Clause 4 - Effect of ceasing to be a member

House of Lords Reform (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 15th January 2014.

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Photo of Dan Byles Dan Byles Conservative, North Warwickshire 9:15 am, 15th January 2014

I beg to move amendment 20, in clause 4, page 2, line 33, after ‘not’ insert ‘be entitled to’.

Photo of William McCrea William McCrea Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Leader of the House of Commons

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 21, in clause 4, page 2, line 34, after ‘Life Peerages Act 1958,’ insert

‘by virtue of the dignity conferred by virtue of appointment as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary,’.

Amendment 22, in clause 4, page 2, line 37, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

‘(4) If the person is a hereditary peer who is excepted from section 1 of the House of Lords Act 1999 by virtue of section 2 of that Act, the person ceases to be excepted from section 1 of that Act (and accordingly section 3 of that Act applies (removal of disqualification on voting in parliamentary elections or being an MP)).’.

Amendment 23, in clause 4, page 2, line 39, leave out from beginning to ‘disqualified’ and insert—

‘If the person is a peer other than a hereditary peer, the person is not, by virtue of that peerage,’.

Amendment 24, in clause 4, page 2, line 42, at end insert—

‘( ) In relation to a peer who ceases to be a member of the House of Lords in accordance with this Act, any reference in section 1(3) or (4)(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1985 to a register of parliamentary electors is to be read as including—

(a) any register of local government electors in Great Britain, and

(b) any register of local electors in Northern Ireland, which was required to be published on any date before the date on which the peer ceased to be a member.’.

Amendment 25, in clause 4, page 2, line 42, at end insert—

‘( ) The Standing Orders of the House required by section 2(4) of the House of Lords Act 1999 (filling of vacancies) must make provision requiring the holding of a by-election to fill any vacancy which arises under this Act among the people excepted from section 1 of that Act in consequence of an election.’

Amendment 26, in clause 4, page 2, line 42, at end insert—

‘( ) Subject to section 3(5), a person who ceases to be a member of the House of Lords in accordance with this Act may not subsequently become a member of that House.’

Photo of Dan Byles Dan Byles Conservative, North Warwickshire

Clause 4 as modified by the amendments outlines the effect of ceasing to be a Member, whether through non-attendance, resignation or disqualification due to conviction. A departing peer will be disqualified from attending proceedings of the House of Lords and they will no longer receive a writ to attend. I have received advice from Sir Robert Rodgers, Clerk of the House, on whether the term “proceedings” should be defined in the Bill. As I have said, he has advised against that for various reasons.

The clause also provides that a peer who ceases to be a Member is no longer disqualified from voting at elections or from being elected to the House of Commons. In addition, the clause specifically provides for by-elections to take place so that hereditary peers who resign, retire or who are disqualified can be replaced. I shall explain more about that in a moment.

Amendment 20 is a drafting amendment that makes it clear that a departing peer is not entitled to a writ. Amendments 21 to 23 are drafting amendments to clarify the position of serving judges who are also Members of the Lords and hereditary peers who are also life peers. Amendment 24 is a drafting amendment designed to ensure that peers who are overseas voters can vote in Commons elections.

Amendment 25 provides that, on a vacancy emerging for one of the 90 hereditary peerage places as a result of resignation or disqualification, a by-election for that place should be automatically triggered. It is a requirement in the House of Lords Act 1999 that there must be 90 excepted Members. Section 2(4) requires Standing Orders to provide for a by-election to take place to fill a vacancy, but the Act covers only situations in which a vacancy is caused by a Member’s death. Because I propose a new statutory mechanism for peers to resign and/or be disqualified, the Bill needs to stipulate how such vacancies will be filled in the case of hereditary peers. That is due to the requirement under the 1999 Act that there be 90 excepted peers and the fact that it allows a by-election only in the event of a peer’s death. Some people have been a little confused about why we appear to be amending the 1999 Act, but when Members consider the situation, they will see that it is straightforward.

Amendment 26 makes it clear that departing peers cannot return. I have discussed with colleagues and stakeholders—a horrible modern word—whether there should be provision for some sort of rehabilitation, but have concluded that to provide certainty and ensure that individuals who choose to leave do not take that  decision lightly, a departing peer should not be able to return in the event that they leave the House of Lords under the Act.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform)

The 1999 Act to which the hon. Gentleman refers was the first significant piece of reform of the second Chamber for almost half a century, after the introduction of life peerages in the late 1950s. As Members on both sides of the Committee may recall, the original aim of the Act was to remove hereditary peers from the House altogether, but a compromise was struck to enable the legislation to go through. As the hon. Gentleman has said, that compromise resulted in 90 places being reserved for hereditary peers and in the curiosity that we finally have an elected element in the second Chamber—hereditary peers are elected in by-elections when a hereditary peer passes away.

I hope we return to that curiosity in future, because I certainly do not believe that there is any place for the hereditary principle in the membership of either of the Houses of Parliament. I accept, however, that the amendments the hon. Gentleman has argued for are a logical consequence of the 1999 Act and that it is beyond the scope of his private Member’s Bill to make that more fundamental change. On that basis, the Opposition support the amendments.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 9:30 am, 15th January 2014

Like the Opposition and for the same reasons, the Government support the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire. Clearly, the Bill will not be the last word on reform of the House of Lords. His ambition in the Bill is to draft changes that will command support in both Houses and to work within the existing arrangements. He has done that diligently.

The amendments clarify terminology, clarify that the departing peer will not be entitled to a writ and make it absolutely clear that membership of the House of Lords cannot be a revolving door, and that those Members of the House of Lords who leave it do so permanently.

The Government support amendment 25, which makes it clear how vacancies created among the hereditary peers will be filled. Again, it is necessary to make that change as a consequence of the 1999 Act. The Government remain committed to a majority elected House of Lords, but in the absence of far-reaching legislation on that matter, the amendment seems a sensible way forward.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I suppose I should declare an interest, as both of my parents are in the House of Lords. My father had all his problems before he entered the House of Lords—he does not intend to do anything to try to get thrown out now he is there. The amendments make sense in the flow of the legislation and we should proceed with them.

Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives

I strongly support my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire both in the manner in which he is handling the Bill and in the amendments he has put forward, but I do not think it would be appropriate to allow this moment to pass  without adding the comment that, if the intention is to achieve a second Chamber that is capable of sober second thought and independent scrutiny of what the Government are doing so as to support the role of the House of Commons as primary Chamber, at some stage we clearly need to remove hereditary peers from the House of Lords and, ultimately, to remove those of its Members who have arrived there by any means of patronage. We are not empowered to do that on this occasion or to take the Bill further than where we have reached today. It is a pity that we do not have powers to amend the Bill to strengthen the independence of the House of Lords in that regard.

Photo of Dan Byles Dan Byles Conservative, North Warwickshire

I thank the hon. Member for St Ives for those remarks. The beauty of the Bill is that it can be supported—I hope—by hon. Members almost regardless of their views of what the composition of the upper House and the mechanism for entry to it should be. I entirely understand his thoughts on the matter, and I know hon. Members have quite strong and often opposing views on just how one should get in to the other place. That is why I have limited the Bill to how one gets out.

Amendment 20 agreed to.

Amendments made: 21, in clause 4, page 2, line 34, after ‘Life Peerages Act 1958,’ insert

‘by virtue of the dignity conferred by virtue of appointment as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary,’.

Amendment 22, in clause 4, page 2, line 37, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

‘(4) If the person is a hereditary peer who is excepted from section 1 of the House of Lords Act 1999 by virtue of section 2 of that Act, the person ceases to be excepted from section 1 of that Act (and accordingly section 3 of that Act applies (removal of disqualification on voting in parliamentary elections or being an MP)).’.

Amendment 23, in clause 4, page 2, line 39, leave out from beginning to ‘disqualified’ and insert—

‘If the person is a peer other than a hereditary peer, the person is not, by virtue of that peerage,’.

Amendment 24, in clause 4, page 2, line 42, at end insert—

‘( ) In relation to a peer who ceases to be a member of the House of Lords in accordance with this Act, any reference in section 1(3) or (4)(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1985 to a register of parliamentary electors is to be read as including—

(a) any register of local government electors in Great Britain, and

(b) any register of local electors in Northern Ireland,

which was required to be published on any date before the date on which the peer ceased to be a member.’.

Amendment 25, in clause 4, page 2, line 42, at end insert—

‘( ) The Standing Orders of the House required by section 2(4) of the House of Lords Act 1999 (filling of vacancies) must make provision requiring the holding of a by-election to fill any vacancy which arises under this Act among the people excepted from section 1 of that Act in consequence of an election.’

Amendment 26, in clause 4, page 2, line 42, at end insert—

‘( ) Subject to section 3(5), a person who ceases to be a member of the House of Lords in accordance with this Act may not subsequently become a member of that House.’—(Dan Byles.)

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.