Voting Rights of Ministers and Other Officers

Orders of the Day — PARLIAMENT (No. 2) BILL – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th April 1969.

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Amendment proposed: No. 235, in page 5, line 1, to leave out from the word "session" to end of line 3.—[Mr. Powell.]

Question again proposed.

4.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I was not sure whether to interrupt my own remarks with a point or order, but on balance I have decided to proceed with what I was saying earlier, because I do not wish to hold up the Committee unduly. So conclusive were the remarks which I last addressed to the Committee that I had hoped that it would not be necessary for me to add to them. I hope that it will be well understood in all quarters that on the Amendment and on the whole of the Bill we will all be content if the rest is silence. We would be content if the Bill were dropped at this moment, and I think that that is strictly relevant to this subsection.

The Chairman:

Order.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I thought that I would be in order in saying that the subsection should be dropped.

The Chairman:

Order. The hon. Gentleman was talking about the Bill in general. He must relate his remarks to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

A good start would be to drop the subsection altogether, for that would mean the death of the Bill. Most of us accept that the murder of this ailing infant is already being arranged in other quarters.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

In view of the days and nights that we have endured discussing this Measure, I would not dignify its end by speaking of euthanasia.

While we would be content for the matter to be left there—for the subsection to be dropped—it is suggested that we should proceed with the Amendment because of a desire on the part of my hon. Friends to discuss it. That is not so. We are proceeding with the Amendment, which was originally moved by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), because the Government, with the agreement of the Opposition Front Bench, think it right that the time of Parliament should be devoted to the Bill. My hon. Friends and I who have opposed the Measure believe that we are wasting our time and that there are more important matters to which the attention of Parliament should be directed.

The Chairman:

Order. The hon. Gentleman has not so far addressed his remarks to the Amendment, which is concerned with the length of voting time.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I was getting warmer though, Mr. Irving, and I shall get even warmer. I wanted to clear the ground lest anybody should suggest, as it has been suggested in some quarters, that my hon. Friends and I want to use the time of Parliament discussing this matter. This whole debate could have been avoided, and we have offered ample opportunities to the Government to drop the whole thing——

The Chairman:

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not getting visibly warmer. He must come to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Recalling our earlier discussion on the Amendment, it might be helpful, as I have set out the background to the opposition which my hon. Friends and I feel to the subsection, if I were to abbreviate my remarks by asking the Minister a series of questions.

Hon. Members who have strayed into the Chamber and who are wondering what is going on may think that this is a somewhat esoteric debate. Perhaps it is, in that having discussed whether or not we should set up a new Second Chamber and having made arrangements for special favours to be provided for ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords in the other place, we should now be discussing the provision of special arrangements to extend the period beyond that being offered to other peers in which they may choose whether or not to exercise their voting rights.

We would prefer to remove this objectionable provision from the Bill, although even that would not improve the Measure greatly. Few people still believe that the Bill will ever reach another place. If it did, the provision should be, and I think would, be struck out by the other place. That is all the more reason why we should strike it out now, while we have the chance. If the other place allowed this provision to become law, that Chamber would forfeit its claim to be a revising House, which is the primary claim made for its existence.

4.15 p.m.

Although the Minister could have replied as soon as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West had moved the Amendment—he could have indicated his willingness to strike out this special favour for ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords, so enabling us to proceed with the rest of the Bill—he was obviously acting under the instruction that the Bill must go through in precisely the form in which it has been presented. The reason, of course, was that there should be no Report stage.

In paraphrasing my remarks, I will put 10 questions to the Minister. First, what is the origin of this unique feature in our legislation whereby it is proposed that ex-Ministers or ex-Law Lords in the proposed second Chamber shall retain their voting rights for a whole Parliament if they have made the necessary declaration within the extended period—of unspecified length, which, for special reasons, Parliament may allow—beyond that which shall apply to other Members of that House?

Secondly, why have ex-Ministers been selected to receive this special favour over and above the other special favours which they will receive under other parts of the Clause? Thirdly, why has it been thought right to give to ex-Law Lords the same special favours which have been given to ex-Ministers, if that is the case?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

When talking about ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords, would the hon. Gen- tleman make it clear whether he is referring to "X" Ministers or ex-Ministers?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I have not used the term ex-Ministers in an offensive way. The prefix "X" obviously refers to former Ministers and provides me with a brief method of presenting my case, something for which I am always searching.

Fourthly, who made the agreement about these extraordinary concessions? Was it part of the agreement which was accepted by the Opposition Front Bench and the spokesmen for the Conservative Party and other parties in another place? Were they parties to these provisions? This is a matter of some importance in relation to a subject which I shall discuss later.

Fifth, has it been agreed by the other parties to the agreement that the operation of this subsection and the determination of the "special reasons" referred to shall be settled by the House committee, that is, by the committee to be set up in another place to deal with all these matters which are not to be dealt with specifically in the Bill.

Sixth, has there been any discussion about what these "special reasons" may be? The hon. Gentleman said in earlier debate on the Bill that the "special reasons" referred only to particular people and to claims which they might be able to make. But we have not yet been assured that that covers this provision as well as the earlier subsection in which these "special reasons" were invoked. If there has been any discussion about these "special reasons", who discussed the matter and what conclusions did they reach?

Seventh, has there been any agreement about the extent of the "extended period" referred to in the subsection, that is the period in which ex-Ministers, and possibly ex-Law Lords, will have the opportunity of making the declaration that they wish to have their voting rights for the whole of the rest of that Parliament? Has there been any agreement about the period in which they will be able to continue to make these claims?

Eighth, why do the Government think that the committee appointed by the House to fix this matter will be able to do so without any guidance about the principles to be applied? Will the Minister give us any guidance on this matter? We should like to know whether any suggestions will be laid down as to the rules which should govern the operation of the committee which is to be set up in another place, or whether it is to be left entirely to their whim and decision as to how they are to lay down these rules.

Ninth, will there be any limitation on the number of ex-Ministers and Law Lords who may apply during the extended period for these extended rights throughout a whole Parliament—what might be called the extended benefit? Is the extended benefit to be provided for any number of peers who may make application, or is there to be a fixed number?

The right hon. Gentleman has rightly said that this is an important matter. If the number of the peers applying for the extended benefit and for the right to continue to vote for a whole Parliament were to be large, then that large number would offset and overturn the calculations of the Government in the whole of the Bill. The number of peers who might be able to insist on the exercise of their votes in another place under this subsection, if it is unchanged, might be sufficient to alter all the other provisions of the Bill, and certainly to alter the general intention laid down in the Preamble. Therefore, although at first sight it may appear that the issues involved in this Amendment are esoteric and refined, it may be seen that they can cover the whole intentions of the Bill. Tenth—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I have listened attentively to the questions which my hon. Friend has put to the Minister, but it is only on the ninth question that he has gone to the length of explaining the reasons for the question, his point of view, and so on. Could he not have explained on the previous eight questions the reasons for them, his point of view, and his objections to or support for them? If he does not do so, I do not know whether to support his ten questions or not.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I must invite my hon. Friend to read the HANSARD proceedings of our last debate when I sought to give the background to this matter. I have not today sought to repeat what I then said. Indeed the right hon. Gentleman devoted the bulk of his speech to the general background of the whole matter.

My tenth question is as follows. Do the Government think that these provisions, taken in conjunction with all the others which we have discussed, which may increase or alter the total number of peers, will upset the delicate balance between the parties on which the legislation is based? We should like to have the Government's view as to the numbers which they think might be involved.

These are legitimate questions to ask. If the Government complain that by asking such questions I am carrying the matter into much greater detail than is necessary and am seeking to pin down the Government in a manner which is ill-advised and inexusable, my first retort is that the responsibility must be that of the Government.

Some of us find it remarkable that such a subsection, indeed such a Clause, should ever have been included in the Bill at all. The commonsense is on our side. The commonsense is on the side of those who say that, in discussing an aspect of a future second Chamber—a second Chamber whose size and capacities and nature are left open to widespread dispute—nothing could be more absurd than that we should try to settle in detail the exact manner in which ex-Ministers or ex-Law Lords might be able to extend their voting rights, say, into the latter part of the 1970s, for a start, and thereafter for the rest of the existence of the Chamber in this form.

It is not our responsibility that these matters have to be debated. The responsibility rests squarely with the Government and with the Opposition Front Bench which has connived at the presentation of this matter. Some of us on this side of the House are bitterly opposed to the Measure. Practised observers of our discussions may have seen that there is a lack of acquiescence on the back benches opposite, and therefore I acquit them of wishing to push through this Measure. For the rest, the responsibility is clear.

I wish to emphasise two other aspects. There was some discussion on an earlier occasion about whether the Preamble went much further than the Bill itself. If one looks at the Preamble and compares it with this subsection, one sees that the whole of the subsection is outside the Preamble. Amendment 235 would bring part of it more within the Preamble. I invite the Committee to look at the Preamble, which says: to establish within the House a body of voting members exclusively entitled to participate in decisions relating to legislation and other matters, being qualified in that behalf by virtue of their attendance to the business of Parliament or by their official position;…

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are not discussing the Preamble but Amendment No. 235, which deals with subsection (2)(b).

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I was seeking to suggest, Mr. Gourlay, that the subsection is outside the Preamble. In order to do that, I had to quote the Preamble and was seeking to suggest that as the whole subsection—in fact the whole Clause—is outside the Preamble, it would make it slightly more within the Preamble if we were to knock out part of the offending subsection. This is what the Amendment seeks to do.

The Preamble sets out to state how the voting rights shall be obtained, sustained and retained by those who hold official positions, amongst others, in the other place. By this subsection we are ensuring that those voting rights will be retained in certain circumstances by people who have exhausted their official position. That is precisely what is intended. It refers to ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords. I am therefore extremely doubtful whether the provision is within the Preamble. In any case, the Amendment gives the Government the opportunity, which they could have seized before, of trying to put the subsection more in order than it is.

4.30 p.m.

I wish to refer to the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West about the explanation which existed in some people's mind for why we are confronted with proposals of this nature. The right hon. Gentleman made his remarks in dealing with an earlier Amendment, but clearly they apply to this Amendment. If his Amendment were carried, it would, in some small degree, mitigate the offence. The right hon. Gentleman said that in searching for an explanation as to why we should provide such advantages for particular people in another place at a future date, he could only think that some inducements had been offered to the Law lords by the Government or the committee arranging the provisions of the White Paper or the Bill.

"Inducements" is a very heavy word. It hangs like a pall over our debates. If inducements have been offered, and apparently accepted, according to the right hon. Gentleman, by the Government to the Law Lords to make them agreeable to the Measure as a whole, they should be probed. So far there has been no response from the Government to this question, although they have had opportunities to respond to it. I hope that they will deal with the matter. If they deny the charge that inducements have been offered, perhaps they will, in this fit of candour, go on to explain whether there were any discussions at all with the Law Lords. If, as I fully expect, the Government say that no such inducements were offered, it substantiates further the argument for removing this part of the Bill altogether. The only possible excuse which anyone could see for such bizarre provisions in a Bill like this is that a backstairs agreement was reached in order to get them through.

If the Government say that no prior arrangements have been made and that the matter is to be decided entirely on its merits, then not one hon. Member would say that this subsection should be passed on its merits in the form that the Government present it to us. But that applies to the Bill as a whole. I hope that we do not have to waste any more time on the Bill, but if a single extra minute is wasted on it the responsibility will rest with the Government, who are determined to present it to the House of Commons, and with the Opposition Front Bench, whose members say nothing on the subject whatsoever. The Opposition Front Bench has no advice to give either to the Committee or to the country on this subsection or any other part of the Bill. By their silence, they would permit the Bill to go ahead. But there are some hon. Members who are still determined to kill the Bill, and we hope that we are getting assistance in other quarters than the Palace of Westminster.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

You, Mr. Gourlay, did not have the good fortune to be present when your predecessor in the Chair called the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). So great was the hon. Gentleman's surprise that he should be called at this stage to say something about the Amendment when the Bill was, as he has just pointed out, under threat of death elsewhere, that the Committee and he were both gripped by complete and utter silence. It was easily the most moving thing that I have experienced during the proceedings on the Bill. It lasted for some time, and I am sorry that you, Mr. Gourlay, were not here to enjoy it with us.

I have a certain amount of sympathy with the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), who challenged the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale on being somewhat terse in his important questions to the Minister. Some of his questions were put very rapidly and in such a laconic way that it was surprising that the hon. Gentleman was almost at a loss for a sufficient volume of words with which to express his very important questions.

Although it is purely speculative ground for me, I should like to say something about the relationship between my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench and the subsection. I cannot believe that there is any ground for a paternity order. I am always the first to think the very best of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, particularly when they are represented by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), in whose learning, sagacity and wisdom I have the utmost confidence. I am sure that he would never lend himself to so flabby a piece of drafting as that which we are considering. I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in expressing the hope that we shall hear from my right hon. and learned Friend a reasonably brief disavowal of responsibility for this rather offensive subsection.

Those who know the extent of my right hon. and learned Friend's abilities, and particularly his ability at the Dispatch Box, believe that it is a great pity that we should be deprived of the benefit of hearing him speak on such a matter as this. I make the sincere plea to my right hon. and learned Friend that before we part with this important Amendment we shall hear from him, even if it is only to say that he has no responsibility for this flabby thing, so that the charge which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale so discourteously levelled against him may be squashed.

This Bill is almost unique, even in the horrors of modern legislation, in the amount which it leaves to be settled. The subsection deserves to be singled out for its vagueness and flabbiness. It is odd that in drafting the Bill, which is very vague in most of its Clauses, the Government should have sought to be precise in this instance and that their efforts to be precise should have failed so disastrously and obviously. My hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have already dealt adequately with the obvious objections. But what is meant by "such extended period"? How is it that there is no limit to the extension? Is there no limit? Can it go on throughout the whole of a Session or, indeed, throughout the whole of a Parliament? I hope very much that the Government will be able to explain to us, before we leave this unpleasant thing, what exactly is meant by that.

Then we come on to this other point, this faithful echo. One of the troubles, it seems to me, is that once an idea occurs in the Bill it has to be echoed at other parts of the Bill. I do not need to remind the Committee that this subsection is a faithful echo of Clause 3(4) which says: 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. Well, such has been the express, dazzling, dizzy process of this Bill through Committee that I have not got exactly in my mind at the moment the utterances which we were privileged to hear from the Government when we were discussing that subsection, and I hope very much that when the Under-Secretary of State answers the debate on this one he will explain in detail what the Government have in mind in talking about such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow". I hope particularly that he will tell us what kind of special reasons he has in mind, because it seems to me to be utterly absurd that we in this Committee should be attempting to state in some detail the ground rules for an assembly which most of us do not wish to see in being at all but which the Government in their anxiety to do something have nevertheless determined upon.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will not quail too much under the heavy responsibility of justifying such really flabby legislation as this. Though there are abundant precedents on the Statute Book in modern times for bad, evil, verbose, prolix legislation I nevertheless think that this subsection with which the Committee is now dealing deserves some special mention in the annals of horror which are the photograph album of our legislative process.

I know that there are many other hon. Gentlemen who wish to speak on this most important Amendment. It is always the case that none of the hon. Gentlemen who support this Bill dares come in here and listen to the arguments—and expose such wavering determination as they have to the awful risk of hearing the overwhelming arguments which are deployed against the Bill. I warmly agree with almost everything which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale said. I think he was unfair to my right hon. and learned Friend on our Front Bench, and I earnestly ask my right hon. and learned Friend, when the opportunity comes, at the end of this most interesting debate on this abominable subsection, to tell us in clear tones that he is in no way responsible for this particularly flabby provision in a particularly woolly Measure.

4.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

I think we are becoming clearer in our own minds as to the fundamental division between the Government and the Official Opposition on the one hand, and on the other, the back benchers in their objection to so many parts of this Bill, and it is because there has been a realisation that the Government are proceeding on the basis that they can retain the traditions of the House of Lords while at the same time giving that House very real power. So many of the Amendments which have been put down and which have been debated, as this one—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

On a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, to whom I always listen with great interest; but I really do think that there ought to be more hon. Gentlemen here to listen to him; and so may I draw to your notice, Mr. Gourlay, that there are not even 40 Members here? Can we try to get 40 here to listen to the debate?

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

This division has now become apparent between the Front Benches, acting in agreement, and the back benchers, who have put down Amendments, of which this is a particularly important one; and the division which is now showing itself is that between those who think one can retain the traditions, as they exist, of the House of Lords and at the same time give it far greater power. What many hon. Members who have put down Amendments really feel is that once we change the basis and the rôle which that House occupies—fairly sleepy, not very important, at the present time—and start giving it real power, then the way we devise the rules for that Chamber becomes of exceedingly great importance to us. So we have to scrutinise this Bill in a way we scrutinise few Bills so thoroughly, because of the very great measure of power which we are giving to that place, and we cannot, in terms of that gentlemen's agreement, any longer have that fiction which the Front Benches have in mind for the House of Lords, because we are now creating an animal different from that which has existed in the past. Because of this we have to read even the small print, so to speak; even the two last lines of this subsection.

When we think in terms of the constitutional importance of the virtual creation of a new second Chamber we must remember that at the present time what is going on in France is a similar matter, not all that different from what we are doing. There, they are having a national referendum, having agonies of mind about it, and the President has staked his future political life on it. It must not be thought that we are overstating the case and extending it too far, because what we are engaged in considering here is as important as what is going on in France. I mention that only as a background to show that there is no need for excuses by those who have been drawing the attention of the Committee to the importance of what we are doing. The fact is that countries not very dissimilar from ours do as much, and in nearly every case far more, when they examine matters as important, as serious, and with such long-term consequences as this Measure.

We must scrutinise the Bill as thoroughly as we can. We are now considering the need to extend the period during which the House of Lords can give certain peers special privileges by enabling them to decide at some stage in the future that they will become voting peers. We know that if a peer is a Minister there is no need for any voting declaration, but ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords are to be given an extended period in which to make their voting declarations. They are to be given a period which is not stated in the Bill. It may last for many years—perhaps from the beginning of a Parliament to the end of it. This provision could have serious consequences both for ex-Ministers and for the composition of the House of Lords.

One matter which has concerned us in debates on previous Clauses, and will no doubt concern us in discussing later Clauses, is that of patronage. An ex-Minister who has been out of office for a number of years, and who has shown little interest in what is going on in the other place, may suddenly find that because the Government want to redress the balance of their vote in the House of Lords they have decided to make him a voting peer. In the past the system has operated fairly quietly and conventionally on the basis of a gentleman's understanding. What we are now creating, and what we must be conscious of all the time, is a centre of power. The Government may wish to increase their vote, and one way of doing it could be to restore the vote to an ex-Minister, possibly at a critical time in the lifetime of a Parliament.

I hope that the Minister will give us clear and firm reasons why he thinks extra time is needed. Why are we trying to give this extra advantage to certain ex-law lords and certain ex-Ministers? Is it because someone may have forgotten to fill in his voting declaration? We are talking about capable people who have been provided with offices and staffs to help them do their work. Surely they should be able to perform the simple task of filling in their voting declarations in time? We know the importance of meeting deadlines when we seek nomination at a General Election. We know that there is a deadline, and we take jolly good care to meet it. I see no reason why members in the other place should not be able to take the same degree of care to meet their deadlines, which are far more generous than those which we have to meet.

It is not a question of error, or of a peer forgetting to send in his declaration. If that was all that was involved, the difficulty could be got round by a number of devices and I am sure that the Government would be able to give us details of them. What worries many of us, and what makes the discussion of this Amendment so important, is that the Government have not considered this carefully or if they have they have deliberately left open a loophole so that they can increase the number of their supporters in the House of Lords almost at will during the lifetime of a Parliament. If that is the case, it is extremely serious, because it brings us up against the whole question of the operation of the House of Lords.

As we have learned, we can never discuss anything to do with the new House of Lords without bearing in mind the implications of the payment of £2,000 a year.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

As the salaries of the chairmen of the nationalised boards have been increased, my hon. Friend should bear in mind that the salary of £2,000 a year for members in the other place may be increased pro rata.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

That could be, so perhaps I might refer to a figure of £2,000 with the addendum suggested by my hon. Friend.

We cannot discuss the new House of Lords without bearing in mind the certainty that a large sum of money is to go hand in hand with the job there. Paying members that kind of money means an extension of the patronage which may be available at any time. We know the reason for ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords retaining their voting rights. They are supposed to be people with knowledge who need to be there, but I have some doubts about the necessity for giving them the right to vote, rather than merely giving them the right to speak. If we are saying that a vote is essential, what we are really doing is denying the basis of the two-tier system. We are saying that an ex-Minister who has the authority of his office does not achieve that authority if he does not have a voting right, and that seems to me to strike at the whole basis of the new House of Lords.

This subsection will bear very heavily indeed on those who do not acquire the vote immediately but wish to acquire it later, and thus there is here a further element of patronage. There are a number of forms of patronage which we must constantly bear in mind. There is, first, patronage to Members here who behave themselves and are rewarded by being sent to the other place. This is the kind of patronage that concerns me most. Then there is patronage for peers who behave themselves. They can become Ministers or junior Ministers. There is also patronage for Ministers. If they behave themselves, they can retain their voting rights. We must remember that when we talk about voting, we mean money. We mean members getting money. We mean peers and Ministers behaving themselves and getting money. That is what we are talking about.

We cannot introduce changes such as these without bringing about a fundamental change in the way the House of Lords operates. The most damning criticism of the Bill is that the Government and the Opposition have assumed that we can make big changes, and give the other place much greater power, while at the same time retaining the kind and gentlemanly way in which the other place conducts its business at the present time. The lesson of any organisation is that giving power and money means change and to assume that there will be no changes is a grievous mistake which will have serious consequences.

The Amendment brings us again to the differences between Front Bench and back bench, between those of us who are suspicious and those Front Benchers who talk about the need for a sensible approach. However perfect the Bill might have been, certain parts of it had to be accepted as an agreement in principle, not all of which could be in the Bill. But those who want this sensible approach must be judged on their Bill. If it had been competent, well thought-out and intelligently researched, we might have been more prepared to grant concessions. It is because this is such a wretched Bill and will have such evil consequences that I am suspicious of those things which are not in the Bill.

We are not hearing much about modifications now, for which I am grateful. It is now being realised that a Bill like this is not brought in every two years, that it must be got right first time, yet this Bill seems to have been——

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

Order. We are discussing not the Bill but Amendment No. 235.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

I am sorry for having wandered, Mr. Gourlay.

The phrase about the extended period is so vague that it could have been introduced only on the assumption that it could be modified in two year's time. This euphoria, which was so evident when our debates began but is rather less evident today, is partly responsible for this wording. It was felt that it could be changed if proved wrong. This kind of hopeful assumption is false, and every Amendment should be thoroughly examined to obviate this loose phrasing. This is all part of the "lolly" on which reform was sold to the Lords. They were, understandably, happy that some of their number should receive large sums of money for certain tasks. Yet we have serious objections, because many of us feel that this allows the House of Lords to "muscle in" on the prerogatives of this elected House—something which we strongly oppose.

When serving as such, many Law Lords at present try to retain a considerable impartiality. I accept that some do not uphold these standards, but they are not pertinent to the Amendment. But once they have ceased to face those obligations, they must enter the political strife, which will inevitably be part of the new House, although it may not have been so evident in the existing House of Lords. They will no longer be able to be neutral on these great issues when the House of Lords is the power base that we know it will be. It is precisely on great issues that their votes will be needed. The Whips will be making all sorts of encouraging noises to get these people to vote.

It is even more important for existing Law Lords, but they are not dealt with in the Amendment. The ex-Law Lords will be the subject of various blandishments to make sure that they vote for the Government. This is what so much of our discussion is about. It was assumed at first that only a gentleman's agreement would be necessary, but we know that, once the vote matters, that will not work. Then, Government and Opposition will want as high a vote as possible. This may mean further patronage, Ministerial jobs, ex-Ministers having the right to vote to make up the numbers. All these are possible weapons.

We have heard, in our discussions on the Preamble, about the hopes for great balance in the House of Lords, but that balance will be an early casualty on any crucial question. A number of ex-Ministers and Law Lords could be given the vote. If it is said that only the House of Lords can do this, my reply is that the managers there will have to be that much more careful to ensure a majority, so as to give such peers the benefit of the extended period.

I do not know what the numbers might be, but that they could be large is obvious. When we think of the number of ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords in any Parliament, these could swing the balance. The optimistic assumptions which have been made about the House of Lords when not a place of power might prove different from the real situation when the House of Lords becomes a place where power is vitally concerned. I should like my hon. Friend to tell us how many such ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords as a maximum he envisages in the House of Lords in any one Parliament so that we can assess the number to be added to the Government Vote of 105, or whatever it was, and see how it can change that balance in the House of Lords.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

If the subsection goes through without amendment, it does not matter what the Government may want. There is virtually no limit, because any of those specified could ask for the extension. It does not say that the Government shall have the right to decide. It could be any number.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

This is true. One of the interesting thoughts that come during the hours of night is that the House of Lords might find itself being taken over by the Opposition who then create these Opposition ex-Ministers and there will be an absolute farce in the Palace of Westminster. I accept this is less likely than that the Government will get control and use it for their own purposes. But both possibilities certainly exist.

We all know that attempts to give peers the vote and to prevent peers from voting will be part of the game that will be played, perhaps in unaccustomed circumstances, once the game becomes the rough game that we know it will become. It is all very well having this gentlemanly game they all now play, but once the House of Lords becomes a place of power the gentlemanly game will become an early casualty.

I want to ask my hon. Friend, first, about the numbers involved, and, secondly, about the extended period as the House may for special reasons allow.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that when considering the question of exemption for sickness and other things in the previous Clause the decision was to be made by a Committee, but, on the question of an extended period, the House as a whole shall decide? It seems very strange.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing that point to my attention. This seems a yet further anomaly in a much worse than anomalous Bill that a small matter like illness should be decided by a Committee and that, on the question of gerrymandering, the House of Lords would need something more powerful rather than less. This is a point that is well worth putting.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will say something about the consequences for the Scottish Law Officers and the Scottish peers. It is very pertinent.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Yes. I will not say that I have appreciated them fully. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows more about that than I do. But that the Government and the official Opposition have not appreciated them fully I accept. This is quite common with so many aspects of the Bill.

The White Paper debates in the House of Lords show the obsession of the House of Lords, quite understandably, with the sharing and, indeed, the grasping of power from the House of Commons. This, above all, really ought to be brought to the notice not only of the House of Commons, because we are more familiar with it, but of the whole country which has perhaps not fully understood the importance of the debates based on wishing to share in the power of the House of Commons. The White Paper debates have shown this again and again.

Finally, I turn to the question of patronage. I have mentioned the various levels of patronage: patronage from this House, patronage of the peers, patronage on Ministers, and patronage of people behaving themselves in the House of Lords. The whole thing is riddled with the desire of the Whips to control the final vote in accordance with their wishes. If we felt sure at any one time that money was not to be part of it, then many of our objections to the Amendment, to Amendments that we have discussed before, to Clauses and Amendments yet to come, would be muted, or at least diminished. Money is at the basis of the discussions that we have had throughout.

The Amendment is most valuable. It has shown that, even in the unobstrusive wording of the subsection, there is danger yet to be found. We should be grateful for the chance to debate it, because it has shown how much greater care is needed in perusing the Bill than some of us, even though we have spent a long time on it, appreciated, and left it to the right hon. Gentleman to find out the possibilities which existed for changes which would be most unwelcome to the Committee.

5.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

I strongly support my right hon. Friend's Amendment, although I cannot do so with the expert knowledge that he has shown.

In addressing the Committee the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said that he thought——

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) asked me to explain, if reference was made to him, that he had to go out to make an urgent phone call, but he will be back as soon as he can.

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was only going to say——

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I wonder whether we could get it clear whether the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is making a speech on the telephone, which might explain his long absence.

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

It would be interesting to know. I was only going to say that he had said that anyone listening to the debate for the first time might find it rather esoteric. After what we have heard already this afternoon many hon. Members might think that that is a very kind word for the debate. This is a fantastic debate on a ridiculous Clause of a ridiculous Bill. The Clause presents the Committee with a fantastic subject for discussion. Why should ex-Ministers have an extended Session in which to put down a voting declaration? I have not seen one of these voting declarations. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will put a prototype of a voting declaration in the Library so that we know what we are talking about and what form it will take.

But we are reaching a ridiculous stage. There is an air of expectancy in the Committee that something will happen soon to the Bill. I will not develop that further except to say that I think the Under-Secretary will agree that it is a fair point that most of us were under the impression that the Home Secretary was in charge of the Bill. Is the right hon. Gentleman likely to be coming along or only when a count is called, as on the last occasion?

If a Minister resigns or, to use the less charitable word of my right hon. Friend, is "dropped" during the course of the Session, should he be given special privileges, extra time—perhaps to recover from the shock of what has happened to him—so that his vote can subsequently be obtained to support the Government in the House of Lords? This is basically what we are talking about. It is all very absurd and wrong because, as the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) has pointed out, it opens up an enormous area of Government manipulation and manœuvre. The Government could give these peers a certain advantage over other peers by giving them this right to vote over an extended time.

It is not clear who will decide the grant of extension of time. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) thought that the Clause indicated that the House of Lords itself would decide rather than this leave of absence committee, or whatever it calls itself. I know that references have been made earlier to the powers of this committee, but who, in fact, will decide on an extension?

What happens if a legal problem arises? Are we saying that if a peer who has put in a voting declaration is not granted extra time he can appeal to the House of Lords as a judicial body? That is one of the sillier situations that could arise.

It is quite true that we have gone long past the gentleman's agreement stage, and we must attack very fiercely any suggestion of special inducements in the form of these extra privileges being held out to ex-Minister peers. Until we know the form of the declaration, who is to vet it, and who is to superintend all the circumstances, it is very difficult for us to debate the matter. The Government's responsibility is not just to say that this is a Bill whose principles have to be worked out by the House of Lords or by some committee, but to tell us about it themselves.

I begin to think that behind the last sentence of the subsection is the Government's intention to give ex-Ministers special privileges to vote for the Government during the ensuing Session. I have no wish to embarrass my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), but we ought to know whether this provision was part of any agreement. In my view, it is very wrong for the Conservative Party to be involved in such an arrangement, especially when most of the props have been withdrawn. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will indicate whether he agrees with the subsection.

I cannot see any reason for making unique provisions for ex-Ministers. I suspect very strongly that the intention is to bolster up the whole system of a House of Lords based on a built-in Government majority. That is something of which I strongly disapprove, and in that connection I hope that the Minister will reply to the ten questions posed by his hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale. The manner and form of my right hon. Friend's Amendment is extremely valuable in pointing out some of the complications of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

A moment or two ago I apologised, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), for his absence. I said that he had been called away to deal with a telephone call to attend another meeting. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that to the best of my knowledge and belief it is not a meeting elsewhere at which the Bill might now well be under discussion.

My hon. Friend raised ten questions and I want to attack him on them, although I do not like to do so in his absence, particularly when I have apologised on his behalf for that absence. With one exception he did not give any reason or any background for his questions. He did not say what was their objective or why he had picked out those ten. We all know that he has been very active in these debates, and I am at a loss to understand why he raised only ten questions. He could have raised at least twenty. I did find another half dozen myself.

Why has my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) not gone into more detail? We all know that he speaks as briefly as possible, but he could have gone into rather more detail. He suggested that the Government of the day might use patronage to get votes. I never thought that he would have dared suggest such a thing. We all know that no Government would do that; and that no one would dare think of offering an ex-Law Lord some job after he had resigned a Ministerial appointment or, as is invariably the case, had been dismissed. We say that these people resign voluntarily, but we know that they are dismissed.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

Can my hon. Friend give me an example of a Law Lord being a Minister of the Crown?

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

The Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General and the Lord Chancellor are Law Lords. If Lord Gardiner were to be dismissed or were to retire, I would regard him as an ex-Law Lord. As the Clause now stands he could, as an ex-Law Lord, opt to go on the voting list, and carry on.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) must not be put down by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who is, I feel, thinking of Lords in Appeal in Ordinary, who are in a special category. The hon. Member for West Ham, North is quite right. He should proceed with his point, and elaborate it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I am very much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I very often attack the legal profession, and it is only right that I should, when occasion offers, pay tribute to it. I have to seek the advice of hon. and learned Members opposite when, on this side, we do not have a Law Officer present. I should like to see with us the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General because, much as I respect the advice of the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General might give different advice—

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Is the hon. Member aware that not just today but on every day since the Government came to power we have not had on the Treasury Bench a Scottish Law Officer because there is not one? Who is to answer the very important Scottish legal points arising from the Amendment?

5.30 p.m.

[Sir BERESFORD CRADDOCK in the Chair]

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

This is a tragedy, but there have not been any legal gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench either—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—from Scotland.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

The hon. Gentleman is being exceedingly unfair to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), whose qualities I am sure he would not wish to challenge. My right hon. and learned Friend comes not from Scotland but from as short a distance away as Epsom. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) wished to make a pithy protest, which he felt sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish to endorse, against the absence of any Scottish Law Officers to advise the Government on the very important issues concerning Scotland which arise on the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I immediately corrected myself. I rarely make a mistake, but on this occasion I said, "no legal gentlemen". I then corrected it and said, "from Scotland". I accept that we would have liked someone here to advise us on the issues affecting Scotland, because it is important to the subsection.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale did not go into as much detail as he might have done. He referred to possible patronage and implied, without giving details, what could happen. He mentioned something about salaries. I interjected and said that there are things other than salaries. One of these law leaders or ex-Ministers could be dismissed as unsatisfactory in his Ministerial office, and he might then hold on until a ticklish voting situation arose. The Whips might then say, "We need a few extra votes". The ex-Minister might well say, "There is a job going as chairman of one of the nationalised boards. It is a much better paid job than the post I had as Minister. If you can offer me the chairmanship of one of the boards, I might well consider asking the House to give special reasons why I should be allowed this opportunity." Would those be special reasons? If the ex-Minister said that he wanted to take on a job as one of the advisers to the Industrial Court, would that be a special reason which would allow him to seek this extension of time in which to apply for voting privileges?

The subsection says that this is subject to subsection (3) of section 3 of this Act". This means that it is subject to the age limit of 72. Does this mean, as the subsection stands, that if one of these ex-Law Lords or ex-Ministers in the Lords, having held on long enough and having not received the patronage which he had hoped for—some sinecure or well-paid job—finds that he is reaching the age of 72 and that he would not be able to ask for the period to be extended for special reasons—I see that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is screwing up his face as though I have not made the point clear.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Could an ex-Minister or an ex-Law Lord who had been dismissed from office or who had resigned and who within a month had not exercised his option to claim his vote say, "I have special reasons why the period should be extended. The special reasons are that I am 71 today and will be 72 in 12 months' time and must get my application in"? Can he use as a special reason the fact that it happens to be his seventy-first anniversary?

One month is the period suggested as the normal period in which the extension should be asked for. That period is ample enough. Nowadays we hear much about a cooling off period of 28 days, "In Place of Strife", and all that. If an industrial worker is to be allowed a cooling off period of 28 days, 28 days should be long enough for an ex-Minister or an ex-Law Lord to cool off.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

Does the hon. Gentleman think that some of his hon. Friends now missing from the Front Bench would require 28 full days to cool off?

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), who is always helpful, will agree that this does not apply exclusively to ex-Ministers on this side of the House. There are also ex-Ministers on the benches opposite. No doubt the ex-Ministers on both sides will be queueing up if and when the occasion arises for them to want one of these peerages of first creation. I imagine that this would apply to some of the Liberals, none of whom is now present. If within a month these ex-Ministers could not obtain some plum directorships or other well-paid employment, they might well think, "I have not been able within a month to obtain a directorship or other well-paid job. I will ask the Patronage Secretary what he can do about it. Can he put me on a board? Can he give me one of these nationalised chairmanship jobs? In exchange I will offer my vote. I will tell him, 'You have only 28 days'." If the Amendment is not carried, such an ex-Minister would be able to say, "I can put forward special reasons why I should be allowed to seek my voting rights after the expiration of 28 days." He might give as reasons the fact that by that time he would have attained the age of 71, or that most of the sinecures he was aiming for had gone, or that time was running on, or that there was likely to be a change of Government and that even on the political stakes he might well have lost the chance of getting another well-paid job.

There is a need for the Under-Secretary to explain what the special reasons are which will permit such a peer to have a cooling-off period of more than 28 days. The Minister for Economic Development and Production, or the Minister "In Place of Strife"—I do not know what they call her; they change the name from time to time—no doubt has hit upon this period of 28 days, because it seems to be occurring now in everything. Twenty-eight days is reckoned to be a sufficient period for an industrial worker to cool off. The subsection in fact does not say "28 days". It says "one month", which is near enough 28 days.

I think that one month should be a sufficient period for such a noble Lord who had previously been a Minister—perhaps the Minister of Economic Production, whatever they might call the Minister for Strife—to cool off in. She might well say, after this period in the House of Lords, "I have begun my period. I have had my first creation. Having had my first creation, I shall now wait for the month to see what happens". She might then succeed Mr. George Woodcock—who knows? She might be called Lord Barbara of Castle or Lord Castle of Barbara. She might then think to herself, "There is a good job going on the industrial relations board". She might then wait for a month and then not be offered the job. Then she might go to the Patronage Secretary and those people who run the patronage set-up and suggest, "George is getting old. I am much younger than he is. As we have now got to opt for it before the age of 72, what about it? Can you give me this industrial relations board position? If you can, I will wait and then I will offer my vote to you".

But, of course, there might be the other side of the matter. I think it was my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who shook his head when I mentioned Law Lords. But I can remember one case of a Law Lord very well. He was not at the time a Law Lord; he was the Attorney-General in this place. He then went to another place, where he was an ex-Minister. He then resumed practising at the Bar, and for a time I do not think he knew whether he was on one side or the other. I think he switched backwards and forwards and then went on the cross-bench, where I believe he still is. Eventually he went into business and he now has a lot of directorships [Interruption.]

I am talking about Lord Shawcross. I did not think any hon Member, particularly in the legal profession, would have wanted me to name this gentleman. I thought it was plain enough. However, if the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) is so backward about the legal profession, I will tell him that it was Lord Shawcross who was an Attorney-General and who subsequently went to another place. I am not saying that he would do as I have suggested, but he might wait 28 days and if there were an election pending he might think "Let us wait. A Lord Chancellor might be needed. The other party may be short of legal gentlemen, and if I switch sides I can become Lord Chancellor."

I am not denigrating the legal profession, but it is a fact that the greatest prize in the legal profession is the position of Lord Chancellor of England. Let us think of a name which is not connected with the legal profession. Let us take, for example, Lord Smith. I do not think the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) is a member of the legal profession. Let us suppose that we had a Lord Smith. I can imagine him going to another place as an ex-Minister, or even not as an ex-Minister, and saying, "I have got a month. If I wait long enough and do not offer my vote to either side, as there will be an election one day and as I am a qualified member of the legal profession they may offer the job to me as they are short of legal gentlemen."[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh but, in tact, this happened quite recently when there was a shortage of legal gentlemen in another place. Lord Gardiner was brought in and made Lord Chancellor. This could well happen. Therefore, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne on this point.

5.45 p.m.

This meeting which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is attending is taking much longer than I believe was expected. The meeting evidently has found trouble not only with the Clause but probably with the whole Bill.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that there are perhaps special reasons for this extension of time of the meeting which his hon. Friend is attending?

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I am sticking religiously to the Clause, because I should be out of order if I were to do otherwise. The Clause refers to a period of one month and it might be that the meeting which my hon. Friend is attending will last for such a period; I do not know. All I hope is that the meeting reaches a conclusion soon. Unfortunately, my hon. Friend is not present so that I shall have to attack him in his absence.

It is a pity that he never went into detail to explain why he selected those 10 questions. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne raised a number of points, but my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale did not go into detail. Why did he select the question of patronage and mention only the salary of ex-Ministers? Did he mean that the £2,000 was the deciding factor? It might be £2,000 plus. One of the reasons why the figure of £2,000 was originally suggested was to relate it to other salaries. We have now had the report of the National Board for Prices and Incomes on higher executives' pay, and this might be used as an argument.

To get back to the Amendment, which seeks to leave out or within such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow". I should like the Minister to explain what this means. I may support this Amendment, but I would not want to do so if my hon. Friend could explain the meaning of these words to me. Do they mean that the special reasons will include sickness? I shall be surprised if they do, because I believe there is an earlier provision covering sickness. Suppose we were to have a Tory Government. I hope this will not happen, but it could do. Such a Government might last a few weeks or months, and then there would be a flood of Tory ex-Ministers fleeing the country, perhaps to one of the warmer climates. Would it then be possible for them to use as a special reason the fact that they had been away from the House for a period longer than 28 days? When we discussed the previous Clause we were told that reasons such as leave of absence would be covered. Does this apply only to Ministers? The subsection refers to Ministers. Are we giving special privileges to these ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords, and anybody who was on the Ministerial payroll?

I have just realised something; this is another question that I must ask my hon. Friend. Subsection (1,a) refers to any office in respect of which salary is payable under the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act, 1965". Does that apply to the whips? Whips are paid. Some whips in this place might do their job so badly that they are promoted to the House of Lords. Will they have 28 days, or a month, in which to decide whether they should go on the voting list? Perhaps they, too, can ask for an extended period for special reasons. Suppose that the whips did a tour round the world on the high salaries received while they were whips and then returned and decided that for special reasons they should ask for the vote. The provision could apply to anyone on the Ministerial salary list. There are about 110 Ministers in this House; I do not know about the other place.

Subsection (1,b) refers to any high judicial office within the meaning of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act…". Perhaps my legal friends can help me here. I assume that the phrase "any high judicial office" refers to the law lords, judges, lords of appeal and other legal luminaries. Let us take the case of a judge who is a peer of first creation. He is there a month and then says, "Being a judge, it would be hardly the thing for me to claim my vote." He would wait, knowing that after the month had passed he might be able to put forward special reasons why he should be allowed the extended period. What would be the special reasons in his case? I assume that he would say that he did not want to claim his vote at the time because he was still a judge and that taking an active part in politics was not quite the thing and it was not wise for him to take his vote.

But he may have political opinions, although I do not say that there are any judges who have. He may see the chance of the Government which he supports, or opposes, being in need of his vote, or he may wish to vote against the Government. He may say, "I shall claim the benefit of the provision about special reasons and claim my vote." I assume that one of the special reasons would be that he never opted to use his vote within the 28 days because he thought that it would be infra dig. He might say that he did not want the vote at the time because it would have interfered with his impartiality as a judge.

What happens if 12 or 18 months afterwards—[Interruption.]—I do not know whether the meeting elsewhere has finished; probably it has and soon my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale will return from No. 10 Downing Street, or from wherever the meeting was held—the judge says, "I have decided to opt for using my vote. I shall ask for the provision about special reasons to be invoked"? How will the Government respond? If he declined to have the vote within the month when the conditions were such that he could have claimed it without difficulty and then a year or two afterwards there has been no change in his situation, will he be able to say, "I claim the vote for special reasons" and put forward the same reasons which he could have put forward two or three years before? Will they be allowed as special reasons?

The Bill allows ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords privileges which are not allowed to other peers. This leads me to my desire to protect the right of the ordinary—if I can call them that with no disrespect—noble peers who are not ex-Ministers or legal luminaries. Will certain people be given privileges which are not given to ordinary peers? As the Bill is drafted, that would seem to be so. Unless the Amendment is accepted, the ordinary peer will be at a disadvantage in relation to ex-Ministerial peers and legal peers. That is not fair. Why should we deprive the ordinary peer of first creation or any peer entitled to vote, and allow ex-Ministers and former and current Law Lords to opt for the vote at any time that they like provided they have not reached the age of 72?

Unless we have a satisfactory explanation from the Minister in answer to the ten points put forward briefly by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, the half-dozen points put forward even more briefly by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, and the half-dozen points on which I have only touched, I must support the Amendment in the Division Lobby.

6.0 p.m.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The Amendment is no mere verbal finesse but raises a point of real substance about which the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has spoken very lucidly and on which he has put forward some valuable points. However, he would be the first to agree that he has not covered all the points.

The broad aspect which appeals to the Committee is that the subsection appears to confer a special privilege—or "special indulgence" would perhaps be the right expression—in the arrangements made for all other peers than those comprehended within the subsection. The significance is that the Bill proposes a Chamber with certain balances. One thinks of the expression "checks and balances", but there are very few checks and even the balances may prove illusory particularly without the Amendment. Without some discipline, the Government might enjoy an excessive patronage.

One of the checks is that in Clause 5 and those provisions relating to the voting qualification. The ordinary member of the upper House will have to go through certain drills. They are not very exacting: something will have to be done in one month. That is normally time enough for politicians to collect their wits—although some have been known to take much longer—and there is considerable bipartisanship over this Measure. Clause 5(2) would exempt ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords from the rigour of the temporal provisions applying to others. There are many objections to that, and the general objection is its effect on patronage.

But there are certain particular questions which need to be answered, although the state of the benches opposite, particularly the Front Bench, makes me despair of getting answers. With this Government, one cannot tell where answers will come from, but I am puzzled to know—

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

Has my hon. and learned Friend observed that on the Front Bench opposite there is no Minister—only a Whip, who would not normally speak? In view of the importance which the Government appear to attach to the Bill, one would expect at least one Minister constantly there. One is immensely sympathetic to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has just this moment returned, for the undue share of the burden which he is expected to shoulder.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

That is a valid point, which was cured in part as my hon. Friend made it. We all have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, who has to listen to all our speeches. This gives his replies a continuity of argument but must also impose a physical and perhaps mental or nervous strain which we should have liked distributed more widely among Her Majesty's present advisers.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) first mentioned the uncertainty latent in the phrase "special reasons". This is one of those troublesome phrases which has appeared in other Acts and always led to trouble. This Bill has no definition and my right hon. Friend asks whether the special reasons were ad hominem. Will the Under-Secretary of State be telling us, in whatever tongue he finds congenial, whether they are? I suggest that they should not be but should be inherent in the nature of the fault. After all, we have a lot of consideration of this phrase in the road traffic Acts, a good deal of judicial consideration has been given to it and some interpretation has been reached. In the absence of any special provision in the Bill, I presume that those interpretations will apply here.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

How do the road traffic Acts explain the phrase? That will help us to decide—

Photo of Sir Beresford Craddock Sir Beresford Craddock , Spelthorne

Order. We are not discussing the road traffic Acts, with respect.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

It was an attractive invitation, but not one to which I propose to accede, beyond what is relevant. For one thing, the last road traffic Act contains a definition which removes the parallel.

I was addressing myself to the general consideration of the phrase which had emerged from those decisions. In the case of Whittall and Kirby, the leading case on the meaning of "special reasons", it was said that it should be a circumstance peculiar to the neglect as distinguished from the offender or the person guilty of the neglect. It was said: A special reason is one which is special to the facts of the particular case, that is, special to the facts which constitute the offence"— or, in the context of this Bill, the neglect. Financial hardship has been held not to be a special reason. This answers some of the questions of the hon. Member for West Ham, North, who I thought over-stressed the significance of money—although I see that there are financial considerations. But it has been held that financial hardship is not a special reason.

Nor is a long and good record. Nor is forgetfulness or carelessness. That has been held not only in the context of the road traffic Acts but also in the almost exactly similar context of the national insurance Acts, where there are time limits for the making of claims, and the commissioners have had to consider, in an administrative context—as close as one can get to a political context—what constitutes a special reason for delay. It was held that neither forgetfulness nor carelessness could help.

Going back to traffic, it is not a special reason that the motorist realises his incapacity and stops his car—this I am sure could be construed by analogy in the context we are considering—or that the car is stationary and incapable of being started, or that the accused is a lorry driver and drives for his living.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that they are or are not special reasons?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

They are not special reasons. On the other hand, if a peer, unknown to himself, was suffering from diabetes and had taken only a moderate amount of drink, that would be a special reason, as I apply the road traffic decisions to the provisions of Clause 5.

The Committee will realise that there is ample room for varying interpretations to be applied as to what would amount to a special reason. I at once concede that we are here dealing with the House of Lords, which is the supreme court of appeal from all other courts, and who better than they to decide on special reasons? In matters of administrative delays and the personal variations of members putting forward various reasons for delay, this exalted machinery might seem to be a little detached and too grand, but, fortunately, their lordships recently decided that they were not bound by their former decisions, and that the doctrine of stare decisis would in future be determined with laxity in their lordships' House. I suppose this is what the Under-Secretary and the Government had in mind, if they had anything in mind—which I begin to doubt. They have no doubt realised that, because the House of Lords has departed from the rule of stare decisis, it might operate this provision without getting into a more absurd mess than it otherwise would.

I shall expect from the Minister an answer to all these questions. I hope that he will not give the answer which he gave in the last debate, that what the Government wanted was flexibility. This is a splendid answer for a Minister who does not know the answer, and who knows that those under whose instruction he is acting do not know the answer and do not care anyway, because they are determined to drive the Bill through without amendment.

The whole procedure is like a charade; inflexibility in debate and flexibility in conception. Hon Members move Amendments and speeches are made from either side all supporting the Amendment. We know that no one will speak against this Amendment until the Minister replies, and he alone will oppose it and talk about flexibility, and so hope to avoid answering the ten questions put to him by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), the points put forward by my right hon. Friend, by the hon. Member for West Ham, North, and those which I am engaged in putting forward. We shall be told that the Government want flexibility; they have given careful thought to it; they do not know what it means but they are sure that it will work very well. What that means is that the Government are absolutely resolved—it is the only thing which they see with absolute perspicacity, clarity and determination—not to have a Report stage. For this reason the hon. Gentleman will oppose the Amendment.

I come back to the more general questions of substance which arise on the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

The hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned only one special reason, the man suffering from diabetes who has had something to drink. Is this the only special reason that those of their Lordships who are ex-Ministers will be allowed to bring forward?

6.15 p.m.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The special reasons that I considered were confined to drinks, drugs and diabetes simply because I was considering decisions under the road traffic Acts which tended to be about those matters. It is under the road traffic Acts that we have the advantage of decisions of the High Court on the meaning of "special reasons". It is not for me to say, and I do not intend to say, whether the special reasons which will arise on Clause 5 in another place would be reasons about drink, drugs and diabetes. Obviously, I cannot say that; I would hope not, but we must be prepared for the worst; and I was trying to define what I thought might happen if this unhappily came about—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

The hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood my point. I understood entirely his point about drinking and diabetes, but, as I have castigated my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), I was hoping that I should not have to castigate the hon. and learned Gentleman for not going into more detail about other special reasons which could be used by noble Lords as an argument for an extended period.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I see myself becoming a whipping boy between you, Sir Beresford, and the hon. Member for West Ham, North, castigated or flagellated by one if I go into the special reasons and by the other if I do not. I must leave these details on one side and come back to the main considerations, as distinct from the interpretative considerations, which arise from the Amendment.

The purpose of the Clause is to accommodate what have been described as ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords. There has been too much emphasis in our debate on the Law Lords and the ex-Law Lords. The side-note to Clause 5 reads: Voting rights of Ministers and other officers. The Clause is really about Ministers. Although the wording unquestionably includes those who hold or have held high judicial office within the terms of the appellate jurisdiction Acts, I think that they are an addition and that the Clause to an overriding extent is about ex-Ministers. The whole conception behind the Bill is a welfare service or safety net for ex-Ministers. That, no doubt, is the reason for the interest shown by the Secretary of State for Social Services, whom we have seen from time to time in the Committee—not for some little time—

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

He is almost statute-barred now.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

As my right hon. Friend says, he is almost statute-barred. He would have to show a reason if that were so—I hope that it would not be drink, drugs and diabetes. Basically, the subsection which is sought to be amended is a benefit clause, a charitable disposition in favour of ex-Ministers, those whom the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale—whom I am happy to see back among us, even if perhaps only fleetingly—has described as having been dropped during the life of a Parliament. I assume that he was referring to those Ministers who had been dropped, but not dropped into the Department of Economic Affairs. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us whether a Minister in the Department of Economic Affairs counts as a Minister or as an ex-Minister. This is a matter on which we should welcome some clarification from him. If a Minister is dropped, or shunted into the Department of Economic Affairs, and is in the House of Lords, he has to decide what he is to do. If he fails to make up his mind within the month that is allowed for him to do so—

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

It is a month in the new Session after the Session in which he ceases to be a Minister.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. I was guilty of doing what nobody should do in Committee on this Bill—I was indulging in shorthand; I was cutting my phrases short. I suppose that any Minister who becomes an ex-Minister has a vote for the remainder of the Session and then has a month in the next Session in which to stake his claim.

Already in having a vote for the remainder of the Session in which he is dismissed or dropped, or in which he resigns, he has a privilege over other members of the House of Lords being peers of first creation. But at the end of that Session he goes into the same condition as them in that he has a month in which to make up his mind. If they fail in a month, they have lost their situation for that Parliament, but if an ex-Minister fails within a month, he has this rather remarkable indulgence, which my right hon. Friend wants to leave out of the Clause.

The first question which immediately occurs to anyone is why they should have this indulgence. One can understand that, being Ministers and being dropped in the middle of the Session, they would carry on until the end of the Session as official voting peers under the provisions of Clause 2. That is comprehensible. But what is the reason why in the next Session, if they have failed to make their claim within a month, they have this special indulgence?

It cannot be that ex-Ministers are known to be indecisive or dilatory. I hope that the Under-Secretary is getting the answer to this, because this is the 64-dollar question. Is it because it is known that ex-Ministers are, by virtue of their ex-occupation, indecisive and dilatory? Are they punch drunk? Is it to give them an opportunity to recover from the buffeting which they have received from in front and from behind? Or is it thought that, having been dropped, they will have gone shooting tigers, or for a long journey around the world and will want to come back and have special indulgence given to them? Or is it, as so many have suspected, that the Government are anxious to have a sort of ex-payroll vote in their support, that they do not want to lose the votes of ex-Ministers in the Upper House whom they may hope still to govern, to influence, to control by all kinds—

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

Has not my hon. and learned Friend considered the fact that, in view of the things ex-Ministers say about the Government, this is unlikely to be a fruitful source of support?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

My hon. Friend appears superficially to have made a strong point, but I fear that people are sometimes bold in utterance while still having hankering longings for patronage. They forthrightly criticise their former colleagues and still hope to rejoin them, or even sometimes to supersede them.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Is not my hon. and learned Friend understating his case? Is it not clearly the fact that Ministers do not have to become ex-Ministers before starting to criticise the Government? They have it both ways.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

As always, my right hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. I suppose that we ought to criticise this provision because it does not give existing Ministers a month in which to decide whether to support the Government.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

A cooling-off period of a month on any issue to decide whether to support the Government, and if they cannot decide whether to support it, to claim special reasons for an extended period to make up their minds so as to be able to see which way the cat will jump before deciding whether to jump on or off the bandwagon.

I return to the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) was making. It is ex-Ministers who are most subject to this temptation, because they are in a kind of limbo.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I feel very much inclined to ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) to explain that intervention.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

My hon. and learned Friend is causing me the greatest pain. That was why I gasped in anguish. I do not feel myself to be in limbo.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

My right hon. Friend has been so long in limbo that he has made himself happy and domestic there. I am thinking of those more recently dropped into that state. In considering the Bill, one inevitably considers the fate of those whom one has before one's eyes. After all, we have to bear in mind that with the present Prime Minister we have ex-Ministers scattered around like confetti. They either gravitate to the Department of Economic Affairs, which is the repository of the circulating scrap of the Government, or, in this new world which we are envisaging and which the Bill is about, they make the nominees of the Government in the House of Lords. What we are talking about on this somewhat narrow Amendment is one of these ex-nominees who has lost his Government job, whose inadequacy has at last been recognised and who is out, perhaps punch drunk or whatever it is, and who fails to register as a voting peer within a month. The question is what is to be done with him.

The Government obviously cannot bear the thought that this possible vote may be lost. He is therefore given a longer opportunity of making a voting declaration. We do not know anything about these voting declarations, as the hon. Member for West Ham, North pointed out. Just as we thought of adjourning our debates earlier to see the attendance document of another House, one wonders whether we ought to see a voting declaration before we proceed further. It may be a very complicated document and it may take some ex-Ministers a month or longer to understand it. We do not even know in which language it is to be. If it emanates from the present Administration, it will probably be in dog licence Latin.

There is the problem we face and its significance has occurrred to all hon. Members who have considered the Amendment: it is the effect of the Government's patronage on the Upper Chamber as it would be constituted. Our fear is that, without the safeguard of the Amendment, the House of Lords will become completely servile to the Government. It is obvious that the promoters of the Bill do not like the independence of the second Chamber and want it to be subservient to the Executive. The time limit for claiming voting rights is a diminution of subservience to the Executive and because of that the Government want to waive it in respect of ex-Ministers. That is the only explanation for this provision.

I see the Under-Secretary sitting on the edge of his seat waiting to leap to his feet to reply to the discussion. Does he intend the debate to be terminated after his remarks? There will be great resentment if that happens. After all, no Scottish voice has been heard on this issue.

[Mr. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair]

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) is waiting, anxiously and patiently, to express the views of Scotland, particularly about the position of law lords of Scottish origin. The whole question of regionalism is raised by this provision.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that legal and other matters arose when we debated the previous Clause and that not one Scottish voice had an opportunity of being heard?

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman also aware that other regional areas, such as Merseyside, will be disappointed if voices are not raised on their behalf?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I do not demur. I was about to say that in addition to no Scottish voice being heard, we have not had the benefit of legal advice from the Government on a matter which is half legal and half substance. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) has previously given his views about the phrase "special reasons" and on this occasion we are entilted to the advice of the Attorney-General. This is not an English but a United Kingdom Bill.

We note a certain impatience on the part of the Executive in the conduct of these operations. It is said that the Opposition Front Bench have reached some agreement about the Bill, but my right hon. Friends who represent the official Opposition have not given us their view. It seems that the Government are tolerating this back bench debate but intend that we shall be voted down, whatever we say. I have no doubt that the Under-Secretary will talk of flexibility and that a Government Whip will then rise to put the Question.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

Even more serious is the omission of any voice representing the Church Commissioners because the provision applies to the lords spiritual, too. Will not the bishops come within the special considerations which we are discussing?

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

My hon. Friend is right. We shall later discuss my Amendment to omit subsection (4) from Clause 6, which deals with the application of Clause 5(2).

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

Order. We are discussing an Amendment to Clause 5. Clause 6 does not arise at this juncture.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I have not so far referred to Clause 6 or the lords spiritual, Mr. Gourlay, because this matter will be more appropriately debated when we reach that part of the Bill. However, my hon. Friend is correct in that the wording of Clause 5(2) is made to apply later to the lords spiritual as well as to the lords temporal. It is, therefore, surely right to point out what the full effect of the Amendment is likely to be, not only in respect of Clause 5 but in respect of later provisions.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Is my hon. and learned Friend right, remembering that Clause 6(4) clearly imports Clause 5(4); in other words, it treats the holders of the five sees there mentioned as if they were holding Ministerial offices? On the other hand, would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that when they cease to hold those sees, on retirement, they are not peers of first creation and that it is therefore arguable whether Clause 5(2) would apply?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

An extremely interesting point has been raised which I hope we are in order in discussing. I understand that Clause 6 applies Clause 5(1) to the lords spiritual but that it does not apply Clause 5(2) about which we are speaking. After all, Clause 6(4) refers to Lords Spiritual who are Lords of Parliament as they apply to peers of first creation, and as if the sees of Canterbury, York, London, Durham"—

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

Order. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell me how his remarks relate to the Amendment under discussion?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Without difficulty, Mr. Gourlay. Clause 6(4) refers to Sections 2 to 4 and subsection (1) of section 5 of this Act … applying … to the Lords Spiritual who are Lords of Parliament as they apply to peers of first creation … and I referred to … the sees of Canterbury, York, London, Durham and Winchester … as being … offices to which the said section 5 applies. If that be so, on resignation or retirement from one of those offices, I assume that the holder of one of those sees, though not the bishops, would come within the definition in Clause 5(2).

It is an arguable point; I am not saying that it is right or wrong. I was not going to develop that argument, but my hon. Friend may wish to do so. In response to your invitation, Mr. Gourlay, I have merely indicated the procedural relevance of certain provisions of Clause 5(2). It could be that certain considerations relating to lords spiritual are relevant whether the words contained in the Amendment should be struck out.

There is little I can add. I have not sought to cover the wide conspectus which was covered by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who ended up with his ten commandments. I fear that he will obtain little satisfaction, and certainly no tablets of stone—unless the tablets of stone are thrown at him, which is quite possible.

I hope that I have said enough to indicate some of the disquiet felt on both sides of the Committee about the sinister implications of the words which my right hon. Friend seeks to leave out. It comes back to the anxieties which are felt about the degree of patronage in favour of former members of the Administration.

I am not worried about the law lords since they are not very political animals. I do not think that the Government will waste much time in suborning law lords. It is neither an attractive nor an interesting occupation. They have already obtained acquiescence without any great exercise of pressure—that is, until we came to the Committee stage in this House.

The justification for the debate upon this Amendment is that it has brought out the significance of words which, on the face of them do not appear to be important and has shown how much hangs upon them. It shows how those who are responsible for putting this Bill before the House have failed to apprise themselves of the true feelings of hon. Members in all parts of the House, indeed, of people in the country at large, as to the dangers which are involved in this legislation.

I hope that when ultimately we vote, the Committee will decide that the words should be struck and that the Bill should go forward without them. I hope that the Minister, who is in an uncomfortable position, a position which must be very tiring, will not be put off by the thought of having a Report stage. I know that he wants to accept the Amendment. He must accept it since all his hon. Friends are for it. I can see that he himself is for it, for he has a benign look on his face; he is smiling and leaning forward.

In a Report stage we might improve the Bill further; we could make many changes and give careful thought to provisions which have been passed but which we have not fully considered. We want a Report stage. The Minister can help the Committee, and indeed the country by accepting my right hon. Friend's Amendment. I hope that it is for that purpose that he is rising to his feet.

6.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I am tempted by the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) that I might murmur "flexibility" and sit down. But, having listened for three hours and forty-five minutes to the discussion, I thought it appropriate to reply to the points which were raised in the discussions the week before last, and today, in reply to the Amendment in the single name of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell).

The Amendment relates to subsection (2), which deals with the position of a Minister or holder of high judicial office who retires and gives up office during a Parliament. A number of people present will know what it is to give up office during the course of a Parliament for a variety of reasons. By paragraph (a) he will retain full voting rights for the remainder of the Session in which he retires. Paragraph (b) makes it possible for him to remain a voting peer thereafter, if he so wishes and is within the time limit, by allowing him to deposit a voting declaration within one month of the opening of the next Session or within such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) asked a question about the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act 1965. It is an important matter which has loomed somewhat in our argument so far, but as it arises on the next Amendment I will leave that matter for now.

The provision which the Amendment seeks to remove corresponds with that in Clause 3(4) which enables the House to allow for special reasons an extended period for voting declarations generally. We have already discussed this matter. I accept that we are now discussing it in the context of ex-Ministers and ex-holders of high judicial office.

A peer created during the Parliament would have a month to deposit a voting declaration. The existing peers would have approximately one month from the dissolution of the previous Parliament, and the time limit may be extended by the House for special reasons. We are all aware of what those special reasons might be. I understand that there was concern about other reasons which might come under the heading of "special". What we have in mind is illness, emergencies, cases in which the person concerned may be abroad, or the late delivery of the writ. There are a variety of things of this kind. It is not intended to enable a peer to deposit a voting declaration out of time as a matter of course.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

The hon. Gentleman may have been guilty of an inadvertence. He referred among various causes to the late delivery of the writ. I wonder how this could arise, since the time runs from the writ.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I am grateful to the right. hon. Gentleman. I withdraw that remark. I was thinking aloud, and I beg the Committee's pardon. I shall not press that point. The question of the special reasons would, in the Government's view, have to be interpreted by the other place. I accept that this matter exercises people's minds. It could be done in another place by the Leave of Absence committee or by the Committee of Privileges. The Government's view is that it is appropriate for it to be left to another place to determine what these special reasons should be.

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

Would there be any right of appeal against an interpretation by the leave of absence committee?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I was coming to that point. The rule that each House is the master of its own procedures is well known. I am advised also that the courts will not look behind the decisions of each House in matters of their own proceedings. It would be a question for the other place.

The argument against that is that there ought to be far greater precision and that the matter ought to be laid down in more detail. This was not the Government's view in dealing with peers generally, and it is not their view when dealing with ex-Ministers and ex-holders of high judicial office. The question should be left to the other place, and it is my view and that of the Government that, in relationships between the two Houses, it is best left in that way between honourable men. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North has made his point about analogy with other matters, but I do not consider that it can be stretched that far. This is a new type of House of Lords, the point which concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon). The view which I have put, that it is best left to honourable men, is the one which I commend to the Committee.

I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and by other hon. Members about the origins of this arrangement. In the narrow practical sense, without it the people concerned would have to wait till the end of the Parliament. We are considering here people who have been Ministers or who have held high judicial office. If it be thought that they have something to contribute to the new House, taking into account that they could speak—I shall come back to the difference between speaking and voting—the Government's view is that they should have these extra rights, having held office or high judicial office in another place.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

There have been several analogies drawn with what happens in this House. Why should ex-Ministers have in the proposed reformed House of Lords favours which they are not granted in this House?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The analogy is drawn, but it is not completely fair. These are people who have themselves decided—as well as being asked, if they were Ministers—to hold high office. They cease to hold such office. The simple answer is that it is considered that people, of whatever political party, who have been thought to have that ability should have the right to have these special arrangements made for them.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Surely, the Minister is referring to the concession in paragraph (a). One appreciates that the ex-Minister is allowed to remain a voting peer until the end of the Session. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will address himself to what has been one of the principal arguments; namely, that thereby he already has normally a much longer period for putting in the voting declaration than an ordinary peer would have. The hon. Gentleman has not dealt with that yet.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I accept that point, but in a consideration of this issue, which has become wider in that sense, the view of the Government nevertheless was that it would be appropriate to treat ex-Ministers and ex-holders of high judicial office in this special way.

I assure the Committee that there is nothing sinister or unsavoury about what we have proposed. The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South, with his legal experience, dealt with the question of holders of high judicial office in this connection, though he did not use the words "monetary" or "sinister" which had been used earlier in relation to holders of high judicial office. Understandably, we have had a bit of fun about what happens to an ex-Minister whose authority has gone and so on, but it is wrong to suggest that there is anything sinister or unsavoury here. I shall come to the question of patronage in a few moments. I suggest that there are more sinister and more unsavoury matters in politics than that.

I was asked also about disputes on membership and about the question of the delicate balance. As regards disputes on membership, each House is master of its own proceedings. This is a wider question than the one I dealt with a few moments ago, and I bring it in now. As regards the delicate balance and calculations of party strengths—the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West raised this—and the question of resigned Ministers upsetting the voting balance, the remedy proposed is set out in paragraph 48 of the White Paper. The figure for particular parties would naturally be capable of being varied from time to time to reflect changes in their relative strength …"— this is a second aspect of the reformed House— which the proposed committee might keep under review. The main point here is that the figures for particular parties would, naturally, be capable of being varied. If there were six ex-Ministers on the Government side, there would be need for action regarding creations on the other side.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman says about paragraph 48. I read it as referring to variations from time to time to reflect changes in the relative strength of the parties in the House of Commons. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it does not mean that but is intended to deal with changes in relative strength in another place?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I concede—I have had a quick glance at the paragraph—that the reference there is to relative strengths in the House of Commons, for reasons which we all know, but it would be possible also for the Government to deal with relative strengths in the House of Lords as well if the balance were thrown out of joint as a result of the number of ex-Ministers. I shall come back to the question of numbers based on experience in a moment, since it might be thought that there would be a large number of ex-Ministers and a great effect on the delicate balance, to use the phrase, in the other place.

The ex-Ministers will always count in the Government's total of 105 in a House of 230, or in a similar proportion if the House is of a different size. The ex-law lords will be outside the calculation altogether. The question of delicate balance can be dealt with in that way.

Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen

Does the Minister really mean that all ex-Ministers will be in the Government quota? What happens when a Minister resigns after a blazing row with the Government? Is he nevertheless to be included in the Government quota? It does not seem fair.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I was coming to that point. Ex-Ministers, of all political parties, frisk into strange fields sometimes, having lost the bonds of office, and that would have to be taken into account in dealing with the balance in another place in relation to which party—or no party at all—such ex-Ministers decided to report to.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

What sort of inquisition will be held on these ex-Ministers? They may frisk away and then frisk back.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I accept that there is a difficulty there, but in terms of the majority in the House of Lords, when one comes down to detail of that kind, though it is possible to poke fun, it will be feasible in practice to consider the number, and it may be necessary to have additional creations for other reasons, too. It is not only ex-Ministers who change their minds. We talked about this earlier. One of the facts of political life in this country is that people do change their minds. I accept that they seem to change a bit more quickly sometimes when people have recently been Ministers than on other occasions, but it is not unheard of among ex-Ministers as well. There is an appropriate way of dealing with the balance in another place, and that was the question raised.

The number of ex-Ministers and ex-law lords will always be small if past experience is anything to go by. Ex-Ministers in the other place are not more than a dozen at the most. Ex-law lords have never been more than one or two; they retire at the age which we have discussed already.

7.0 p.m.

I come now to the question of ex-Ministers and patronage. I had a list quickly made of ex-Ministers of the present Government now in another place. There are Lord Longford; Lord Champion, an old friend of mine; Lord Rhodes, who represented the constituency which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne now represents; Lord Mitchison. Lord Champion and Lord Mitchison are, in effect, over age but when one looks at that small list, when one talks of people of that kind being influenced by patronage, then that is really a reflection on people who served in this House, a reflection which I could not accept for one moment.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

Is that list complete? There is Lord Walston, is there not, and there are possibly some others?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I have just said I have taken——

An Hon. Member:

Lord Snow.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The hon. Member is not reflecting on the honour of anybody, I hope, even if he disagrees or otherwise with remarks which have been made. We are talking about honourable people in another place, and when we use the word "sinister" and when we are talking about being influenced by patronage I simply suggest to the Committee that that is a reflection on the calibre of that type of person in another place.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I certainly was not casting any reflection, particularly on Lord Mitchison. It would be outrageous for anybody to do so, particularly because he was the man who introduced in another place the Parliament (No. 1) Bill which would have saved us all this trouble.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

Well, my hon. Friend has shown yet again that I did not burn enough midnight oil—did I?—in quoting the names. However, this does not detract from the point that, when one looks at the calibre of the people we are referring to, the suggestion that they would be influenced by patronage would seem to be a wrong one.

There was one other question asked. I do not know, but perhaps the Committee would be interested in the chairmen of the nationalised industries. I know my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North is very interested in the chairmen of nationalised industries.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of patronage, which, I think, he is dismissing a little too lightly, he must be aware that the results of this Bill, if it were to be implemented, would be to extend the power of patronage throughout both Houses—from this House to the other House, from the other House to Ministers, from Minister to ex-Ministers. This is the corruption which would go throughout both Houses, and it is this, more than anything else, with which I was concerned.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about this, as are other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, as a major issue. I am referring to it in the context of ex-Ministers, which is precisely the point of the Amendment, and also of the holders of high judicial office and what I was saying was that, given the names of people I have mentioned, I do not think that any talk about patronage can really hold a great deal of water.

With regard to chairmen of nationalised industries, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent them from voting, but they would be expected not to make a voting declaration unless they proposed to attend more than one-third of the time, and their employment, I should have thought, would not enable them to do that. They could do so, and at the beginning of a Parliament make a declaration. There is already a convention in the other place, as I am sure my hon. Friend knows, that they would not speak on matters affecting their industries.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman intended to do so, but it would appear that he was rejecting the point raised on an earlier Amendment, as to whether duties in connection with the nationalised industries would or would not be "public business" for the purpose of the exception from attendance calculations provided for in an earlier Clause. Unless he is saying that their absence would not be on public business—when they were absent and discharging their duties on a nationalised board—his argument has no validity at all.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

With regard to my thoughts on this matter of the chairmen of nationalised industries, I said that their employment would hardly permit them to attend more than one-third of the time. If I did not put in the word "hardly" I should have done. I am not giving it in the definitive sense of the term, but I should have thought that their duties in being in a nationalised industry would hardly permit their attending Parliament a sufficient number of times.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

The point is that if their duties in connection with a nationalised industry are in connection with a public business as defined in this Bill absence on those duties would not affect their attendance record at all. Therefore, unless the hon. Gentleman is saying that those duties are not public business his argument has really no force at all.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I well recall the discussion of what is "public business", and I certainly do not want to lay down anything in that respect. I was simply deal-

ing with the point, and I took the point, that the right hon. Gentleman made, and it does contradict earlier remarks on it. I was being asked a question about the chairmen of nationalised industries, and the view that I expressed was that in most cases I should have thought that their public business would make it difficult for the chairmen to come in in this respect.

On the problem of patronage, again, in this context, I take the present Chairman of the National Coal Board, for whom I have a great admiration, and I hardly think that he could be held to be someone who would be affected by any patronage exercised of that type. Here, again I should have thought this an excellent example to defeat the view that patronage would stop people from saying what they wanted to say.

A number of hon. Gentlemen have raised the question of ad hominem, and this has come up on a number of occasions. I stand on the view of the Solicitor-General when he offered the view to the Committee that, on a true construction, the provision is intended to be ad hominem and has that effect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1969; Vol. 778, c. 1818.] As hon. Gentlemen who were here then will know, that has wider implications which I do not feel called upon to go into and discuss again now.

The Clause treats of ex-Ministers and holders of high judicial office, and in the view of the Government it is an appropriate thing to do, and I ask the Committee to vote against the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Neil McBride Mr Neil McBride , Swansea East

Mr. Neil McBride rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 139, Noes 72.

Division No. 152.]AYES[7.8 p.m.
Anderson, DonaldCallaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesDavies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)
Archer, PeterCarmichael, NeilDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraDelargy, Hugh
Baxter, WilliamChapman, DonaldDewar, Donald
Beaney, AlanColeman, DonaldDiamond, Rt. Hn. John
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodConcannon, J. D.Dunnett, Jack
Blackburn, F.Corbet, Mrs. FredaEadie, Alex
Blenkinsop, ArthurCrawshaw, RichardEdelman, Maurice
Bradley, TomCronin, JohnEllis, John
Bray, Dr. JeremyCrosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyEnglish, Michael
Brooks, EdwinCrossman, Rt. Hn. RichardEnnals, David
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Dalyell, TamEnsor, David
Buchan, NormanDavies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Loughlin, CharlesRogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Faulds, AndrewLuard, EvanRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Fernyhough, E.Lubbock, EricShaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Finch, HaroldMcCann, JohnShore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)MacColl, JamesSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Foley, MauriceMackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Silverman, Julius
Forrester, JohnMcNamara, J. KevinSkeffington, Arthur
Fraser, John (Norwood)Marks, KennethSlater, Joseph
Freeson, ReginaldMarsh, Rt. Hn. RichardSmall, William
Ginsburg, DavidMellish, Rt. Hn. RobertSpriggs, Leslie
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. AnthonyMillan, BruceSteel, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Gregory, ArnoldMiller, Dr. M. S.Taverne, Dick
Grey, Charles (Durham)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Thornton, Ernest
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Morris, John (Aberavon)Tinn, James
Hannan, WilliamMurray, AlbertUrwin, T. W.
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Neal, HaroldVarley, Eric G.
Hart, Rt. Hn. JudithOakes, GordonWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Haseldine, NormanOgden, EricWatkins, David (Consett)
Hazell, BertO'Malley, BrianWatkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Henig, StanleyOram, Albert E.Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Orbach, MauriceWhitlock, William
Hoy, JamesOswald, ThomasWilkins, W. A.
Hunter, AdamPage, Derek (King's Lynn)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Hynd, JohnPannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Parker, John (Dagenham)Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Jay, Rt. Hn. DouglasPavitt, LaurenceWilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Peart, Rt. Hn. FredWinnick, David
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Pentland, NormanWoodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Kenyon, CliffordPerry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Lawson, GeorgePrentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)Mr. Neil McBride and
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Rees, MerlynMr. Joseph Harper.
Lipton, MarcusRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
NOES
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Hay, JohnQuennell, Miss J. M.
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Barnes, MichaelHeffer, Eric S.Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Biffen, JohnHiley, JosephRidsdale, Julian
Biggs-Davison, JohnIremonger, T. L.Royle, Anthony
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelJackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Ryan, John
Black, Sir CyrilKerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Sharples, Richard
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Kerr, Russell (Feltham)Sheldon, Robert
Body, RichardKershaw, AnthonyShort, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Booth, AlbertKitson, TimothySilvester, Frederick
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Carlisle, MarkLloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Chichester-Clark, R.Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Crouch, DavidMarten, NeilThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Cunningham, Sir KnoxMikardo, IanTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Dalkeith, Earl ofMonro, HectorWaddington, David
Dean, PaulMore, JasperWall, Patrick
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Nabarro, Sir GeraldWard, Dame Irene
Digby, Simon WingfieldNeave, AireyWeatherill, Bernard
Eyre, ReginaldOrme, StanleyWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Page, John (Harrow, W.)Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Percival, Ian
Gower, RaymondPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Peyton, JohnMr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke and
Mr. Angus Maude.

Question put accordingly, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 65, Noes 143.

Division No. 153.]AYES[7.17 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Bruce-Gardyne, J.Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Corfield, F. V.Heffer, Eric S.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Crouch, DavidHiley, Joseph
Barnes, MichaelCunningham, Sir KnoxIremonger, T. L.
Biffen, JohnDalkeith, Earl ofJackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Biggs-Davison, JohnDean, PaulKerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelDigby, Simon WingfieldKerr, Russell (Feltham)
Black, Sir CyrilEnglish, MichaelKitson, Timothy
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Lee, John (Reading)
Body, RichardGilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Booth, AlbertGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnHay, JohnMacmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Marten, NeilPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochTaylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Mikardo, IanQuennell, Miss J. M.Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Monro, HectorRamsden, Rt. Hn. JamesTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Nabarro, Sir GeraldRidsdale, JulianWaddington, David
Neave, AireyRyan, JohnWall, Patrick
Orme, StanleySharples, RichardWard, Dame Irene
Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Sheldon, RobertWilliams, Donald (Dudley)
Page, Graham (Crosby)Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Page, John (Harrow, W.)Silvester, FrederickTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Smith, John (London & W'minster)Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke and
Peyton, JohnSteel, David (Roxburgh)Mr. Angus Maude.
NOES
Anderson, DonaldGreenwood, Rt. Hn. AnthonyOrbach, Maurice
Archer, PeterGregory, ArnoldOswald, Thomas
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Grey, Charles (Durham)Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Baxter, WilliamGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Beaney, AlanGriffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Parker, John (Dagenham)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodHannan, WilliamPavitt, Laurence
Bessell, PeterHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Blackburn, F.Hart, Rt. Hn. JudithPeart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Blenkinsop, ArthurHaseldine, NormanPentland, Norman
Bradley, TomHattersley, RoyPerry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Bray, Dr JeremyHazell, BertPrentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Brooks, EdwinHenig, StanleyPrice, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Rees, Merlyn
Buchan, NormanHoy, JamesRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesHunter, AdamRogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Carmichael, NeilHynd, JohnRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraIrvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Chapman, DonaldJay, Rt. Hn. DouglasShore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Coleman, DonaldJohnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Concannon, J. D.Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Silverman, Julius
Corbet, Mrs. FredaJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Skeffington, Arthur
Crawshaw, RichardKenyon, CliffordSlater, Joseph
Cronin, JohnLawson, GeorgeSmall, William
Spriggs, Leslie
Crosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyLee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Taverne, Dick
Dalyell, TamLipton, MarcusThomas, Rt. Hn. George
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Lomas, KennethThornton, Ernest
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)Loughlin, CharlesTinn, James
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Luard, EvanUrwin, T. W.
Delargy, HughLubbock, EricVarley, Eric G.
Dell, EdmundMcBride, NeilWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dewar, DonaldMcCann, JohnWatkins, David (Consett)
Diamond, Rt Hn. JohnMacColl, JamesWatkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Dunnett, JackMackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Eadie, AlexMcNamara, J. KevinWhitlock, William
Edelman, MauriceMarks, KennethWilkins, W. A.
Ellis, JohnMarsh, Rt. Hn. RichardWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Ennals, DavidMellish, Rt. Hn. RobertWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
Ensor, DavidMillan, BruceWillis, Rt. Hn. George
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)Miller, Dr. M. S.Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Faulds, AndrewMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Winnick, David
Fernyhough, E.Morris, John (Aberavon)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Finch, HaroldMurray, AlbertWoof, Robert
Foley, MauriceNeal, Harold
Forrester, JohnOakes, GordonTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fraser, John (Norwood)Ogden, EricMr. Joseph Harper and
Freeson, ReginaldO'Malley, BrianMr. Alan Fitch.
Ginsburg, DavidOram, Albert E.

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

We come to Amendment No. 251. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter—

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

On a point of order, Mr. Gourlay. I have had brought to my notice what happened when we finished our business on 2nd April. In column 554 of HANSARD of that date, we read: "It being Seven o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair, further Proceeding standing postponed, until after the consideration ofPrivate Business set down by the direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business).MR. SPEAKER resumed the Chair."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd April, 1969; Vol. 781, c. 554.] At the end of this private Business, as reported in column 619, my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) made the Motion and proposed the Question, That this House do now adjourn. It seems, therefore, that there was an omission of the reporting of Progress and requesting of leave to sit again. Would you give your Ruling on this, Mr. Gourlay?

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

It is entirely within the competence of the Government to put down the Orders of the Day; so it is quite in order.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Further to that point of order. Is it not the case, from the facts which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) recited, that the whole of the discussion which we have had today has been out of order, and that if we were out of order before, we are still out of order now? Is it not the case that the Motion was not moved on the night which should have restored the business to the proper form and that, therefore, the debate was resumed today in circumstances were were not in order?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Maybe that was the Government's intention, but even so——

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

Order. When the occupant of the Chair is on his feet, the hon. Member must resume his seat. I have already ruled on the point of order. The business of the Committee today is strictly in order under the Standing Orders of the House.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I sincerely trust that, in view of your Ruling, Mr. Gourlay, the Amendment which I am about to move will be moved in a proper Committee stage, because it has passed my mind that the events to which attention has just been drawn by the ever-vigilant hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) may have been deliberately intended by the Government as a convenient way of losing the Bill, but no doubt they will have another opportunity in a little while.

While they are giving consideration to that—I understand that the Cabinet is in constant session at the moment, interrupted only by the necessity of entering the Chamber when a count is called—I beg to move, in page 5, line 8, at end add— (4) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any Act, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, and the Chief Opposition Whip in that House for the time being shall for the purposes of this section be deemed to be holders of an office in respect of which salary is payable under the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act 1965. The origin of this Amendment, which I am glad that the Chairman of Ways and Means thought it proper to select, is in certain observations originally made by one of the Under-Secretaries of State as reported at col. 377 of the Report of our debate on 1st April. I am informed that, although it is attributed in the OFFICIAL REPORT to one of the Under-Secretaries, the words in fact were uttered by the other—an indication of how the confusion on the Treasury Bench has apparently percolated upwards.

At that stage one or other of the Under-Secretaries of State, dealing with what was the first Amendment selected to the Clause concerning subsection (1,a), said: The Amendment is concerned with certain offices, and those offices include the Leader of the Conservative Party in the other place, who is paid, and the Conservative Chief Whip, who is also paid. They must be taken into account in considering the Amendment"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1969; Vol. 781, c. 377.] There were subsequent references to this matter, and again one of the Under-Secretaries of State at the Home Office went out of his way to repeat that this statement was made on the legal advice of the Home Office. Indeed, that legal advice was so impressive that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) indicated a willingness to accept it because it was the advice of the Home Office. I should be sorry if, in the course of the debate, that simple and rather touching faith in the infallibility of the Legal Department of the Home Office received a dent.

7.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I said that I preferred to accept the advice of the lawyers in the Home Office rather than the advice of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter).

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I hope that, before coming to a final conclusion between these two high sources of authority, the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to await the outcome of the debate. If it turns out that he finds that his faith in the Home Office was misplaced, I know him well enough to know that he will make a most handsome apology.

It is not for me to give to the Committee the result of the Government's further consideration of the matter; it is certainly for me to thank the Under-Secretary of State for his great courtesy, which he always shows, in informing me of the further consideration which Ministers have given to the advice tendered to the Committee and indicating a willingness to make a statement at the earliest convenient opportunity. I understand that the hon. Gentleman proposes to make that statement during the debate. I think that the debate would go more conveniently were he to make it when I have moved the Amendment so that we can discuss the matter on the basis of the further advice which he has been good enough to indicate that he will tender to the Committee.

I propose, therefore, to base my argument on the hypothesis that the view expressed by the Minister at an earlier stage was wrong and that, though given entirely in complete good faith and on the basis of the advice given to him, it is not the fact that the Leaders of the Opposition in another place or the Chief Opposition Whip in another place are within the privileged category under subsection 1(a). I think that we can proceed on the basis that they are not in that category.

If this is right, it raises a point of considerable importance. When the Minister told the Committee that these two persons were within the privileged category—within the grade 1 peers with the privileges of being able to be over 72 and not having to attend on one occasion in three—he no doubt told the Committee not only what he thought the Bill meant but what the Government intended. If this were the interpretation which the Government put on the Bill, they must have meant to include the two people in another place who are in receipt of salaries in respect of their offices. In the case of the Chief Opposition Whip in another place, it is a recent addition made by the Government. If we are to proceed on the basis that what the Government intended is not as a matter of law enacted in the Bill, I hope that I shall hear the hon. Gentleman say that they have an immediate intention to put it right.

The Amendment proposes to put into the Bill the original intention of the Government. In those circumstances it would be very surprising if the hon. Gentleman did not accept it. This is not a proposal put forward by those opposed to the Bill; it is not a proposal put forward by the Minister's hon. Friends below the Gangway or by my right hon. Friends on this side of the Committee. This is an attempt to make the Bill do what the Government thought it did and what the Government, therefore, must presume to have intended that it should do.

Let us consider the merits of the matter. Considerable privileges are given to the Ministers I have mentioned, apart from the privileges when they cease to be Ministers. It must be wrong to confer those privileges only on Ministers and not on former and perhaps future Ministers who confront them across the Table.

We were told at an earlier stage that one reason for giving this privilege to Ministers was to give the Government of the day freedom in selecting people to be Ministers in another place. They might want to select somebody over 72. This is far from academic, because I think that Lord Mitchison, who I always thought was the ablest Member of the Government in another place, is now well over that age and was over that age while holding office. Indeed, I believe that he makes a very powerful argument against having any age limits in the other place since his ability in drafting and his Parliamentary vigour were as conspicuous in another place as some of us remember them on his part in the House of Commons. This was the Government's argument for flexibility, because Ministers might have other commitments and not be able to meet the attendance requirements.

But surely it is part of the spirit of our Parliamentary system that we do not confer on Ministers legal privileges which we deny to those who deal with them from the other side of the Table who may have preceded them or may succeed them. It must be right that the Leader of the Opposition of the day should have a similar freedom at least in selecting the Leader of the Opposition in another place and the Chief Whip. Indeed, I should criticise—and when we come to the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, even if the Amendment is accepted, it will be necessary to criticise—limiting the privilege only to two Opposition Leaders when it is given very widely and fully to Ministers. To do what the Government set out to do and to give these privileges to two people on the Opposition Front Bench—two people selected for the understandable reason that they are paid for the discharge of their offices—is surely common justice to the Opposition.

I should think this point would appeal to all right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and on both Front Benches. Therefore, the Amendment is simple and straightforward. It sets out to confer these privileges on the two occupants of the Opposition Front Bench in another place who, it is public policy now, should be salaried and who, therefore, it is surely beyond dispute, should be treated for these purposes on the same basis as Ministers. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman wants to do what the Government plainly intended to do, he must accept the Amendment.

Equally, if he wants to clear the Bill of the charge that it deliberately treats Ministers and, for that matter, high judicial officers—although they are not relevant in this context—as grade 1 peers, and everyone else, including senior and distinguished ex-Ministers in another place, as second-best peers, he must realise that the present provision does violence not only to the concept of the new Upper House which the Bill seeks to set up but to the whole Parliamentary concept as we see it in this country.

In countries which are one-party States and dictatorships, and where there is no Opposition or, if there is, it has taken to the hills, this kind of thing is understandable and natural, but in countries in which the British Parliamentary system has developed it is the normal thing to proceed on the basis of absolute equality on the Floor of the House.

Subject to the clearing up of the interpretation of the Bill, which I have not on this occasion argued, although I have argued it on at least one earlier occasion and in one earlier intervention, because I understand that there is no difficulty about that, I ask the hon. Gentleman to accept that to refuse this Amendment in those circumstances would amount to making a farce of the procedure of the House of Commons. It would be bad enough to introduce a specially distorted system of privilege in another place, but my interest and concern is much more with the House of Commons. To say that when the House of Commons seeks to amend a Government Bill so that it carries out the Government's intention, it is nonetheless to be voted down by the use of a Government majority is a denial of Parliament which I doubt whether even the present Government have the face to make.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I acknowledge at once the courtesy of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). This matter was raised before, and we should have found a way for later discussion had the Easter Recess not made it possible for an Amendment to be tabled. I acknowledge that this is probably a better way of dealing with the matter.

The right hon. Gentleman has made a powerful argument for doing what I stated at an earlier stage was in the Bill as it is drafted. I must advise him that the advice I have had since is that the Bill as drafted does what the Government intend it to do, and that there is no need for this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman argued that because the Bill did not do what we wanted it to do, his Amendment was appropriate, but my counter argument is that the advice I have had from my legal advisers and from the Law Officers is that the Bill as drawn does what the Government want it to do, and that there is therefore no need for the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I should like to get this quite clear. Is the hon. Gentleman, in saying that, saying that subsection (1, a) does or does not confer a privileged status on the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip in another place? Leave aside what the Government intended what is the effect of the Bill?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I will deal with that point as I deploy my argument.

The right hon. Gentleman has argued, as he has argued before, that the posts of Leader of the Opposition and Chief Opposition Whip in another place, to whom salaries are admittedly payable under Section 4 of the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act, 1965, are not those of offices in respect of which salary is payable under the Act. It may have been a lapsus linguae, but when he spoke a moment ago the right hon. Gentleman referred to the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip in the other place as being the holders of those offices. But that has not been his argument.

7.45 p.m.

Clause 5 makes special provision for Ministers and holders of high judicial office to have voting rights, and we argue this in paragraph 45 of the White Paper. Subsection (1, a) says that the holder … any office in respect of which salary is payable under the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act 1965 … shall be qualified as a voting peer … I repeat the words "any office".

The right hon. Gentleman's argument was based on the ground that the word "office", which is used in Sections 1 and 2 and throughout the Act of 1965 in relation to Ministerial posts, is not used in Section 4. I concede also that that argument might be supported by popular usage, which speaks of a Member "holding office", meaning that he has a post in the Government, and that one would not speak in those terms of members of the Shadow Cabinet. But, in the present context, I am firmly advised that popular usage is not relevant. The expression "office" is quite neutral and covers all officers remunerated under the 1965 Act.

If the intention had been to confine paragraph (a) to Ministerial posts, it would have been necessary to describe them as offices paid under Section 1 of the Act. Section 1 of the Act states: Subject to the provisions of this Act, there shall be paid to the holder of any Ministerial office specified in Schedule 1 of this Act an annual salary … and so on. It would be inconceivable, I am again firmly advised, to balance such a distinction on the point of a verbal nuance such as that on which the right hon. Gentleman relied. Section 4 of the Act refers to persons rather than to offices. Again, I am advised that that point is also covered by the explanation which I have just given to the right hon. Gentleman.

Another point worth bringing into the discussion is that the salaries of Ministers go on until a General Election is over and a new Government has been formed, whereas the salaries of, if that is the right word, or the payments made to, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip in both places end when Parliament is dissolved, as does the payment to Members of Parliament. Payment stops on dissolution, because once Parliament is dissolved there are neither M.P.s nor Opposition.

As I have argued, the position of Ministers is different. On dissolution, there is no Parliament in which there is an Opposition. One is then fighting an Election when everyone knows in practical terms who is the Leader of the Opposition and so on, but in the context for which payment is made the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip in either place has ceased to be. I am advised that this also explains the difference between the payment to Ministers and the payment to Members of the Opposition.

I am sure that on reflection nobody on either side, given the nuances of political life, would expect that, irrespective of the fact that there has been a dissolution, the Leader of the Opposition in either place, and particularly in this place, should be regarded as going on into the next Parliament, because the result of a General Election might bring about a different political situation and different attitudes. A larger Opposition or a victory for the Opposition might make a profound difference.

However, I do not offer that as in any way justifying what I have said. I adhere to the view which I expressed in the early stages of our discussion, that the Bill as drafted means what I explained to the Committee on that occasion and what I have explained today. There is no need for the Amendment. It is not for me to suggest the appropriate step to be taken, but I think that we are agreed on what we both want. We want the Bill to state the situation which I believe is brought about by the Bill. I am confirmed in this by the legal advice which I have received, both Departmentally and from the Law Officers. I hope that in the light of that the right hon. Gentleman will see fit to withdraw the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am not clear what is the Under-Secretary's answer to the question which I put to him earlier in his speech and which he was good enough to say he would answer in his own way. I will put it again. In his view, are the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip in another place treated by the Bill in precisely the same way as Ministers?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The answer to that is, "Yes".

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

When we discussed this matter on a previous occasion the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was rather scathing about my acceptance of the advice of the Home Office in preference to that which he had proffered to the Committee. Today in moving the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman assumed that his advice was correct, the discussions which I gather that he has had with the Under-Secretary having confirmed him in that view.

Now that the Under-Secretary has given his considered reply, after having taken further legal advice from the Home Office, I think that the matter is fairly clear. Although Section 4(1,b) of the 1965 Act does not say that the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip are office holders within the meaning of the Act, they are in fact office holders for legal purposes. That is the advice which the Home Office has given to the Under-Secretary and which the Under-Secretary has given to the Committee.

As the right hon. Gentleman invited me to make an apology to the Committee for the views which I expressed on a previous occasion when, as the right hon. Gentleman assumed, they were proved wrong by the speech from the Government Front Bench, I merely rise to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would care to give the Committee an apology for misleading it on a previous occasion and for wasting half-an-hour of the Committee's time this afternoon.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

If the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) had listened to the Under-Secretary's speech, he would have realised that this is plainly not a point on which any very clear copper-bottomed answer has been given. In the light of the Under-Secretary's reply, which, if he does not mind my saying so, was rather different from that which he led me to expect that he would give, it will be necessary to argue the matter in full. This I propose to do. I hope that the hon. Member for Orpington will not regard it as wasting the time of the Committee if some of us seek to get every point in the Bill clearly argued on the merits to see whether it is right. If the hon. Gentleman does not want to take part in the discussions, I am not sure that the Committee will mind. He might, if I might quote another passage in the Bill, have "leave of absence".

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

We are confronted with an extraordinary situation. Everyone is very appreciative of the courteous and painstaking explanation given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. If this is indeed how the Bill should be correctly read, as it has already raised doubts in the minds of a number of people it would be only right—I hope that the Solicitor-General will remember this—that there should be an "avoidance of doubt clause" at the end of the Clause so that this shall not be the subject of any misunderstanding later.

If, as I do not necessarily dispute, the explanation given by my hon. Friend is correct, it makes the situation even more bizarre than it was. We already have this extraordinary system of privileged peerages, perpetuating and causing a lack of balance, as it necessarily must. There are to be classes of peerages in relation to the whole question of voting rights and the fading out of the hereditary peers. This concept is now to be extended to the other side of the House. I am not saying this to be snide or to sneer. I hope in a few moments to develop the question that we should discuss the constitutional development of the whole concept of an opposition. It is certainly well within the terms of the Amendment that we should do so.

If there be a case for the Leader of the Opposition in another place to have this privilege, by the same token, as the constitution now recognises the existence of political parties, it should be right for the Liberal Party in the other place and the cross-bench peers notionally to have leaders and chief whips so that all those who play any part in the other place are placed on an equal footing one with another. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Orpington intends to stick up for the interests of his party—

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

That is why I am here.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

It would be strange if I had to do that for the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has been noticeably coy in his criticisms or willingness to contribute constructive suggestions for improving the Bill.

The Amendment, disregarding for the moment the question whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is correct in his legal interpretation, would carry a stage further the idea that an opposition has a positive function in the life of Parliament and that that function is so important that it should be accorded legal recognition.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I am fascinated by my hon. Friend's argument. Does he agree that the principle should be extended to include the Communist Member of the House of Lords, who might possibly be followed by a few other Lords who became Communists?

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

In logic I think that is true. The same would apply if there were a Trotskyite in the House of Lords. It would be a little difficult to apply it in the case of an anarchist, because by definition anarchists are not a party, but they are an identifiable separate political opinion. In so far as this is an attempt to place beyond doubt the parity within the Chamber of the respective political parties, my hon. Friend is clearly right, though I do not know what would happen in practice. I believe that there is only one Communist peer—Lord Milford. To be strictly correct, he should be a party as well. As there is only one of him, we might be confronted with the bizarre situation of having to pay him a double salary—one salary for himself as leader of his party and another salary for himself as chief whip for his party.

I come to the much more intractable problem of whether the principle propounded by the Amendment should be extended to the cross-bench peers. To be on a basis of parity with other political parties, would they have to caucus as an electoral college and for the purposes of recognition elect themselves a leader and a deputy leader?

8.0 p.m.

This is not so fanciful a situation as some might suppose. I know from conversations with the hon. Members for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) and Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) the difficulties they sometimes encounter, in relation to Government business in this House, in not having the usual channels at their disposal. There are no usual channels for them. Therefore, the kind of liaison with the Table Office and with Mr. Speaker which is necessarily and rightly accorded to the Whips is not available to them.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

When my hon. Friend said that it was not so fanciful a situation as the Committee might think, possibly he had Lord Wigg in mind?

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

I never knew that the Horserace Betting Levy Board counted as a political party. That formidable personage could combine many functions within himself. However, I had better not pursue that too far.

I have said that I thought it was pertinent to a discussion of this Amendment that we should pause and see how the development of the constitution has taken place during this century. It was not till 1902 that the office of Prime Minister was officially recognised for the first time. Up till then, in order of precedence the Prime Minister merely had the rank of Privy Councillor, and I think that he ranked below the younger son of a lower marquess or something absurd like that. From recognising the Prime Minister as a political leader it took another 35 years before the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937 constituted for the first time the post of Leader of the Opposition in the House.

What this Amendment does, as I understand it, is to make sure beyond a peradventure that the idea of opposition, which has gradually been engendered, crystallised and recognised in this House, should be carried on in another Chamber. If we are to have a refurbished second Chamber—though the refurbishing which is going on is not much to the taste of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House—then clearly it is appropriate that something of this kind should be done. I do not like the idea of privileged peers anyway. I do not see why anybody should have voting rights specially created for him.

Again, if it is an abuse, which Ministers will have difficulty in resisting the temptation to use, to create Ministers beyond the proper quota and from outside the existing Chamber in order to upset the balance that this Bill so elaborately is intended to provide for, one can see what the Leader of the Opposition will do. He will be appointing and sacking his Chief Whip time in and time out, as frequently as French Prime Ministers changed in the Third Republic, until he has a large number of privileged peers. All the absurd provisions about leave of absence, special reasons and so forth which are referable to ex-Ministers who have been privileged in this way will be extended in just the same way to the Leader of the Opposition and his Chief Whip.

Referring back to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), this is a wonderful way in which the Communist Party could increase its representation, assuming that it had the same privileges. The Communist peer could sack himself from the leadership and then, presumably under the appropriate procedure, create another peer from outside who would become his Chief Whip, and they could caucus themselves into an electoral college and sack each other, and gradually the Communist Party would build up its representation.

One can imagine the strange situations which might occur. I can imagine the difficulties of getting cross-bench peers, if they were also accorded the kind of privileges which this Bill envisages, to meet in one place, let alone to agree on one particular kind of policy, even to the extent of getting their friends and relations into the other place.

This is the glossation of a nonsense. The Clause is a nonsense. The provision in this subsection is a nonsense and, with the greatest respect to the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), his Amendment is a nonsense too, although it is at least a clarificatory nonsense which is required by a Bill which is not very clear.

I would be the last person to bandy the law with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, but I should like to tell him a story of an incident which occurred to me in relation to the absence of clarificatory provisions. It fell to me once, years ago as a young Colonial Service officer—far too young to be doing the kind of job I was doing when I was posted to a Ministry in Ghana—to supervise some legislation. A Bill for the avoidance of doubt was brought forward—an ordinance as it was constituted under the old colonial system. I was too shy to presume to criticise it, and it went through. Then I was bold enough to point out some anomalies, and there then had to be another Bill for the avoidance of doubt.

At any rate, on the belt, braces and safety-pin policy, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary had better consider accepting the Amendment on the lines that the hon. Gentleman has put forward—not that it will improve this Bill one whit, even supposing this Bill to be improveable in the least, but at least it may avoid the possibility of doubt in the law later on.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

It has been a matter of convenience for the Committee that instead of having to return to this point on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has enabled us to isolate this so as, at any rate, to get the definition of the Government's intention clear before we consider the question of substance whether, as we now understand it, this Clause ought or ought not to form part of the Bill.

But I am bound to say that the necessity of returning to it in this way and the difficulty in which the Committee has found itself emphasises two points of criticism which we have repeatedly made from both sides of the Committee during our proceedings. The first is that it is quite wrong that on a Measure of this importance, which deserves and is receiving detailed examination by this Committee, a single Under-Secretary of State should be left isolated for hour after hour on the Front Bench, with point after point being put to him, without for most of the time even a Law Officer being present, let alone other Ministers, including senior Ministers, who could assist him.

Photo of Mr Russell Kerr Mr Russell Kerr , Feltham

The right hon. Gentleman should look at his own Front Bench, where there is only one Whip.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

I do not think their opinions could have helped us in solving this question relating to the intention of the Government in the drafting of the Bill. It is a good and laudable custom that in a Bill of this importance more than one Minister concerned with it should be on duty, that a senior Minister normally should be present to hear the views of the Committee and the points which are raised, and that whereever matters of legal interpretation are at issue they should be heard, as I know he intently hears them when he is present, by the Solicitor-General, or by that very rare visitor to our deliberations, the Attorney-General. That is the point of our standing criticism, which has been emphasised by the simple facts of this debate.

Second, there is the grave undesirability, again particularly with a Measure of this importance, of the use of the device of Suspension whereby we go straight on from about midnight one day to sit at ten o'clock the following morning, there being no opportunity for points which have been raised to be considered or reconsidered, as is normal, between the days on which a Bill is considered in Committee. Most hon. Members, whether they have been in office or not, know how valuable are the intervening hours between successive sittings on a Bill for reading what has been said, for checking doubtful points, and for coming fresh to the Committee rearmed with advice or with further information.

I make no criticism of the Under-Secretary of State that, when we returned at ten o'clock on the morning of 2nd April to a consideration of the same question, he was, naturally, in the same position as he had been when we rose at about midnight the previous night. Had there intervened the normal period which should intervene between two sittings of a Committee, he could have come to the Committee and helped us then in the way in which he has been able to help us this evening by confirming—and confirming on renewed legal advice and con- sultation—the interpretation which the Government put, and intended to put, upon the words of the Clause.

I come to a point which again, we have repeatedly raised. This is not the first time that we have arrived at words in the Bill which are capable, on a rational view, of more than one interpretation and of which the meaning could have been rendered absolutely unambiguous by a comparatively simple Amendment. But we are confronted all the time by the Government's determination not to have a Report stage on the Bill, which prevents their doing what a Government normally do in working through a Bill in Committee.

Normally, when a matter of doubt is raised, or when it is shown that the interpretation is ambiguous, a Government will say, "We shall look at this again, and we shall put down on Report words which will make abundantly clear what the meaning is". In the way in which they are conducting these proceedings, however, we have to rely upon the Government's dictum for the interpretation of the wording, and we have no opportunity to have clarification written into the Bill, as would happen with Measures of quite trivial importance. Indeed, we have the paradox that the more important the Bill, the less easy is it for the House and its Committee to ensure that it says what it means to say.

If this were some comparatively minor Measure going through Standing Committee upstairs, the Minister in charge, after hearing the argument put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, would say, "There is here, if not room for doubt, at least room for a more precise statement of the intention. I shall between now and the next stage of the Bill consider a form of words which will bear the intended meaning upon the face of them". That we have been denied in this case, and that we are being denied all the time by the Government's determination to have this one stage. Hence the paradox: the more important the Bill, the less the opportunity for the House to amend it.

8.15 p.m.

As to the ambiguity, if the intention were—and we now have the clearest assertion from the Government that it is—to cover in Clause 5 all persons in receipt of salaries under the 1965 Act, there would not be the slightest difficulty in so drawing this subsection as to say so. There would be no difficulty in saying, A peer of first creation who is for the time being

  1. (a) a person to whom a salary is payable under the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act; or
  2. (b) the holder of a high judicial office"—
and so on. One cannot attempt drafting on one's feet, but there is no doubt that the draftsman would be able by a simple amendment of the Clause to remove any possibility of dubiety about the application of the subsection.

The dubiety is real. There is no doubt that the 1965 Act deliberately avoids describing as an office the position of either the Leader of the Opposition or the Chief Opposition Whip in another place. As one reads through the 1965 Act, one finds the word "office" only in contexts which do not apply to the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip. Thus, the very deliberation with which the word "office" has been inserted in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) naturally leads to the conclusion which my right hon. Friend drew, that it is intended here to limit the application. As I say, there would not be the slightest difficulty in so drawing the subsection as to make clear that any one in receipt of a salary under the 1965 Act was intended to be covered by the Clause. On the drafting, therefore, my point is that we are suffering here, as we have suffered so much, from the way in which the Government are determined to force through the Bill.

Coming to the substance, here again I associate myself with my right hon. Friend's argument. If it is the Government's intention that a Leader of the Opposition in another place should be able to be over 72 or to attend fewer than one-third of the sittings of the House, and if it is the Government's view that it is reasonable that a Chief Opposition Whip in the other place should be able to be over 72 or to attend fewer than one-third of the sittings of the House—a curious sort of Chief Whip he would be in that event—

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

—those arguments must then apply, as they apply to the tenants of the Government Front Bench, to the tenants of the Opposition Front Bench. There is no reason for singling out the Chief Whip among all the possible appointments and nominations which the Leader of an Opposition might make and endowing him with these privileges. The same argument which leads the Government to say that a Prime Minister should have freedom of choice, irrespective of age and irrespective of opportunity to attend, when he is selecting Ministers in another place, must apply to a Leader of an Opposition selecting the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench in another place.

Once again, therefore, by another route, we are led to the same basic conclusion—that these exemptions are themselves inherently absurd that, having made a voting House with these characteristics of attendance requirement and maximum age, we do something inherently absurd if we then try to pick out the sort of Member who ought to be exempt from those requirements. In its turn, the search for exemption is evidence of the inherent absurdity of the qualifications for membership of a voting House. We have got ourselves into a trap of our own making. First, we have set up a voting House with attendance and age qualifications. Then we discover that we cannot stick to those qualifications, and we have to make exceptions. Once we start to make exceptions we find that there is no category so definite that it is justifiable to limit those exceptions to that category. All roads on this Bill lead to the same conclusion: whether it is on a drafting Amendment or in a debate on whether a Clause should stand part of the Bill, the more attentively we follow through the argument the more convincingly we demonstrate the absurdity of the attempt to construct this nicely balanced House of a specific size. So, once again, whatever be the fate of this Amendment, my right hon. Friend has demonstrated the point which runs through the whole of our debates.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I should like first to comment on the contribution to this debate by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). I see that he has departed; so my comment will be extremely brief. I have always regarded him as a most excellent and diligent Member of the House, but for some reason that we cannot fathom he has not been his usual sunny self on this Bill. It is very difficult for us to understand what has put him in this condition. I should have liked to explore that more carefully, but in his absence it would be unfair.

It would also be unfair to pursue too far the point made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) about the status of those on the Government Front Bench who have dealt with these matters. All of us who have attended these debates agree that both Under-Secretaries of State—whether Mr. Elystan Rees or Mr. Merlyn Morgan; we know they become a little mixed up—have contributed greatly to our debates, never more so than in the reply of the Under-Secretary on this occasion, which everybody will agree was most forceful. He should not be criticised, and none of us on this side of the House is doing so. He has an extremely awkward assignment. The performance has never been better since the boy stood on the burning deck. My hon. Friend's performance as Casabianca will be remembered long in the House even when the Bill is forgotten. He has had a very difficult assignment given to him, particularly this evening, because we all know that while we have our discussions here the fate of the Bill is being settled elsewhere. He has been put in the awkward position of trying, as it were, to run a vegetarian restaurant next door to an abattoir. The stink pervades. That is why we are all a bit overcome in the Committee, wherever we sit. But my hon. Friend has perhaps survived better than some of us.

I find myself in great difficulties about the Amendment. I do not say anything about the intricate legal aspects involved, because I am not qualified to do so. It was said of a famous Lord Chancellor that if he knew a little law he would know a little of everything. I do not know a little law, and so I do not propose to pronounce on the delicate question presented to us today.

The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) moved the Amendment most powerfully, but the more powerfully he moved it the more I was dissuaded from supporting it. The more he argued in favour of making the matter explicit and ensuring that more Members of the House of Lords should have the privileges concerned, I, as an opponent of giving any privileges, naturally felt that I had to oppose the Amendment.

I was in that position when the right hon. Gentleman sat down, but imagine my distress when the Government spokesman said that the purposes the right hon. Gentleman had in mind were already incorporated in the Bill. Having been persuaded to oppose the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt in association with my hon. Friends, I find it very difficult when I am told by my hon. Friend speaking from the Treasury Bench that all the right hon. Gentleman's purposes are already included in the Bill.

I pause for a moment to acknowledge that the paradox in the Clause is more remarkable than any of the previous paradoxes with which we have had to deal, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said. That we should go out of our way to ensure that a chief whip in another place should not have to attend on more than a specific number of occasions is extraordinary. It is the most extraordinary device ever invented. On that ground, too, I would be opposed to the purpose which the Government say is already included, and which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to make more specific. The Clause is in some respects the most offensive in the whole Bill. It is the one to which I object most strongly. I say that because of the evidence in the White Paper, which has been quoted on previous occasions, that one of the purposes that may be inherent in the Bill, and which underlies the Clause, is that there should be an increase in the number of Ministers in another place. That is already stated in the Appendix of the White Paper.

When this matter was raised in another place, a part of this Palace to which I would not refer when we were debating these questions, the Government spokesmen were amazed when this was pointed out to them. Now we have had a debate on the matter and have had it confirmed by my hon. Friend that the Government are thinking in terms of more Ministers in another place, and the provisions in the Clause are partly designed to make that possible.

I am bitterly opposed to any suggestion that the numbers of Ministers in a Government should be proportionately increased in the House of Lords compared with the House of Commons. I am amazed that a Labour Government should ever present to the House of Commons and the country the proposition that we should take steps to enable it to be possible or more convenient to increase the numbers of Ministers in another place. I had always thought that one of the aims of a Labour Government should be to reduce the numbers of Ministers in another place. Many of us can recall the occasions when important appointments were made in another place to which strong objection was taken by Labour Party spokesmen when the Labour Party was in Opposition. I do not see why we should connive at a system which would encourage the appointment of more Ministers in another place now. I am strongly opposed to the whole Clause, which makes that possible, and therefore I am naturally opposed to the Amendment, which would make it certain and specific that the privileges would apply not only to the increased numbers of Ministers but also to some members of the Opposition. The greater the number of people who will have these special privileges in another place, the more will the Government be encouraged to make appointments in the other House, whether those persons are in the Opposition or in the Government.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point but, accepting that he feels these privileges should not be given, and bearing in mind that the Government say that they intend to give them, is it not better that they should be spelt out clearly for all to see, as the Amendment proposes, than that they should go through on the basis of no more than a Ministerial statement and the ambiguous phraseology in the Statute?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I understand the argument. On other Clauses right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have argued for making our intentions clear, and this is a good general principle which certainly applies to the Bill, but on many occasions arguments on both sides have to be carefully balanced. I recognise the case which the right hon. Gentleman has made for clarity. I recognise further that the Government say that he is merely spelling out what the Government intend to do. But I am opposed to what the Government propose to do, and I must therefore also be opposed to the right hon. Gentleman who wants to spell it out even more clearly. In this matter, when the Government are engaged in doing something which I find reprehensible, the more doubt the better. If there is some doubt we might retrieve the situation, but if we establish absolute certainty then we shall encourage the Government to make more appointments to Ministries in another place.

[Sir BARNETT JANNER in the Chair]

8.30 p.m.

In dealing with this Clause earlier, my hon. Friend speaking from the Treasury Bench quoted from a book to show the numbers of members in another place who had been at various times members of Administrations. He quoted those figures to show that under a Labour Government the total number of peers in another place had been reduced as compared with Conservative Administrations. I am not surprised that that is so. I am surprised that the Government propose to put that situation in reverse and increase the number of Ministers in another place.

My hon. Friend on that occasion was good enough to hand me the book from which he was quoting, and I was fascinated to read of the occasions when the country has thought it necessary to have large numbers of peers in the other place. It is quite true that the highest numbers were at times of Conservative administration, but on one or two occasions the number of Ministers in another place was reduced to a very small figure, or even to nil. Those happened to be occasions when this country had, as some might think, the most effective Governments of this century. On the two occasions when the very life of the country was threatened. In the First World War and in the Second World War, the number of Ministers in another place was reduced almost to nil.

During a period in the Second World War the number of Cabinet Ministers in another place was reduced to nil, and during the First World War was much lower than normal. This is a powerful argument on the side of those who are arguing that it is a disgraceful procedure to be thinking of enlarging the number of Ministers, particularly Cabinet Ministers, in another place.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

Is the hon. Gentleman correct in saying that there were no Ministers in another place? What about Lord Woolton and Lord Salisbury?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

If the right hon. Gentleman had the good fortune to be able to consult the work of reference from which my hon. Friend quoted and which he handed to me, he would see that there were two Administrations in this century when it was not thought necessary or desirable to have Cabinet Ministers in the House of Lords. On one occasion the number was nil and on another occasion there were only two. During the Second World War in one of the then Mr. Winston Churchill's Governments there were no Cabinet Ministers in another place. The country managed to get along. I suppose it was justifying the old Gilbert and Sullivan chorus that the House of Lords throughout the war did nothing in particular and did it very well. The House of Lords did not interfere with the nation's affairs, and that is a situation at which it will be most commendable to arrive.

If the Amendment is carried, it will be made even clearer that the special privileges to be accorded to certain members of the House of Lords are to be given not only to Ministers and Law Lords and ex-Ministers and ex-Law Lords, but also to Leaders of the Opposition and Chief Whips in another place and, presumably, although this is not quite clear, to ex-Leaders of the Opposition and ex-Chief Whips in another place. In any case, the effect of the Amendment, or of the Clause as unamended, is to enlarge the numbers who will have these special privileges in another place.

Unless I hear arguments on the merits of the matter which persuade me otherwise, I fear that on this occasion I shall have to resist the Amendment, but I hope, to make my position absolutely logical, to be able to throw out the Clause as well.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

I am glad that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will be able to ingratiate himself with his Whips on one occasion during our discussion of the Bill. I understand that he is to vote on the Government's side.

He speculated about the position of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). I think that the view of the Liberals is clear: what they want to do is to get rid of patronage. The only patronage they have at the moment is the appointment of one delegate to the Council of Europe, and they got an interesting recruit to the party—I do not say that there was any direct connection—when they grasped a reasonably well-covered herring in the form of Lord Gladwyn for that job. They see other prospects for the future. At any rate, they have something to give.

The Clause is clearly an example of loose drafting which ought to be put right. It will not be put right, because the Home Secretary has laid it down that he will not accept any Amendment. I consider it insulting to the Committee that the Home Secretary does not turn up to the debates. When I first got to the House, Ministers considered it their first duty to be on the Front Bench when their own subjects were being discussed. They did not say that they had to attend a committee meeting elsewhere, or that they had drunk too much gripe water, or that they were trying to become leaders of their parties, or whatever it might be. They were on the Bench available and arguing, and that is where they ought to be.

I acquit the Home Secretary of deliberately insulting the Committee. The fact is that he does not understand the Bill. He was present on very few occasions when Corporation Tax was being discussed, and it had to be amended 400 times and is still in chaos. He was margarine in the hands of the Hungarian buffoon. But out of respect to the Committee he is probably reading the debates, and I therefore ask hon. Members to make their points as clear as possible so that even a bonehead can understand them.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

My own view of the Liberals' position and the reason why we see so little of them is that they are accepting very willingly the patronage being offered to them, as the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said. My suspicion is that they are feeling somewhat guilty about that and that it is that feeling of guilt which has driven them from the Chamber so many times. They have said that they consider this to be an unimportant Measure, but we all know that the measure of patronage offered to them is millions of times greater than anything they have had in the recent past, and so they cannot be as indifferent as they make out. It is this feeling of guilt which is responsible for their rather petulant behaviour throughout our discussions of the Bill.

Our minute examination of the Bill has shown that the Committee has greater knowledge of the Measure and its effects than have the Government and the Opposition Front Bench. Although I join my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) in congratulating the junior Ministers on their fortitude in withstanding the assaults which we have been making on the Bill and its absurdities, it is clear that the Measure did not receive adequate preparation. We thought that it would be amended where it was shown to be faulty, but it is clear that that will not happen.

I cannot accept the proposition that the Opposition Leader and Chief Whip in another place should be called ex-Ministers for the purpose of the Clause. If we say that they should vote, we shall be saying that anybody who, for however brief a period, can call himself the Opposition Leader or Chief Whip will have not only the vote but the money. This is a further condemnation of the status of the lower tier. In other words, while we shall call anybody who has been a law lord, an Opposition Leader and many other types of Minister, a Minister for the purpose of voting, he may also have the money, which means that the lower tier will be relegated to an even lower status. The Government are implicitly accepting this lower status of non-voting peers, and that has been established today.

We must consider the ways in which voting peers will be created outside the normal manner of their creation. According to the White Paper, voting peers were to be created by the methods outlined. Our investigation of the Bill—we do not apologise for examining it critically—is revealing many other ways in which peers with voting rights may be created. For example, when discussing the previous Amendment we found that by extending the period of registration, voting rights could be given. We have seen that in certain circumstances ex-Ministers, ex-Law Lords will be given voting rights. We now see that ex-Opposition Whips, ex-Leader of the House of Lords can also be given these voting rights. As my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) pointed out, lightheartedly, but truly, people in these positions could be created over and again to increase the number.

This kind of attitude might have been all right when it was expected that the House of Lords was to remain the gentlemanly Chamber it is at present, but once we give the Lords the powers to which we shall come later in the Bill, it will not remain a gentlemanly Chamber but will become a centre of power. Legislation governing such a centre of power needs to be examined carefully to make sure how Members of the House of Lords are to be created.

It is not enough to say, "We will leave it to see how it works out". We know that what we decide in the Bill will settle the fate of the House of Lords for many years to come. These Parliament Bills are difficult to get through, as they should be, and their amendment must of course be difficult. Therefore, proper consideration and attention to detail should be given to such legislation rather than that it should be rushed through.

8.45 p.m.

We are here dealing with the serious matter of how peers are to be appointed. The White Paper was a gentlemen's agreement between the two Front Benches as to how it was all to be divided up. We find a whole range of other ways open to peers towards becoming voting peers outside the terms of that agreement.

When one is dealing with a centre of power, one must look at the methods which are to be used. It is not an academic argument. One cannot have a gentlemanly Chamber when that Chamber is a centre of power. The methods which are being discovered through the ingenuity of members of this Committee will in due course be discovered by Members of the House of Lords responding inevitably, as they are bound to respond, to the demands and dictates of power operating in the House of Lords.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. I ask the hon. Member to keep more to the terms of the Amendment. He is going a little wide.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

I was trying to point out that there are other methods of creating voting peers. In discussing the rights of peers to vote we should be careful to know the means by which every peer is entitled to vote. We should not leave it to chance or to cosy arrangements made between the two Front Benches, but should examine it in great detail.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. The hon. Member must try to keep to the matter of payment referred to in the Amendment. He is going rather wide.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Thank you, Sir Barnett. I was trying to deal with the position of the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip in another place receiving payment, thereby qualifying under the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act, and with the situation which will occur when there is a change in the people engaged in those offices, thus increasing the number of voting peers in the House of Lords.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

Suppose the Leader of the Opposition or the Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Lords was a rich man and decided to forgo his salary, would that disqualify him from enjoying the privileges which ostensibly are accorded to him under the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act?

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

That is a valid point for which I am grateful. It is worthy of a reply from the Under-Secretary of State.

If there are ways in which Members of the House of Lords can obtain voting rights in any manner other than those general ways specified in the White Paper, any ingenuity which we can use to discover such means should be used by the Committee so that we can examine all the possibilities which inevitably will be discovered in the House of Lords. On a matter like this, we must make sure that there is a proper regulation of all the ways in which Members of the House of Lords can obtain voting rights. There must be no shadow of doubt at the end of these discussions that tucked away in one of the Clauses there may be provision for the creation of voting peers by means of a strategem which we have not discovered. It is right that we should spend time in delineating every way in which such voting peers may obtain their right to vote.

The right to vote is the right to receive money. In discussing these political pensioners, which was the phrase used by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), we must always be aware of the many strands of patronage which run throughout this Palace—the House of Commons, the House of Lords, Ministers and ex-Ministers.

Throughout our debates I have tried to avoid any charge of direct filibustering. Therefore, I should like to draw attention column 530 of HANSARD for 2nd April. The Under-Secretary of State said: I recollect an occasion when for two hours and 20 minutes all the speeches about the Bill came from my side of the Committee. The Chairman then said: I hope that the Under-Secretary will not proceed in that vein. I am then reported as having said: Because it will happen again"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd April, 1969; Vol. 781, c. 530.] It would appear from that as if I were threatening to speak at great length purely for the purpose of delay. I took up this matter with the Editor of HANSARD earlier this evening, and he accepts that this comment was wrongly attributed to me. I wish to bring this matter to the Committee's attention because I think that it will accept that this is very much out of character. Perhaps it was a remark of one of my hon. Friends. I have never threatened, or even vaguely threatened, unnecessarily to delay the proceedings. I have always argued, and will continue to argue, that the Bill should receive the greatest scrutiny of which we are capable. This I have tried to do, though frequently, I must confess, to the annoyance of certain of my hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench.

There have been three main reasons for my opposition to this part of the Bill. First, I have been most concerned about the powers of the House of Commons being diminished as the powers of the House of Lords are increased. I have always felt that the two went hand in hand. Once we increase the effective powers of the House of Lords, we reduce the effective powers of the House of Commons. Secondly, patronage permeates the political life of Westminster—in the House of Commons, the House of Lords, among Ministers and ex-Ministers.

The third has been the quality of decision taking, which has been quite deplorable. The way in which I always foresaw we should have gone about it was quite different—purely as a question——

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. The hon. Member is speaking on a matter of a general nature. Would he please direct himself to the very limited terms of this Amendment?

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Thank you, Sir Barnett. I thought that perhaps my general comment included the question of the Chief Opposition Whip and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords and the way in which the decision concerning these two was taken—or possibly lack of decision. Possibly these were overlooked. I am not in a position to decide that categorically. What I say is that the quality of the decision was bad, the investigation was bad, the preparation was bad, the international comparison was bad, and a survey of the attitudes of peers was not undertaken at all. There were so many aspects which were bad and wrong and needed to be exposed, and not just in connection with this Bill, but all Bills, so that this might stand as a marker for anybody who comes to the House of Commons with a Bill as ill prepared as this one was——

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. The hon. Member is going too far. He is going even wider than he was before. I am sure that he understands the Amendment very well. I ask him please to come back to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

I was only stating where I started from in this criticism of this part of the Bill. We see from the Amendment that the Chief Opposition Whip and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords are virtually to be called ex-Ministers and to receive the rights, including, of course, the voting rights, and salaries of ex-Ministers, and this includes also the possibility of accepting the extended period if they may so decide. It places them in this very special category, this very honoured category of Chief Opposition Whips, bishops, lawyers, Ministers; and these people make a very big loophole, which was not properly anticipated by the Government. Thus we have a very special category of voting peers plus ex-Ministers and lawyers and ex-bishops—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and Leaders and Chief Whips of the Opposition. Thus we put people of this kind in a very privileged position. The constitution which we are devising for these Opposition people, bishops, lawyers, ex-Ministers, is almost a fifteenth century kind of constitution. There is nothing here about engineers, industrialists, trade unionists, and so on——

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. The hon. Member will agree that this has nothing to do with the Amendment. I do not know how he connects what he is saying with the terms of the Amendment. I think that, on reflection, he will agree that he is going far beyond the Amendment when he talks about engineers.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

I was trying to point out, obviously not very successfully, the reason for my being against this Amendment—that it would put Chief Opposition Whips and Leaders of the Opposition in the House of Lords into this category of a kind which I should have thought more suitable for a fifteenth century constitution than for the constitution about which we should be thinking at present. I think it very wrong to make a special privileged class of this kind.

The next question I would ask about this position of the Chief Opposition Whip and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords is, was this part of the deal? We know from the discussions which have taken place and from the acceptance of this provision by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that the White Paper represents the bargain that was made, but the White Paper says nothing about the position of ex-Chief Opposition Whips and ex-Opposition Leaders. We are therefore entitled to ask the Official Opposition—though they are missing at the moment—whether this was part of the deal which they accepted. Or did they overlook these matters of detail and think that as the House of Lords is conducted in such a gentlemanly manner, these issues could be put right later?

Did they think that if there were any loopholes which would enable Members of the House of Lords to be given voting rights at a subsequent stage, that did not matter very much? Did they think that if the figure of 230 could be changed because of these ex-Leaders of the Opposition and ex-Opposition Chief Whips, that did not matter very much? Did they approach the deal in that way? Our belief must be that they did. We can choose between believing that they discussed this matter thoroughly and decided that as the House of Lords is a gentlemanly place it does not matter about getting these details right, or believing that they came to some agreement to limit the application of this provision. If the latter is the case, it is not part of the Bill, nor is it part of the Preamble, let alone being part of the White Paper.

9.0 p.m.

We should be told quite clearly what discussions there were between the two Front Benches about the position of ex-Leaders of the Opposition and ex-Chief Opposition Whips in the House of Lords. If they are to have this political pension, if it is being said that their vote is essential, then not only is a blow being struck against the two-tier system—because we have known all along that this issue was inadequately examined and ill-prepared—but, by striking such a blow, and by bringing these people in as voting peers, we are being asked to accept that the authority of the lower class of nonvoting peer, because of the ease with which voting peers can be created, is very much diminished.

By showing the ways in which peers can be made voting peers by changing the Whip, even for a day or two, we are showing that some of the ways in which the Opposition, possibly under some duress, but under the political realities which may be present at any time, might wish to act. We are dealing with situations which cannot be foreseen because they will not occur within the next six months or a year, but many years from now, but still long before any further changes are likely to be made as a result of the experience gained by the Government in these matters. The difficulty of changing the rules is becoming established, and I consider it disgraceful that the two Front Benches did not realise how difficult it would be to change the rules once they had been laid down.

If the two Front Benches do not realise that it is a simple matter to create voting peers by selecting those who had occupied the position of Leader of the Opposition or Chief Opposition Whip in the other place, they have failed in their duty to provide a workable House of Lords to act as a second Chamber. And if they have failed in their duty to do that, they have failed to understand the way in which the House of Lords could become an important part of the legislative machinery of this country. These are the absurdities of a Bill which was inadequately thought out but on which we have made some impression by our perseverance. We have shown the Government that, if for no other reason than the ill-thought-out way in which they are trying to change the constitution, the Bill should be thrown out.

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

I have always shared the suspicions of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) about the Bill, and I am even more suspicious after having heard the Government's answer to the Amendment. Backbenchers should force the Government to withdraw the Bill, but that is a subject on which I should not perhaps dwell.

We have been told that the Bill covers what the Amendment intends; but the Government are not right, because the position of the Leader of the Opposition and Opposition Chief Whip in the other place is not the same as that of Ministers under the 1965 Act. The Government are in a dangerous position in creating this dubiety. Those two people do not hold an office under the 1965 Act. In that Act they are described not as office holders but as people paid salaries. Ministers are referred to as office holders. So the Government have told the Committee something which is untrue—that the people referred to are in the same position as Ministers. They are not.

It is important that the Solicitor-General should acquaint himself with the Act quoted in subsection (1)(a)—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Are not Ministers appointed by the Prime Minister under the 1965 Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act? Are we to take it that the Chief Opposition Whip and Leader of the Opposition in another place will now be appointed by the Prime Minister?

Photo of Mr Airey Neave Mr Airey Neave , Abingdon

They will certainly enjoy his patronage. More extraordinarily, not only will the present holders of those offices be able to go over the age of 72 and attend fewer than one-third of the sittings, but the Prime Minister will allow them to do so when they retire or resign.

The serious point is that clarity is essential. The Government are wrong and it would be better to specify the position of these people to avoid doubt. The Under-Secretary of State said about an hour ago that there is a major distinction, in that, although these people are salaried, their salary ends with the dissolution of Parliament, and they cease to be qualified peers at a different stage from Ministers. There is a definite distinction in that case. But it is not so serious as to say that they are treated precisely the same as Ministers. They cannot be treated precisely the same as Ministers because they are not covered as office holders by the 1965 Act. Therefore, they are not within Clause 5(1,a), and the Amendment ought to be carried.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I should like to make a comment about the Liberal Party and about something said by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch). Concerning patronage, the right hon. Gentleman said that he understood that one great interest was the fact that the Liberals could appoint somebody to the Council of Europe and that their representative was Lord Gladwyn. It is an interesting point, because the Council of Europe is supposed to be a body of European Parliamentarians—a thoroughly democratic body. The Liberal Party, which has about a dozen members in the House of Commons, although we do not see much of them, is so dedicated to the principles of democracy that it selects somebody from the other place rather than a representative from this place. I have always regarded this as strange indeed, especially when we look at the record of the Liberal Party concerning peers.

I have just read a very interesting book by a man called Ramsay Muir putting the Liberal case for the reform of the second Chamber. He argues strongly against the principle of having peers there because of their birth. Therefore, it is strange that the Liberals should appoint somebody from the other place. Obviously I cannot go into this, Sir Barnett, because you are looking at me rather fiercely. I have a feeling that if I persisted I should be brought to order. However, I felt that I should make this comment about the Liberal Party.

I should also like to comment on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) when he corrected an observation in HANSARD. I think that I said, "Because it will happen again." I should like to make it clear that no one in his right mind has ever suggested that any right hon. or hon. Member throughout the whole period of discussion in Committee has filibustered. It is an absolute disgrace and a scandal that anybody should think that any right hon. or hon. Member would dream of filibustering.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. I thought that the hon. Member was anxious to help, but he is getting off the Amendment now.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I accept your ruling, Sir Barnett. I was merely making the point that it would be scandalous if anybody suggested that there was any filibustering. We have tried to probe the Bill in depth. This is the way that we should look at the whole matter, and this is the way that it has been done. We have tried to examine every facet of the Bill in the greatest possible detail because it is a constitutional Bill, and that is what we should do in relation to the Clause.

9.15 p.m.

This discussion has me a little confused; so although I do not agree with the principle of the Amendment it might not be a bad idea to spell out what is supposed to be the accepted principle of the Bill. Let us get the position clear. The Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act, 1965, makes it clear that a Minister must continue to be paid as a Minister because he continues as a Minister until a General Election has taken place. It is said that that is not the case with the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Chief Whip in another place, and that on the dissolution of Parliament their salaries stop. The Bill does not say that; so we need clarification.

Those people should either continue to be paid, as Ministers are, or the Bill should clearly state that they are not to receive such payment. Quite a bit of money is involved. The Leader of the Opposition in the other place receives £2,000 per annum and the Chief Opposition Whip gets, I think, £1,800 a year. If the election campaign goes on for three or four weeks, quite a fair amount of money is paid out to the Member. They ought to know just where they stand. It is said that a noble lord may be a rich man; but he may not be a rich man, and in those circumstances he must know where he stands.

Without going into the whole argument of where we ourselves stand in this connection, I believe it to be a bit of a scandal that immediately on the dissolution of Parliament Members of Parliament do not receive any pay. We are supposed to live for three or four weeks without anything coming in. I do not know how we do it, but we seem to manage——

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Exactly, but we do not get much chance of saving, especially if there is to be increased taxation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) spoke about an "avoidance of doubt clause", and we certainly need to have the position made clear for all to understand.

One reason for my welcoming the tabling of this Amendment is that it appears to tell us something that previously we did not know was going on. It is good that these things should now come out into the open. In fact, the whole Bill and the type of probing Amendments we have tabled, have brought out all sorts of aspects of life in the other place, and of life here, that we did not know existed. We should argue against the whole thing in principle. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said, the Clause perpetuates a wrong principle. I am against this, because I believe that we wish to diminish rather than strengthen the powers of the other place.

It might not be a bad idea to spell it out as an "avoidance of doubt clause". However, such a provision in the Bill, although unseen and not in the terms of the Amendment, would mean a strengthening of the other place, and we should oppose it for that reason, if for no other. I therefore urge that we do not accept the Amendment. But, then, we should not accept the Clause as a whole. I know that I cannot argue that at this stage, but I hope that in the main debate on the Clause I shall be able to argue at greater length why I believe that the Clause should not be in the Bill.

It has been said that the Home Secretary has not been present because he does not understand the Bill. In defence of my absent right hon. Friend, I do not think he is alone in that. The maximum vote in support of the Bill has been about 150. From that I assume that the majority of hon. Members neither understand the Bill nor care about it. They show their opposition to it by complete indifference. This should be a sufficient argument not only for dropping the Clause but for dropping the whole Bill. I cannot commend the Amendment in principle, but if we are to have the Bill, which I hope we are not, it would not be a bad idea to spell out the principle in the way that the Amendment does.

Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stafford and Stone

I distinctly smell error in the speeches which have just been delivered by the hon. Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon). The object of back benchers is to help our leaders to clarify what the Bill is about. I am sure that the honourable intention of those who have tabled the Amendment is to make the intentions of the Government and of the Opposition Front Bench clear beyond a peradventure.

I am sorry that there has been an attack on the Liberal Party, because no one spoke more fervently about the abhorrent absurdities of these proposals than the late Lady Violet Bonham Carter. No one made more forthright and stinging speeches, speeches which shook everyone in the House of Lords.

I was unable to follow some of the references of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne to the question of ex-bishops—or, should I say, unfrocked bishops—being available. Such things would be far more appropriate to some of the more difficult periods of Christendom—the Diet of Worms, real periods of turmoil and despair. I therefore could not understand the hon. Gentleman's allusions to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, suave and civilised as they were.

I come to the very important point which has been underlined with great clarity in the Amendment. It is to make it absolutely clear to all concerned that these noble lords should be paid and that they should be in this elevated and exceptional position in another place. In previous speeches I and others have referred to the enormous burden which has been put on the back benchers in this House. The back benchers have been asked to draft a sort of written constitution for another place. I think it will be agreed that this is the most time-wasting of all procedures. But if the Government are going to come forward with this sort of Bill which is so vague and so full of potential abuse, naturally the patriotic Members on both sides of the House of Commons will feel that they must cross every "t" and dot every "i" and make sure that this will not be a sort of rump House of Commons, a collection of people who are shoved on the back benches. That is why we have taken so long. We are going to deal with this Bill line by line——

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is quite dealing with the Amendment. Will he be good enough to come back to the Amendment which is in quite general terms?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

On a point of order, Sir Barnett. I understood that my right hon. Friend was trying to explain the purpose of the Amendment, which is to put beyond doubt that which, on all views, is a very doubtful part of the Bill. In my respectful submission, my right hon. Friend is entitled to do this.

Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stafford and Stone

If I may continue on this point, having the Amendment now before me, I should like to deal with its phraseology. It starts by saying: Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any Act Nothing could be more precise than that. This carries the Government a good way and makes their position absolutely plain. The Amendment goes on to say: … the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords —that gentleman is defined here— and the Chief Opposition Whip in that House for the time being … This is a point on which we ought to have a further Amendment. "For the time being" could, I think, be misinterpreted, and perhaps on Report we should bring forward a further Amendment to make even clearer what "for the time being" means in this instance. I am sure you will agree, Sir Barnett, that this phrase is not entirely clear.

We do not know how the Front Bench opposite move. They obviously move in a very mysterious way. A good many of them who should not be here are here, and many of them who should be here are not here. Therefore, we must regard these words "for the time being" as one of great importance. I hope my right hon. Friend will agree that on Report we can put down a further Amendment to make clear to the public and to both Front Benches what "for the time being" in this instance could and should mean.

Otherwise, I am sure it will be agreed that this Amendment is crystal clear. It lays down precisely where the Government should stand and, although we may be against the Bill in its entirety and although the Government may be prepared to steamroller the Bill through, the duty of backbenchers is to make it absolutely clear where we as a Parliament stand. Therefore, I hope for the purpose of clarity, that the Amendment will be accepted.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

Unlike the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), I have had this Amendment in front of me for the past two hours. I am therefore perhaps in an easier position to say that I rise to oppose the Amendment.

I find it a little difficult to accommodate some of the arguments advanced by some of my hon. Friends with whom I normally agree on a large variety of subjects equally as important as this Bill—indeed, more important. I think it is time that a certain amount of logic was applied to the matter. The right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) referred to the absence of the Home Secretary and implied that we should all be in a much better position to see clearly the implications of the Clause and of the Amendment if my right hon. Friend were present. That is going a little far in being unfair to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. How on earth could he be in a better position than anyone else in the Committee to explain what was in the mind of the right hon. Members for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) when they concocted the provisions of the Bill in cahoots with my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench?

9.30 p.m.

What is missing in the debate is any reference to the absentees on the Opposition Front Bench. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have talked about Liberal absentees and all sorts of other absentees. It is easy enough to fight the Liberals, who cannot defend themselves as they are not here at the moment, but there has been no reference to some of the chief culprits who negotiated and insisted upon many of the Bill's provisions which hon. Members opposite are trying to amend.

I cannot understand how hon. Members opposite can allow every opportunity to pass without demanding the presence of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this Committee. He ought to be present all the time, and he ought to be called upon to intervene frequently to explain how some of these proposals came about. I have not been in the House for very long—this is my fourth Parliament, and there are many hon. Members present who have been here much longer—but I recall what was said by some hon. Members opposite who sat on Standing Committees with me, sometimes, Sir Barnett, when you were Chairman. We always demanded the presence of the responsible leaders on both sides. I see here the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) who once shared with me the pleasant experience of 13 weeks in Committee on the Steel Bill. He was always one of the first to demand the presence of the Front Bench spokesmen on both sides. Yet that Bill, a very good Bill to nationalise the steel industry, was entirely a Government Bill. Now, however, he sits in silence, never demanding the presence of his right hon. Friend, when we are considering a Measure with which both Front Benches are associated.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

The hon. Gentleman has reminded me of the experience we both had on the Steel Bill, but he must be aware that the demands which we made on that occasion were, as they are now, for the presence of Ministers. It is one of our charges that Ministers are not present. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is conspicuous by his absence, as is the Secretary of State for Social Services, yet they are the parents of the Bill, and my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench——

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Order. This is a rather long intervention—almost a speech—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come quickly to the point.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

As always, Sir Barnett, I bow to your injunction. But I was challenged, and I felt that I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friends, though they may have been misguided enough to agree with some of the proposals in the White Paper, had no part—I hazard more than a guess at this—in drafting the Bill.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

Throughout our proceedings in the Committee to which I referred, the hon. Gentleman always insisted that both Front Benches should be manned. I recall that very well, and I am sure that it will be within the recollection of other hon. Members who sat on that Committee. The hon. Gentleman cannot ride away from the challenge by saying that it is the Home Secretary's absence which is regretted. My right hon. Friend has attended a good many sittings of the Committee. He has representatives from his Department on the Front Bench, and he is entitled to divide the work as he has done. I must say that his absence grieves me very much, as it grieves others. We should much rather have the prince and not the dukes, counts and lesser nobility conducting our proceedings. That is a matter of grief, but not of constitutional impropriety. Right hon. Members opposite should not make too much of it.

What matters is the Amendment and the implications behind it. I am amazed at the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and his hon. Friends who support the Amendment, because for so many weeks they have argued against patronage. They were putting forward their objection to what they thought to be the chief fault in the White Paper and the Bill long before Easter. They said that that fault was the enormous increase in patronage on the part of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

[Mr. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]

They never very much frightened me with that argument. I have always maintained that I did not regard the patronage issue as the most important in these discussions. I have always been concerned with powers and have made it quite clear that my chief objection is that what had been a politically incredible Chamber would, if the Bill were ever enacted, become a politically credible Chamber, and I have quoted Lord Mancroft, one of the most active and best-informed Members of the other place. But the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends have for a long time argued that what is most objectionable in the proposals is the vast extension of patronage, and for them to say that they are highly dissatisfied with what they call the enormous amount of patronage embodied in the proposals but now to want to add to it—

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

Surely there is nothing inconsistent in saying, first, that we are against the extension of patronage but, second, that if patronage is to be extended there should be equality of patronage?

The Chairman:

Order. I find difficulty in seeing the relevance of the remarks made by the two hon. Gentlemen to the Amendment, which is concerned with the Leader of the Opposition and Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Lords.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

With great respect, Mr. Irving, I had been addressing myself to the Amendment from the beginning in the few minutes for which I have been speaking. I carefully prepared what I would say on the matter, and I am not just thinking on my feet. I am trying to arrive at the point of substance which I wish to put in the way that I have thought it out, and I think that it would do no harm if I were allowed to do so.

It is not legitimate for the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) to say, "I can be against a thing in principle, and call it evil, but if it is to happen anyway I want my share of it". He would not apply that argument to drug traffic.

The Chairman:

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not addressing himself to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

With respect, surely the Amendment tries to extend the range of patronage, because it introduces yet another dimension by demanding that the Leader of the Opposition and Chief Opposition Whip in another place be included? I ask you to bear with me, Mr. Irving. We have been discussing the matter for two hours and it has been held to be in order all the time that this addition to the proposed patronage is the subject of the Amendment. I am not trying to be disrespectful.

The Chairman:

Order. The Amendment is merely to clarify subsection (a), to make sure, if it does not appear to be obvious there, that they must be included. The hon. Gentleman is not addressing himself to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

If by accepting the Amendment the Committee made clear that these individuals were to be included, that would be an extension of the patronage proposed in the Bill. What is the object of making twice certain that they are included if that is not the purpose behind it? That must be quite clear.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The hon. Gentleman remarked that we would not extend this principle to drug traffic. That is a bad parallel, because our objection to patronage is that it increases the power of the Executive, whereas the Amendment is aimed at increasing the power of the Opposition, which might have the result of curtailing the Executive's power.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

No, it would not have the result of curtailing the powers of the Executive. The hon. Gentleman is on an important point. The whole of the argument in Committee has been that by this arrangement between the two Front Benches and involving the Leader of the Liberal Party, the extension of patronage is universal. The fears that have been expressed in the debates, to most of which I have listened, have been in that direction. It has been said that it concerns not only the Prime Minister but also the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party. Allegations have been made that the Liberal Party will have far too much patronage under these proposals, more than that to which they are entitled by their representation in the elected Chamber.

If clarity is the only purpose of the proposal, then a large structure has been erected on a narrow base. Knowing the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), I do not believe that he put down these words merely to argue a narrow point. He wanted to highlight the whole position which lies behind the Amendment——

The Chairman:

Order. I cannot be sure what were the right hon. Gentleman's intentions, but the Amendment is a narrow Amendment, and the hon. Member must speak to it.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I am attempting to speak to it——

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

I have been listening with great attention to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying about patronage. Is he able to help me on this? After the next General Election, it may be that there will be other parties besides the Liberal Party, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. How will they be placed in relation to patronage?

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I should be led out of order if I tried to speculate on what might happen then. We must leave it to the Treasury Bench and the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) to explain what they had in mind should such a contingency arise. I am not worried about that because I am convinced that the Government will be returned with a suitable majority in the next General Election, with the Conservative Party again forming the official Opposition.

To return to the substance of the Amendment, I welcome the arrival of the right hon. Member for Barnet, whose absence I have just regretted in friendly terms. We shall now be able to work much better, since most of the information which we might be lacking will be forthcoming from that source, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be active in our proceedings.

The clarification and the highlighting implied in the Amendment seek to ensure that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords and the Chief Opposition Whip should receive completely equal treatment to that accorded to Ministers of the Crown. If it does not mean that, it does not mean anything. It is an attempt to make wider the net of patronage thereby implied. What are the purposes of an Opposition that is so eager—and the Amendment comes from the Opposition Benches——

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

My hon. Friend may not have been here when the Under-Secretary of State said that he was against the Amendment because there was no need for it. The Bill as it stands provides for what the Amendment seeks to do, so if the Amendment is wrong, as I think it is, the Bill must be wrong.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

It has often happened in the past that a Minister of the Crown, of whatever party, has argued that an Amendment is completely unnecessary. This is not an uncommon experience, but I am not thereby persuaded that the Amendment is not worthy of debate. The proceedings of the Committee would be reduced to a negligible performance if, when a Member of the Treasury Bench said that in his opinion the substance of an amendment was already implied in the Bill, we did not make a searching inquiry as to the purposes of the amendment and whether we approved of it. After all, it is the Committee which must decide on the Amendment, not the Treasury Bench by itself.

9.45 p.m.

Whatever view one might take about the Government's approach, it is inconsistent of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames to press the Amendment. I hope that he will withdraw it and not press it to a Division, in view of his past statements. A consistent case has been built up in our proceedings on other Amendments. Although I do not share the anxiety of some hon. Members opposite about patronage, I have thought that a consistent case had been made which was logical in itself and which could stand the examination both of those who will consider these proceedings and of later historians who will consider the whole procedure on the Bill. I should dislike finding a highly inconsistent breach in the development of this case by the introduction of something which was completely contradictory to that which had previously been argued.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

It cannot be patronage for the Prime Minister to have to give powers and privileges to persons who by definition are members of the party in opposition to him in the other place.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I do not want to be led into discussing that, because it would be wide of the mark. What I am concerned with is that, under the guise of seeking clarification, an Amendment which seems to be dealing with words and not with principles introduces a contradictory principle which is used as a basis to attack the Bill. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Amendment and not to insist upon it, because highly important principles have been developed during our debates with which the Amendment is inconsistent.

I do not take a lighthearted view of our debates on the many Amendments which we have discussed. It is important that the conclusions reached in Committee should stand up by themselves. But if the right hon. Gentleman persists with the Amendment, I shall oppose it and I shall call upon those of my hon. Friends who may be listening to my advice, but whose number is habitually limited, although there are some of them, I hope, to join me in opposing the Amendment. Nor shall I be particularly discouraged

by the fact that my hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench will probably join me on this occasion. There are a number of points on which it is natural that the Treasury Bench and those of my persuasion in these matters should be on the same sides. Alas, there have been some occasions on which I have found myself on the other side of the argument.

Some colleagues of mine on the Treasury Bench are coming into the Chamber. They are showing a slight sense of impatience. They are showing a certain selectivity by coming in as I am speaking, for they have missed the brilliant contributions of my hon. Friends. I hope that they will remain to listen to the later proceedings without taking an active part in them.

The Amendment seems to be a case of misguided enthusiasm. In the proper anxiety which the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames has shown throughout these proceedings for making the Bill absolutely clear, even when it was so full of fog that it seemed impossible to make it clear—and he has been successful many times—he has moved an Amendment which is inconsistent with the earlier argument. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) started the work of research and has done wonderfully well, so much so that we have discovered many things which we did not know when these proceedings started. But that is no reason for showing exaggerated enthusiasm, and I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Charles Grey Mr Charles Grey , City of Durham

Mr. Charles Grey (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 134, Noes 54.

Division No. 154.]AYES[9.49 p.m.
Anderson, DonaldBuchan, NormanDavies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)
Archer, PeterCallaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)Carmichael, Neilde Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraDelargy, Hugh
Baxter, WilliamChapman, DonaldDell, Edmund
Beaney, AlanColeman, DonaldDempsey, James
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony (Wedgwood)Concannon, J. D.Dewar, Donald
Bidwell, SydneyCrawshaw, RichardDiamond, Rt. Hn. John
Blackburn, F.Cullen, Mrs. AliceDoig, Peter
Blenkinsop, ArthurDalyell, TamDunnett, Jack
Bray, Dr. JeremyDavidson, Arthur (Accrington)Eadie, Alex
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Ellis, John
Ennals, DavidLee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Price, Christopher (Perry Bar)
Ensor, DavidLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Rees, Merlyn
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Fernyhough, E.Loughlin, CharlesRodgers, William (Stockton)
Finch, HaroldLubbock, EricRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter
Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)McBride, NeilSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Foley, MauriceMcCann, JohnSilverman, Julius
Forrester, JohnMacColl, JamesSlater, Joseph
Fraser, John (Norwood)Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Small, William
Freeson, ReginaldMaclennan, RobertSpriggs, Leslie
Galpern, Sir MyerMcNamara, J. KevinSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Ginsburg, DavidMarks, KennethSteele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. AnthonyMarsh, Rt. Hn. RichardStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Gregory, ArnoldMellish, Rt. Hn. RobertTaverne, Dick
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Millan, BruceThomas, Rt. Hn. George
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Miller, Dr. M. S.Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Tinn, James
Hannan, WilliamMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Urwin, T. W.
Harper, JosephMorris, John (Aberavon)Varley, Eric G.
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Murray, AlbertWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hart, Rt. Hn. JudithNeal, HaroldWatkins, David (Consett)
Hazell, BertOgden, EricWatkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Henig, StanleyO'Malley, BrianWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Oram, Albert E.Whitlock, William
Hoy, JamesOrbach, MauriceWilkins, W. A.
Hunter, AdamOswald, ThomasWillis, Rt. Hn. George
Hynd, JohnPage, Derek (King's Lynn)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Parker, John (Dagenham)Winnick, David
Janner, Sir BarnettPavitt, LaurenceWoof, Robert
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Peart, Rt. Hn. FredTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Pentland, NormanMr. Charles Grey and
Lawson, GeorgePrentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.Mr. Ernest G. Perry.
NOES
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelPeyton, John
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Heffer, Eric S.Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Hiley, JosephQuennell, Miss J. M.
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Iremonger, T. L.Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Biffen, JohnKaberry, Sir DonaldRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelKerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Black, Sir CyrilKerr, Russell (Feltham)Ridsdale, Julian
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Royle, Anthony
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnLee, John (Reading)Ryan, John
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Sheldon, Robert
Carlisle, MarkMarten, NeilSilvester, Frederick
Crouch, DavidMaudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Dalkeith, Earl ofMonro, HectorTaylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Neave, AireyTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Ewing, Mrs. WinifredOrme, StanleyWaddington, David
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Ward, Dame Irene
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Page, Graham (Crosby)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Page, John (Harrow, W.)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hastings, StephenPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Sir Knox Cunningham and
Mr. Ian Gilmour.

Question put accordingly, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 43, Noes 145.

Division No. 155.]AYES[10.1 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelQuennell, Miss J. M.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Hiley, JosephRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Iremonger, T. L.Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Biffen, JohnKaberry, Sir DonaldRidsdale, Julian
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelKerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Silvester, Frederick
Black, Sir CyrilKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnMarten, NeilTaylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)Monro, HectorTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Crouch, DavidNeave, AlreyWaddington, David
Dalkeith, Earl ofOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Ward, Dame Irene
Dean, PaulPage, Graham (Crosby)
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesPage, John (Harrow, W.)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Sir Knox Cunningham and
Gresham Cooke, R.Peyton, JohnMr. Ian Gilmour.
Hastings, StephenPowell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
NOES
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Ginsburg, DavidMurray, Albert
Anderson, DonaldGreenwood, Rt. Hn. AnthonyNeal, Harold
Archer, PeterGregory, ArnoldOgden, Eric
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)O'Malley, Brian
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Oram, Albert E.
Barnett, JoelHamilton, James (Bothwell)Orbach, Maurice
Baxter, WilliamHamling, WilliamOswald, Thomas
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodHannan, WilliamPage, Derek (King's Lynn)
Blackburn, F.Harper, JosephParker, John (Dagenham)
Blenkinsop, ArthurHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)Pavitt, Laurence
Booth, AlbertHart, Rt. Hn. JudithPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Bray, Dr. JeremyHattersley, RoyPeart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Hazell, BertPentland, Norman
Buchan, NormanHeffer, Eric S.Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesHenig, StanleyPrice, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Carmichael, NeilHoughton, Rt. Hn. DouglasRees, Merlyn
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraHowell, Denis (Small Heath)Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Chapman, DonaldHoy, JamesRodgers, William (Stockton)
Coleman, DonaldHunter, AdamRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Concannon, J. D.Hynd, JohnSheldon Robert
Crawshaw, RichardIrvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceJackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dalyell, TamJohnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Silverman, Julius
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Slater, Joseph
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Small, William
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)Lawson, GeorgeSpriggs, Leslie
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Steel, David (Roxburgh)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyLee, John (Reading)Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Delargy, HughLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Dell, EdmundLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Taverne, Dick
Dempsey, JamesLomas, KennethThomas, Rt. Hn. George
Dewar, DonaldLoughlin, CharlesThomson, Rt. Hn. George
Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnLubbock, EricTinn, James
Doig, PeterLyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Urwin, T. W.
Dunnett, JackMcBride, NeilVarley, Eric G.
Eadie, AlexMcCann, JohnWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ellis, JohnMacColl, JamesWatkins, David (Consett)
Ennals, DavidMacdonald, A. H.Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Ensor, DavidMackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Maclennan, RobertWhitlock, William
Ewing, Mrs. WinifredMcNamara, J. KevinWilkins, W. A.
Fernyhough, E.Marks, KennethWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Finch, HaroldMarsh, Rt. Hn. RichardWillis, Rt. Hn. George
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Mellish, Rt. Hn. RobertWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)Mendelson, JohnWinnick, David
Foley, MauriceMillan, Bruce
Forrester, JohnMiller, Dr. M. S.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fraser, John (Norwood)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Mr. Charles Grey and
Freeson, ReginaldMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Mr. Ernest G. Perry.
Galpern, Sir MyerMorris, John (Aberavon)

It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.