Debates between Baroness Noakes and Lord Newby during the 2019 Parliament

Procedure and Privileges Committee

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Newby
Monday 14th December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I am not always popular with hereditary Peers, because I think that the by-elections are ludicrous. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, on his Bill and regret that he is having such a difficult time bringing its passage forward, but I support my noble friend Lord Mancroft today, because this is the law. We should not let a procedure committee override the law, especially because there do not appear to have been any serious attempts to find a workable solution. This is just one deferral leading to another.

I suspect I know what will come back from the January meeting of the Procedure and Privileges Committee, unless a clear instruction is given to the clerks now to come up with a workable solution for that meeting. My noble friend Lord Mancroft has made it plain that this would not be difficult to organise, given the practices that we have evolved, over the last nine months, to become a hybrid House. The technology and procedures are available. It would not take the clerks very much time to devise a satisfactory procedure, and I hope that noble Lords support my noble friend Lord Mancroft.

Lord Newby Portrait Lord Newby (LD)
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My Lords, I apologise for detaining the House. I had not intended to speak but, as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, took the trouble to explain what he understood to be my views, he goaded me into speaking. I apologise for detaining other noble Lords on that basis.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said that no arguments were put in the committee and that it took a “cavalier and partisan” decision. He then explained the argument I put, so there was some inconsistency there. Actually, the committee took quite a lot of time on this issue, a number of arguments were advanced and a vote was taken. The problem for the noble Lord is not that there were no arguments; it is that he did not like them and then he lost the vote.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is the argument that I made, and other members of the committee must decide whether or not it weighed with them. At a time when all elections in England and Wales are postponed—all local elections, the mayoral election in London and all by-elections—for the House of Lords to have a by-election in those circumstances would make the place look even more ridiculous than it does whenever we have such elections.

The noble Lord mentioned that there are by-elections in Scotland, so there should be no bar to a House of Lords hereditary Peers by-election. There are by-elections in Scotland and my party was fortunate to win one. It is possible to hold by-elections in England and Wales today, but the Government decided, and this House agreed, not to do so. There are and will be none until May. It therefore seemed logical to apply the same principle to by-elections of hereditary Peers. We can revive our discussions, as we will at the end of January to see what we think then.

On behalf of the committee, I object to how, when the noble Lord loses a vote, he dresses it up as the committee not operating properly. The committee operated absolutely properly. There was a long debate with strong feelings on both sides. There was a vote and the noble Lord lost. End of.