§ Order of the day read for the consideration of the Report of the Select Committee.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, I have to move that the Report of the Select Committee on Peerages in Abeyance be received and adopted. Your Lordships will remember that in the year 1923 my noble friend Lord Askwith moved for a Return, and that Return being made a Committee was appointed who were to consider and report upon the matter. Upon that matter they have now reported. Special attention was called in this House and before the Committee to certain changes in recent years in the practice of dealing with Peerages in abeyance and especially to two features of those changes. One is that in recent years abeyances have been terminated that had lasted for centuries; one for 350 years, another for 440, another even for 547. Some of them date to the time of the Wars of the Roses and even to earlier dates. The second feature was that Peerages have been called out of abeyance in favour of the holder of a mere fraction of the original Peerage. In one case it was one-twenty-fourth of the Peerage.
Those matters gave rise to complaint, and the Committee have therefore gone very carefully into the matter. They have called attention to the fact that there has been lately expressed some doubt as to whether the summonses to this House by Writ were really intended to confer an hereditary right, and though perhaps it is too late to negative that view, which rests on the great authority of Sir Edward Coke, yet the doubt does afford a reason for requiring full proof in those cases. I need not go through all the Report but the Committee have recommended certain changes which they characterise, and I think rightly characterise, as temperate, and I will only mention three of the most important.
They recommend that the following recommendations be submitted to His Majesty:—In the absence of special circumstances or special reasons to the contrary"—I call attention to these words because they meet some criticisms—(1) No abeyance should be terminated, the first commencement of which occurred more than one hundred years before the presentation of the Petition.662(2) No Petition should be allowed to proceed, where the Petitioner represents less than one-third of the entire dignity.I leave out the third and fourth recommendations, because they are of less importance. The fifth recommendation is this:—(5) In considering whether or not the Sovereign should be advised to extend his grace to the Petitioner for a termination of an abeyance, the like regard should be had to character, position, services and fitness as would be had in the case of a subject, on whom it is in contemplation to recommend that a Peerage should be conferred.Those are the chief recommendations. They limit the practice by requiring that, except in special circumstances, an abeyance should not be more than 100 years old and that a Petitioner should claim a right in not less than one-third of the dignity. Those, I think, are reasonable limitations of the practice which had grown somewhat anomalous, and I hope your Lordships will adopt them.
It has been suggested to me that there are some cases which might be hit by these rules, such as the case of a Peer who leaves four daughters so that no one of them can claim one-third of the original Peerage. That would be a special circumstance which could be taken into account. I feel bound to express the gratitude which I feel, and which I think all the members of your Lordships' House will feel, to my noble and learned friend Viscount Sumner and the Committee for the care with which they have investigated this matter. They have produced an admirable Report and one which will be of great service to the House. If your Lordships will adopt the Motion to-day it will be my duty to submit to the House on a future occasion a formal Resolution. I beg to move that the Report be received and adopted.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received and adopted.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, some other noble Lords besides myself who are interested in these old Baronies by Writ are placed at rather a disadvantage owing to the fact that we did not know exactly what form the Lord Chancellor's Motion would take and exactly what our proper procedure would 663 be. I had hoped that the Lord Chancellor, by his speech to-day, would have raised only a general debate on the subject and that later, after mature reflection, he would have placed a formal Motion on the paper for your Lordships to consider. All that is down on the Paper to-day is that the Lord Chancellor would move a Resolution. The Resolution which he has moved is that the Report of the Committee be received and adopted. I am afraid that if your Lordships take that line it will not be open for us at any later stage to raise the objections which some of us feel to some of the recommendations in the Report. I think this is the only occasion therefore on which we can make those objections. Though, of course, I do not for a moment anticipate that we should think of dividing your Lordships' House—if we did we should probably be heavily defeated—at the same time I do hope that what some of us may say on this subject to-day may have some weight with the Lord Chancellor, and that when at a later period he puts upon the Paper the formal Resolution to which he referred he will take into consideration a few of the objections which some of us feel to this Report.
May I say that I have read this Report most carefully and that I have also read, I think, the whole of the evidence? I do not say for one moment that the Committee have not carried out their work in the most fair and impartial manner. I have not one word to say suggesting against them any bias in any direction. But after reading the Report and the evidence, the general impression left on my mind was that among all the witnesses—though they were not all openly hostile to these ancient Baronies by Writ—there was not, I think, one who was a friendly witness. The great thing that most of them dwelt upon was the fact that it could not be proved historically that these Peerages ever had an hereditary nature. But though we had no witness who would appear to be in favour of these Baronies we had, at all events, one very valuable ally and that was a man who, I believe, was the greatest constitutional lawyer who ever lived in this country, Sir Edward Coke. I am glad to say that Sir Edward Coke, some 300 years ago, took a different view from that of those gentlemen who were 664 called as witnesses and that he was strongly of opinion that these ancient Baronies were of an hereditary nature.
I think that the Committee fully realised the importance of Sir Edward Coke's opinion on the subject. I will read the paragraph in which they refer to it. They say:—Whether the conclusions of modern historical research are or are not correct we are neither concerned nor competent to decide. We have been assured, and we believe it to be the case, that they are now accepted by the great majority of historical scholars. The law, however, if settled, cannot be unsettled in this way. It is not for us to discuss what material Sir Edward Coke conceived himself to have had for the opinion, which his great name has made so authoritative. If it was inadequate, abundant excuse can be found, for when issues arise the law has to be laid down, and when laid down has to be followed in other cases, and it cannot wait for better historical enlightenment and for the rise of future generations of scholars. Whatever view the Committee for Privileges may on any future occasion think itself free to take on any part of this subject, we can only accept the rules as they stand, nor have we any authority or desire to criticise any of the reports that have been made in recent cases. We accept them, and recognise that the claims established by them now stand beyond challenge.I think that shows that the Committee formed a very high estimate of the opinion that Sir Edward Coke gave some 300 years ago and I do not think it is an opinion which your Lordships ought lightly to throw over.
The recommendations made by the Committee undoubtedly do strike at the hereditary principle, and I respectfully urge upon your Lordships that if an alteration is to be made these recommendations should not apply to those Peerages which have already been called out of abeyance. I find after reading through the Report that at the present moment there are a total of thirty-nine Baronies which have been called out of abeyance, and therefore the number, if omitted from the application of the recommendations of this Committee, would not be very large. Of those thirty-nine Peerages already called out of abeyance there are twenty-one Peers who sit in this House as possessors of Baronies by Writ, seven Peers of higher rank who hold Baronies by Writ, and there are eleven ladies who hold Baronies by Writ and who, if they were able, would sit in your Lordship's House under that 665 title. I respectfully ask the Lord Chancellor if he cannot see his way, in any formal Resolution which he puts down in future, to make Recommendations 2 and 5 not apply to those Baronies which have already been called out of abeyance.
The Lord Chancellor did refer to Recommendation 2, which states:—No Petition should be allowed to proceed where the Petitioner represents less than one-third of the entire dignity.He assured us that the preamble—if I may so call it—of the recommendations would allow special cases to be considered on their merits. Of that I am rather doubtful, but I do think it is rather hard, if a Peer holding a Barony by Writ should die leaving four daughters, that then that Barony should ipso facto expire, that the Committee for Privileges should turn down any application, and that none of those daughters should be able to petition that the Barony should be called out of abeyance; whereas, on the other hand, if the Peer had been less successful in rearing offspring and had only three daughters instead of four, then one of those daughters would have been entitled to petition that the Barony should be called out of abeyance. It is rather hard that that should be the rule and it is a matter that should have first consideration.
The other recommendation, which I ask should not apply to Baronies called out of abeyance, is Recommendation 5:—In considering whether or not the Sovereign should be advised to extend his grace to the Petitioner for a termination of an abeyance, the like regard should be had to character, position, services and fitness as would be had in the case of a subject, on whom it is in contemplation to recommend that a Peerage should be conferred.That recommendation must eventually have the effect of ending these Baronies by Writ altogether. The simplest case I can take is that of a Baron by Writ dying and leaving two young girls, one of whom petitions that the Barony should be called out of abeyance. Nobody could possibly show that that young girl was qualified. She might be qualified by character and by position, but she could not be qualified by services or fitness to be made a Peer, and it is rather hard therefore that, unless these Barons by Writ produce super-women, these young girls can never be in a position to have their case favourably heard and considered. I consider that 666 that fifth recommendation strikes very deeply at the whole hereditary system in the House of Lords and it seems to me that, once you have begun to consider who is to be a Peer by his fitness and his services, you very largely do away with the hereditary principle in your Lordships' House.
I do not wish to press the question unduly, but the Lord Chancellor in his speech referred to certain cases to which attention has been called by the Committee where the Baronies have been in abeyance for a very long time and have practically been forgotten altogether, and where, in many cases, there were a very large number of co-heirs. He said, very rightly, that he agreed with the Committee that something should be done towards checking the calling out of abeyance of these Peerages and I thoroughly agree with him. Though a case can be made out it seems rather ridiculous that these Baronies should be called out of abeyance, but, on the other hand, there are cases where undoubtedly the working of this recommendation would act very harshly and unfairly. Among those old Baronies by Writ are several which have been held for 600 years and which have only been in abeyance for one or two years—just sufficient time for the usual procedure to be gone through to call them out of abeyance.
In those cases the holder of the old Barony by Writ possessed the very manor or land from which it takes its name, even possessed the chancel in which the Barons lie buried. Yet you say, forsooth, that a Barony held for 600 years in a family such as this, a Barony which has only been in abeyance for one or two years, is to cease altogether because there happen to be four daughters, or because there are only two daughters and neither of them by services or fitness is qualified to be made a Peer of the realm. If there is anything in the hereditary principle of this House, if there is something still in the old historical association of many of these ancient Peerages, then your Lordships should consider carefully, before you come to a decision, whether you could not make an exception in the case of those old Baronies already called out of abeyance, the holders of which have not disgraced their country, but have on many occasions, they and their forefathers, rendered it admirable service.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
My Lords, I do not know whether I may take it that the noble Lord has been speaking not only for himself but for the other Peers interested in the matter like himself whom he mentioned at the beginning of his remarks. If there are any other noble Lords who wish to speak on the same kind of point, I would gladly give way, because, having had the honour to be Chairman of the Committee, I think I ought to assist the House as well as I can by endeavouring to expound our views comprehensively. Unless there is any noble Lord who has any further point of view to put forward, perhaps I might be allowed to deal with the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down.
I can assure him we were all of us not only free from those revolutionary and destructive tendencies which he finds in our Report but actually in sympathy with the class of Baronies of which he speaks. So far is it from being the case that we failed to call any friendly witness and only called before us persons who expressed a marked hostility to this class of Barony, that I think he will find that the Garter King-at-Arms, who was good enough to assist us, expressed the view, of which I myself certainly had full comprehension if I had not full sympathy with it, that these Baronies were such interesting curiosities that it would be a pity to inferfere with them at all. We really had both sides of the question before us, and I think I am speaking for all the members of the Committee when I say that they had no antagonism to the institution at all, but really desired to get rid of what have been pointed out as drawbacks in the practice with regard to the termination of abeyances, to restore Baronies by Writ to the position which they ought to occupy and which had been somewhat compromised of late years, and to remove what we thought a very serious matter for the Peerage generally—namely, any anomaly which might tend to make the institution somewhat open to criticism. Such criticism has been excited in connection with the termination of some recent abeyances, as was mentioned in the former discussion in your Lordships' House, and we thought, and it was our desire, that some recommendations of a safeguarding character might be timely and would tend to 668 secure the permanence of these Baronies, and not in the least to bring them to an end.
The noble Earl has been under the impression that the effect of the recommendations to which he draws attention is to strike at the hereditary principle by lopping off and bringing to a summary end Baronies by Writ, in which it so happened that upon the death of the Peer who had held the Barony there were more than three daughters living, or fewer than three daughters living but of such a tender age that they could not be said to have any particular recommendation of character, position or service at their back. I think the noble Earl has failed to realise that they have a hundred years before them in which to rectify that situation and, if time and other chances do not come to their rescue, they have always the refuge that is to be found in the advice tendered to the Crown with regard to the exercise of this part of the Royal Prerogative by the Minister who is responsible for that advice.
As we were careful to say, the freedom and the responsibility with which that advice must be tendered was a matter with which we neither could nor desired to interfere, and, as the Lord Chancellor stated in his remarks, in the last resort there can be no doubt that, in such a case as haunts and troubles the mind of the noble Earl, there would be a refuge, if none other could be found, in the responsibility of the Prime Minister to decide whether there were special circumstances in the case and whether he could advise that the general rule should not be rigorously adhered to. You must consider that the four daughters among whom, at the moment, the Peerage falls into abeyance might in the course of human events be reduced presently to three, and the difficulty would be over. Each represents then a line which is equally entitled, as a line, with the others, and the whole difficulty about abeyances rests in the fact that no one co-heiress is in herself preferable over another.
With regard to the fifth recommendation, why should it be overlooked that in these days services to the country, not necessarily of the same kind but of the highest possible value, are constantly 669 rendered by women and, in the social changes that we seem to have before us, are likely to be rendered more commonly and in greater measure than at present? The recommendation must of course be construed according to the person who is the subject of it, and the services which are appropriate to be considered in the case of a woman Petitioner may well be different in character from those that may be expected in the case of a male Petitioner.
It may very well be that the woman who petitions that the abeyance may be terminated in her favour cannot claim either to have won an election or to have lost a battle, but there may be other ways in which she may be properly recommended to the Royal favour and, if you construe the recommendation as it was certainly intended by the Committee to be construed, reading it as referable to the personality with which you are dealing on that occasion, I think that there can be no possible difficulty in saying that before 100 years have elapsed some on among the female descendants of the hypothetical four daughters may be found in whose favour a recommendation to terminate the abeyance may properly be made. It is hardly worth while to labour the point, but the noble Earl is really under a misapprehension when he supposes that there can under these recommendations be no termination of an abeyance in the case of four co-heiresses, but only when the Peerage falls into abeyance among three or fewer daughters. The most prolific and the most prudent parent need not be apprehensive about the future of his Barony if he will only in his last moments reflect that a century is given in which things may right themselves.
The noble Earl was desirous of excluding from the operations of these two recommendations Peerages that had already been called out of abeyance. I think he failed to appreciate that abeyance is an incident which may happen from time to time, and does happen over and over again, in the history of any Barony by Writ, and that, if the course were pursed which he suggests, there would be two classes of Baronies by Writ—those which have been already called out of abeyance once, and those which have never been called out of abeyance at all. In the case of the former, his suggestion would have the 670 result that in such a family, however long the abeyance lasted, it would still be possible to terminate it in the same way as before, and in circumstances exciting as much criticism as were excited by some of these instances in the last 100 years where extremely long abeyances have been brought to a termination. They not only go back to a venerable antiquity, but doubtless will endure to a very distant future and, if you endeavour to set up a second class of Peerages in which you can have an abeyance of 500 years in futuro and still get it terminated in favour of some one, if you can find any one, you preserve sedulously all the opportunities for criticism and mischief to which the attention of the House was directed on the previous occasion.
We thought that it was impossible for us to endeavour to discriminate between classes of Peers and to recommend that there should be two classes of Barons by Writ, some of whom would be subject to restrictive recommendations and others of whom would be free from them. Speaking for myself, I still think that, whatever change is made, it should be applicable to all of them, and it must be the circumstances and not the past history of the Barony in question that should determine whether the Royal favour should be exercised in favour of the termination of an abeyance or not. It should be borne in mind that there is this crucial difference between the Barony by Patent and the Barony by Writ, that the Barony by Patent descends to the heir male, if there be one, in the course of law and as of right, but that the Barony by writ, when it falls into abeyance among co-heiresses, must remain in abeyance unless and until the Royal favour is exercised for the purpose of terminating the abeyance, and that this termination is not a matter of right at all but a matter of grace. It is only when you realise this that you see the need for having one uniform practice applicable to the termination of abeyances, calculated to avoid all future difficulties of this kind.
With the wording of the ultimate recommendations which will be presented to your Lordships in the form of Resolutions, I have nothing to do, nor are the Resolutions before your Lordships, but with regard to the adoption of these recommendations, which of 671 course speak generally and can only deal with separate heads in a broad manner, I hope on behalf of the Committee that they will commend themselves to your Lordships. They were the subject of much consideration. They were, I am glad to say, framed and carried with entire unanimity. So far as we knew we were certainly free from any desire unjustly or unfairly to impinge upon the rights of those who hold such Baronies at present. We spoke of Sir Edward Coke with the greatest possible respect and expressly said of the Baronies recently called out of abeyance that they were, so far as we were concerned, established beyond all question, and our sole desire was to frame such recommendations as, in the flexible administration of these regulations on the advice tendered by the responsible Minister of the Crown, would work justice in future and protect these Baronies from the comments to which they have previously been exposed.
§ VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I do not think that the noble and learned Viscount who spoke last quite fairly represented the argument of the noble Earl who spoke first on the subject, as representing Peerages by Writ. The noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down said you could not differentiate between Peerages in abeyance at the present time and Peerages which might go into I abeyance in the future, because he said a Peerage may go into abeyance to-morrow between four daughters, and so cannot be called out, and the abeyance may go on, if Great Britain and this House go on, for four or five hundred years, and then the Peerage will be like one of the others, much too old to call out. I should like to point out, however, that Lord Ancaster did not suggest any amendment at all except to recommendations 2 and 5. He never proposed to alter the recommendation that a hundred years in abeyance should keep a Peerage in abeyance. What the noble Earl suggested was an amendment as regards recommendations 2 and 5.
I rather gathered that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack himself thought that the recommendation which would involve that when there were more than three daughters a Peerage should not be called out, was rather drastic, because he said it was one of the cases which a Prime Minister would 672 naturally consider on its merits. If these recommendations are adopted as a whole, how is a Prime Minister to deal with such a case? The Prime Minister will go, as other Prime Ministers would go, to the Attorney-General, and the Attorney-General will say: "Oh, there is a recommendation of the House of Lords adopted by the House of Lords, which vetoes this case," and he will tell the Prime Minister that he cannot go further. He is the only adviser that the Prime Minister would have, and if you stop the Law Officer of the Crown from giving him advice I do not see how you get any further. In order to make clear what I think should be the law I should beg leave to move, as an addition to the Motion that the Report be now received and adopted:—provided that neither of the Recommendations of the Committee, numbered 2 and 5, shall be taken as extending to Peerages with descent to heirs general that are not in abeyance at the present time.I suggest that between to-day and the day when these recommendations are put to us in a semi-legal form the lines of my Amendment should be taken up and considered.
I should like to say a word or two on the whole subject. The Committee, to my mind, and I think to the mind of anybody who reads the whole Report, as I have done, started with a very strong prejudice against Peerages by Writ, and they built up this hypothesis. They took a very marked case. They took the case of a man who was summoned to Parliament by Edward I or Edward II, and who came and sat in Parliament. He was never summoned again in his lifetime, nor was his son, nor his grandson, nor any of his family, ever summoned again, and then, 500 years afterwards, it was argued successfully before a Committee for Privileges that this should be recognised as a Peerage. The Committee asked, and I think quite fairly, whether any one could suppose that Edward I or Edward II, when they called up a man once and never called him up again, or any of his family, intended to create an hereditary Peerage. I should say most distinctly that he never did; but in the great number of Peerages by Writ the thing is quite different. I have been looking through a number, and the number in which only one or two or three of the family have ever sat is very few indeed.
673 In the great bulk of these Peerages by Writ the people have sat almost continuously. There has been son succeeding son, daughter succeeding father when there was only one daughter, and there has been a case, when a daughter succeeded her father, of her husband being called up to this House in right of his wife. There have been many such cases, and I have always wondered why the husband of a Peeress in her own right has not come up and claimed the Peerage. If he did, it would not be a very easy claim to argue against. But the bulk of these Peerages by Writ have gone from father to son, and from father to daughter for generation after generation, continuously represented in this House, and they have only been out some of them for a very short time—six months or one or two years, while the claim of the new heir was being made good. They have practically sat continuously. I should like to point out that these Peers by Writ are not in a strong position in this House, because there are very few of them. I should not call them all Peerages by Writ but Peers with remainders to heirs general. They are very few in number. Over a quarter of them are ladies and not allowed to be claimants in this House. Others are very aged, and so their Peerages are not represented here. One or two of them have written to me saying that they thought that these proposals were to them and their Peerages great grievances, but that they were not able to come to the House themselves.
I hardly think that it was a fair thing, considering all the proposals of this Committee, that on that Committee there was not put a single Peer whose Peerage goes to heirs general. I think one representative of such Peerages should have been on the Committee, in order that their interests might have had a chance of being represented. Then the case has been prejudiced by the noble and learned Viscount; the Chairman of the Committee, and his Committee pointing out that it might be that Monarchs who called Peers up never intended to create hereditary Peerages at all. I do not know what their intention was, but when a Monarch calls a father, and then a son, and then a grandson, and it goes on for ten or fifteen generations, I should say that the claim of those Peers by Writ has grown 674 up as the position of this House has grown up—not by Statute, but by precedent after precedent. The members of the Committee tried to prejudice the House against the claims of the Peers by Writ by saying that, after all, their legal position was not very strong.
The Lord Chancellor thanked them for the great trouble they had given to the matter. I do not know what trouble they gave to it. I am going to give an instance. Does the noble Viscount the Chairman of the Committee, know that there are Peers in this House who do not sit by Writ, who sit by Patent? My noble friend beside me, Lord Saye and Sele, allows me to mention his case. It is a Peerage by Patent in the reign of James I, going to heirs general. Here again it is not a Peerage by Writ which, you say, may never have been intended to be created by the Monarch who summoned the original person. Here is a Peer by Patent—a Patent just as valid as any other Peerage in this House. No allusion is made to Peerages by Patent which go to heirs general. I do not know how many there are of them, though the Committee might have found that out. But I do think it is a pretty strong order that by these recommendations to-day, if you carry them, you should endanger the existence of a Peerage by Patent which, at any rate, is just as lawful and legitimate a Peerage as any other Peerage in this House.
There are only two of the recommendations of the Committee that I am not myself perfectly ready to support. I think it is very hard lines, as the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, pointed out, that if a Peer to-day, whose ancestors have sat in this House for many, many generations, dies, leaving four daughters, on these recommendations as they stand not one of those daughters can be called up to this House, because she does not hold a third of the original Barony. The Lord Chancellor thought that was a hard case which might be put right by the Prime Minister of the day. I would much rather have it put in the recommendations; I would rather, when the noble and learned Viscount himself comes to propose the Resolutions that he put that in the Resolutions—that if a man has any number of daughters and no son, the Monarch shall not be advised not to call up any of them because they have not a third 675 of the Barony. If that were put in the new Regulations it would do away with half my objections.
Then there is Recommendation 5. In the case of a Peerage by Writ that goes to a heir male, the son succeeds his father, whoever and whatever he is. He certainly need not be a man of remarkable ability. If a Peer by Writ dies to-morrow his son succeeds as a matter of course; and if he has one daughter she succeeds by law—the Committee could not stop that. But if he has four daughters they are not to be called up because they have not got a third of the Barony. If he has two or three daughters they are not to be called up necessarily, butregard should be had to character, position, services and fitness, as would be had in the case of a subject, on whom it is in contemplation to recommend that a Peerage should be conferred.If we took the case of some people who are sent here because they are reputed at any rate not to have been in other conditions of life a success, you might assume that there would not be very much demand made on the daughter who is claiming a Peerage; but what it states is that no daughter is to be called up unless she is, in effect, of such character, and possesses such brain power, that in the ordinary course an initial Peerage might have been conferred upon her. I ask: Is it fair that the Peers by Patent, who are in a great majority in this House—there are over 600 of them—should ask of the Peers by Writ and the Peers by Patent whose Peerages go to heirs general that they should have so much higher a standard of position and ability in their descendants than the Peers whose Peerages go by heirs male? I beg to move the addition that I have read, in order that I may put my own opinion upon record.
At end of Motion to add ("provided that neither of the recommendations of the Committee numbered 2 and 5 shall be taken as extending to Peerages with descent to heirs general that are not in abeyance at the present time").—(Viscount St. Davids.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I should like to say a few words in answer to the noble Viscount. First he complained that no Peer sitting by Writ and no Peer under a Patent with descent to heirs general was a member of this Select Committee. I confess that 676 the distinction never occurred to me. I am afraid I was responsible for selecting those who should be proposed to the House as members of the Committee. I tried to select Peers who had special knowledge in the matter, and who sat on all sides of the House, whether they sat by one kind of title or by the other. If the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, and his friends had suggested when the Committee was appointed the names of some Peers representing their point of view I should not have objected. But I think the House is satisfied that the Peers who were summoned have done their best, and they have been quite impartial between the two classes. With regard to Recommendation 2, I think the noble Viscount, Lord St. David's, is under a misapprehension. He seems to treat these rules as hard and fast rules, and to think that the Law Officers of the day would have to tell the Prime Minister that these rules were being infringed, and thereupon the matter could not go any further. I think he is quite mistaken about that.
§ VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
It is in evidence given before the Committee that that is what would happen. There were questions put to that effect, and it was said in the Committee that the Attorney-General of the day would stop the case and not let it go further.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am afraid I cannot accept that. Whatever was said in the Committee by any one there does not alter my view; nor is it the effect of the recommendations of the Committee. If the noble Viscount will read the Report he will see that all the rules proposed are preceded and governed by these words at the beginning of paragraph 21:In the absence of special circumstances or special reasons to the contraryThose words govern all six recommendations and the Law Officer will have to have regard to those words in advising the Prime Minister, and to call attention to any special circumstance which is brought to his notice, and to which he may consider that regard should be had. I think that takes away a great part of the point which was made. In regard to Recommendation 5 I want to make an observation which I hope will tend to satisfy my noble friend Lord Ancaster. 677 He seems to read the rule as meaning that a Peerage cannot be called out of abeyance in favour of any person who does not satisfy all the four qualifications mentioned in the rule.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Earl referred to the words "character, position, service and fitness," and he appeared to think that under the rule a Peerage could not be revived except in favour of a person possessing all those qualifications. I want to say this quite definitely. The rule simply says that regard shall be had to those four matters. That means they should all be considered and investigated; but if it were found that any particular Petitioner for the revival of a Peerage satisfied some but not all of those qualifications, it would be quite open to the Prime Minister of the day to recommend to His Majesty that the Peerage should be called out in favour of that Petitioner. I think my noble friend Lord Sumner will agree that that is the intention of the Committee.
I hope the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, will not press this Amendment to-day. I am quite willing that the House, in receiving and adopting the Report, should do so on the footing that it will still be open to any member of the House to move an Amendment to the formal Resolutions when they are moved. If that view is taken and this Amendment is now withdrawn, I will think over what the noble Viscount and the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, have said and will consider whether I can see my way to deal with any of their objections in my proposed form of Resolution. If I do not do so it will, I think, still be open to them to raise their points on the Resolution.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
MY Lords, I do not know whether, with the permission of the House, I may say a few words in order to elicit information. It seems to me that it would be better, if the learned Lord Chancellor would agree to it, to frame his Motion so as to include only the words "that the Report be received." He moves that we should also adopt it. If, on mature consideration, he found that he could meet either myself or the noble Viscount in some way it might be difficult for him, in framing formal Resolutions, materially or even in 678 a small degree to alter the recommendations of the Committee if once your Lordships have decided to adopt as well as to receive the Report.
The other point which I wish to put is this. I am not quite clear what the procedure would be when somebody petitions that one of the Baronies should be called out of abeyance. I know the Petition goes before the Attorney-General at some period, but what I wish to know is this: If we adopt this Resolution and the learned Viscount on the Woolsack formally places before us proposals at some later date which are accepted by us, those proposals, I understand, would be practically instructions to the Committee for Privileges. Is not that so? As I understand the matter, the moment somebody petitions to call a Barony out of abeyance of which there are four co-heirs the Committee for Privileges would act on the instructions of this House and at once turn the Petition down. That I imagine would be the procedure.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think so. I think that if, under those conditions, the attention of the Committee for Privileges were called to the special conditions and special reasons, it would be their duty to consider them.
§ VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount has asked me if I would be ready to withdraw my Amendment. Most certainly I would be. I moved it in order to make it clear that I was pointing out the grievances of the Peerages actually in existence and was not proposing a remedy for the ancient past. The speech of the noble and learned Viscount has been sympathetic to most of the points that I raised and if he will put in his Resolutions what is in his mind and is in his speech when he actually draws them up and finally settles this matter, I should be quite satisfied. I hope the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will consider the question of how in a future Petition any one of, say, four daughters of a Peer, is going to get past the Attorney-General. The noble and learned Viscount thinks she would. If he can make it clear or point out a method by which it could be done, and by which any claim in the future would not be turned down by the Attorney-General but would go before 679 the Prime Minister to be dealt with on its merits, then I should be amply satisfied.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.