Amendment 14

House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 15 March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Moved by Lord Northbrook

14: 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 must provide for future vacancies to be filled using a method which ensures that over time excepted hereditary peers are elected on a basis which retains a fair representation of hereditary peers representing Scotland, while over time reaching the same proportion of Northern Irish and Welsh excepted hereditary peers in relation to the total number of excepted hereditary peers as the proportion of MPs for Northern Ireland and Wales, in relation to the total number of MPs in the House of Commons.””

Photo of Lord Northbrook Lord Northbrook Conservative

My Lords, this amendment provides—

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, may I just check to which amendment my noble friend is speaking? Is it Amendment 15, in the name of my noble friend Lord Cormack, or Amendment 16 in his own name?

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

All right. Thank you very much.

Photo of Lord Northbrook Lord Northbrook Conservative

My Lords, this amendment provides that,

“future vacancies … be filled using a method which ensures that over time excepted hereditary peers are elected on a basis which retains a fair representation of hereditary peers representing Scotland”—

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, as I have used the word “maintaining”—

“while over time reaching the same proportion … in relation to the total number of excepted hereditary peers as the proportion of MPs for Northern Ireland and Wales”.

I am not going into extensive detail on it, as the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, has talked about, the unfair treatment of the Irish representative Peers or the Scottish Peers. In fact, there used to be 28 Irish Peers who sat for life on the part of Ireland. However, after what I hope was my erudite exposition, at this hour I am not going to detain the House. For Scotland, 16 Scottish Peers were elected under the Act of Union, and this was maintained until 1963.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said I had missed out the situation with Wales, so that is where there is a change in the amendment. He reminded me of the Act of Union of Wales of 1542—although I question that because research for Committee revealed that there were two Acts, of 1536 and 1543, and they should really be called the Laws in Wales Acts, which has been the legal title since 1948. To qualify for by-elections, their peerage would need to have Welsh connections, with priority, as for Scotland and Ireland, being given to those who use their main residence for the purpose of claiming expenses.

This is an excellent opportunity to redress the scarcity of hereditary Northern Ireland Peers and maintain the number of elected Scottish hereditary Peers. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, I understand my noble friend’s intention, which is to try to guarantee some sort of regional representation in this House. That is very important, but I am not convinced that this is in fact the right way to do it. His amendment talks about, “hereditary peers representing Scotland”. Being someone who comes from Scotland—I was born in Scotland and live in Scotland—I do not suppose that anyone in Scotland thinks I am representing them. Indeed, the whole purpose of this House is not to represent anyone; we represent ourselves.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

The noble Lord is being too modest. After all, he owns a large chunk of Scotland, so who better to represent it?

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

That is a very kind thought from the noble Lord, but I do not represent Scotland or anyone in Scotland any more than he represents railway workers, train drivers, signalmen or anyone else involved in the transport industry. I hope my noble friend will withdraw this amendment and take it away.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour

My noble friend Lord Snape takes huge offence at that remark by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. He represents in his person all the railway workers of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour

If I may say so, none of them Members of this House, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Colgrain, said earlier.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

Okay, my Lords, I can see that I have lost that particular argument with the noble Lord, Lord Snape.

At the end of the last amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, wanted to place on the record exactly what was going on. That was his version—his truth. But what is also going on here is an attempt to create an all-appointed House with no guarantees of representation from anywhere in the UK, as laid out in this amendment, which of course would be solved if we had an independent statutory appointments commission. It is in no way an argument to say that, just because the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, believes he is right, no one from any part of the House should be able to argue against him. I have witnessed the noble Lord arguing many times on Bills, and it would be an absurdity to change the rules to stop him, any more than it would be to stop my noble friend Lord Caithness.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

My Lords, I am absolutely in favour of every Member of this House expressing their views on whatever subject is before us in a reasonable way and for considerable periods of time. The problem we have here is that it is not only me who wants this Bill to go through but the overwhelming majority of people in this House. There is a tiny minority, all of whom we have heard from today. They are perfectly at liberty to speak—I fully support that—but I do not support their right to use procedural tricks to thwart the will of the majority.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative

My Lords, I do not look forward to the next Labour Government, but there will be one. When that Government come in, I look forward to seeing, in their first Session of Parliament, a House of Lords Act, or a fully formed constitutional reform with this change at its heart. That is how things happen in this country: you win elections and control the legislative agenda. There is an opportunity for Private Members’ Bills, but this is a major constitutional issue and I do not think it is appropriate for the Private Members procedure. That is the underlying problem. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and I disagree on most things, coming from opposite sides of the political fence, but we share a birthday and stand shoulder-to-shoulder on opposing this piece of legislation, because it is the wrong thing to do.

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, before I—and, I suspect, many others in this House—lose the will to live, I declare an interest: Lloyd George knew my great-great-grandfather, and that is why I am here. I also share a reflection from my great-grandfather, Stanley Baldwin. When he arrived in this House, he said, “It is one of life’s great ironies that I am arriving in a place to which I have sent so many people, devoutly hoping never to see them again”. I suspect some of their descendants have contributed to these proceedings. This is the law of intended consequences, rather than the law of unintended consequences.

There are 90 hereditary Peers in your Lordships’ House. I would suggest that the fact that so few of us turn up at these proceedings, following this Bill, and an even smaller number take part is not an accident. Most of us have absented ourselves quite deliberately, first, because there is an obvious conflict of interest, and secondly, because, although I have not taken John Curtice-type soundings on this, I suspect that the great majority are strongly in sympathy and in favour of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. I wanted to put that on the record.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

My Lords, I am profoundly grateful for that intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Russell, which is one of the most effective contributions that we have heard in this long discussion. I stand now because we are close enough to 1.30, when we had agreed that this would finish, to move that debate on amendments be now adjourned.

Photo of Lord Northbrook Lord Northbrook Conservative

My Lords, I am thankful to all noble Lords who spoke. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 14 withdrawn.

Consideration on Report adjourned.