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In new clauses 17 and 20, which address the problem of patronage, I have already dealt with one possibility for ameliorating the interim House. However, those new clauses are only palliatives and will not tackle the problem more fundamentally. The best approach must be to have something in the Bill that forces the Government to get on with working up proposals for far-reaching reform.

New clause 18, which I tabled, would be a vital guarantee of the Government's promise to deliver stage 2. Occasionally, Ministers mumble that they want to implement a real and substantive stage 2. Recently, they even said that they would like to get on with stage 2 more quickly. If that were the case, what have the Government to fear from new clause 18? What is wrong with this group of amendments? If the Government want to get on with the job quickly, this group of amendments could not possibly do them any harm.

I strongly expect that the Government will oppose this group of amendments because their heart is not in far-reaching reform. They are not interested in it.

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[Interruption.] Ministers laugh. What evidence is there to suggest that the Government are interested in far-reaching reform of the House of Lords?

I think that some hon. Members are interested in far-reaching reform. I have been greatly heartened by the number of Labour Back Benchers with whom I have had discussions who believe in an effective second Chamber and want far-reaching reform. However, I have heard from Ministers very little on the matter that is clear cut and not hedged with all sorts of mealy-mouthed words.

I have heard scarcely anything from the Prime Minister to suggest that he wants a balanced constitution; I do not think that I have ever heard him use that phrase. While he is dispensing patronage on such a grand scale, can the Appointments Commission be anything other than a fig leaf for his power in appointing life peers to the interim House? Does the Prime Minister really believe in checks and balances in the constitution? I have never heard him say clearly that he does.

The Prime Minister's actions on the Lords are sweeping aside all precedent. There was a long-standing precedent that there should be all-party consultation--or at least an attempt at it--before any Bill to reform the House of Lords was introduced in this place. On each previous occasion this century when House of Lords reform has been attempted, there has been such consultation, but there was none on this occasion. All-party consultation has not succeeded on every occasion, but at least there was all-party consultation in 1910, 1948 and 1968. On two of those occasions, legislation followed; on the other, as we know, it failed.

As I said, the Prime Minister is also breaking long-standing conventions on the number of peers appointed from his own party: more than 50 per cent. of his appointments have been from his own side. No other Prime Minister has ever broken that convention. As I also mentioned, he is appointing far more peers--in unprecedentedly large cohorts--than any other Prime Minister.

If the Government reject all the proposed sunset clauses, the truth will be out. Ministers will be showing that they do not really want to move to stage 2. They have already dragged their feet and been forced into appointing a royal commission. Initially, they hoped that the commission could kick stage 2 into the long grass; now, pressure has forced them to require it to produce its results more quickly. I think that it is still highly likely that the Prime Minister hopes that the royal commission will rubber-stamp a largely appointed upper House. I also think that many Labour Members, quietly, probably think the same.

The problem for Labour Members is that they have given the game away too often. The Labour manifesto itself says that stage 1 should be an initial and self-contained reform, not dependent on further reform. The Government's White Paper describes stage 1 as a "stand alone" reform. Today, the same belief was expressed by some Labour Members.

We thought that Labour Members definitely believed in at least something--getting rid of the hereditaries. I was astonished to discover that even that belief might be shelved, and that Labour Members might be asked to troop through the Lobby to support the Weatherill amendment.

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Lord Weatherill himself has made it clear that he does not want just stage 1 to be an interim House; he has said quite the opposite. In The House Magazine of 11 January, he said:


the interim House--


    "has been working well--let's leave it alone. That would preserve continuity . . . Surely a consummation devoutly to be wished."

That was the view of one of the two tablers of the Weatherill amendment itself: to make the interim Chamber, if the amendment is accepted, into a House of perpetuity, and to forget entirely about stage 2.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: The royal commission has to report by the end of this year. It is therefore scarcely credible for that proposition to be advanced.

Mr. Tyrie: Lord Weatherill is in quite a good position to assess what he thinks might be plausible. He made the proposition in public, as a reason why his own amendment should garner support in the House of Lords. I should have thought that that in itself was evidence that it might be a possibility. He is a former Speaker of this place and not politically naive; he is a pretty alert chap. That is what he thought might be the outcome of stage 1--stage 1 dragging on for ever and a day.

Above all, we need a lever to force the Prime Minister to act on his promise to deliver stage 2 reform. The sunset clauses are such a lever. My new clause 18 would provide what the Parliament Act 1911 lacked. The 1911 Act, too, was intended only to be a temporary measure, but it did not have a sunset clause to force through further reform. We are having this debate, 90 years later, precisely because that Act had no means of forcing implementation of the stated intentions of its drafters--more permanent subsequent reform.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Since it looks as if the hon. Gentleman will be speaking for the next 90 years, may I ask what is the point of the filibuster?

Mr. Tyrie: I am trying to make a few points, and I am terribly sorry if the hon. Gentleman thinks they are not real points. Perhaps, if he reflects on them a little, he will find the odd point that he has not heard before. He has been an hon. Member for a very long time, and was perhaps in the Chamber in the late 1960s for the previous major debate on the House of Lords. Nevertheless, although he has undoubtedly heard many of the points before, I think that some of them are relevant.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) made an interesting point, with which I strongly agree, that, if the interim House were to turn out to be desirable as a permanent solution--if Lord Weatherill were to be proved right--it would be open to the Government, even if the sunset amendments were included in the Bill, to introduce another Bill to make the interim House permanent. Therefore, even if the Government accepted this group of amendments, but subsequently decided that they did not want stage 2, they would still be perfectly well protected. I can think of no reason for the Government, if they believe in stage 2, not to support at least one of the amendments in this group or to table a similar amendment of their own.

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Having said that, none of the options for improving the interim House that I have outlined today is my preferred option. There are many more sensible ways of reforming the Lords than this bizarre two-stage approach--which, in itself, makes necessary the sunset clauses. The way forward, of course, is to have a democratically elected second Chamber. Let us allow some fresh air--the fresh air of democracy--into the upper House.

I believe that the Prime Minister is only paying lip service to the idea of an elected upper House. In the foreword to the White Paper, he attacks the hereditaries because they have "no democratic legitimacy". I agree that they have no democratic legitimacy, as do the hereditaries themselves. The Lords have said that many times over 80 years.

Does the Prime Minister mean to deliver a democratic solution? Is he prepared to try to balance the constitution? Is he prepared to get his own control freak tendency under control? Is he prepared to allow a second Chamber that works to rise out of the destructive aspects of the Bill? If so, the Government should have nothing to fear from new clause 18. They should have everything to gain from it, because it would allay the fears of many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who want a second Chamber, but fear that the Government intend merely to neuter the upper House and leave reform at that.

Mr. Hurst: I have been looking for a common thread in the amendments and new clauses. It can be summed up as: commencement late; duration short. I am fascinated by some of the amendments and new clauses. One amendment that has not been selected says:


We are not told to what standard that study should be--O-level, A-level, degree or doctorate--so the amendment is imprecise, but I understand why the Conservatives are interested in the workings of the Canadian Senate. There is a fleeting reference to it on page 25 of the White Paper, saying that it was intended


    "explicitly to provide a conservative counterbalance to a potentially radical Commons."


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