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Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: I think that, at this rate, my speech will take a long time. Yes, of course I shall give way.

Sir Teddy Taylor: I shall try not to hold up the hon. and learned Gentleman for long. Do the objections about hereditary peerages that he quite sincerely makes apply also to life peerages? Who does he think should sit in the second Chamber? Is he proposing an elected senate, or nothing at all?

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: It will not surprise the hon. Gentleman to learn that that is the kernel, the gravamen and the purpose of the amendment. Briefly, the answer to his first question is yes, and the answer to his last question is no. I shall come back to those issues if I may.

The Chairman: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman in full flow, but I hope that that is the end of that particular exchange. We must not have a Second Reading debate now: we must deal with the amendment.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: I accept your rebuke, Sir Alan, on my own behalf and on behalf of the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). We should examine the principle and the historical vice of patronage--while, of course, staying well within the terms of the amendment. Those who, throughout history, have criticised and been in the front of voicing dissent about the use and the endowment of patronage have always found themselves in some considerable danger. If we make our dissent clear now in the liberal world that we inhabit, the only danger that we face is that we irritate our Whips. Terrible though that may be, it is a great deal better than being burnt. It is worth recording that Henry VIII invented the unique torture of being boiled alive for anyone who dissented from the use of the king's patronage or his use of the prerogative to appoint whom he so wished, such as Cranmer. It has occurred to me--staying well within the parameters of the amendments, Sir Alan--that, had I made these or other observations at the time of Cardinal Wolsey, I would have been put on the barbecue a long time ago.

The Chairman: Order. It may help the hon. and learned Gentleman to know that those powers are not available to the Chair.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: That is why I provoked you, Sir Alan. I gather some comfort from the fact that, were such torture ever to be visited on me, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) would be on a nearby bonfire. The true vice that underpins and underlines the amendment is not merely the principle of appointment by patronage to the House of Lords or to any such House that

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should replace it: there is a far worse evil. Governments of all shades and of all political persuasions have, since 1974, admirably shown that unelected peers can be placed in the House of Lords by the use of patronage, and ere their bottoms have hardly touched the red leather of the House of Lords, they are imported straight into the corridors of power and of government. All parties of all shades of political opinion have made such appointments--the Labour party is as guilty as the Conservatives, if not more so. Since 1974, 140 unelected appointments have been made to the heart of government from the House of Lords. Those people were often elevated to the House of Lords for the express purpose of placing them immediately in the centre of government. Not for those gifted and gilded people is the impertinence and inconvenience of election. Not for them, as for all hon. Members of this House, is the impertinence and inconvenience of the drudgery of tramping up more and more steps, of listening endlessly to our electors and our electorate, and of proselytising for our Government or for the Opposition whom we hope will replace the then Government. Not for them is the problem of listening to the lamentations of the poor, the sick and the disabled time after time, week after week in our surgeries and during our election campaigns.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): I do not accept patronage, but it is interesting that Ministers are subject to patronage, and, for all I know, even Speakers and Deputy Speakers are chosen by patronage. What about my hon. and learned Friend's own profession as a lawyer? Do we elect judges and Queen's counsel? The barristers who apply to be QCs are appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Such appointments are all forms of patronage.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: I could not agree more. I am delighted that my hon. Friend made that point. I do not want to stray outside the bounds of the amendment--I see the expression on your face, Sir Alan. I am being tempted, but I shall not stray from the point, save to say that if my hon. Friend had listened to the many debates in which I have been involved on how judges and QCs should be appointed, he would know that I am as against the powers and the use of patronage in those circumstances as I am in this case. I have always regarded the vice of patronage as a particularly British vice, and we now finally have the opportunity to deal with it.

Mr. Winnick: Elect the judges.

7 pm

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: It is difficult for me to hear my hon. Friend, so if he does not mind I shall continue with my speech.

Opposition Members have referred to the high quality of Members of the House of Lords, not only the hereditary peers who not infrequently make their contribution but the life peers. I endorse what they have said. I also endorse what was said by the Leader of the House, both during today's debate and on Second Reading, when certain caddish imputations were made against the Leader of the House of Lords on the basis of her lineage. My right hon. Friend, immediately and spiritedly, leapt to her defence, pointing out that she is a woman of outstanding intellect

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and ability. Let me add that, as well as possessing a luminous intellect and an immense political capacity, the Leader of the House of Lords has the great attributes of grace and wit.

After that uncharacteristic fawning, let me also say that the Leader of the House of Lords has no place in Government. I have not the slightest doubt that, if she were elected to the House of Commons, she would be an adornment to Government, and I would be the first to say so; but she has not been.

Mr. Christopher Leslie (Shipley): May I return my hon. and learned Friend to the subject of his amendment? Amendment No. 14 states simply--my hon. and learned Friend has spoken of the need to be short, concise and simple--

If the amendment were passed, the Government could not nominate anyone to the House of Lords, but, as I read it, the Leader of the Opposition or the other political parties could do so. Why does my hon. and learned Friend seek to punish only the Labour party and the Government?

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: If my hon. Friend has not yet considered a career in the Cratchit area of the law, he should do so at once.

All appointments to the House of Lords are made on the recommendation of a Minister of the Crown. That is the prerogative of Ministers, although as a matter of convention they take account of recommendations made by the Opposition. However, I should be happy to discuss with my hon. Friend the possibility of a small technical amendment, in the spirit of statutory constructiveness. I always enjoy that, and I suspect that my hon. Friend understands full well what I was saying.

Two counter-arguments may well be raised against what strikes me--and, I hope, many others on both sides of this elected Chamber--as a transparently incontrovertible argument. The first is that the legitimacy of the electoral principle, which is fundamental to all my political beliefs, has been eroded by the power of the party political machine. Because the party political machine has so much power, it may be argued that a second Chamber consisting of nominated Members who have undergone, say, the Nolan tests is necessary to combat that power. My bisyllabic answer to that is "Rubbish". The party machine is only as powerful as we wish it to be: we can control our own party machines, and should not necessarily lie down in front of them.

In any event, although we all stand in the middle of the party machines, the fact that I am a member of the Labour party and have been for 30 years is simply a shorthand way of telling my electorate in the clearest terms what I believe, and have believed fundamentally for all that time. I need not stand on their doorsteps and tell them that I believe in the national minimum wage, that I believe in devolution or that I believe fundamentally in the precepts of the welfare state, because all that is implicit in the fact that I am a member of the Labour party and stand on that ticket. I must, however, persuade them that I will be industrious, and that I have the ability to listen to their lamentations. If I fail, I will fail the test of the electorate--and that happens.

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It is sometimes said that it is axiomatic, and part of a well-known rubric, that in certain areas a donkey could be elected. In certain areas a donkey standing either for Labour or the Conservatives could indeed be elected, but in many it could not. I suspect that 50 or 60 former Conservative Members who lost their seats after the coming of the grim reaper in 1997 are saying, "I lost by only a few hundred votes. I might not have lost if I had been a better constituency Member." Others may be saying, "I won by only a few hundred votes. Thank God I was as diligent and conscientious as I was." The electoral principle is still fundamental to all that we do in this Chamber.

The second counter-argument, which the Leader of the House may raise, is that in the White Paper, although not in any statutory enactment, there is an undertaking on the part of the Prime Minister to divest himself voluntarily of certain of the powers of patronage that he holds, and to invest them in a commission. The commission will, of course, be appointed by him. It will deal with Cross Benchers, and the Prime Minister will aim for rough parity between the parties. That, incidentally, will mean the creation of some 95 Labour peers. When those 95 are there, to redress the balance in relation to the 90-odd hereditary peers who will remain when the rotten peg is kicked away--as it will be in due course--we shall have a built-in majority of 90-odd Labour peers. The next time--pray God, in many millennia--the Conservative party, or some other party, takes power, it too will redress the balance, and the whole wretched business will start again.

The time has come for us to take control of our elected destiny, and the Bill can enable us to do so. The amendment can undoubtedly be supported by those who believe in a wholly elected Chamber--of whom there are many--and by unicameralists like me. As I said the other day, it distresses me more than I can say to hear hon. Members on both sides of the House say that we need a House of Lords to act as a check on the Executive. We are the check on the Executive, and always should be. People say that we have not the time to be a check on the Executive, because of the overwhelming amount of legislation. That argument takes no account of the fact that devolution will take much of the burden from us, and the fact that the Executive should bear the burden of serving legislation to us in a form, and with an agenda, with which we can deal properly over a parliamentary Session, rather than delivering it to us in its present form.

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