Amendment 1

Part of Counsellors of State Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 23 November 2022.

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Photo of Lord True Lord True Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 4:00, 23 November 2022

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, presses his amendment with good intent. He has expressed his views at every stage of this process with the utmost civility and courtesy. I thank him for that.

I understand that, from his perspective, he seeks to add a certain flexibility or, as he would see it, some insurance to the system. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, implied in his important intervention, it would add further rigidity, novelty and potentially delay to the procedure. The steps in the amendment are not required and they are unwelcome. The amendment goes considerably further than the limited modification proposed in the Bill. As I submitted to your Lordships at Second Reading, the nature of this Bill flows from a message from His Majesty. I think it was the feeling of the House at Second Reading that the Bill is appropriate and proportionate to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

The noble Viscount is proposing a wider change to the underlying architecture of the legislation. As indicated in the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, it would grant the sovereign a new authority—one which was not referenced in the King’s message—but does not indicate on what basis any such decision would be made. It would also introduce a novel parliamentary process into these matters. In this respect, it is a departure from the current framework and the proposition before us, and the Government do not believe that it is necessary or desirable.

I repeat that the Government believe that the approach suggested in the Bill is a reasonable and practical solution in the current context. The Bill as currently drafted will create a sufficient pool of counsellors who will hold this role for their lifetimes. As the noble Viscount will understand, with the effluxion of time, the order of succession will evolve and so will the situation once this Bill becomes an Act.

Although I acknowledge the spirit in which this amendment is tabled, the history of the Regency Acts demonstrates that it is a challenging task for Parliament or any legislator to predict the future. I suggest that we do not seek to do so here but seek rather to respond to the task at hand and proceed in the light of the message that the sovereign has sent us. It indicates his wishes and, I feel, the wishes of the House, that this practical, limited and moderate approach should be taken at the present time. I urge the noble Viscount to withdraw his amendment.