Amendment 5

House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 12:02 pm on 15th March 2019.

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Moved by Lord Trefgarne

5: Clause 2, page 1, line 8, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—“(2) In section 2, after subsection (4) insert—“(4A) Standing Orders relating to the filling of vacancies must provide that any party or group specified in the Standing Orders need not take up its entitlement to fill any vacancy among the people excepted from section 1, and that in this event the vacancy will be allocated to one of the other parties or groups specified in the Standing Orders, by a method specified in the Standing Orders, for that party or group to fill.””

Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Chair, SLSC Sub-Committee A

My Lords, this amendment is largely self-explanatory but I believe it deals with some of the concerns that have been expressed. Any political party that does not wish to take part in the process of electing hereditary Peers would not have to do so if the amendment were agreed. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

I rise to support my noble friend’s amendment and to speak to Amendment 6, which is similar to that of my noble friend. My noble friend’s amendment asks that vacancies be spread to other parties. I do not believe that that should necessarily be the case and that, if it helps reduce the numbers in the House, a party need not take up a vacancy. When the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asked us to declare an interest, I hoped that I might be able to misquote Shakespeare. Some are born with peerages; some have peerages thrust upon them, and some achieve peerages. The great advantage of being a hereditary Peer is that everybody knows why I got my peerage. The other two categories are still open to debate.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My noble friend said that he wanted to speak to Amendment 6. That has been ungrouped and is in the next selection.

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

My noble friend is absolutely right, but I was trying for the convenience of the House to speed things up a bit. If we talked to both amendments now, as I have done, it might be helpful.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, perhaps I may now be allowed to join this debate. I said in my opening remarks that I had not spoken in this debate at all; I had tabled one small amendment on which I was about to reply. If my noble friend Lord Cormack thinks that what he did was a clever little ploy, he has another think coming. As a result of that, I shall now speak on every single amendment that I can. It was outrageous for those who support this Bill to deny me, as the mover of the previous amendment, an opportunity to reply, particularly when the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, had electrified the debate on the purposes of the Bill and, frankly, had shot the fox of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, in explaining exactly what its motivation was. That is why I am deeply shocked that so many Peers voted against that amendment, which would have provided for a statutory appointments commission.

I would like to calm things down while we go through the rest of the amendments. When the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asked Peers to declare whether they were hereditary Peers, I rather cheered that he could not tell the difference. That is the point. I know exactly why I am here. I am here as a result of legislation passed at the end of the last century and by election. I am an elected hereditary Peer under law. More than 200 hereditary Peers voted for me, and in that list I came second.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

No, my Lords, I am not going to give way to the noble Lord until I have finished this point. I was proud to have come second to my late noble friend Lord Ferrers—I hope that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne is not going to argue with me about that—and my noble friend Lord Trefgarne was third. I hope that the next time the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, gets up, he will tell us in some detail, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, did, why he is a Member of this House. Let every other noble Lord who is going to speak declare their interest and explain what brought them to this House and who ticked that box. I am happy now to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for lowering the temperature. Perhaps we have had just enough of this faux anger. I was going to point out how lucky he was to be elected with 200 votes, because when I first stood in Lichfield and Tamworth I got some 25,000 votes and lost.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, ducked the opportunity to explain to this House why he is a Member.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said earlier that he was just like everyone else: a hereditary Peer, and one could not tell the difference between the two. Did he think that when we walked through from the Division Lobby a moment ago there was some confusion among noble Lords as to who was the former railwayman and who was the Scottish landowner?

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, I could not possibly comment on that nor tell the difference between the two. It was a pleasure to be in the Lobbies with the noble Lord, Lord Snape, and I was glad that we had a good conversation. However, I say again to my noble friend Lord Cormack that if really wants to have a Division on every single amendment, he may find this Bill delayed a bit more. That is the law of unintended consequences. I suggest that my noble friend does not try it again.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

Surely my noble friend understands that, having had well over an hour on his amendment, it was time to move on. It was the general wish of the House to move on. His amendment was really without the scope of the Bill. It would be an admirable subject for a separate Bill and I would support it, but what we have seen today—I hope that my noble friend, having provoked me, will concede this—is a rather sophisticated filibuster to ensure that the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, does not complete all the amendments. That is a disgrace, given the overwhelming support he has in your Lordships’ House.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour

My Lords, what we have seen today is a serious abuse of the procedures of the House by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to stifle debate on a matter of significant public moment. That is what we have seen. I never thought, having been in this House for 15 years now, that I would see this abuse of procedure in the House. The issue of how people are appointed to this House is not a side or minor issue, it is fundamental to the working of our Parliament. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on putting this issue before the House and I completely agree with him that we should continue to raise these matters, because this squalid Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, has promoted to perpetuate a nominated House of Lords is fundamentally against the interests of the people.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, I gently remind your Lordships that we are meant to be discussing Amendment 5, which is about Standing Orders and the replacement of vacancies among people excepted from Section 1.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, I think that that was as a result of an intervention from my noble friend, so perhaps I could just finish my remarks but also say how much I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, said that this is a short Bill of three clauses. The Maastricht Bill was four clauses long and that was debated for days and days in Committee on the Floor of the House in another place and then in this House, again for several days. The size of the Bill has no relevance to how much it should be debated.

As for the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, with his little lecture on amendments, I look forward to seeing his submission to the Procedure Committee to describe amendments in different ways. I accuse the Liberal Democrats of stretching every single sinew of the clerks’ patience in order to find ways of putting amendments down. I remind my noble friend Lord Cormack that this is the first time, the first day I have spoken on this Bill. He has spoken far longer than I have during the passage of this Bill.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, I will get back to the amendment, but I say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, if you deliberately curtail debate in this House, those of us who oppose this Bill will find other ways, perfectly conventionally correct, to continue that debate.

Photo of Lord Rennard Lord Rennard Liberal Democrat

Will the noble Lord recall his own very deep anger, which I witnessed, against repeated filibusters during the passage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2011? He decided then that perhaps we should change the procedures of the House to prevent such filibusters. I wonder whether he is still of that view.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, I very gently repeat the encouragement I made a few moments ago that the House should address Amendment 5 in the name of my noble friend.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, I shall make one very short point: what the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, has misunderstood in all of this is that although I oppose this Bill, I am prepared to accept it in exchange for an appointments commission, which I think would be extremely sensible. With that, I finish my brief intervention.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

My Lords, briefly, I think we should look at rejigging the balance between the parties represented here, because freezing the 1999 position is silly. I suspect that when we get to Amendment 9, that is the one I shall support. They are not grouped properly, but I pre-warn noble Lords that I think they are interesting and we should look at them.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

My Lords, this is the fifth amendment of 61 that we have to consider. What has been happening is a complete abuse and I am shocked that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, who has been here since he was very young and has held high office on many occasions, should be party to this filibuster. I am not going to waste the House’s time by responding to every amendment; I am simply going to recommend, as the sponsor of this Bill, that every single amendment is resisted. I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne: even at this stage we have an hour and a quarter left, which should be easily enough to dispose of these amendments, all of which wreck the Bill. He has the opportunity to wreck the Bill quite legitimately by voting against Third Reading after this stage. That is the proper way to do it: the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will perhaps nod in assent to that. If you object to the Bill in principle, you vote against Third Reading. So, please, I appeal to him—for anyone who is watching to make sense of what is happening here—that he does not move the rest of his amendments and we get on with the next business.

Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Chair, SLSC Sub-Committee A

I think that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, were addressed to me rather than to my noble friend. I shall therefore detain your Lordships no longer. I beg to move.

Division on Amendment 5 called. Tellers for the Contents and for the Not-Contents were not appointed, so the Division could not proceed.

Amendment 5 disagreed.