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Mr. Bermingham: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the second Chamber should become a Chamber in which Members attend every day rather than leaving the atmosphere of the second Chamber as it is at present? The House of Lords currently collects the talents of many people whose feet are in the real worlds of industry, trade unions and so on in which they receive adequate compensation as directors, judges and goodness knows what else.

9.45 pm

Mr. Evans: The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should have people of all the talents in the second Chamber, which is different from the method by which we get people into this Chamber. We are denuded here of expertise over a wide field: an examination of the professions of Members of the House of Commons suggests that we have narrowed ourselves to certain professions, perhaps including the profession represented by the hon. Gentleman, which is over-represented compared with the representation of other professions.

Continuing a second Chamber on a shoe string will restrict membership to a narrow band of people. If we want a wide range of people, we must ensure that they have full support. I do not know whether the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) realises that ordinary Members--I am not talking about the Lord Chancellor--who are not on £150,000 a year get £78 for accommodation if they do not live in London. They get £34.50 for subsistence and £33.50 a day for secretarial assistance. That does not add up to an awful lot of money. If the hon. Gentleman wants the fresh blood that is desperately needed, he cannot expect them to carry on like that.

Mr. Bermingham: The hon. Gentleman forgets the reality of the other place, which contains many people with pensions or secondary incomes--often tertiary incomes. Many are still active in commerce, the law and many other professions. That is why Prime Ministers have been able to appoint such a wide diversity of people, far wider than the diversity here. I recognise that in the 18th or 19th century, this place was talked of as a place of shopkeepers. Perhaps he may know something about that.

Mr. Evans: There was a time when Members of Parliament were not paid. They had to be drawn from

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people of a certain background: those who could afford it. We have rightly changed that. We should pay regard to the people in the other place who do not have private incomes and who devote themselves to the second Chamber.

I have visited the Lords regularly over the past few weeks and it is far more packed with peers listening to and taking part in the debate than ever this Chamber is. This is one of the busiest days that I have seen for a long time; I suspect that hon. Members knew that I would speak. Everyone accepts that current pay and allowances cannot continue. Members of the Lords get an attendance allowance. If they do not attend the Chamber, they do not get paid.

What sort of Chamber do we want in the interim and second stages? The House of Lords spends 58 per cent. of its time revising legislation, and 38 per cent. of that is scrutiny. The 2,000 amendments a year that go through the other place, and its scrutiny of European Union documents, have been mentioned before. It may not be well known that 1,200 documents are placed in the Lords, a third of which are referred to Sub-Committees for detailed scrutiny. The European Communities Committee is divided into six Sub-Committees. Much scrutiny is rightly given to such EU documents.

It is not only a question of the business that we do here. We know about the debates that take place in the other place. It is not only the European committees and other Select Committees such as the Science and Technology Committee. There is other vital scrutiny in the debates of the House of Lords. If we want to continue that in the transitional Chamber and in the second stage, we must ensure that its Members get the proper pay and conditions. That must include secretarial assistance, because £33.50 for a secretary is outrageous. How can we expect anyone to pay such money when we are talking about the minimum wage?

Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town): You did not support the minimum wage.

Mr. Evans: That is even below the minimum wage.

It is not appreciated that most peers do not even get free postage.

Mr. Hoon: They have no constituents.

Mr. Evans: The Minister must appreciate that for many peers, the United Kingdom is their constituency. People who hear peers taking part in our legislation write to them. They expect replies, and we do not assist them with their postage.

The Lord Chancellor is on £150,000 a year, and he had to put through his House of Lords postage using his ministerial rank to invite people to the Groucho club for a private function. If he, on £150,000, cannot afford the postage, how do we expect ordinary Back-Bench Members of the House of Lords to pay it?

There is a serious point in all this. We need to have a look at what is going to happen. When the hereditary peers go, we will expect the life peers to take up that work. If they do not, the work simply will not get done. We need to attract people to attend more regularly. I know that the Prime Minister has talked about expanding the number of life peers. I hope that a great number of them

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will be Cross-Benchers. We have to make membership of the House of Lords sufficiently attractive to get people to go there.

Surely we want a second Chamber that will be effective. The White Paper says that the functions of the transitional second Chamber will not be changed. I hope that the Government are not saying as a threat that, unless the House of Lords behaves and is compliant, in stage 2 the Chamber will be denuded of its functions. Surely, in this day and age, when a lot more power has drifted over many years to the Executive, Back-Bench Members from all parties, including the Labour party, want to bring the Executive to account as much as we possibly can and to ensure that legislation is properly scrutinised by the other place. For that to happen, there must be sufficient Members of the second Chamber who have proper salaries and allowances to pay staff so that they can do an effective job.

When the Minister responds to the debate--whether it is tonight or tomorrow--please will he at least give an assurance that the Government will not kick this into the long grass until they consider stage 2? It is a problem that will exist in the transitional House and it needs to be sorted out now to ensure that we have an effective second Chamber, for however long it exists.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): I shall cut out the hon. Gentleman's speech and use it on all those occasions when Conservative councillors attack councillors of other parties for daring to pay for any research or secretarial assistance out of the funds of local authorities that dispose of extremely large budgets. This is an amazing amendment from an amazing source. It is premature to set up a salary system for the interim House. It has, if not an indeterminate membership, a large membership ranging widely between those whom the hon. Gentleman has fairly said do a great deal of work--virtually a full-time or more than full-time job--and those whose attendance is more occasional, or regular, but of limited span each day.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Beith: No, I intend to be very brief. It is a very wide-ranging House and certainly not one to which we could simply apply a salary system. We will have to consider salaries when we create a second Chamber of determinate size. We need to consider a salary system in that context, not as a mechanism for a temporary Chamber which has much of the character of the existing second Chamber, but will simply have the hereditary peers removed from it.

Mr. Forth: The right hon. Gentleman has put his finger on an important point. I am not sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) covered it too adequately. It relates to inter-related issues that should be dealt with. In fairness to my hon. Friend, his amendment would allow it to be dealt with, but perhaps not necessarily in the way that he outlined. The new clause makes provision for


which must be desirable.

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I assume that the House of Lords, as it would be were the Bill to become an Act--the interim House, which would contain either no hereditary element, or that hereditary element about which we are not allowed to speak and about which we do not know--would still consist of about 500 Members. So far, so good. However, I also assume--I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley will intervene to clarify this point--that whether or not we are talking about that new House of Lords performing a role similar to that of the existing House of Lords, based on a combination of either--

Sir Patrick Cormack: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forth: Certainly.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Does my right hon. Friend accept that we are dealing with the House of Lords minus the hereditary peers? The word "interim" does not appear in the Bill at all. Therefore, we are considering a House of Lords that will have substantially fewer Members, because 40 per cent. of those who regularly attend now will no longer be there; consequently, the work load on those who do attend will be enormously greater. That is the reason for tabling the new clause, which was moved so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans). I am sure that my right hon. Friend will concede that that is a point of immediate importance.


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