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Mr. Djanogly: I think that Lord Kingsland was talking from a historical perspective. He was thinking about the sort of House that people had known and enjoyed and the unnecessary nature of the changes.
"For my part, I wish to see the Lord Chancellor continuing in his historic role as Speaker of the House. The ancient office and high degree of that office reflect and embody the authority and precedence of this House."
Removing the Lord Chancellor from his role as Speaker goes far beyond the sensible, incremental changes that have occurred in the other place, such as no longer requiring the Lord Chancellor to robe or preside at Divisions. As Lord Kingsland put it, the measure would be
"a wholesale change that would dispense with the traditions of your Lordships' House and could see us moving towards a full-time Speaker with authority over the House." [Official Report, House of Lords, 7 December 2004; Vol. 667, c. 8856.]
The Conservative party, like the Government, agrees that the decision about the speakership is ultimately one for the other place itself. The view that my hon. Friends and I are presenting in this debate reflects the views of Opposition peers during the Bill's passage through the other place, namely that the Lord Chancellor should remain Speaker in that House. Although the Government insist that the Bill does not compel the other place to remove the Lord Chancellor from the speakership, that important decision will effectively be taken before the other place can properly debate the proposals.
While the other place has had to consider the question of who should be its Speaker, it is unfortunate to see a structure that has been little used in the Lords being put into play. It would be unwise to give the holder of the speakership of the Lords the title of "Speaker", because constitutionally speaking, he would not speak for peers. All peers constitutionally have a right of access to the sovereign, so the role of Speaker in the Lords is entirely different from that of Speaker in the Commons. To have competing claims on the role of Speaker can only lead to confusion. The term is confusing not just constitutionallyhon. Members in the Committee understand full well what is going on in that regardbut for normal people as well. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) said in his eloquent speech, symbols matter. The confusion cannot be good for understanding how Parliament is run, which is surely an important part of our democracy.
Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman is making heavy weather of this. Whatever the personal view of Members of the House of Commons, surely it is up to the other place to decide what it wants to call the person who will chair its proceedings.
Mr. Leslie: I heard the points raised by the hon. Members for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) and for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly), although I tend to agree more with the Chairman of the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) in their interpretation of clause 15 and schedule 5. I assure the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire that they are adequately drafted. I was interested to learn that he was the first Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Lord Chancellor. I do not know whether a plaque has been put up in any corner of the building, or even in Selborne house on Victoria street, as a commemoration of that.
Obviously, use of the word "Speaker" is of concern. Although the clause and schedule are entitled "Speakership of the House of Lords", it was, as the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed set out, for the purpose of finding a generic way of describing the aspects under consideration that we used the reference, first made in legislation in the Clerk of the Parliaments Act 1824, to the Speaker of the House of Lords. That is not necessarily of our choosing, and nor should it be taken that it is our preference for what the actual title should be in the other place. Their lordships have yet to give their view on their future arrangements, both for the practice of chairing and presiding over their proceedings and for the title.
I am aware of legitimate concerns expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee about duplicating a title from one House to another. However, they will understand that it is not for me, as a member of the Executive, to dictate to Members of the other House the Government's preference for what that title should be. I am quite sure that their noble lordships, in their usual manner, will listen carefully to the views expressed here.
Mr. Grieve: I agree with every word of that. Clearly, it is not for the Executive to dictate that decision. However, seeing as this is our one opportunity to express a viewpoint in Committee, it is sensible to do so.
Although we hope that the amendments made in clause 15 and schedule 5 will allow the Lord Chancellor no longer to be the presiding officer of the other place, they do not prevent that particular peer from continuing in that post. It is a choice for the other place, but it allows that flexibility so that any other peer can take the presiding officer role. That is a fundamental aspect of what we propose. We hope for a greater separation between the legislative and Executive functions in the other place. One aspect of that is removing the presiding officer function of the Lord Chancellor, but ultimately that has to be a decision for the other place.
It is a little perverse that a Prime Minister should be able to dictate to a House of Parliament who its presiding officer will be. Hon. Members would not necessarily tolerate that in respect of the House of Commons, but for some reason we have that arrangement in the other place. This is a healthy change, and if hon. Members were to reflect on it outside the partisan realm, they would probably come to the same
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conclusion. I hope that helps to answer some of the points raised by hon. Members and that clause 15 and schedule 5 can be accepted.
Mr. Leslie: Clauses 16, 17, 18 and 19 and schedule 6 operate together. They provide a framework within which the Lord Chancellor can give effect to the spirit of the Bill and the principles of the concordat. They provide the necessary powers to complete the application of the concordat to functions not included in the Bill and for their entrenchment in the office of Lord Chancellor, where they are to be exercised wholly or in part by that Minister. The purpose of this, as agreed with the senior judiciary, is to guarantee further the independence of the judiciary and the new partnership between the judiciary and the Executive that the concordat achieves.
Simon Hughes: Clause 16 has a cross-reference to schedule 6 in terms of the protected functions, three of them specifically and the fourth relating to a great long list that goes on for six pagesin the schedule, not the body of the clause. Given that that is the sacrosanct stuff, why is it not in the substance of the clause? I always try to look at a Bill from the point of view of somebody reading it having never done so before and trying to find out what the law is, and it would be easier if all the functions were in the same place. Future generations who read the Bill after it becomes law would then know what are this great list of functions that cannot be transferredthe six pages of other Acts under which the Lord Chancellor has responsibilities, including all sorts of things such as patronage, vice-chancellorships and nominations. It would be helpful to provide a simple linked document listing all those things so that people are always able to lay their hands on the information and do not have to spend a week, a month or a year doing all the cross-referencing. It is nonsense that they should have to check 100-odd Acts of Parliament in order to know what the Bill is talking about, although I am sure that it is administratively possible. I would be grateful for the Minister's reassurance that he will look into it and try to ensure that this bit of our system is modernised.
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