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6.30 pm

I remind both the hon. Member for Sevenoaks and the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) that the Government do not propose to change the way in which matters are handled. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst asked how we could reflect the substance of the new clause. With respect for the worthy motives that might have lain behind tabling it, we cannot reflect its substance because, to be honest, it does not have any.

I am conscious of the fact that Conservative Members are strongly of the view that unnecessary material should not be put on the statute book. It is a view that I share, and that is why I advise the Committee, should the Opposition press the matter to a Division, to reject the new clause.

Mr. Letwin : I assure the Leader of the House that we shall push new clause 26 to a vote in due course.

The background to this debate, one of the best that we have had in Committee, is clear, and has become clearer during the Committee stage. First, the Bill creates a second Chamber that poses as interim. By denying Opposition amendments and new clauses, the Government have made it perfectly clear, and in confirming their refusal to produce a timetable made it clearer yet, that they have no idea how long that Chamber will last, and that, for all they know or care, it could be permanent.

Secondly, it has become clear during our debates that there are no measures in the Bill and nothing in the Government's plans to increase the ability of the second House, which the Bill re-creates, to check the Executive, despite the fact that the Government have been wholly unable and unwilling to deny that the greatest problem of our constitution today is the Executive's overwhelming power.

Thirdly, and most importantly, throughout our debates, we have made it ever more clear that, by removing half the working Members of the other place, the Bill goes a long way towards weakening rather than strengthening the second Chamber. It weakens not its official role, but its ability to fulfil that role in reality. It makes it consciously and intentionally a less effective Chamber.

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1307

New clause 9 on salaries and expenses offered the Government another chance to do something to remedy the deficiency that they have brought about by enabling their lordships, reduced in numbers as they will be, to do something about the matter by attending the Chamber more frequently, but the Government rejected that too.

Mrs. Beckett: One reason why none of those points was answered in the debate is that none was germane to the debate. The hon. Gentleman is winding up the previous debates that we have already had.

Mr. Letwin: With respect to the right hon. Lady, they are highly germane because they form the background to the debate.

The debate on new clause 24 and its accompanying new clauses was the Government's final test, which Ministers and Labour Members have fundamentally and utterly failed.

Mr. Stevenson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Letwin: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not, because I am conscious of the time. I shall give way later if I can.

My hon. Friends, who have made many excellent contributions to the debate, have properly castigated their Front-Bench spokesmen for the weakness of the new clauses. They have pointed out that they are less than perfect. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), perhaps most notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) have all asked why the new clauses did not have more teeth. I think that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson) made the same point.

We accept that the new clauses are by no means as strong as they might have been, but it is extraordinary that the Leader of the House should argue that it is not proper to have this modest, slight addition to the Bill on the grounds that it is incomplete and imperfect. If incompleteness and imperfection were guarantees of not entering law, and a guarantee that the Government would not wish something to enter the law, the Bill would never have come anywhere near the House. The Government, pre-eminently in Britain's history, are engaged in constitutional reform which, on their own admission, is incomplete and imperfect.

It is extraordinary that the right hon. Lady can summon up the gall to come to the Dispatch Box and argue that, with all the resources at her disposal, she is unable to improve on new clauses which she herself says--I fear that I must doubt the sincerity of her utterance--are unobjectionable in their aims. If they are unobjectionable in their aims, but imperfect in their results and effects, she could, perfectly easily, have introduced better versions. In the spirit of consensus, which the White Paper so magnificently offers, we would of course have accepted such additions to our proposals, but this afternoon and this evening--in particular, during the past hour and a half or two hours of this debate--the Government have not shown the slightest intention of establishing an interim Chamber that will work better than the current Chamber.

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1308

We said on Second Reading that the Government's intention was to create a twin poodle. They have poodlised this House; they intend to have a second poodle across the way. If they did not so intend, the last thing that they would have done is reject out of hand modest new clauses that sought purely to create a token--a token that would ensure at least that people were not introduced to their lordships' House merely as a matter of honour.

We sought solely an undertaking from the Government--and an undertaking from the people who will sit in the House of Lords--that the people whom they appoint will seek to fulfil a serious role in a serious Chamber, notwithstanding the fact that the number of working peers will have been halved without the slightest amendment to their conditions, which would have enabled them to go on fulfilling the role. That is a modest requirement. By rejecting it, the Government have amply demonstrated their bad faith in introducing a Bill that does nothing to increase the effective check on the Executive and much to belittle it.

I hope that Conservative Members will come willingly into the Lobby to support those points, notwithstanding the fact that, if we or the Government had been so minded, the new clauses could have been greatly strengthened. In this instance, the best is very much the enemy of the good. We shall vote to support the good, because that is much better than what the Government have been able to produce.

Dr. Fox: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 26

Criteria for conferment of life peerage (No. 3)

'(1) A person shall not be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a peerage conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958 unless he has first declared a willingness to serve as a member of the House of Lords.

(2) Any such declaration shall be ineffective at the end of the Parliament in which it is made.
(3) Subsection (2) shall not prevent a further declaration being made at any time.
(4) The declaration shall indicate a willingness to participate in--
(a) the consideration of Bills and draft statutory instruments,
(b) the study of European Community obligations of the United Kingdom,
(c) the scrutiny of Ministers of the Crown, and
(d) the work of select committees.'.--[Dr. Fox.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 104, Noes 288.

Division No. 90
[6.38 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beresford, Sir Paul
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Major, Rt Hon John
Malins, Humfrey
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Whittingdale, John
Wilkinson, John
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Woodward, Shaun

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Oliver Heald and
Sir David Madel.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Ballard, Jackie
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Godman, Dr Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Hepburn, Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Wise, Audrey
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Mike Hall and
Mr. David Hanson.

Question accordingly negatived.

4 Mar 1999 : Column 1311

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading tomorrow.

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