and had tried at the same time to limit the need of a peer to apply for a new dog licence when his old one had run out, to give him a feeling of continuity. A peer has by right to receive a writ, so whether my point this morning had been gained or lost would make no difference to the fact that once someone is a peer under the Bill he always will be a peer.
This Amendment would not cramp the independence of a peer, because, whether he must retire at 70, as the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) suggests, or at 72 as the Bill provides, or at death, which is my proposal, he still has some degree of independence. The purpose of my Amendment is not to erect something which will mirror the House of Commons, because if there is a ratio of 60 to 40 between the parties in the House of Commons it is pointless to put a ratio of 60 to 40 between the parties in the House of Lords and for the majority to operate almost by remote control. This is what is envisaged by the I anonymous authors of the Bill. I want people of perhaps second-class spirit who will sit in the other place and, on occasion, vote against the strings tied to them.
This might be described as a wrecking Amendment, but the Solicitor-General should accept it, for it will prevent a future Government from saying, "We I have changed our mind. We cannot; find people to sit in the reformed House s of Lords. The pay is not enough and t the P.I.B. recommends that they should have 2,000 guineas a year." We confidently expect this to happen sometime after the Bill becomes law, if it becomes law.
I am not sure; which Amendment in this group I can support because they are like the curate's egg, both good and bad. The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) pointed out how many hon. Member's of this place live to a ripe old age, like; my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who is 85. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) supported that argument and added to the list of elderly Parliamentarians.
I agree that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington is one of the most active, vigilant and able men in this place. But I was amazed to hear the hon. Member for Watford call in aid the fact that judges may be over 80 yet still active. He went on to speak of a judge who had fallen asleep while he was addressing him and that he had to drop a book to wake him up. Does he consider that poor old judges who cannot stay awake are the people we want in another place?
We are not speaking about young people. Many of the people in the other place will be aged. It has even been suggested that 80 is not too old. The hon. Member for Harborough could not understand why there should be any age limit. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) pointed out, the question of payment is tied up with this. I am apprehensive at the thought of having permanently pensioned people of 70 and 90 drawing substantial sums for attending and voting, but doing nothing more.
It has been pointed out that there is no age limit in the House of Commons. The big difference is that the magnificent right hon. Member for Easington or any other hon. Member may be voted out of office by the electorate or not readopted by the local constituency party. Indeed, the national party might even suggest that certain people should not continue as hon. Members. I understand, however, that there will be no means of getting rid of people appointed to the Lords. Whereas we can apply for the Chiltern Hundreds and find ourselves unemployed for various reasons, they are there for life.
It has been suggested that we do not impose age limits on others. But we do. We are very short of policemen but, certainly in the metropolitan area, they have to retire at 50. It is rather a young age. A man can be in the prime of life at 50. A great servant of this House, P.C. "Tubby" Cannon, resigned this week. He is no doubt perfectly fit and able to carry on with his job, but, whether he likes it or not, he must go—and I am sure he is not entitled to or permitted to draw a £2,000 a year pension for life. Then there is the case of civil servants and local government servants.
I started by explaining that I am in a quandary as to whether the age limit should be 65, 70 or 72. An hon. Member said that 80 is not a great age and referred to a number of people. I was saying that, although we do not prevent hon. Members from carrying on to a great age, we prevent others from doing so in their jobs. Indeed, my noble Friend, the Lord Chancellor, only recently decided that justices of the peace could not carry on beyond a certain age. They are compelled to resign even though they may be fit and able to carry on.
We have made it a rule that civil servants retire at 65. The case of Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery has been mentioned and we can quote a number of others. I cast no aspersions on him or on the others. He and they will be drawing not only their salaries or pensions from the House of Lords but also their retirement pensions and their army pensions.
I am trying to hang on to the argument but am finding it rather weighty. Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to think that there should be an age limit but that he has not made up his mind as to which it should be? If I can get that clear, I can hold the argument with greater ease.
I am not sure that there should be an age limit nor what it should be if we have one. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) has a powerful case and I want to listen to him. I have not been fully convinced by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford or by the hon. Member for Harborough.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) always makes good interjections but that one was not up to his usual standard. The Committee knows that I made no aspersions against Lord Montgomery. He is one of our greatest men and I would not say a word against him. But if we are to have an age limit of 65 or 70 or 72 for the House of Lords we should remember that we compel civil servants to retire at 65. That is the difference and it is all tied up with the question of salaries. If, however, a civil servant retires and then takes another job within what one would loosely term, "state service", his pension is reduced pro rata. That applies also to local Government officers who have retired. But no such pro rata deduction will be made in the case of their Lordships. They will continue to draw their fees or state board salaries, if they are getting them. They will continue to draw expense allowances and /or salary in the House of Lords. We shall be creating a situation in which many individuals will be receiving state aid as peers in excess of what is paid to a Minister of the Crown and probably in excess of what is paid to the Prime Minister.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that many local authority officials who retire go on to be elected to local authorities—unfortunately, usually of the persuasion of the party opposite? They then play an important rôle in public affairs. Could not higher civil servants, unless the age limit of 65 was laid down, be nominated for another place? I do not think that we have the right to put this limit.
Many former civil servants or local Government officers may serve on local authorities but they do not get a salary. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is a great practical Member. He does not decide what the Prime Minister is going to do, although I agree that it is a great pity and that it would perhaps be better for us if the Prime Minister were to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) as much as he does to, say, the Lord Chancellor. People who serve on local authorities do not get payment. They may get out-of-pocket expenses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought for a moment I was getting the cheers, but I see that there has been a 300 per cent. increase on the Opposition Front Bench.
Now perhaps I can deal with the point on which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale failed to get satisfaction. There is this package agreement, which is tied up with the question of age and whether Members of the other place should be paid salaries——
Of course, Sir Beresford, but we are also discussing with the age limit for voting, the age at which a wage or salary shall cease to be applicable, be it 72, 65, or whatever age is finally agreed My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale went to great pains—[Interruption.'] At least my remarks have made some impression on the representation on the Opposition Front Bench. We are now seeing a rapid increase both in numbers and in weight. My hon. Friend has been trying to get an answer to this point throughout our debates. Unless we know whether these people are to be paid and how much they are to be paid, we do not know whether to ask for them to be debarred both from membership of the Lords and from receiving the State life pension to which they would normally be entitled. Perhaps the ex-noble Lord, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), can help us on this question. Is there an agreement between the two Front Benches, which has now been broken, about the salary that these people shall receive?
This has been quoted before. On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:
This does not mean that we have decided that voting Members should not be paid at some time in the future, or that they should. It simply means that we are preserving an open mind so that the matter can be considered in the light of experience at a more suitable time in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 55.]
I thank my hon. Friend for helping me to make my point. I could not have done it as well as that. He has shown, quite rightly, that there may be or may not be a salary paid to these people at some time. We cannot get our own Front Bench to reveal whether there will be a salary——
On a point of order, Sir Beresford. A number of us have seen the influence of salaries pervading every single Clause. Although there is no mention of a salary in the Bill, its effects are present in every Clause. It is very difficult to discuss the Bill rationally without bringing into play the question of salaries.
Further to that point of order, Sir Beresford. May I submit to you that, as the prospect of a salary is given in the White Paper as the principal reason for the retirement age, it is difficult to discuss the retirement age in the Bill intelligently without considering whether there will be salaries.
My hon. Friend is making his speech at a unique moment. On the Opposition Front Bench at the moment there are two right hon. Gentlemen, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) who are both leaders of the party opposite—[Interruption.] I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire has decided to leave. I was about to say that my hon. Friend is in the unique position of having two right hon. Gentlemen present, both of whom have served in the other place, both of whom are members of the Shadow Cabinet, and both of whom are able, therefore, to inform the Committee on this subject, probably better than anyone else. Unfortunately, one of them has already flown.
I was about to deal with the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. Will Griffiths). He may not have been present in the early hours of this morning, but a similar interjection was made by one of my hon. Friends when the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was questioned on the point. What happened then has happened again in the case; of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). As soon as they were questioned about it, they ran away. The only representative remaining on the Opposition Front Bench is the right hon. Member for St. Marylebone, but he will not let us into the secret.
I am not talking about experience, or lack of it, in the House of Lords. A package deal was made. The two sides are equally responsible for coming to this agreement about paying £2,000, I think. When it was discussed earlier, it was suggested that the two sides agreed that after writing-off the £1,250, which was recognised as the average Parliamentarian's expenses, £2,000 were left. As the noble Lords, whether they be 70, 72, or 65, would not have constituency expenses, it was felt that if we left them there until the age of 72 and knocked off the £1,250 they could have a £2,000 pension if they stayed on as voting peers.
I have the greatest regard and admiration for my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who is the great champion of the under-dog and the under-privileged. But he suggests that their Lordships should work for the miserly sum of £2,000 and should not have the opportunity of relinquishing this arduous job at 72. Another Amendment suggests that the age should be 65. The suggestion about the age of 72 is probably reasonable and more democratic. We expect industrial workers to retire at 65. It might well be reasonable for peers to retire at 72 and to give them the opportunity of relinquishing this arduous task for which they will receive only the nominal sum of £2,000.
I thought that I had dealt with the age of 72. I have just started on the age of 65 and was tending towards favouring that age. I thought that it would be a little hard to insist that these poor old gentlemen should have to carry on their arduous duties until 72 years of age. I was castigating, in a lighthearted way, my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, who advocates the age of 72. If dockers should have the opportunity to retire at 65, as I think they should, why not give these noble peers the opportunity to retire at 65? Why should we insist that they carry on beyond that age?
It may be difficult for peers to write at the age of 80. They may have to write letters, but they will not be constituency letters. They could write better at 65.
No. The hon. Gentleman has come in too late—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have already explained that I could not accept the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford. I am not concerned with the age of 72. I have tended towards the age of 65, but I have not made up my mind. That is generally the retirement age for local government officers. If the peers are not to be paid, I may want them to stay on. Perhaps they need the 4½ guineas a day expenses.
The hon. Gentleman makes a false comparison between the possible age of retirement for peers and the age of retirement for people in various trades and professions—doctors, police, and so on. Might it not be that people who have come to the end of their working lives in some trade or industry will be entering the House of Lords to give it the benefit of their experience in their trade or industry? The hon. Gentleman is is inferring that as soon as they get there they will be axed; they will be too old.
The hon. Gentleman should make his own speech separately and not as an intervention in my speech. I do not know who will go into the House of Lords; perhaps the hon. Gentleman does. He may be privy to what the Leader of the Opposition proposes or he may know what the Prime Minister wants to do. I am not sure that my right hon. Friend will send people to the House of Lords at 70 years of age or that he will send people who have given a lifetime of service in the pits or the workshop. We do not know how many people will go to the House of Lords. Certainly we do not know what their age will be. Unless we know what their age will be, we shall have difficulty in deciding at what age they should retire. It would be silly to send them there at the age of 65 and retire them at 65. If the Prime Minister decides to send them there at 72, I could not accept that. The age of 80 is probably a reasonable age at which they should retire.
I do not know which way I shall vote on this matter. Perhaps I shall not vote at all. I shall listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne to see whether he can persuade me about the correct way to vote.
One thing that has been conspicuous throughout the whole debate on the Amendments to this Clause, in this Ishmael of a Bill, is that every voice raised, even if only for a few seconds in an intervention, has been thoroughly hostile to the import of the Clause.
I am bewildered at the arbitrary age selected. The Amendments have given us a range of choice, which has been ably expounded by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). It seems to me that the only sense that could be made of this small part of a very idotic Bill would be to withdraw subsection (3), as Amendment No. 21 suggests. It is impossible to understand the intention in choosing the age of 72. To a mind that lacked the advantage of having been elevated by the past few hours of debate, it would seem incredible that anybody could say that 72 is a certain watershed in the affairs of humanity, that up to that age one is at one's highest powers, and that after it one is inevitably in decline.
That is what seems to me the import of the age given in the Bill. But the facts do not justify this. There are far more practical imputations, such as the hon. Member for West Ham, North and others have mentioned. Until the advent of the Bill, 65 had always been regarded as the age of decline, although in recent years I have noticed that in public affairs there has been a tendency to seek to extend the age before retirement was obligatory.
I am sure that the Committee is as willing to discuss 47 as the obligatory retirement age as it is to discuss 72. As an Upper House of placemen could never consist of bodies less than 60 years old, they would be even more disqualified under the Bill than under some of the conditions named by the hon Member for East Ham, North.
If 65 is regarded as the retirement age of all the rest of the population, I cannot see why it should be different in this context, if a retirement age must be stated at all. When we were earlier favoured by a lightning visit from the putative parent of this Parliamentary monster, the Secretary of State for Social Services, that Pooh-Bah of the Government, it passed through my mind that perhaps by the time he and the Government had been given the chopper by an infuriated electorate he himself would be getting too near the age of 65 and would be chopped off again, before he could enjoy his retirement in another place.
I cannot see why 72 must be laid down by the Government any more than 65. The Committee will require a very clear demonstration by the Solicitor-General of some reasons, which, I suppose, must be largely biological, why 72 is so strictly relevant in this connection.
If in fact we are talking of senile dementia, which surely is the only reason why retirement is laid upon people, it must be known to the Government, as it is to any of those who have studied these matters—they have at their disposal ample medical evidence—that dementia does not set in at the same age in every individual. This is well-known. I do not look in any particular direction when I say that, for we do not need to consider this as a personal matter.
It is probably also known to the Government that there are well-marked conditions known as pre-senile dementias, in which the symptoms set in in the 30s or 40s—certainly as young as the 30s. Very marked in the processes of senile dementia are the sluggishness of association, inability to amass recent memory and above all that quality that is most vexatious in the Chamber from time to time, of a Member going on speaking and then appearing to stop so that everybody jumps up to catch the eye of the Chair, and then the Member carries on again. We have all suffered from this. Those are the chaps who need the chopper. If anybody takes the medical side of this retirement age question seriously, which I doubt, these are the matters which should be studied.
I noticed that the hon. Gentleman received a certain measure of attempted support last night and at this morning's sitting from one of them. I suppose that he takes this matter very seriously as presumably he is the cadet member of the association.
If we are considering the medical reasons—which are the only reasons we should consider in determining people's retirment at certain ages, I cannot believe that it can be done in the absence of a medical sorting-out process. To have that sorting-out process carried out at No. 10 Downing Street is a horrifying thought. Everyone in the Chamber will agree that it would be much better carried out by, perhaps, such a committee as my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) and I and other hon. Members have suggested in new Clause 9. That will include various forms of experts to judge the mental qualities of candidates for the Upper House.
I admit that, but perhaps the principle needs to be extended to the longitudinal benches as well. It seems that we must judge the readiness for retirement on mental grounds alone for all the peers, not only those on the cross-benches, be they devoid of political instincts——
I would not dare to put myself forward. There are others far more recently in practice dealing with the disorders of the human mind than I have been. We shall need all of them before we finish.
Having been mystified by this extraordinary feature of the Bill, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale for revealing to us for the first time in this Chamber the enlightening words in the White Paper.
I see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons has arrived, with his hon. Friend the Member for Rother-ham (Mr. O'Malley). I am afraid that we shall now suffer a period of narcosis in the debate, resulting from the nature of the most recent entrants to the Chamber.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale quoted two sentences from the White Paper which my right hon. Friend for West Flint and I, together with others, have sought to append to the Bill as a Schedule in Amendment 58. Those sentences, in paragraph 8, state:
…if members were to be paid …it would certainly be wrong for membership to carry with it the right to be paid for the remainder of a life-time. It is therefore proposed that after a suitable date a peer who had reached the age of 72 at the end of one parliament should be precluded from voting in the next.
There can be no other possible reason for this otherwise inexplicable age of 72. It is another example of the extraordinary deviousness with which this Bill has been introduced into the Committee and I should like to vote at least for the exclusion of this subsection.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) opened this debate and reminded the Committee of the considerable number of distinguished men in public life who have given service in many spheres. He produced a formidable and unchallengeable list of these as grounds for his proposal to delete the subsection. The Committee will agree that there are many instances which leap to mind and support that part of my hon. Friend's argument. I well remember that when I was called to the Bar Mr. Justice Avory was sitting in the Court of Criminal Appeal and Lord Dunedin was in the House of Lords. There are many instances that come to mind of most distinguished service given by men of extraordinary age.
My hon. Friend put forward as a possibility, and here there were perhaps greater doubts in the minds of many of us, a committee, set up to decide when people were getting a bit old, to decide who is fit and who is not. It would be rather an invidious type of inquiry. Consideration has been given to the number of instances of distinguished people performing services of great importance in old age. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) asked why we should think in terms of imposing an age limit for the Upper House when no such limit is propounded as being desirable in the Commons.
It is an important factor of life in the House of Commons that there is the need to seek re-adoption and re-election, which provides a check not present in another place. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), if I may say this affectionately to him, appeared to be more concerned with unravelling what he could of the history of this matter and its origins than in putting forward arguments for and against the age of 72.
For many of the years that I have had the privilege of knowing him, my hon. Friend has been inclined to be more interested in the processes of argument than in their outcome. What I invite him to do is to consider on its merits the appropriateness of the age set out in the Bill. I have not heard why we should regard any other age as more appropriate or desirable. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) said that there might be a connection between the provisions of subsections (3) and (4). He appeared to take the view that there could be an extension applied by virtue of subsection (4) to a peer who had attained the age of 72 before the dissolution of the previous Parliament. My understanding is that subsection (4) cannot be used to admit a peer over the retiring age, once this Measure is in force.
How do the Government intend to give effect to the passage in the White Paper which says that the very valuable knowledge and experience of the over 72's will be retained when the Measure becomes law by their being allowed to continue as voting peers?
No resort can be had to this subsection in that connection. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) showed in his contribution a welcome readiness to consider the arguments, and I hope that he will come to the conclusion that we have arrived at the age limit which is desirable in all the circumstances. There are a whole host of matters to be borne in mind in determining the best retiring age.
It was most natural that the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) should place emphasis upon biological and medical aspects, because we all know of his distinction and ability in that direction. It is understandable that factors of that kind should weigh in his mind—other factors weighed in other minds. In arriving at the content of the Clause, particularly subsection (3), we have had regard to a very large number of what we believe to be relevant factors and circumstances.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. He is perfectly right and I do not resile at all from what I said then. There was an actuarial element in this work. A lot of relevant matters are brought into consideration.
All factors were taken into account. I have ventured to make these observations about the contributions to the debate on this Amendment.
I have endeavoured to deal with the points which have been made. The effect of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford would be to remove altogether the requirement that, on a date to be prescribed by Order in Council, a voting peer should retire at the end of the Parliament in which he reaches the age of 72. As the Committee wi11 be well aware, the actual age at which a peer retires may be higher if he reaches the age of 72 shortly after the beginning of a Parliament.
I appreciate that the requirement may be criticised on the ground that many peers will still be active and well able to perform the duties of voting peers for some time after they have reached the age of 72, and on the ground that there is no similar requirement for Members of the House of Commons.
There are, however, in' the Government's view two reasons for imposing an age of retirement. In the first place, if the size of the voting House is to remain stable a sufficient number of Members must retire at the end of each Parliament to make room for new creations needed to adjust the party balance. This is the kind of factor to which I referred earlier in the observations to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) was good enough to refer. Without a retiring age, it would be necessary to require Members to seek renomination at the beginning of each Parliament.
The choice of any particular age of retirement must be arbitrary, but, as I have told the Committee, careful studies have satisfied us that 72 is the highest age which would produce a sufficient number of retirements in most foreseeable circumstances.
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman is prepared to publish the statistics on which these sums have been worked out. Obviously the life table is increasing fairly rapidly and, therefore, in 20 years' time presumably the retirement age will have to be brought down to balance the topping up of the other place. Perhaps he can give us some figures on this.
What I can say is that a whole number of variables have had to be regarded in these calculations. There had to be a calculation, on what can be said to be an arbitrary basis, of the foreseen life of Parliament, and matters of that kind. I am asking the Committee to accept the assurance that all these factors, so far as they were regarded as being relevant, have been taken into account.
The Solicitor-General tells us that many factors have been taken into account. Will he tell us which was regarded as the most important? Is not it evident that it was the need to find some point of age at which to cull the herd and that this was arbitrarily chosen to be 72?
I am disinclined to indicate which, among a large number of factors, was regarded as the most important.
I ask the Committee to consider further the choice that is presented by one of the Amendments on the Order Paper now being discussed, between the ages of 72 and 70. The effect of the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne would be to require voting peers to retire at the end of a Parliament in which they reached the age not of 72, but of 70. The White Paper took account of the fact, and the Government very well recognises, that the choice of a particular retiring age is necessarily a matter of difficult judgment.
The intention is to set an age which will not exclude a large number of active and potentially valuable Members but will at the same time secure a sufficient turnover in membership to provide the necessary number of vacancies at a change of Government. Mathematical studies have suggested that 72 is the best age limit to achieve both purposes in most foreseeable circumstances. These are the considerations which have led me to invite the Committee to resist the Amendments which have been tabled.
The Solicitor-General invited us to consider the case on its merits and then did his best to explain that it had no merits at all, so I suppose we have some cause to be grateful for the intervention of the Government Front Bench in the debate. All the same, I doubt if the Committee as a whole will have altered its view that the age limit provision contained in subsection (3), is as objectionable as the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) has seen it to be. There is nothing particularly odd about that because I find most of the Bill objectionable in many respects; but I find this provision particularly undesirable because it smacks of that curse of the modern age, planned obsolescence. I find the idea that men and machines exist only to be thrown on the scrap heap when it is desired to produce something to replace them a very uncivilised notion. The age limit of 72, is indiscriminate, rigid and arbitrary, and any limit, even if it be 80, must suffer the same faults. The Solicitor-General may claim that this limit is carefully and mathematically calculated to allow the men of value, or most of them, to remain. But if its effect is to cut out one man of value then it must stand condemned by that fact alone.
I see that the Government are in a tremendous difficulty and I would like to try to help them with this, as would the whole Committee. It is clear that some of the reasons that were advanced earlier in our debate, as to the choice of this particular figure of 72, do not stand the scrutiny of debate. The idea of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that it depended on the temperature of the bath that the Lord President of the Council, or whoever it was, was taking when he first thought of it we can discard.
I am more attracted by the idea that somewhere in the Government's subconscious—that vast recess—there is a figure of 72 which has leapt to their mind as being about the minimum general I.Q. I think that this is the sort of thought association process—[Interruption.] I apologise if I have offended the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). It is entirely unintentional. What he should take offence at is the concept embodied in the subsection that men over 72 are incapable of rational thought or valuable contribution to public service. If I am spared to reach the right hon. Gentleman's age I will certainly bear in mind his admirable example.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) said that there was a case not for some arbitrary test of Anno Domini but for a test of capacity. When a member of the Upper House is obviously "ga-ga", whatever age he may be, it would seem to be in the public interest that there should be some means of getting rid of him. I do not suggest precisely how his degree of senility should be established. To take a random example, if a man advocated the belief that he could sink the Russian Fleet in the Mediterranean in five minutes, we might tend to question his wisdom:. or if he showed credulous belief in promises made not to increase taxation, not to take powers to control wages by law, not to reintroduce prescription charges or offers of half pay on retirement, we might tend to think that he was losing his marbles.
I am certain that a procedure of that kind would appeal to the hon. Gentleman's essentially orderly, clinical and callous mind. I should not care to advocate that procedure in this case, because it would be a grave infringement of the dignity of the gentlemen whom we will be drafting into the other place. We still face this question—how can we get rid of voting peers when they have outlived their usefulness, when they have gone "ga-ga" or whatever it may be? The Government's answer is when they reach 72, whether they have been mad for years before or not. So long as they have turned up regularly, sheer imbecility will not incapacitate them.
I have heard the same comment advanced against anyone who is mad enough to seek to come here. But I do not wish to see imposed upon members of the other House, nor on Members of the House of Commons, a public test in this context, because it is undignified.
The Solicitor-General maintains that he must have his cull to enable the numbers in the herd to remain stable. So I suggest he has another way in which this can be achieved, which is neither as arbitrary as a fixed age limit, at whatever point it may be set, nor as undignified as the certificate of continued mental competence which might be involved if the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) had his way. We need a sort of Chiltern Hundreds. I advance this briefly. I will not go into detail. But here is a solution which is worthy of consideration. There is no way out of the other House except by failing to attend or reaching the age of 72. The Home Secretary admitted this last night. If we could introduce a sort of Chiltern Hundreds we could solve the problem.
I recommend the Government to consider the creation of a sinecure post to which Members on the voting list of the upper House could be appointed when it was agreed by those appointing them that they had outlived their usefulness. I do not wish to create any new public office, so I suggest this sinecure post should be that of Chairman of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. Indeed, anybody who was prepared to accept that particular office might well stand self-condemned of imbecility.
I do not wish to detain the Committee beyond that brief analysis of the problem as I see it.
My ideas are not copyright. The hon. Member for West Ham, North has a tremendous capacity in these matters. I leave it to him. I am not greedy. Let him have the credit if he can get it.
I suggest that if the Government need some way to get rid of unwanted voting peers, they should find a better way than the one they now propose.
(seated and covered): On a point of order. I wonder whether you can help me, Mr. Irving. I have an Amendment down, but I have deliberately not tried to catch your eye in the earlier stages of the debate because it was pointless my speaking and wasting the time of the Committee until I heard whether the Government would accept Amendment No. 21. Had the Government accepted Amendment No. 21, clearly Amendment No. 205 would have been pointless. It seems rather unfortunate that I should have been denied the opportunity of speaking to an Amendment which has been selected for discussion due to this unfortunate Closure Motion.
I was saying that the only right hon. Member present who tried to catch your eye was my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). It has been the custom for a long time for Privy Councillors to be called. My right hon. Friend was personally interested in this proposal both by age and experience. Would it not have been better had he been allowed to make his first contribution?
On a point of order. I am a little concerned that the Chair should understand that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) was speaking from the wrong side of the Committee. Will you, Mr. Irving, make certain that the name is right and that we do not get the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) speaking from this side?
|Division No. 97.1||AYES||16.58 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Binns, John||Carmichael, Neil|
|Alldritt, Walter||Bishop, E. S.||Carter-Jones Lewis|
|Anderson, Donald||Blackburn, F.||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara|
|Archer, Peter||Bradley, Tom||Chapman, Donald|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Coleman, Donald|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Brooks, Edwin||Concannon, J. D.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Baxter, William||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch &F'bury)||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Beaney, Alan||Buchan, Norman||Cronin, John|
|Bence, Cyril||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'bum)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Callaghan Rt. Hn. James||Cullen, Mrs. Alice|
|Dalyell, Tam||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hoy, James||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Davies Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Davies G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hunter, Adam||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Davies, Rt Hn. Harold (Leek)||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Pentland, Norman|
|Delargy Hugh||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Randall, Harry|
|Dewar, Donald||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Rankin, John|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|Dunn James A.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Dunnett, Jack||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Richard, Ivor|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Judd, Frank||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Eadie, Alex||Kenyon, Clifford||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lawson, George||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Leadbitter, Ted||Rowlands, E.|
|Ellis, John||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|English, Michael||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Short, Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Ennals, David||Lipton, Marcus||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lomas, Kenneth||Silverman, Julius|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Loughlin, Charles||Small, William|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm Yardley.)||Lubbock, Eric||Snow, Julian|
|Faulds, Andrew||McBride, Neil||Sprigg8, Leslie|
|Fernyhough, E.||McCann, John||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Fletcher, Rt.Hn.Sir-Eric (lslington, E.)||Macdonald, A. H.||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Ford, Ben||Mackie, John||Taverne, Dick|
|Forrester, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Fowler, Gerry||McNamara, J. Kevin||Tinn, James|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Tuck, Raphael|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Gardner, Tony||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Ginsburg, David||Manuel, Archie||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Marks, Kenneth||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Wallace, George|
|Greenwood. Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mayhew, Christopher||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Millan, Bruce||Whitaker, Ben|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. (Llanelly)||Moonman, Eric||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hannan, William||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Harper, Joseph||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Neal, Harold||Winnick, David|
|Hazell, Bert||Ogden, Eric||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||O'Malley, Brian||Woof, Robert|
|Henig, Stanley||Oram, Albert E.|
|Herbison. Rt. Hn. Margaret||Oswald, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hooley, Frank||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Mr. Walter Harrison.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston, Ash)||Foster, Sir John||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Loveys, W. H.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Marten, Neil|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Goodhart, Philip||Monro, Hector|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Goodhew, Victor||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Body, Richard||Gower, Raymond||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Booth, Albert||Grant, Anthony||Murton, Oscar|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Neave, Airey|
|Brewis, John||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Onslow, Cranley|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Orme, Stanley|
|Clegg, Walter||Hay, John||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Costain, A. P.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Crouch, David||Heffer, Eric s.||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Heseltine, Michael||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pardoe, John|
|Dance, James||Holland, Philip||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hooson, Emlyn||Pym, Francis|
|Dean, Paul||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Dickens, James||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ramsden. Rt. Hn. James|
|Dodds-Parker Douglas||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Jopling, Michael||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Lee, John (Reading)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Russell, Sir Ronald||Taylor, EdwardM.(G'gow, Cathcart)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Sheldon, Robert||Tomney, Frank||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||Wright, Esmond|
|Silvester, Frederick||Waddington, David||Wylie, N. R.|
|Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L' mington)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Younger, Hn. George|
|Smith, John (London &W'minster)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Williams, Donald (Dudley)||Mr. Angus Maude and|
|Tapsell, Peter||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||Mr. John Biggs-Davison|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Division No. 98.]||AYES||[7.7 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Hay, John||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Hefter, Eric S.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Roebuck, Roy|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Holland, Philip||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hooson, Emlyn||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Body, Richard||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Jopling, Michael||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Brewis, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Smith, John (London & Westminster)|
|Costain, A. P.||Lomas, Kenneth||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Crouch, David||Loveys, W. H.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Taylor, Edward M.(C'gow, Cathcart)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Marten, Neil||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dance, James||Maude, Angus||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dean, Paul||Montgomery, Fergus||Waddington, David|
|Dickens, James||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Walker-Smith Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Wall, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Neave, Airey||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Newens, Stan||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Nott, John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Foster, Sir John||Onslow, Cranley||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Orme, Stanley||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Wright, Esmond|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Pardoe, John||Younger, Hn. George|
|Goodhew, Victor||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Gower, Raymond||Quennell, Miss J. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Mr. Raphael Tuck and|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Mr. William Hamilton.|
|Albu, Austen||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Gardner, Tony|
|Alldritt, Walter||Dalyell, Tam||Ginshurg, David|
|Anderson, Donald||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Archer, Peter||Davidson, James (A berdeenshire, W.)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Gregory, Arnold|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Baxter, William||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Beaney, Alan||Delargy, Hugh||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Bence, Cyril||Dempsey, James||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dewar, Donald||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Binns, John||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Doig, Peter||Hannan, William|
|Blackburn, F.||Dunn, James A.||Harper, Joseph|
|Bradley, Tom||Dunnett, Jack||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith|
|Brooks, Edwin||Eadie, Alex||Haseldine, Norman|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hazell, Bert|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Buchan, Norman||Ellis, John||Henig, Stanley|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||English, Michael||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Ennals, David||Hooley, Frank|
|Carmichael, Neil||Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Faulds, Andrew||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Chapman, Donald||Fernyhough, E.||Hoy, James|
|Coleman, Donald||Fletcher, Rt.Hn. Sir Eric (lslington, E.)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Forrester, John||Hunter, Adam|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Fowler, Gerry||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)|
|Cronin, John||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Freeson, Reginald||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Silverman, Julius|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Small, William|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Moonman, Eric||Snow, Julian|
|Jones, Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Judd, Frank||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Neal, Harold||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Lawson, George||Ogden, Eric||Taverne, Dick|
|Leadbitter, Ted||O'Malley, Brian||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Oram, Albert E.||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Oswald, Thomas||Tinn, James|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lipton, Marcus||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Varley, Eric G.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne valley)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McBride, Neil||Pavitt, Laurence||Wallace, George|
|McCann, John||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)||Pentland, Norman||Whitaker Ben|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Mackie, John||Randall, Harry||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rees, Merlyn||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, 8.)||Richard, Ivor||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mallalieu, J .P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Manuel, Archie||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Woof, Robert|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rowlands, E.|
|Marquand, David||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Marsh, Rt, Hn. Richard||Short, Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Mr. J. D. Concannon|
It is a particular pleasure to be called to speak on the Motion, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. This is a valuable part of the analysis of the provisions of the Bill in Committee. It is the only opportunity that we have to consider the Clause as a whole. It gives us the opportunity to consider it in the light of the failure of the efforts made by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to amend it.
The main purpose of the Clause is to provide the machinery for the operation of the system of paid voting peers, and although the machinery is a little cumbrous I need not waste time in arguing whether it is the right machinery. My objection is to the whole process by which we lose the present system of the peer attending on a Writ of Summons and exercising the rights that peers so summoned have exercised for centuries.
The machinery aspect of the matter is not of great importance, although it is interesting to note as an indication of the whole rather squalid atmosphere in which the new Upper Chamber will operate. The most important practical provision is that which my hon. Friends and I—and I use the term "hon. Friends" in the broadest sense, to include hon. Members on both sides of the Committee; I hope that the friendship may continue—have sought to amend, namely, the age limit which, unfortunately, is still in the Clause. In every sense this is wrong.
First, it is of the nature of a second Chamber that it should contain at any rate a number of people of some age-venerable, or perhaps patriarchal figures. We can go back to the Roman Senate, when such members were particularly distinguished by their long white beards. That was in an era, unlike the present, when the wearing of a beard was an indication of some age. In this respect things have changed.
A second Chamber whose job is to review and to consider the possible impetuous action of the Lower House—to reconsider and restrain—is one of the places in which, even in this epoch, age is an asset rather than a liability.
It is a great mistake, as the Government have done, to bring into the question of the composition of the Upper Chamber ideas which are perfectly relevant in other spheres. No one objects to age limits, perhaps of a severe character, in the Armed Forces. There, an element of physical agility is required which, alas, departs as age grows. But one thing which is not required in the Upper House is physical agility. I must accept, of course, that, as the voting peers' main duty is to vote, they must be able to get through the Lobbies, but that is a physical attainment which the achievements of modern science allow many people to retain to an advanced age.
One must consider also the psychology of this. People appointed to the Upper House will be, mainly, people with the main achievements of their lives behind them. It will become a considerable part of their activities. Indeed, if it does not, as the next Clause provides, they will be out on their necks. At that sort of age, to take a man who is perfectly fit to do this job and throw him out because of the double accident of the date of his birthday and the date of a General Election seems unnecessarily harsh and some-think likely to disturb and make unnecessarily unhappy membership of the new Upper House.
I will not weary the Committee with innumerable examples of people of far greater age than this who have performed and are performing functions of the utmost difficulty and importance. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is not in his place, which is surprising, since his attendance of this Chamber is among the very best of us. I always find the obvious vigour, mental and physical, of the right hon. Member at his age one of the most encouraging and cheering things to be seen in this Chamber.
Many rulers and heads of State of the greatest nations in the world are beyond this age. Whether one approves of their policies, whether they were any better when they were younger, it would be indelicate to speculate, but there they are—chosen by their nations to perform functions of a strenuous nature and a high responsibility.
We should therefore be extraordinarily wasteful if we deliberately discarded people who have acquired a certain knowledge of the working of an Upper Chamber simply because they have reached this age. I would stress the acquiring of the technique. It is one of the objections to this system that most appointments will be made at ages well above those at which, generally, a hereditary peer succeeds to his peerage. A certain amount of time is moreover needed for a man to accustom himself to life in the Upper Chamber before he reaches his maximum usefulness. I hope that I do not tread on any corns when I say that few hon. Members are really effective until they have been here for a number of years, and that will certainly be true in another place.
Because of the nature of this system, appointments will be made at some substantial age and added to that will be the period needed for the man appointed to accustom himself to his difficulties. When he is just reaching his maximum efficiency, he will be withdrawn forcibly from membership.
I have a great respect, going back a long time, for the Solicitor-General and the fact that so good an advocate could not make a better case on the Amendment is perhaps the strongest possible evidence that there is no case to be made. There were statistical calculations—the hon. and learned Gentleman did not give himself enough time to describe them to us—which suggested that 72 was right. But that is not good enough. We are dealing with human beings who will, as many of us think, have been placed, as a result of the Bill, in a position of some difficulty and who, we must assume, have public spiritedly taken up a somewhat unattractive public office. They are then to be treated in this way, simply because the Solicitor-General has certain statistical calculations which he is either unwilling or—dare I suggest it?—unable to demonstrate to the Committee.
If I am wrong, the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able—at least so long as the Deputy Chief Whip stays away—to prove me wrong by demonstrating the calculations. At the moment, I simply do not believe them. I believe that they have been taken, simply by analogy, from other occupations, from the age limit, for example, applied to county court judges. But the function of a legislalator in the Upper House is quite different. It is a function in which experience is of great value and which does not, on the whole, require dynamic and driving executive energy. It is essentially an attitude which demands consideration and criticism of other people's work.
Therefore, this is a considerable blemish on the Bill. That is saying something. The Bill is such a blot that to constitute a visible blemish a fault must be substantial. I hope that, before we part with the Clause, we shall have from the Government not merely a general argument about age limits or a reference to the difficulty of doing without them, but a reasoned argument for taking an age limit which, in the light of the necessities of the job, appears to be unnecessarily low.
If it is unnecessarily low, we shall waste people just when they have acquired a real knoweldge of their functions and we will probably inflict a good deal of harm on them. For people of these ages, enforced retirement from active occupation is one of the most dangerous and harmful things which one can do. Most of us have known men who have appeared to be in full physical vigour while discharging hard and strenuous tasks. Some arbitrary retirement rule like those which, despite the efforts of some of us, still prevail in some parts of the Civil Service, has come down and stopped such a man in his tracks. One knows of cases—I say this with great seriousness, thinking of men whom I have known and have an affection for—of men whose death has followed in a few months although, while at the job, they appeared fit and working well.
I attach some importance to this. We are dealing with people for whom this will become a major occupation, who will be a little old to start another. Quite arbitrarily to say, "Sorry, you are doing the job splendidly and you have mastered it, but the juxtaposition of the date of a Parliamentary election and your 72nd birthday means that you must go", is quite the worst thing to do.
I have no particular affection, as I have made clear before, for this scheme. I do not believe that, if it is passed—that is a matter on which we may all speculate—it will be other than a ghastly flop. But it is a little foolish of the Government to add this unnecessary handicap to it.
The Solicitor-General, when he replied to the debate on the previous Amendments, stated that he was giving assurances to the Committee about the way in which the age of 72 had been selected and which he felt he could defend. I do not believe that my hon. and learned Friend can ever be in a position to give assurances of that kind.
What is interesting about this Clause is that we have the third of the very interesting figures on which the White Paper and, by implication, the Bill are based. The four figures are the figures for one-third of the attendance, the age of 72, the number in the Chamber, which has been picked at 230, and the salary which, for argument's sake, we shall call £2,000 a year. They are all arbitrary figures, but they are related to each other. As one increases the attendance, so it has an effect on the number required in the Chamber. Therefore, however good the examination of the Solicitor-General, he cannot prove that he has selected the best combination of all these figures. We can all pick a different combination and argue with as great a precision as any he can hope to achieve, although having picked two of them the other two will be largely determined by what we have done with the first two.
If, for example, we decided on an attendance figure lower than one-third, we know that we would need a larger Chamber. If we replaced one-third by by one-quarter, we know that we would need a larger Chamber. If we decided that the salary needed to be decreased, we know that we would need a larger Chamber. If, instead of picking 72 as the age limit, we decided to increase it, we know that we would need a larger Chamber. Therefore, we have four separate figures related to each other, and we can devise a workable House in a vast number of ways by choosing different figures and relating them one to another.
The Solicitor-General has said that he has chosen the ideal relationship of attendance, age, size of Chamber and, by implication, salary. He says that this is the one perfect solution. Anybody who has anything to do with this kind of problem knows perfectly well that the unique solution does not exist. There is a whole range of solutions. If the Committee were to exercise its functions properly, it should have detailed records about how all these factors were taken into account and should decide whether the solution chosen by the Solicitor-General is one of the better or worse solutions, because there is a large number of such models.
We have been kept in the dark on a very important constitutional matter. The number in the Chamber, the attendance, the age limit and the salary have been decided without the Committee knowing the nature of that decision. This is probably one of the most appalling indictments of the way in which this bargain was compacted: we are not in a position to criticise what must, by its nature, be an arbitrary decision. What we need to know is what examination the Opposition made. If they were privy to this scheme and knew full well the range of figures which would need to be employed, did they examine all the possibilities? Is it coincidental that they come to the same unique best solution?
We have not had an examination of these various factors, but one or two people got together and made their choice. They have not presented it to the various groups because so many choices are available. What is more likely to have happened is that the choice was pre-empted. One of the obvious choices for such pre-emption is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. Another is the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). The whole thing reeks of this kind of examination by limited numbers of people on matters which can have great consequences.
Although I am a great admirer of the intellects of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West, it is an arguable proposition that extreme cleverness and constitution-making do not go together very well. One of the consequences of their attempts has been the Bill.
Paragraph 44 of the White Paper dealing with age states:
In the long term, however, it would be wrong for a working legislative chamber to contain an indefinite number of members, however distinguished, who were well beyond the normal age of retirement from active life: and if members were to be paid it would certainly be wrong for membership to carry with it the right to be paid for the remainder of a life-time.
The figure of 72, calculated, as it has been, with one eye on the mortality rates, had to take into account what must have previously been determined, namely, the size of the Chamber, the number of attendances and the salary in order to create the Upper House organisation which was in view.
My hon. Friend, I am sure rightly, castigated the Secretary for Social Services and the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). He went on to say that the White Paper points out that it would be wrong to give a State pension for life irrespective. He should also point out that in all probability a third person should be added to the other two, namely, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, who will get a pension for life, come what may. Probably he is also very interested in this Bill.
The age of 72 was calculated with an eye on the mortality rates and in connection with the other three figures.
The further factor here was the topping up process by means of which gaps in the membership of the House of Lords were made good as they died, retired, or grew disinterested and so failed to meet the minimum attendance required. Once again we come to the implicit acceptance of payment throughout the whole White Paper and throughout the Bill, because compulsory retirement would not be necessary if it were not for the pay position. There would be no need to force people to retire, whether at 72 or any other age, if there were no pay to be given to them. Because of the element of pay we see the final result both in the White Paper and in the legislation.
I suppose one could argue that when a man is at his peak one could deduce certain age brackets between which people should be ideally recruited for the House of Lords and certain age levels at which they should retire. I started to look at this from a quite different viewpoint. I was not thinking of the House of Lords as it is, but the House of Lords as I regard its most important functions. When I think of the age of retirement in the House of Lords I am forced to decide for myself, as I think the Committee must decide, what are its essential functions. The functions which might be suitable for people of one age may not be suitable for people of another.
We have the White Paper statement on functions in paragraph 8:
Apart: from providing the supreme court of appeal, the House of Lords at present performs the following main functions:
This is probably elaborating too much. I would simplify the main functions of the House of Lords to see what kind of people and what kind of maturity of experience they have and the maximum age at which these people should be there by looking at the main functions. The first is that of delay, which is the subject of later Amendments, and the second is the checking of legislation. These are the most important functions we should be considering in deciding the age of people in the Upper House.
I shall seek to show the work that a member of the House of Lords will do and to argue whether the maximum age of 72 is the right one for the work he does. The work he does, apart from delay, which obviously is better left to subsequent Clauses, is that of checking. That is the real work and the only valid work, the checking of our legislation, because of the frequent inadequate consideration which we give to Bills. We know that for various political reasons we do not give Bills sufficient examination. For various political reasons we deliberately try to avoid doing it. The House of Lords has a function in checking the actual legislation. It is more of a technical kind of checking, although wide experience comes in. So one needs people of mature judgment.
They initiate legislation, question the Executive, and act as a forum. I find these attributes fairly trivial. We ourselves may feel inadequate as a forum compared with television.
I was led astray by the question asked by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey). The age of the person engaged in checking legislation is of great importance. For that we need men of some maturity. If we were to chop people off at a time when their maturity might be more valuable, that clearly would be harmful. I present this argument in order to demolish it. I do not believe that this kind of maturity is as essential as the more technical expertise which is required. Hence the reason for my Amendment to which, unfortunately, I was not able to speak because of the action of the Government Chief Whip. This precisely was the point of that Amendment.
I chose a lower age, 70 rather than 72, because I thought what was required was not so much extreme maturity of judgment as technical knowledge to overcome some of the difficulties we have in this House because of hurried legislation. It is not because we cannot produce good legislation but because of the political problems which arise. We want people to do that job and the ideal age bracket for that type of job——
You are absolutely right, Mr. Irving. I content myself with pointing out that the age limits should be lower for the situation I envisage. There is an advantage in having a lower age limit than was suggested by some hon. Members opposite.
We tend to think of the Lords as a second-rate House of Commons. It is not. It is a different body, doing a different job. We must not generalise from our experience here. There must be a maximum age for retirement, if only to achieve a balance in the people available for the change, whether it comes sessionally, as I would wish, or at the end of each Parliament, as the Government so decide. This is important, otherwise we shall have to rely on death alone to produce changes. We may have different views about the optimum age of those in the Lords, but nobody would argue that if the top limit were left alone we should not end up with a greater number of older people making less of a contribution than we would wish.
The anology with the House of Commons does not hold good. We are responsible to the electorate. If we fail the electorate, we are made aware of it and we have to accept the decision of the electorate. There is no power to control the decisions of the Lords in the way that the electorate controls us.
Mr. Ian Gilmoor:
I agree with the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Seldon) that to reach an informed and sensible decision on the Clause we should have been supplied with detailed evidence and models as to the optimum age. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman's belief that there should be an age limit at all. In his breakfast speech this morning—his least disagreeable speech of the morning—the Secretary of State for the Home Department quoted the Scriptures and said that the whole essence of the Bill lay in its spirit and not in its letter. That was an artificial, false and rather embarrasing pronouncement.
That quotation was taken from the canonical Scriptures and nothing could have been more firmly embedded in cold print than the words which the right hon. Gentleman quoted.
My hon. Friend is right. As so often on the Bill, the Home Secretary was arguing against himself. Taking the Home Secretary's words at their face value, as I suppose we were meant to do, what could be more involved with the letter rather than the spirit than this Clause? If we were to leave matters to the spirit, we should allow peers to retire when they felt like it or when they felt that their usefulness had drawn to a close. We should not prescribe a rigid voting age at a totally arbitrary figure.
The Solicitor-General, in a very cursory and inadequate reply to the last Amendment, said that it was all right for the House of Commons not to have an age limit because we were subject to the whims and wishes of the electorate but the Lords was not. The hon. and learned Gentleman ignored the fact that the Lords is the place to which Members of the House of Commons retire. Members of the House of Lords do not retire here. Therefore, to have an age limit in the Lords but not here is the wrong way round. A large proportion of those who have been ennobled in this century came from the House of Commons. This House is the main road to the Lords. People naturally go to the Lords after they have served here for a long time. It is ridiculous to have an age limit in the place to which people retire but not one in the place from which they retire.
As to the arbitrary figure of 72, I think that the bath temperature figure has the most plausibility. The Solicitor-General said nothing to dispute it. It was purely on his say-so that we were told that 72 was the best age. He made no attempt to deal with the legal expertise of my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), who pointed out that some people at certain ages have when they have risen to their feet, paused and nothing has come out. My hon. Friend said that this might be taken to be a sign of old age and that the Government may have had this in mind.
This is not a sign of old age. There was a famous occasion in the Lords when Lord Waverley, better known as Sir John Andersen, who often paused for a long time in his speeches, paused for so long that a new peer who wanted to make his maiden speech thought that Lord Waverley had finished; whereupon the new peer rose to his feet and began his maiden speech. Lord Waverley thought that he was being interrupted, so he allowed the speech to continue. It was a long time before it became clear exactly who was interrupting whom. This phenomenon has nothing to do with what my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham called senile dementia. It can happen at any age. Lord Waverley was not senile.
I agree to a large extent with the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne that the question of age is closely related to the functions which the Lords will perform, but I gathered from your interventions, Mr. Irving, that you did not share this view.
The Chair did not express a view about the subject matter of the speech of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon). It merely indicated that the move in that direction would be out of order.
I was about to point out that the part of paragraph 8 of the White Paper which the hon. Gentleman did not read says, towards the end:
In making the present proposals, the Government has assumed that the functions of the House will remain broadly those set out above, but it has borne in mind that they might be extended and developed later.
It seems to me that those functions were eminently suited to people aged 72 and over. I suppose that it is too late to move a manuscript Amendment now, but I feel that that could have been changed.
The real point of the Clause is the topping up about which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) spoke earlier. Its point is to speed up the turnover of patronage, to ensure that people do not go on receiving their payments for too long. I do not mean "payment" necessarily in the pecuniary sense, although I think that that will follow. What I mean is the reward, the patronage. The Clause is designed to see that peers do not outstay their welcome, and that there is a big enough turnover to ensure that the Front Benches have adequate supplies of patronage.
Because no case has been made out for any age limit, and certainly not for the arbitrary limit chosen, I oppose the Clause.
In discussing the Question, that the Clause stand part of the Bill, we return to the problem of the age limit of 72, which has evidently been plucked out of the air as the age at which their noble Lords should lose their voting powers. We cannot argue the merits or demerits of a higher or lower age, because that matter has been decided, but we can ask the Government to tell us how they decided on the age of 72. We still have no idea why a man aged 71½, who is doing his duty well as a voting peer and is being paid for it, will suddenly cease to be able to vote when he reaches the age of 72.
I interrupted when the payments of pensions and the like were being explained. I said that the Lord Chancellor gets a pension for life as soon as he takes on the job, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, said, "Disorderly." Why? If the Lord Chancellor can get paid, whatever his age, and get a pension——
I was going to say that the Lord Chancellor, because he is the Lord Chancellor, would be able to continue to vote on becoming 72, and he would therefore be able to draw his salary. I am trying to discover why there should be differential between an ordinary noble Lord and a noble Lord who happens to be for the time being the Lord Chancellor. Any other Minister is in a similar position to the Lord Chancellor, but I have chosen to speak of him because he gets a pension for life. When an ordinary noble Lord who has been doing his duty reaches the age of 72, he loses not only his fee or salary but any chance of a pension.
We have been through this before, Mr. Irving.
The White Paper says that there may be payment at some time. The Clause therefore says that once a peer ceases to be a voting peer, on reaching the age of 72, payment will cease. I cannot see what object there then is for him to be there. I assume that he would be dismissed. Would he cease to be a peer? Would he go on to a lifetime pension on a pro rata basis with the Lord Chancellor? The Clause does not make it clear. Such a man would have ceased to be a voting peer not because he was incapable, not because he had not been doing his duty, and not because he had not been very active. He might well have been the most active Member of another place. He might well have been doing his duty right up until his 72nd birthday, and then, as they say, bingo—finish. Under subsection (3) he must immediately cease to be a voting peer.
The White Paper states definitely that there will be a differentiation between voting and non-voting peers, and the object of the Clause is to make that differentiation. What difference is there between voting and non-voting peers, unless a payment will be made? The Government have admitted that it will. There should be a safeguard for those peers who will cease to be voting peers on becoming 72. They should receive some recompense.
The Clause says:
… shall not be deposited by a peer who attained the age of seventry-two years before the dissolution of the last previous Parliament.
I repeat: why 72? How was that age decided upon? I could have understood the choice of 65, because that bears a relationship to the general rule on retirement. If the Clause had laid down 72, but added: "… provided the noble peer could not prove himself able to carry out the onerous duties ", I could have understood it. But we have had no information on how 72 was arrived at.
The Clause does not say whether the limit applies to Ministers. Will Ministers in the House of Lords cease to be voting peers at 72? Presumably, a Minister will hand in notification that he is going to cease to be a voting peer. Does he then cease to be a Minister as well? Does the Prime Minister have to find new Ministers as well as new voting peers?
I do not think that my hon. Friend need be too worried. There are always plenty of volunteers to fill Ministerial appointments. Who knows but that in any difficulty he himself might volunteer for such a rôle.
My hon. Friend is always most helpful and encourages me to reply. Of course it might well be—and I emphasise the "might" rather than the "well be"—that I could be involved, but I doubt it. In the first place, I am not yet 72. Nevertheless, this provision would preclude a number of hon. Members of this House from going to another place. A number of hon. Members approaching 70 could find themselves in the House of Lords for a year or so and then, on reaching the age of 72, ceasing to be voting peers and, in effect, ceasing to be peers.
I cannot think that this is fair. A number of hon. Members are anxious to go to the other place. Many of them are aged about 70 or 71. They may feel that this Clause will restrict them somewhat in the knowledge that, if they get there at 70, they can only remain voting peers for two years. This will not be helpful to the Government and I ask my hon. and learned Friend for a really good reason as to why the Government have chosen the age of 72.
What does it mean? I do not understand it. Does it mean not allowing a writ of summons to be used to preclude someone from going to the other place? The Clause has five subsections and none has been adequately explained. I hoped that my hon. and learned Friend would already have explained why we should support the Clause, but we have had no information either from him—and I do not blame him so much because he has been active in this Committee—or from my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, who was here and could have done it. If the explanation had been given earlier, my right hon. and learned Friend might have saved time in this debate.
I have been in the Chamber since Question Time yesterday, virtually without a break except for a few minutes now and again, and this is only the second time I have succeeded in catching the eye of the Chair. I have had plenty of time to reflect on what is in the Government's mind on the Bill and the way they are forcing it through the Committee. I think that this is the Clause they really want, with its peculiar phrase, "a voting declaration". It is to the meaning of that phrase that I want to address my remarks. This is the nub of the bargain which seems to have been made between the two Front Benches.
On the face of it, if one read the Clause and the White Paper quickly, one would see nothing particularly wrong. The superficial meaning is fairly obvious. The Clause seems to be saying that, at the beginning of each Parliament, a list of names will be drawn up. It will be a question of locking the doors to the other place, assembling the new peers on the starting line and then letting them loose for five years of useful although tiny activities.
But when one reads the Clause again and again and in conjunction with the White Paper, it becomes clearer that it is an ingenious device. To those who, like myself, are not particularly attracted by the idea of the two-party system running throughout the constitution, it even has a rather sinister ring. The Home Secretary referred to the need to take what was being done by the Government in good faith. Unfortunately, he does not accept the good faith of hon. Members in this Committee and it is rather hard for us to believe wholly in his.
Even looking at the superficial meaning of the Clause and of the expression, "a voting declaration", certain disadvantages become apparent. To make a declaration which has to last the lifetime of a Parliament is onerous for the two categories of peer likely to be in the House, old men and busy men. I cannot help feeling that, after they have signed on the dotted line, they are going to feel that they are doing time—which is what they will be doing. They will be working their time out in the Upper House, and I am sure that, by the end of it, the vast majority will wish that they had never made this voting declaration for the whole Parliament. It is, in effect, to be a five-year forecast of intent to serve the nation, apparently without reward or recognition.
Anyone who has had experience as I have of dealing with people at turning points in their lives, who are planning what their activities are going to be, knows that to ask them to sign a five-year contract is alarming to them. The idea of making people sign a voting declaration for the whole life of a Parliament will add further to the difficulty of recruitment to the other place, particularly if the peers are neither to be paid nor to have any power.
Why are the Government so determined to have a commitment of this kind? What does the voting declaration really mean? Why does the Bill not simply define the categories of voting peers and then leave these fortunate—or unfortunate—people to follow their consciences?
Why must they sign a declaration? There are two reasons. One, into which I cannot go further, because it deals with Clause 4, is to compel attendance. To explain the second, we must take into account a peculiar smell which hits one on wandering in this part of the Bill. Our noses lead us to the declaratory Preamble—which has no legislative force—from which we divine that the declaration is designed to see that the powers that be can include Members adhering to the governing party in sufficient numbers to ensure that the Government never have trouble with the other place. So, the party managers, who have taken power here, will be able to pack the other House as well. This is what the Clause is about and that is why it should be removed entirely.
Everything which the hon. Member wants would be met by the removal of the Clause. Neither the White Paper nor the Bill tells us precisely what a voting declaration will consist of. Will it be simply an undertaking to turn up regardless of whether one can contribute to the debate, to make up the numbers or an undertaking about how one proposes to vote? If it is not the latter, it has virtually no meaning and the Government could give way.
The White Paper refers in Paragraph 31 to a Committee:
The Government does however see attraction in the possibility of a committee which, while possessing no power of nomination, would review periodically the composition of the reformed House and report, either to the Prime Minister or to Parliament, on any deficiencies in the balance and range of the membership of the House.
This is where the need for the voting declaration has originated.
'"Its members would include representatives of the political parties"—
it does not say how chosen—
and persons without party political affiliations; a person of national standing but not necessarily with party political affiliations would be its chairman. Its reports would enable Parliament and the country as a whole to satisfy themselves that the powers of patronage were not being abused.
It is because I have had time to reflect on the meaning of these declarations and have tried to burrow down to where they have originated that I now feel that this concept of the Committee is inadequately worked out. What are the Government's intentions? How will it work and what power will it have to shuffle these declarations and force the Upper Chamber to conform to the Government's ideas?
I cannot deduce how this balancing act with the declarations will be done——
Of course, I accept your Ruling, Mr. Irving, but I think that it is not wrong to say that too much is unexplained. There is a good deal of absolutely new matter here. If we are asked to accept this, we are entitled to ask the Government to be much more explicit. This whole purpose of asking people who are queuing—if anyone is so unwise as to do that—for nominations to the other place to sign an advance declaration, is to provide a way of exerting pressure on their judgment.
There are phrases in the Clause which suggest that whoever drafted it knew that this was in the Government's mind. For instance, in subsection (4) there is the unusual phrase
…or such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow.
This would allow someone to get his name on the start line after the rest had gone. Why should it be required, except to juggle with the numbers——
Gladly, Mr. Irving. I quoted from the Clause in referring to these sinister suggestions in subsection (4). Perhaps it would be clearer if I read the whole of that subsection:
A voting declaration in respect of a Parliament shall not be deposited by any peer after the end of the period of one month from the issue of the writ summoning him to attend the House in that Parliament, or such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow.
I do not know what these special reasons might be. If the Tammany management have made mistakes, they can rectify them afterwards through this Clause. I do not want such wide latitude given to party managers in this House or by some Committee of nebulous constitutional status, to juggle the composition of the Upper House after a Parliament has begun.
If my suspicions are unfounded, how do we find in subsection (5) the converse:
A voting declaration deposited by a peer "——
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is out of order. The action under subsection (5) is by the peer himself and not by any party or outside body, seeking, as the hon. Member suggests, to manipulate the composition of the Upper Chamber.
I mentioned the pressures which might be brought to bear on the Members of the Upper House. There seems to be no limit to such pressure by the Government on a man, who will receive no remuneration.
Subsection (5) ends:
… may at any time be withdrawn by notice in writing given by him to the Lord Chancellor.
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman can allay our fears; I hope that he will. I shall be glad to wait as long as necessary for him to illuminate the meaning of those two subsections and their reason for being in the Bill.
As I have waited so long to speak, may I also say something about age? We should examine the prejudice which underlies the thinking behind the Clause. I do not want to pile Pelion on Ossa. Practically every hon. Member who has spoken about age has found fault with this idea of limiting the upper age limit to 72, with the exception of the Solicitor-General—and he did not succeed in convincing anybody that he believed what he said. Anyone familiar with the work of William Blake will know that devastating drawing of Aged Ignorance clipping the wings of Hope. But some people are carried away by their prejudices about the old until their fear of older people in positions of authority becomes a positive obsession.
[Mr. ARTHUR PROBERT in the Chair]
If we consider other nations and societies, we find some dominated by respect for old age. Others are carried away by the enthusiasm of youth. One may even see some system of alternation between periods of veneration and periods of overthrow, for instance, in China, where one used to imagine that people venerated their ancestors. Now they are dominated by their Red Guards. Had we known Bismarck's Germany, we would have said that it was a highly traditional society respecting the power of men in authority and the old. Under Hitler, the opposite forces took over, and the Hitler Youth and all the things which went with the over-praise of youth had a disastrous effect, not only for Germany, but for the whole of Europe.
It is just conceivable that we, too, are allowing ourselves to go too far down the road towards respect for everything which comes to us from youth and we are not giving enough veneration to the older forces in our society which should also have their influence. We are tending to lose our balance over the question of youth versus age. As the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) has re sumed his place, I shall not be able to give way to any hon. Members who wish to interrupt me.
Possibly one of the reasons behind the Bill is that the concept of the uselessness of old age has seized the minds of the drafters. All of us are filled with vexation at the brakes on progress in this country which are all too apparent: I myself am one of those who feel that a Bill somewhat on the lines of the Government's Bill could have a value.
When we started our Committee proceedings, I was full of optimism that the Government would genuinely be prepared to listen to back benchers and that they would from time to time modify their thinking so as to improve the Bill. But as we have worked our weary way through it hour upon hour the Government have been absolutely adamant about not being prepared to listen to reason from any quarter, and it has become increasingly dispiriting attempting to play a constructive part in this Committee. It rests with the Solicitor-General to pay attention to what is said and to show that the Government are amenable to reason. I do not think that he wishes the British constitution to be a vehicle without brakes. It may be that the brakes on progress are too strong and too frequently applied in this country. Nevertheless, brakes there must be in any constitution in a civilised society.
I do not wish to detain the Committee long in considering the roots of prejudice against age and maturity which have taken hold of society. To some extent, it is a very healthy reaction against the Establishment which in the 1930s came together to hold back change and had much too much power, partly as a result of the coalition of right wing forces which ran the country after 1931. We have also been seized by what I call "the Kennedy complex"—the feeling that unless a very young man is in charge there must be something wrong with the organisation. This feeling is widely found in industry, but it is also found in Government. It arises largely from our almost universal practice of using the pyramid structure in administration.
In Government and in industry, one tends to find that men are organised for work in such a way that there are a few old men at the top and a very large number of young men at the bottom. While the hope of promotion is the main incentive in industry, the Civil Service and in the House of Commons, and while a few old men hold on to the desirable jobs and many younger men are trying to move up into them, there is bound to be unreasonable prejudice between old and young.
Instead of discounting the value of older men we should see that they are in the right place to do what they are fit for and, at the same time, do not hold up younger people from moving up the ladder. One should not adopt an obsessional attitude towards this and say that old men have no place in our society. But that, to a great extent, is the philosophy behind the Bill. It appears in the recommendation that nobody over 72 should play a part in the working of the British constitution. This drive of youth against age is overdone and if we do not watch out we will lose something of real value.
Hon. Members referred earlier to outstanding British and foreign statesmen, administrators, civil servants, soldiers and others who are still able to make a first-class contribution at the age of 72 and more. All hon. Members can call to mind people in this category. An outstanding example was Baroness Asquith, formerly Lady Violet Bonham-Carter. I believe she was over 72 when she achieved a position of importance in our constitution, and the House of Commons would have been advantaged if she had been able to secure her election to this place many years ago. She was able in her old age to make a valuable contribution in the other place, but she would be excluded from doing so by the terms of the clause.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has expressed a desire not to stand at the next General Election? Would he agree that he would be an admirable candidate for the other place, since although he is well over 72 he has great ability, experience and vitality?
I concur. That is one of the examples that readily springs to the mind.
The example of Baroness Asquith gives us an insight into the peculiar workings of the cabal, junta or consensus which is supposed to have met to draw up the White Paper. I cannot believe that the Liberal Party, if it read what was circulated as a result of the meetings of this secret conference, could have understood that it was proposed to exclude people such as Baroness Asquith, one of the most prominent Liberals of their day. This suggests that the degree of attention given by the junta to this matter was limited.
My hon. Friend is commenting on a vitally important subject. Would he now comment on the relationship of guilt in this context? Would he agree that we shy away from age and have a prejudice in favour of youth because we feel that we have made a failure of our affairs and have made the lives of older people intolerable——
I was hoping that I would persuade my hon. Friend to deal with the interesting topic of age and youth. The subject of guilt must enter into it if we are to understand this unnatural prejudice against age.
I am grateful to you for allowing me to go rather wide on this question, Mr. Probert. It is not out of order to consider the contributions the older men and women can make to society. Old people are not all like Tithonus, getting smaller and smaller every year, unable to die, holding on to authority. That is not the conception I have, particularly with regard to the Bill as it now stands. The problem the Government will have will be to get people to go to the Upper House. People there will not hold on to their power year after year, long after they have passed their peak, because they will have to comply with the requirements of the Bill, which are onerous. For their pains they will get only their expenses——
The hon. Gentleman knows that I think it is insane to try to recruit an Upper House of any value unless one is prepared to give value in exchange. The Government stand on this question of pay is insincere. They must be aware, as we all are, that in the end if an effective House is to be recruited they will have to pay. The Bill at present allows only expenses.
But while that is so, the major problem will be recruiting people. The Government will not be burdened by a lot of people over 72 who insist on crowding into the Lobbies. There is also another condition in the next Clause which excludes people unless they are prepared to turn up for at least one-third of the total number of working days. Older people are not prepared to work to that kind of programme, and the Solicitor-General must recognise that he is boxing against an enemy which is not in the ring.
I still have a conception of what the new House of Lords ought to be. To some extent it will correspond with what in other countries is known as a senate, that is, a meeting place for the older people. That would not be wrong. We need this element of continuity and maturity in the constitution, and we need to give a place for people of experience to speak and be heard. I hope that the new House of Lords will be a conspectus of all that is best in British life including the best of our older men.
I trust that our Amendment will not be treated in the same way as our other recommendations have been. There is a time and place for everything, and this is the time and place for a concession. There are two reasons for this. Without any payment it would be hard enough to get anyone to serve in the other House, but under Clause 4 the loss of the voting rights through non-attendance puts it in the power of the Government virtually to strike off whomever they wish——
I accept your remark, Mr. Probert. I shall not try to deal with Clause 4 now, in the hope that I can deal with it later in greater detail. I would repeat that the Solicitor-General has the opportunity to convince the Committee that the Government are acting in good faith and are listening to what we say, and that when we say things that are patently true and accepted on all sides of the House they will listen to us.
On a point of order. Could I inquire whether the intervention of the hon. and learned Gentleman at this stage is to bring the Committee stage to a conclusion?—because I would point out that very many hon. Members require elucidation on certain aspects of this Clause and that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman gets up now we shall be unable to have that enlightenment to which we are entitled.
The selection of who is to speak is a matter for the Chair. The Solicitor-General:
The hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) put certain specific questions to me about this Clause, and I would like to give as helpful a reply as I can. He asked whether we could offer any indication of the context, for example, of the voting declaration. As I see it, the voting declaration does not have to be in a prescribed form, although the form of disclaimer of peerage is prescribed by the Peerages Act of 1963. The reason for the difference, even, if you like, for the contrast, is that disclaimer of a peerage affects legal rights analogous to rights of property. A voting declaration must be in writing but can be in any form provided it indicates the peer's wish to be qualified as a voting peer. In practice, the Lord Chancellor will issue with the writ of summons a formal declaration which a peer can use. My hon. Friend asked if I could amplify or explain what is contained in subsection (4). Under that subsection, a voting declaration must normally be deposited within one month of the issue of the writ of summons to the Parliament. A peer created during the Parliament will thus have one month in which to deposit a voting declaration; and existing peers will have approximately one month from the dissolution of the previous Parliament.
The time limit, about which the hon. Gentleman particularly asked, may be extended by the House for special reasons. He asked whether I could indicate to the Committee what kind of special reasons were envisaged. I can offer one example of what would be a special reason. We feel some such provision is needed, for example, for cases in which a peer is unable to deposit his declaration within the month on account of illness or other emergency.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) earlier in the course of our consideration of the Clause asked me whether the extended period was intended to be of general application or a concept to be applied, by contrast, ad hominem. I have already communicated with him about this matter, but I venture to offer to him and to the Committee the view that, on a true construction, the provision is intended to be ad hominem and has that effect.
For the rest——
If the Clause and the voting declaration required under it have nothing to do with party and the way in which the peer proposes to vote if included in the Upper House, how will the Committee, the powers that be, or whoever finally decides who is to be nominated to the Upper House, learn from the man what his voting intentions are and what his precise commitment will be on how he will vote?
The voting declaration will make clear the intention of the signatory that he is desirous of voting. There is no suggestion from any quarter that the declaration should indicate a disposition to vote in any particular way. I think that is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.
I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to allow me to proceed. The criticism of the hon. Gentleman and of other Members of the Committee has mainly been directed to what is said to be the lack of defence for the age limit of 72. That has really become the burden of the criticism of the Clause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ash-ton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) has expressed the view that the age limit should be lower, and. by implication, was critical of the age of 72.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was clearly not content with the explanation which I sought to offer for our decision upon this age limit.
I understand that during my short absence I missed the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), but I gather that he echoed the line of criticism of his right hon. Friend.
I do not feel optimistic about the prospect of satisfying these critics on this point, because I have nothing to add to my earlier submissions on how this figure was arrived at.
One of my hon. Friends called "Shame". But I have endeavoured to point out that, in the nature of things, a tremendous variety of matters are relevant in coming to a determination of this kind.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that there was nothing he could add in the hope of satisfying my criticisms. He will recall that I specifically asked him what the mathematical calculations were to which, somewhat mysteriously, he referred when replying earlier. If these calculations exist, surely the hon. and learned Gentleman, with his immense powers of exposition, can expound them.
I cannot produce as an exhibit the calculations or the formulae. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I am asked, "Why not?". I merely tell the Committee that the position is I cannot produce them. I suggest to the Committee, with every possible respect to critics of this figure of 72, that it would really be a most unusual state of affairs—on a matter of this kind where so many disparate factors are relevant—to offer to the Committee a series of exhibit formulae, as it were, and to endeavour to assess them. I am not able to do that. I hope the Committee will think I have sufficiently indicated the character of factor that the Government have had in mind.
The last time recently that a Member of the House referred to a document and refused to produce it we finished up with a committee of inquiry. Might I ask if these mathematical studies which we have been told about were shown to the Solicitor-General in the Lobby by two printers?
I do ask my hon. Friend to take this into account in answer to his question: I have not referred to any document. I have referred to calculations, and the calculations were made. The Committee has a document in the shape of a White Paper but there is no other document to which I have referred. I save said, as part of the narrative of this matter, that calculations have been made.
May I put to the learned Solicitor-General a point that is worrying me and perhaps other hon. Members?
Given an assumed age structure of the new Chamber, and given certain mortality tables, presumably the age of retirement that is required to maintain a stable total membership is a unique and unambiguous figure. Are we right in taking it that the age of 72 is the figure which yields a suitable total for a given period of time, given the assumed age structure and mortality tables?
These are the kind of matters to which regard has been taken, according to my instructions. To my knowledge, they are not in any document that I can identify or have ever referred to in the course of our considerations.
I now wish to take up the point raised by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West concerning the writ summoning a peer to attend a House of Parliament. The right hon. Member will bear the point in mind. His contention was based on the ground that the writ of summons directs a peer to attend Parliament and not the House of Lords. I have made some inquiries about this. I do not want to read out the full form of writ, and it would not be appropriate for me to do so, but the writ, which is essentially in the same language as that used many centuries ago, makes provision that, by Her Majesty
We have ordered a certain Parliament to be holden at our city 01 Westminster …We, strictly enjoining, command you "—
leaving out the connecting passages—
that …you be at the said day and place personally present with Us.
In the Second Schedule to the Representation of the People Act 1949, the writ for Parliamentary elections to the House of Commons is shown. The writ is as follows:
Whereas by the advice of Our Council we have ordered a Parliament to be holden at Westminster on the …day of …next We command you that, due notice being first given, you do cause election to be made according to law of a Member to serve in Parliament for the said …Constituency (in the place of …) and that you do cause the name of such Member when so elected, whether he be present or absent, to be certified to Us, in Our Chancery, without delay.
It will be observed from the terms of the writs that in each case Members of both Houses are ordered to attend Parliament
rather than one or other of the Houses of Parliament. The reason is that the form of the writs is based on that issued before Parliament had become a clearly bicameral legislature.
I have dealt with the points raised by hon. Members——
I sought to catch your eye, Mr. Gourlay, merely to verify that I understood the Solicitor-General aright, namely, that he accepts my contention that the proper description for the writs of summons is writs of summons to Parliament and that the description in the Bill, even though there may be precedence for it, is not strictly correct and is misleading. Was I right in my understanding?
The hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams), in a speech of riveting fascination which I feel sure the Committee will agree encompassed so little of the time we have sat here today, referred to the imagery of Blake, to that masterpiece in which Aged Ignorance is clipping the wings of Hope. I can only think that Blake perhaps had some vision of these proceedings, and was using as his model of Aged Ignorance my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley), who unhappily is not at present in his place.
For those who are under 72 and who have full voting rights, hope springs eternal in our breast. Hope sprang to my breast when the Solicitor-General went to the Dispatch Box to reply to the debate on this Question. I hoped that, in view of our problems, he would be able to give a proper explanation of the many aspects of the Clause which cause many hon. Members great perturbation and which appear to be so complex.
When I espied the Attorney-General coming into the Chamber, I hoped that he might get together with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General and produce an answer to our problems. Not that I wish to cause a division between them. As I see them there, I cannot help recalling the words of John Gay:
How happy could I be with either
Were t other dear charmer away."!
[Interruption.] I am always delighted to see the Patronage Secretary. I know the great attention with which he listens to the advice which I tender, not only to the Committee, but to him. If it is so wished, without boring the Committee, I could, for his benefit, recapitulate on what has been said.
Let me come to the important points on which the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General have come here to help us. It is within the Committee's knowledge that legal gentlemen always like to take a long time before coming to a decision. They like to weigh up all the pros and cons and consult all the necessary authorities before making the important pronouncement which will last for ages. There is still time for the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General to con sult together, to look up the various tomes, to consider the precedents and to deal with the problem.
My hon. Friend is not right. He might have noted earlier that the Solicitor-General was caught on one foot when he told the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that he was not appraised of the answer but would find it out and let him know—not me or my hon. Friend or the Committee, but preferential treatment for the right hon. Member.
I have never regarded my hon. and learned Friend as a stork on one leg but rather as an eagle, perhaps a legal eagle.
The age of 72 is peculiar. I tried earlier to draw an analogy between what will go on in the other place, when persons over 72 will be excluded from law-making processes because they are suffering from senile dementia, and the situation of judges of the same age who both administer and make the law.
The hon. Member fortifies my point. I have to address these inquiries again. Perhaps the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), who understands psychological medicine, would say that some right hon. Gentlemen are in some difficulty in amassing recent memory. Perhaps we should refresh their minds.
We have heard of an arithmetical calculation of this magic figure of 72, which reminds us of the magic numbers like 7——
We in my constituency do not go in for that very much, but it may be one of the amusements supplied in their Lordships' House. One right hon. Member suggested that the document concerned should be placed on the Table but I suspect that it already is there—that it is in the Box, and is the Bible. Reference is made in that book to three score years and ten. My hon. and learned Friend is a man of great humility and piety and this may be the document to which he referred. If so, he should tell us; we would not decry it. There is much wisdom in that book and he is under no obligation to prove that this figure was reached by way of a scientific and technological revolution in Millbank Towers with slide rules and calculations by electro-chemical methods.
He referred to other calculations in addition to those of an arithmetical nature. Several hon. Members have tried to probe him on this point. Reference has been made to distinguished statesmen, living or dead, who, far beyond the age of 72, made a tremendous contribution to public life, not only in this country but in others. We have not had from my right hon. and learned Friend any idea of whether his calculations were only of an arithmetical or an historical nature.
Surely the hon. Member is misquoting in his reference to the Bible because the three score years and ten, according to that authority, would lead to automatic retirement from their Lordships' House without the need for legislation.
It is true that at the time that computation was made society had not had the benefit of people such as the hon. Member who have made a diligent study of medicine and who are able to prolong life. That is something which the Committee should take into consideration, how medical science may alter in the next 10 years. We have to taken account of the fact that we are not legislating for today but for posterity. It may be that some hon. Members think posterity is a long time coming, but I am prepared to delay its approach for as long as may be necessary.
An interesting point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) in his usual lucid, I may say pellucid, manner. That was the question of what happens about Ministers in the House of Lords when they are over 72. We have managed to extract at least this from my right hon. and learned Friend. At 72 one ceases to have voting rights, but apparently one is not precluded from putting forward Motions, propositions, or perhaps Bills. Shall we not arrive at an odd situation when one or two of their Lordships will be able to put forward a Bill?
My hon. Friend has misunderstood the point I made. At 72 a noble Lord who becomes a Minister ceases to have a vote. He can remain a Minister, introduce a Bill and talk about it but he will not be allowed to vote. We have the anachronism of a Minister in charge of a Bill not being able to vote for it. The Solicitor-General did not deal with that.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for further elucidating this difficult problem. As always, he has added to the sum of our knowledge. In my inarticulate way I was trying to address myself to that point. There is great illogicality here.
The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) very courteously gave way to me. I drew attention to the fact that there is some confusion between him and the hon. Member for West Ham, North about an alleged elucidation. In fact there was confusion because this matter is covered in Clause 5(1). I suppose that I should not be talking about that Clause.
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). As always, he has understated the case. I intend that as a compliment. I held him in highest regard on the many trips we have had together. He has understated the complexity of the difficulties into which the Committee has fallen. I say this with the greatest affection for the Solicitor-General who, for reasons completely outside his control, has been unable to explain this matter to the Committee. If the Bill is enacted, a noble Lord will be able to sponsor a Bill—but will he? Does not the provision that a peer loses his voting right at age 72 preclude him from making a definite proposition? Is he thereafter there only in an advisory capacity? Does all effective function cease?
Can we have the benefit of the advice of some of the right hon. Gentlemen who normally sit on the Opposite and Front Bench? If the Solicitor-General is unable to deal with these important legal matters, the Opposition should seize their opportunity and produce the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) to help us. What effect would this provision have if the Government were successful in their application to join the Common Market? The provision that peers will cease to be peers at age 72 runs directly counter to many rules and regulations of the Common Market. There is a distinct possibility that this provision is contrary to the Charter of Human Rights. I would not like my right hon. Friends to be put into the dock at The Hague, or wherever it is that these kangaroo courts are held, and cross-examined about this.
Is not this compulsory retirement age an infringement of the liberty of peers? They will lose their independence. As a Parliament becomes older, the older peers will hesitate to vote according to their consciences because they know that if they do they will be out for good, because they are not entitled to get into the next Parliament. I have no doubt that this provision infringes the Treaty of Rome, but it is also an infringement of liberty.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman entirely and am grateful to him for his support. Oscar Wilde referred to the peerage as one of the best things which had been done in fiction. My right hon. Friends have taken that much too literally and felt it necessary to produce some other monumental work of fiction. If Clause 3 is put on to the Statute Book, in the absence of further explanation we shall have erected a monument of fictional nonsense which will not work and which should be included in an anthology of the Brothers Grimm. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) said, the Clause will create a chamber of horrors.
I have rehearsed a few of the problems that have been of great concern to the Committee during the long hours we have sat. We have all been very patient with my right hon. and learned Friends. But
My right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, who has paid us a short visit, will have gained during the short time I have been speaking an impression of the great difficulties that face us. I am sure that he will not want to take any action which would seem to try to curtail discussion on the matter and prevent us getting to the root of the very serious problems that are perplexing the whole Committee.
On a point of order. I asked the Solicitor-General whether he would enlighten me as to the meaning of the words "Voting declarations" which form the title to the Clause and appear in practically every sentence of it. As solicitors will, he gave me half a reply. He said that "Voting declarations" did not mean that the man in question would have to declare how he intended to vote but merely that he did intend to vote. But he did not explain to my satisfaction, nor, I think, to that of any hon. Member present, how the powers-that-be are to determine how nominees to the Upper House intend to vote if they do not have to declare their party allegiance with their voting declaration.