Political and Constitutional Reform Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 251

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

on Thursday 6 June 2013

Members present:

Mr Graham Allen (Chair)

Mr Christopher Chope

Paul Flynn

Sheila Gilmore

Andrew Griffiths

Mrs Eleanor Laing

Mr Andrew Turner

Stephen Williams

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Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rt Hon Lord Steel of Aikwood and Rt Hon Baroness Hayman, former Lord Speaker, gave evidence.

Chair: Good morning, David. Welcome to the Committee. We are expecting Baroness Hayman-Helene Hayman-at some point, and if she may join you, that would be helpful.

Lord Steel: I would be very happy with that. My only problem is that I would like to be in the Lords for question No. 1 at 11 o’clock if possible.

Chair: We understand and appreciate that. We will crack on. Paul, you are going to kick off.

Q1 Paul Flynn: One of your illustrious predecessors as leader of the Liberal party, Lloyd George, said that it is foolish to try to cross a chasm in two leaps. House of Lords reform has been a process of trying to cross a chasm in six or seven leaps incrementally, and that has not been very successful. What do you think the prospects are for securing consensus on Baroness Hayman’s Bill on Lords reform? Is there enough appetite for reform within the Government to push ahead at this moment?

Lord Steel: There certainly was in the House of Lords, because of course that Bill, slightly trimmed down, went through the House of Lords and completed its passage unanimously, at least on the three issues of retirement, expulsion and-what was the other one?

Chair: Non-attendance.

Lord Steel: Non-attendance. We had to drop the hereditary by-election issue because 300 amendments were tabled by hereditary peers, but the rest of the Bill went through. The Bill that Helene Hayman is reintroducing is the same one again. At our end of the building, there is no question that it will go through.

I was a bit taken aback on Tuesday when the Deputy Prime Minister, in answer to a question from Pat Glass about my Bill, which is now Helene Hayman’s Bill, said at column 1366-I have the Hansard report in front of me-"I see no need for a stand-alone Bill on House of Lords reform, not least because the real reform-namely, the introduction of democracy-has not made progress." That is a total non-sequitur. It is precisely because the big Bill did not make progress that I am glad your Committee is looking at what I call housekeeping measures. I think they could go ahead.

As a sort of intro, may I say that, in my view, if the authors of that Bill had read their history properly, they would have realised that after my even more distinguished predecessor, Mr Asquith, produced the Parliament Act 1911 and made the major reform then, he appointed a very distinguished commission, which included the Archbishop of Canterbury and at least one former Prime Minister, and it reported in 1918? I have the report in front of me and will read one sentence: "it was forcibly argued that a Chamber elected on the same franchise" as the House of Commons "would inevitably become a rival of the House of Commons". There was no need for the great debates that we have had over the last year. If people had read their history, they would have known that they were running into trouble by producing a Bill of that kind. I welcome the work that the Committee is now doing and believe that these housekeeping measures are urgently needed.

Q2 Paul Flynn: It is refreshing to be reminded of the achievements of the last Liberal Government, considerable as they were. Do you think that Asquith and Lloyd George, if they could see the situation now, would be astonished that the Silver Stick in Waiting continues to prance around in ermine to this day and that we have not had a fundamental reform of a system that is indefensible-what Tony Benn called the first-past-the-bedpost system?

Lord Steel: I quite agree, and perhaps I may quote another sentence from the manifesto on which I first fought as leader of the Liberal party in 1979. It said: "The House of Lords should be replaced by a new, democratically chosen, second chamber which includes representatives of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom and UK members of the European Parliament." That picked up the 1918 recommendation that there should be an indirectly elected Assembly with the House of Commons having a major role. Now that we have a Parliament in Scotland and Assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales as well as Members of the European Parliament, you can see that a reformed upper House could have a genuine, democratic mandate with indirect election and not be a competitor to the House of Commons.

Q3 Paul Flynn: But after more than 100 years of endeavour and wonderful dreams in prospect, between the dream and the reality falls the shadow, and the shadow in this case is the enormous power of inherited titles, royalty and a whole system that is fundamentally undemocratic and based on privilege. That continues and, if I may say so, the reforms in your Bill, which seem to be worthwhile, will be minute and incremental; they will take us a foot into the chasm, perhaps, but we will not cross it.

Lord Steel: To take just one item from the Bill, the ending of entry into Parliament by heredity, that would be worth achieving. I agree with you that it does not deal with the wider issue. The items on your agenda in this Committee are urgently required now to make the upper House more effective than it is.

Q4 Paul Flynn: Can I take up one matter, then, which is not in your Bill but seems to be crucial, and topical at the moment? Last year I reported one of the noble Lords for what I felt was egregious behaviour as far as lobbying was concerned. The House of Lords authorities agreed that there was a prima facie case, sat on it, deliberated and came to a conclusion that I thought was perverse, which really was that Lords could do anything with lobbying: they could take money from the Cayman Islands-as in that case-and behave exactly as they wanted. It is up to them to judge whether they are doing it as parliamentarians or as people who are outside Parliament. It did not get a great deal of attention, although it was publicised in the press at the time and was based on information from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. But it does seem to indicate that controls on lobbying, which are very weak in this place and long overdue for reform, are even weaker in the House of Lords.

Lord Steel: I cannot comment on that case, because I do not know anything about it, but I think that you are fundamentally correct in your assumption that the lobbying rules need to be tightened. You may like to ask Baroness Hayman-I know this is in her mind, because I have talked to her about it-about adding something to the Bill where we are dealing with expulsion. We have no power in the House of Lords on that. You have power in the Commons to expel Members, but we have no such power in the Lords. That is one thing that needs to be put right. Even short of expelling Members, we need to deal with those who bring the House into disrepute, if you like, and I think she is minded to secure an additional item in the Bill when it reaches Committee stage to deal with that point.

Q5 Paul Flynn: Do you think it is a justification of behaviour of this kind that Lords are not paid and are therefore fully entitled to earn their money by outside activities, which might be influenced by the fact that they carry the title of Lord?

Lord Steel: You are asking me to stray into matters of allowances and payment and so on, which I do not really have any strong views on.

Q6 Paul Flynn: Tell us, then, what are the small-scale reforms that you think would help to reduce the size of the House and would be worthwhile?

Lord Steel: I think a retirement scheme is absolutely essential. I take it that the Committee has seen the report, "Members leaving the House", which Lord David Hunt chaired three or four years ago now. It has not been acted on. It recommended that there should be a scheme allowing and encouraging Members to retire by giving them a modest payment. There is an appendix to the paper, written by the Clerk of the Parliaments, which I hope the Committee has seen-Annex D.

Q7 Paul Flynn: At what age would the attempt be made to bribe them into retirement?

Lord Steel: They did not specify an age. They simply said, "Please allow the House of Lords the power to end placement in Parliament for life." We did ask the Clerk of the Parliaments to produce a paper, which he has done and which I certainly hope your Committee will have, which includes, at Annex D, a note from the director of finance showing quite clearly that if such a scheme were introduced and made available at age 75 or 80-he produced a table showing the two alternative ages-there would be a substantial saving to the taxpayer, even if the take-up was only 50%. It should all be done within the House of Lords budget-no extra money should be given for this purpose-and we would get the numbers down to manageable levels.

Paul Flynn: You won’t get much of a reception from me, as at my age, which is approaching octogenarian, and feeling about halfway through my time of life-

Lord Steel: I would not throw you out, but I would have a voluntary inducement for you to leave.

Q8 Paul Flynn: What is the bribe to be? You were suggesting that bribery was part of it.

Lord Steel: In this paper I have in my hand from the finance director, he does not specify a sum, but in discussions in the Lords I have suggested that there should be a cap on what anybody could be given and that it should be no more than the amount that they claimed in expenses in the previous year, so that after one year there would be a net saving on the cost of operating the House of Lords.

Q9 Paul Flynn: What needs to be done to secure a consensus for your Bill in the Lords? Are you near a consensus? You say that you agreed on the decision before. Do you think it will go through?

Lord Steel: There was a real consensus. The Bill, in the end, went through unanimously, minus the hereditary by-election item and the appointments commission. The reason why we did not keep the appointments commission in the Bill was that the Government’s Bill had a different version of an appointments commission. There was no point in going through a long rigmarole when the Government had a live Bill with that in it. The other issues are the retirement age, or rather the retirement incentive, and the idea of removing those who commit offences. That is very important, and we have totally agreed.

Q10 Paul Flynn: To go back to the feeling that your Bill is a very small and insignificant sop that would help to dissuade people from pushing for the fundamental reform that is necessary, which I understood Nick Clegg to say the other day-I was in the House when he made the remarks you mentioned-that is entirely reasonable. If you are going for the full loaf, you are not going to be satisfied with a crumb.

Lord Steel: It is a crumb; you are absolutely right. It is not related to the wider case for reform, which I think remains. I remain committed to that, like many in the House of Lords.

Q11 Paul Flynn: I want to ask you about not replacing hereditary peers. It is a very strange system whereby there are peers who boast that they were elected to the House because they were elected by fellow peers. Would you like to see an end to the by-elections for hereditary peers?

Lord Steel: The by-election system came in as an amendment during the passage of the legislation in the late 1990s, and I am happy to say that I voted against it at the time. I think that it is increasingly ridiculous to have these by-elections, especially, if I may say so, in the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Although they could just pass muster among those on the Cross Benches or the Conservatives because they have a large number of hereditary peers, in the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats they are ludicrous. We have had one each. I think that in the case of the Liberal Democrats there were three electors to elect a Member of Parliament. Old Sarum seems very respectable in comparison.

Paul Flynn: Thank you.

Q12 Chair: Helene, welcome. I thought that it would be helpful, when you arrived to join us, to say that the witnesses are not exactly at odds on most of these issues, so if the colleagues who are going to ask questions can ask them of both witnesses, that will be helpful. Just to do a reprise and give you a chance to make some general comments-I know that David has to go by 11-Paul was asking general questions about whether these changes are really on a very small scale. Do they get in the way of a longer-term change to the composition of the second Chamber? You may want to express a view on that. Also, the question about ending by-elections for hereditary peers came up at the end. I do not know whether you would like to make some general comments to start with, Helene, and then I’ll come back to David.

Baroness Hayman: Perhaps I could just say, taking up those issues, that I was thinking before coming here today about the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and whether, if the provisions in the then Bill had been passed rather than dropped in the wash-up in 2010, that would have inhibited the Government from bringing in the House of Lords Reform Bill as they did. My answer to that is, absolutely not. It has always been my position, although I do not favour an elected House, that in many ways dealing with some of the transitional issues before embarking on addressing the major question of whether or not you want the second Chamber to be elected, or the party political Members of the second Chamber to be elected, would clear the undergrowth-that is the phrase I used to use-for that debate to be about a clear issue of principle, so that it could be decided without all these extraneous issues that make passing legislation much more difficult. I have never felt that it was a barrier. I have, in fact, always felt that it would in some ways start the momentum of recognising the need for change. I also think there are other radical changes outside the scope of David’s Bill, which I have now taken over and that Dan Byles is going to introduce in the Commons. That could make a big difference and, again, make it easier to put forward the proposition for an elected House.

Q13 Mr Chope: One of the small-scale reforms proposed was to remove persistent non-attendees. We have received evidence saying that at best that would be of marginal importance, and at worst it might be counter-productive, because those people might start turning up and not doing very much, just coming through the doors and registering. What do you think about that?

Lord Steel: I think it is very marginal. The fact is that we have got a number-I think it was 32 at the last count-who never turn up at all. Yet, they have to get all the papers; some of them even have desks in the building. It is just a tidying-up piece of administration but I agree it is not important.

Q14 Mr Chope: What about the moratorium on new peers? There is a threat that there is going to be another swamp of new appointments being made, purportedly in pursuance of the coalition agreement, although we are more than 60% through this Parliament and far closer to the next election than to the previous one, and at a time when the minority coalition partners are being eclipsed in the opinion polls in dramatic fashion by the UK Independence party. Do you think that there should be a moratorium on new peers? If not, do you think we should put in a lot of UKIP peers? What do you think we should do?

Lord Steel: You used the word "threat" of another list of peers. That is in fact the word used commonly at the other end of the building, because, frankly, there is nowhere to put them. We are overcrowded; we have already extended and taken away public seats at the back and put peers out there where they cannot speak but they are able to sit in the Chamber. The place is overcrowded.

I cannot say that I am in favour of a moratorium, because as long as we have this ridiculous system of appointments it clearly has to go on. It could be argued that 40 have died since the previous list, so the party leaders are entitled to another one. It is not an issue I feel strongly about, I must admit.

Q15 Mr Chope: Does Baroness Hayman want to say anything?

Baroness Hayman: Yes. Going back to your issue about the marginal effect of non-attendance, yes, I think it would be marginal. It depends where you put the threshold, of course, of how you define a non-attender. I think it is an important issue of principle about being the working House of Parliament.

You would not reduce the numbers very dramatically-hopefully-by barring those who have been convicted of criminal offences from returning to the House. However, I still think it is the right thing to do. In terms of emphasising that responsibility of acting as a working parliamentarian, if you have the privilege and honour of being a member of the House of Lords, the non-attendance thing is important.

As far as a moratorium is concerned, like David, I do not think that you can have a complete moratorium, because the House’s value derives, at least in part, from having people with contemporary experience of a wide range of outside activities. If you only have people whose experience is 25 or 30 years old you are not performing that function.

However, I think there is a real problem in doing the one-for-one around the sad deaths that have occurred, because those are not people in the main who have been very active. So you are replacing non-active peers with people who come in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and want to make a contribution. So there is the problem about Committees and over-subscription for debates. Yesterday in the Chamber I really wanted to come in on a question, but I did not go in for prayers. It was the day that the Cross Bench had their meeting, and the House was very crowded. I managed to sit rather than stand, which I had done the day before, but I had to sit in the area of seating that had been opened up, where there are no microphones and you cannot speak from.

Q16 Mr Chope: How about a moratorium for 23 months until the next general election?

Lord Steel: I would not be against that, but I can’t say I would go to the barricades for it.

Baroness Hayman: It has one advantage. I am sure at some point we will come on to the issue of balance and proportionality in the House. You cannot, for example, start appointing UKIP peers because of the opinion polls or what is happening between general elections. I certainly think that the coalition document’s pledge on reflecting the votes cast was a complete nonsense. When you look at how to deal with new party political appointments after a general election, the idea of new peers being appointed to reflect the major parties’ share of the vote in the general election has some merit because it goes some way towards reflecting the political balance in the country at the time. That is easier to do if you have had a moratorium for a time.

Lord Steel: I was going to say that there seems to be an all-party agreement that that is what should happen. But, of course, if every time a Government changes you top up the Lords to reflect the change without any exit strategy, you are going to keep on piling up the numbers. Incidentally, Dan Byles is picking up in the Commons the Bill that Helene is introducing. He got No. 5 in the Speaker’s ballot, and he is going to introduce that Bill. Four of the issues that you are dealing with in this Committee are the subject of his forthcoming Bill, which I understand is due for a Second Reading on 18 October. As Helene said, there is an all-party agreement that there should be a rebalancing of the House. However, without an exit strategy the numbers will rise exponentially. Therefore, it really is important that we get this legislation through.

Baroness Hayman: I think that a moratorium might be helpful in the short term, but it is not sustainable. What you want is for people to leave and for fresh blood to come in, rather than freezing it in time.

Q17 Mr Chope: So you would be in favour of fixed-term appointments?

Baroness Hayman: We can perhaps discuss that. I am in favour of fixed-term appointments, but with some nuances-if I can put it that way-which I am happy to discuss at some point.

Q18 Mr Chope: Very few peers have taken advantage of the voluntary retirement scheme that was introduced in 2011. Why do you think that is?

Lord Steel: It is not a retirement scheme. It is simply an extension of what we already have, which is leave of absence. It is a permanent leave of absence. People who think they have retired will find themselves receiving the writ of summons after the next election. It is not a proper retirement scheme at all, and I get very annoyed when I keep reading that no one is taking it up. The reason is that it is not retirement. That is why the case for a statutory retirement scheme is very clear.

Q19 Mr Chope: But you would be against a fixed retirement age. Is that right?

Lord Steel: Personally, I am not against a fixed retirement age, but that is not what we are proposing. We are proposing a voluntary scheme. Your Committee could decide to recommend a fixed retirement age. However, we do not have one in the Commons, and I do not quite see how you would justify having one in the Lords.

Q20 Mr Chope: Where do you think the consensus on a fixed retirement age would rest?

Lord Steel: In the wider world, people such as judges and lords lieutenant retire at 75. I think that in the Lords there would probably be a consensus at around 80. You should maybe start at 80 even with a voluntary scheme, see how it goes, and if it is not effective enough then bring in 75.

Baroness Hayman: May I add to that? I think the transitional arrangements-this is why I talked about having a bit of flexibility and nuance-have to take account of the fact that we are a predominantly elderly House at the moment. That is why I think it is better not to put this in statute, but to get serious cross-party talks, based on the size of the House and the number of retirements you want to see, and then look at the sort of formulas that give you a mixture of age, length of service and, indeed, contribution to the House and participation. Then the party groups find a way of finding the numbers within their groups in order to reduce. In the longer term, for new appointments, there is nothing to stop the Prime Minister now, saying to new appointees, "I would expect your appointment to be for 15 years, and if by then we have not got a statutory 15 years, I would expect you to retire at that point," and asking the appointments commission to do the same thing.

My own view is that 15 years-looking at the length of service, again in the Commons, and the value of having some corporate memory-needs a bit of flex. I would be on a 15-year term with a possibility of renewal perhaps for another 10 years on recommendation to the appointments commission. You know-working out a bit of flex like that.

Lord Steel: The key thing is that we need the statutory power to consider all these things. That is what we are asking. If you gave us the statutory power, it would be a matter for the House Committees themselves to work out a sensible scheme. I don’t see why you in the House of Commons need be bothered about that. What we need is something that says we have the statutory power to bring to an end the system of membership of the House of Lords for life. That is all.

Chair: I am very conscious that you have only about half an hour, so I am going to ask colleagues to address the bulk of their questions to David. Helene, we have, thankfully, got you after 11, so we will have you speaking thereafter.

Q21 Mr Turner: I am trying to work out the numerical strength of different parties and the effect of a not quite moratorium, but a sort of moratorium. What numbers would be appropriate by which we would slow down the number of appointments, recognising that some people are dying, clearly, and some people may replace them? On the other hand, we do not need 150, or whatever it was two or three years ago. What is the maximum and the minimum-assuming for the moment that we are not altering anything else-that would make it slow down and almost stop?

Lord Steel: One can argue endlessly about numbers. If the press reports are true that we are likely to get a list of another 30 or 50, we are going to top 800 Members of the House of Lords. I believe that the second Chamber should be smaller than the House of Commons. That is my starting point. We really want to get it down below 600. In fact, the 1918 commission, which I quoted earlier, recommended a figure of much below that-I think it was about 350-so we are way over what any sensible upper Chamber should be. Getting it down is going to be quite tricky. The director of finance’s paper does not, of course, go into the party political side of it, but assuming his figures are right that there is a 50% take-up, you can look to see that in fact it is pretty even throughout the House. There is not a wide disparity. Each group-the three parties and the Cross Benches-all have a proportion of people who are quite old and who could be encouraged to leave.

One of the things that perhaps is not understood at this end is that if you had a scheme, the party managers would then have the ability to go to people and say, "Look, we would like to get some new blood in. You’ve done very well, thank you very much, but don’t you think you should consider leaving?" At the moment, they cannot do that, because you cannot leave. I am not answering your party political question, because I don’t think it is answerable at the moment.

Q22 Mr Turner: So you do think it would be essential to have a statutory power?

Lord Steel: Yes. Without a change in the present law, you are a Member of Parliament for life. It is that fundamental thing that needs to be changed.

Q23 Mr Turner: But are the people who are there for life actually making the system unworkable? Or is the problem not the people who are unworkable and not turning up, and almost certainly will not for the rest of their lives, but the people who are there, and some extra people, who you are trying to persuade to stay at home and cease to be peers?

Lord Steel: Yes, we are trying to make it sensible and normal for people to leave when they reach a certain age. That is not unreasonable in life as a whole, so why should the House of Lords be different?

Q24 Mr Turner: One reason is that nobody can be sacked from anything now, unless there is a good reason to do so. There is no fixed-

Lord Steel: No, there are fixed retirements. I gave two examples: both judges and lords lieutenant retire at 75.

Q25 Mr Turner: You are right-sorry, I should have made it clearer. Apart from those who have a written retirement date, most people can stay doing the job for as long as they wish. I must say that I find that more acceptable, particularly as I come towards 60; I am getting old as well, and I like to feel that I can do things. Are you saying that it would be necessary to have an age limit, or just a collective right?

Lord Steel: You could have a financial scheme. I don’t know whether the Committee has seen the paper from the Clerk, David Beamish-if not, I recommend that you get copies, because the financial supplement to that spells out the figures if the take-up of such a scheme was only half of those who were offered it. The numbers and costs of savings are there quite clearly. I think that there would simply be a new climate in the House of Lords where it was accepted that after you had done so many years and reached a certain age you could leave the place with dignity. It is that that we are trying to get into law.

Q26 Mr Turner: Right, so Members would have the right to retire, but there would be no great pressure to do so at a particular age.

Lord Steel: No, it would not be automatic. Mr Chope asked me if I was in favour of an age limit; I am not against one, but that is not actually being proposed, either by Helene Hayman’s Bill or by mine, or indeed by the one that Dan Byles is introducing in the Commons.

Q27 Mr Turner: To recap, assuming 40 peers die in one Parliament-I don’t know whether that is accurate-and 10 replace them, how long would that take?

Lord Steel: I think we could work it out-a long time is the answer.

Baroness Hayman: Part of the issue is setting the overall target for the size of the House, otherwise you cannot answer your question. The rate of retirement will determine, in a way, the rate of new appointments. I think that 438 people voted on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. You talked earlier about people being able to continue as long as they were doing the job; this goes back to the definition of "doing the job," which is really important. You should not continue as a parliamentarian if you are not functioning as a parliamentarian. It is not about age. We have some younger Members who were appointed and have not appeared for months and years. So it is not simply about age discrimination; it is about doing the job.

Q28 Andrew Griffiths: Lord Steel, I suggest, as a supporter of it, that your Bill is important. We have heard some comments saying that it is incremental and tiny in its changes, but as someone who rebelled against the Government on the last reforms, I think it is our biggest opportunity. Can you see any strength in any argument for keeping the status quo?

Lord Steel: No, not at all. In fact, there are very few people in the House of Lords who would stand up and defend the status quo.

Q29 Andrew Griffiths: If that is the case, could you give us an assessment of what you feel, if the Steel Bill or the Hayman Bill were put to your House, the chances are of getting support for it?

Lord Steel: The record shows that there was total support for the retirement provision and for removing those convicted of offences. Those are the two fundamental bits, along with the non-attendance measure. That went completely through the House of Lords. It was unanimous and there was no Division on Third Reading. We lost the hereditary by-election issue only because two hereditary peers put down 300 amendments, which would have killed off the Bill, so we had to drop that. Even they are a minority among the hereditary peers, because most hereditary peers accept that the by-election system is now indefensible. It was only introduced as a temporary measure to last a couple of years, but it has now lasted 15 years.

I cannot say what chance Helene Hayman’s Bill has any greater than mine had, but my view is that if Dan Byles’s Bill, which is the same, is passed by your House and comes back to the Lords, it will be very difficult for even a minority of hereditary peers to continue to block the end of the by-elections if the House of Commons has already indicated that it believes that should happen.

Baroness Hayman: I think that that analysis is absolutely correct. The hereditary by-elections had to be withdrawn because of a tiny proportion of the 92 hereditary peers, but we all know what can happen in a Parliament. If that change was endorsed by the House of Commons and the opportunity came to the House of Lords, then, given the time, you can see that down. There is total support for having a statutory basis for retirement and for barring convicted criminals coming back. I do not want to take up David’s time, but the CRAG Bill also included a provision that allowed the House to expel Members as an ultimate sanction for misconduct. At the moment, we only have the power to suspend until the end of the parliamentary Session. From conversations I have had recently, I think there is a basis of support for introducing that provision from the CRAG Bill and seeing what support there is for that.

Q30 Andrew Griffiths: Apart from the hereditary by-elections, were there any other sticking points in your House in relation to the reforms?

Lord Steel: No, that was the only one. As I said earlier, I withdrew the proposed appointments commission, simply because the Government had their own alternative scheme under way at that time. That has disappeared, and that is why it is right to bring it up again. It was not a sticking point in the Lords. In fact, Lord Jay, who is the chairman of the current Appointments Commission, is on the record as welcoming the idea that it should be on a statutory basis, rather than being appointed by the Prime Minister and responsible to the Prime Minister.

Q31 Andrew Griffiths: If the Hayman/Byles Bill is not successful, what is your assessment of how long it would be before we got any meaningful reform of the House of Lords?

Lord Steel: Before you came in, I was waving the 1918 report. I have got another quote from it, which shows that life goes on. Lord Bryce, who was chair of the commission, wrote to the Prime Minister and said: "In particular we have been obliged to undertake the grave task of finding a basis for any Second Chamber which should be different in type and composition from the popular assembly, by including other elements which might be complementary to those which give its character to the House of Commons. Not less difficult was it to adjust the respective functions and powers of the two Chambers, vesting in the Second Chamber strength sufficient to enable it to act as a moderating influence in the conduct of national affairs, and yet not so much power of delay as to clog the machinery of Government". These issues were fully explored a century ago and we are still talking about them today, so the answer to your question is: if it has been going on for a hundred years, it could easily go on for another hundred years, and that is why we need these immediate measures now.

Baroness Hayman: The only counterpoint I would put is that, as I always say, the House of Lords is not unchanged since the Bryce commission. What seemed to be small reforms at the time can make a major difference. When I was a schoolgirl taking my 11-plus in Wolverhampton, there was not a single woman in the House of Lords, and everyone was a hereditary peer apart from the Law Lords and the bishops. There are now women on every Bench in the House of Lords except the bishops’ Bench, and the House has changed dramatically in that time. It was also a fairly useless Chamber in 1957; it hardly met and it did very little. It is now, I think, a functioning and useful part of Parliament.

To me, some consensus did come out of the last Session’s debates on the House of Lords Reform Bill, namely that the function that people want to see the Lords undertake is pretty generally shared: not to challenge the elected Chamber but to add to the legislative process and the holding to account of Government. If we have reached that consensus, and the debate is simply between those who believe that an elected Chamber could not challenge the House of Commons and those who do not, it is possible to build on that and start looking at a variety of measures. Some of them are legislative, which are minor, but some of them could be much bigger than that if we start the ball rolling and do some incremental work.

Q32 Andrew Griffiths: As somebody who was educated in Dudley, I think us ‘Black Country’ people have got to stick together, and I agree with you. Lord Steel, do you have a sense of frustration that the party you led is prepared to reject any meaningful reform now in the hope of bigger reform in the future?

Lord Steel: In fairness to the Deputy Prime Minister, he has rather changed his view. In fact, he spoke to a private meeting of the Lib Dem peers just a few weeks ago. What he said in the House of Commons on Tuesday is what he said to our private meeting. In other words, he now accepts that there is a good case for these housekeeping measures, but he thinks for some reason that you can tack it on to some other Bill. I would love to see the long title; it would have to end with the phrase "and for disconnected purposes." I do not see how you can do it, and that is why I fully support Dan Byles’s effort to put through a Bill on its own.

Q33 Andrew Griffiths: There was, as I am sure you are aware, a real sense of frustration in our Chamber that such an important constitutional issue or such a constitutional matter was not receiving the scrutiny and the time on the Floor of the Chamber that we felt it deserved.

Lord Steel: I sat in the peers’ Gallery and I listened to a lot of your debate. As I say, it echoed much of what people were arguing about in 1918, and you were absolutely right, in my view, to express constant concern about another Chamber that would be a mirror of the House of Commons, with elected senators wandering around your constituency saying, "I am here for five years and I have been elected too."

Andrew Griffiths: "I am here for 15 years and I have been elected too."

Lord Steel: Yes, and, "My party has told me to concentrate on your constituency because we have got a good chance of winning it." My opposition to that measure stemmed from my experience of chairing the Scottish Parliament, where list members-regional members-caused a lot of trouble for constituency members and even for MPs. I had letters of complaint from MPs. You can imagine that that would be multiplied if we had elected senators wandering around, elected on the same basis-or even, if I may say so, a better basis, proportional representation. They would say, "We are superior in every way." Eleanor laughs, but you know what I mean.

Mrs Laing: I know what you mean.

Q34 Andrew Griffiths: I will come to a conclusion. Are you saying, Lord Steel, that, given the statements that the Deputy Prime Minister made to the Lib Dem peers and the statements that he made in the House, you feel more optimistic about the chance of there being agreement on reform?

Lord Steel: Yes, I do. I think that he has accepted, in what he said to your House two days ago, that three basic provisions are necessary. It is just that he thinks that, somehow, it can be tacked on to a Bill that deals with something else. I am not quite clear how that can be done, but, frankly I do not care. I am very happy that it be done in some way.

Q35 Mrs Laing: I think that I ought to declare an interest of some sort: when Lord Steel’s Bill passed through the House of Lords, it then had to come to the House of Commons. I had the privilege of adopting it at that point, and it became my Bill for several months until it fell at the end of the Session. Clearly, my interest is that, obviously, I agree with every word in Lord Steel’s Bill. I tried to take it through this House, but, of course, owing to the way in which private Members’ Bills work, on several Fridays it dropped further and further down the list.

In an attempt to keep the spirit of the Bill alive, at the beginning of this Session I submitted an early-day motion that encouraged my colleagues to adopt Lord Steel’s Bill, if any of them had a chance to do so in the private Members’ ballot. Fortunately, Dan Byles did. But, clearly, once again, my interest is clear.

I happened to be the in the House of Lords-actually, I was there deliberately-when you introduced your Bill, Baroness Hayman. I can tell the Committee-sorry, I ought to put this in the form of a question-

Chair: It would be nice.

Mrs Laing: Baroness Hayman, would it be the case that, when your Bill was introduced, there was an enormous cheer in the House of Lords, which would indicate that it has very good support there at present?

Chair: I think a one-word answer to that would be okay, because I want David to use the last ten minutes.

Baroness Hayman: Yes.

Q36 Mrs Laing: Thank you. There-I formed it into a question.

Would you say, Lord Steel, that a moratorium on the appointment of peers at present would be the worst of all worlds, because then we would have no progress at all?

Lord Steel: For the reasons that Helene mentioned earlier, I just do not think that a moratorium would work. It is going down the wrong road, trying to tackle the numbers question the wrong way, whereas the right way is the way that you are now looking at.

May I express my thanks to you for having taken up the Bill? But, as you rightly said, it needed a Member who was high up in the ballot, and now we have one in Dan Byles. We have all been pushing the same piece of legislation. We just need to make sure that we get it through, with the possible amendment that Helene hinted at. We need to deal with the lobbying question and the capacity to give the House of Lords the authority to deal with those who are outside the conviction measure, which is in the Bill, but also to deal with those who bring the House into disrepute for other reasons. Helene has indicated that she would be keen to see something like that, which is not there at the moment, added to the Bill. I am quite sure that that could be done in the Commons when the Byles Bill goes to Committee.

Q37 Mrs Laing: And it would be likely to gain support?

Lord Steel: Yes, absolutely.

Q38 Mrs Laing: And, certainly, it would be parallel to measures that have been introduced in the House of Commons.

Lord Steel: We want to bring our Chamber up to the same level of sensible competence that you have here already in the House of Commons.

Paul Flynn: You lack ambition.

Q39 Mrs Laing: That is very worthwhile. Can I ask if you would like to give an opposite view to that expressed by Mr Flynn, when he suggested-is that a leading question? Are we not allowed to say that? All right. Let me phrase it in a different way.

Chair: David is with us for 10 minutes, so I am keen that he gets a chance to say a few things.

Mrs Laing: Mr Flynn suggested that the measures within the current Bills are small and insignificant. Would you agree with that?

Lord Steel: They are small, I quite agree, but not insignificant. As Helene has rightly said, over the years since the Parliament Act, there have been fundamental changes to the Lords. The last big step forward was in the 1990s. This would be another step forward; that’s all it is. It is not fundamental change. Those who want fundamental change, including me, can still argue for that, but we should get on with tidying the place up.

Q40 Mrs Laing: Was there disappointment in the House of Lords when we asked the Deputy Prime Minister in this Committee at the end of last year if he would support what was still your Bill-it was just finishing its passage through the House of Lords-and bring it to the Commons and implement it? His reply then, as Mr Griffiths said, was no, if he could not have everything he wanted, then he was having nothing. Was there disappointment at that in the House of Lords?

Lord Steel: I think there was more than disappointment in the Lords. People in the Lords were actually very rude about it-not me, because I am very polite to my party leader, but others were very rude about it. Mr Williams is looking at me very suspiciously, but I am very polite about it.

I have had quite a lot of conversations with Nick Clegg about this. In the last one, I said to him that his problem is that he knows as little about the working of the House of Lords as I did when I was leader of the Liberal party. That is a polite way of putting it.

Q41 Mrs Laing: That’s a very polite way of putting it. Would you say that you have learned a lot in the intervening years? Would you like to tell the Committee anything that you have learned since you were leader of the Liberal party until now, which we might not appreciate but which we ought to know?

Lord Steel: Quite seriously, I have come to appreciate the kind of work that the House of Lords does. As a revising Chamber, it is an essential element of our parliamentary system, but it is not a rival to the Commons. I really did know very little about it, even at the time when I was appointing people to the House of Lords. To be frank, I knew very little about how it worked. I think that that is true of most Members of Parliament, if I may say so-even distinguished members of this Committee. I suspect that, because you are going into this now, you are probably on a steep learning curve. It is seen from the House of Commons as a rather funny, fuddy-duddy place where people dress up in fancy gowns, as Mr Flynn said earlier. That wretched photograph appears in the papers all the time, even though we dress up only once or twice a year. But it has an air of fustiness and unworldliness about it. In fact, it is an effective working Chamber.

Q42 Mrs Laing: Indeed. Those of us who served on the Joint Committee on House of Lords reform, looking at the Government Bill, learned a great deal about the way in which the House of Lords operates. One of the things that struck me was the optimum size of the House of Lords. I think it had been suggested by the Government that 300 would be about right. But that Committee took evidence that suggested that something like 450 members would be necessary to do the work. Do either of you have anything to tell the Committee on that?

Lord Steel: I think that Committee report was about right. Something in the region of 450 or 500 sounds about right to me.

Baroness Hayman: I agree. Part of the value is not being a full-time House-having people who are not there all the time. I think 300 would have reduced it too much. I am around those sorts of numbers as well.

Q43 Mrs Laing: So terrific progress would be made if 800 was brought down to 450 who were actually working.

Lord Steel: Yes. That is a sensible sort of number.

Chair: David, I know that you have to go, but I will give you the opportunity to summarise.

Lord Steel: I don’t think I need to summarise. I am very happy with your Committee’s agenda. I don’t know whether you have a target for reporting but I hope you will report in time to help Mr Byles with his Bill going through the Commons. If the Government come up with a way of tacking on these housekeeping measures to something else, I will welcome that. But I will believe it when I see it.

Chair: We may help, but we will certainly inform the progress of that Bill. David, thank you so much for your time this morning. We really do appreciate it.

Stephen, we now have Baroness Hayman with us.

Lord Steel: I ought to stay for one question in case my colleague wants to ask a question.

Stephen Williams: I was about to say that you had saved me from the embarrassment of cross-examining my former party leader.

Chair: You have four minutes, so if you want to do that.

Stephen Williams: We talk enough privately.

Chair: Okay. Fire away.

Q44 Stephen Williams: Has the inflation of peers debased your currency?

Baroness Hayman: It is a difficult question. When I went into the House, the paper membership was 1,100. It went down dramatically in 1999 and it has increased dramatically-not as dramatically, but a great deal-since then. People find it very hard to understand why other second Chambers can manage on much smaller numbers and why the House of Commons can manage on much smaller numbers. When you explain to people that not everyone participates, that opens up another "debasement" of one’s reputation: "What are they doing being Members of the House of Lords if they don’t turn up?" That comes back to this issue about participation. It has been a problem, and it is a practical problem. Going back to the 1,100, when there were 1,100 Members, the average daily attendance was something like 100 less than it is now, because they were non-participating hereditary peers in a great number of cases. So the problems we have with oversubscription of short debates so people get a minute and a half to speak, and those sorts of issues of not being able to participate come from the fact that we have a lot of recent appointments of people who want to participate.

Q45 Stephen Williams: One of the things I was getting at was that when we discussed House of Lords reform last year a point made repeatedly by people who are opposed to House of Lords reform-so it was not made by me-was that your House is a repository of wisdom. I wonder, if you constantly add people to this repository of wisdom is it collectively more clever and wise or does it become increasingly a collection of people with rather eccentric views?

Baroness Hayman: Well, I would not like to comment on the views of my colleagues. It is in danger of becoming a collection of people whose expertise, rather than wisdom-because that is a more difficult thing to judge- is less and less contemporary and potent, because of the length of time that they have been effectively retired from those areas of expertise that they bring to the House. When we talk about stem cell research and we have Members who conduct stem cell research themselves, that is enormously powerful because it adds a quality to the legislative process that I do not think it would otherwise have. We have some fantastic people who were thought leaders in their professions 25, 30 or even 40 years ago who cannot do exactly that now. That is why I am interested in renewal, but I am very interested in moving people through. I am not sure that I get wiser as I get older.

Q46 Stephen Williams: But expertise is a narrow concept. The House of Lords has Select Committees in the same way as we do. These people who have expertise, whether it is in stem cell research or the retired generals perhaps, who contribute to a debate on what we should do in Syria, could be summoned to one of your Select Committees. Indeed, their membership perhaps could be restricted to particular Committees if the House chose to work in a different way. Perhaps they could have a self-denying ordinance not to vote on same-sex marriage, in which they have no expertise whatsoever.

Baroness Hayman: On the number of Members of our House who participated in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill debate who had experience, who wished to have such marriages themselves and who had children whose right it would be to have such marriages, if you compared the two debates, I am not so certain that you would find this great disparity of the House of Lords being completely outside that experience. Putting that to one side-

Q47 Stephen Williams: The difference is, though, that if I found the opinions of a fellow Member of the House of Commons objectionable, which in the context of that debate I would have done, I or my party can campaign to remove them and urge their electors to vote against them. If I found the opinions of General Dannatt, who said that he had not spent 40 years in the Army to see this happen-in other words, he did not think that my freedoms were at all important-I could not do anything about getting rid of him.

Baroness Hayman: That is absolutely true.

Q48 Stephen Williams: What expertise did he have when he was speaking in that debate?

Baroness Hayman: Let’s take this back. Let’s come back to powers, shall we, because ultimately the votes of people in the House of Lords, whether on areas of their expertise or on general policy-In terms of practicalities, I do not like the idea of Houses of Parliament that have two-tier Members with some who can do one thing and some who can do the other. I think that is very messy and very difficult to administer. In principle, I do not like the idea.

Of course, you can have advisers, and I have to say to you that for some of the ministerial appointments that have been made because of a particular expertise it would have been better to appoint those people as tsars, or whatever you want to call them, than necessarily as parliamentarians. Equally, I would like to see short-term ministerial appointments when you did want Ministers in Parliament, so that they did not continue as an ongoing thing, but that is a bit of an aside.

Going back to power, ultimately, whatever any Member of the House of Lords, for or against an issue such as same-sex marriage, says, that is not where power resides. Power resides in this House and any vote in the House of Lords can be overturned within the legislative process. In those circumstances, having people allowed to express their personal opinions, and you may well have found people with as-How can I phrase this? On issues of conscience, a person’s background does not necessarily determine their viewpoint.

Chair: These are very important debates and issues. However, the Committee is trying to focus on small changes in the House of Lords that can command a consensus, so much as I am fascinated by this exchange, that is where I would like the Committee to be pointing.

Q49 Stephen Williams: It is relevant, Chairman, in the context of why people arrive there in the first place and what is expected of them once they arrive. I concede that a retired general quite clearly has something useful to contribute to Parliament on questions of national security, but we are legislators, which means we have a broad breadth of things to vote on.

Chair: Stephen, I think you have made your point very well indeed.

Baroness Hayman: An institution is the sum of its parts; it is not just the individuals. You cannot have your nice stem cell scientist or a retired general, who are fantastic on the technicalities-these people have been hugely successful in their careers overall and together they come to a corporate body that, you hope, represents a wide frame of opinions and expertise-and then start saying, "You can vote on this and you can vote on that."

Q50 Sheila Gilmore: I was wondering whether you felt it would be helpful at this stage, when you are doing some of these reforms, to have some clarity about the purpose and role of the House of Lords. One thing a lot of people felt uneasy about with some of the earlier debate on House of Lords reform was that that question was never asked. It got very involved in things such as whether they should be elected, how they should be elected and so on, but not the underlying question about purpose and remit.

Baroness Hayman: I always found that difficult in terms of the debate. Often, those who want an elected Chamber started from the premise that we do not want the second Chamber-the House of Lords-to do anything different from what it does now. We do not want it to have more powers over legislation or to be able to block the Commons.

There are honourable exceptions to that, but in the main-this is why I was talking about consensus earlier-they wanted a Chamber that was revising and brought expertise to the legislative process, that contributed to the holding of Government to account, that had the expertise for Select Committees and that provided a forum for debate with a wide range of contributions. I always think you can function better and there are ways in which we can improve our performance, but I think the function issue implicitly has been agreed.

There are those who believe you can keep the functions-and it was in the infamous clause 2 of the original Bill-exactly as they are but bring in legitimacy through election. In many ways, the whole debate revolved round whether that was true or whether, if you brought in the legitimacy (although not the accountability, in the scheme of election proposed) you could keep the House of Lords "knowing its place", as I describe it, in terms of power.

I do think that form follows function. I think the function is pretty well what we want it to be. I would like to see it doing it even better, but it is there. I would like to see us joining up better between the two Houses to create a better whole Parliament that did its job better. I don’t think there is a great angst over function. Even the Deputy Prime Minister used to preface his speeches with, "No one is saying that the House of Lords is not doing a useful or good job." I do not think there is a great move for a wholly different function.

There are people who think more radically about that. I know that there are colleagues who think that there is a lot of major, macro-constitutional change in the air and that our relationship with Europe and the relationships within the United Kingdom could change quite dramatically. There could be a time when we had a debate as the United Kingdom about how we want nations and regions to be represented, whether the whole parliamentary set-up should be changed and whether there was a role for a completely redefined House of Lords in that. I think we are a long way from that, frankly, but there are possibilities.

Chair: A couple more quick questions from colleagues. Andrew first.

Q51 Andrew Griffiths: Baroness Hayman, in your first statement, you alluded to nuances in relation to fixed terms. Could you give us a little more flesh on the bone with that, please?

Baroness Hayman: I think I would be anxious about a 15-year cut off in every case. We ought to have proper discussions about whether we should possibly have a slightly longer term or a 15-year term with the possibility of extension for 10 years in a fixed proportion of cases-25% or 30% of cases if you wanted-or just the possibility of renewal for another 15 years. I do think, and I go back to my very short experience in the House of Commons many years ago, that having people around who have done more than 15 years in an institution can be of value corporately to that institution.

Chair: I agree very strongly.

Baroness Hayman: All I am saying is that there are two issues here. One is the transitional issue, because we have to deal with getting from where we are now to the size of House that we want without throwing- I was going to say the babies out with the bathwater, but the great grandparents out with the bathwater. Equally, looking forward, if what you want out of the House is that breadth of experience and expertise-all the things I have been talking about-a simple 15-year term might not give it to you.

Q52 Andrew Griffiths: Do you envisage that decision to extend being taken by the Appointments Commission?

Baroness Hayman: I think I would be very careful here. I would not want it to be a Whips’ decision in the party groups-let me put it like that. There has to be some sort of mechanism of people applying for it and being supported by their party groups as a whole, and then a level of scrutiny by the Appointments Commission to see that they are people who are still contributing. I am not didactic about the exact mechanism for doing it.

Chair: Andrew, on the items in front of us?

Q53 Mr Turner: Well not quite, because they are not there, but that does not mean that I have not thought about them. Where do peers come from? That is to say do most of them come from within 100 miles of London now? Before, they used to be spread over the whole country, and indeed the Republic of Ireland. What is the current position, and would you say it is more local to London?

Baroness Hayman: I think it is really difficult. I am not sure whether I, or any of us, have the baseline for pre-1999, because people’s addresses were not necessarily kept, or anything else. I think there is a regional diversity. I set up a peers in schools programme, trying to get peers into schools all over the United Kingdom, talking about the House of Lords and Parliament. I got peers all over the United Kingdom going into their local schools, but there were undoubtedly areas of the country that were more difficult to cover than others. I think some analysis has been done of whether there is a south-east bias in the membership. I certainly think that a statutory appointments commission should have a remit to take into consideration geographical bases as well as other forms of diversity and representation. I would have that as one of the things they should look at.

Q54 Mrs Laing: Baroness Hayman, can I ask you-just to get it on the record-the absolute fundamental question? You have experience as a Member of Parliament and as a Member of the House of Lords. What is the basic difference between the House of Commons and the House of Lords? I appreciate, Mr Chairman, that this could take three hours.

Chair: I am sure it won’t.

Baroness Hayman: I had a friend who used to describe being a Member of the House of Commons as being anointed by the popular vote.

Q55 Stephen Williams: Can we come back to the difference-the gradation-between membership, attendance and participation? Would you care to put a number on each of those? We know what the membership is, I suppose, but there is obviously a difference in attendance and active participation between working peers and people who theoretically might turn up, get the £350 and go off and do something else.

Baroness Hayman: It is £300, £150 or nothing. There is a substantial tranche of people who claim no allowances at all. We have the numbers on attendance, although I do not have them in front of me. I think something like 50% of peers attend more than 50% of the time, but those figures are available.

On participation, is voting participation? Is that how you measure it, or do you measure it by questions and contributions? The Cross-Bench peers always come out badly if you take participation as voting, because they are more likely to abstain on issues on which they consider themselves not to have expertise or that they consider to be a party political argument on a particular point of sophistry, or whatever it is, but they may have been there and listened to the whole debate before deciding to take that view. Whereas there are party political Members who may not have listened to any of the debate, but who are coming in as whipped Members and consider that their duty. Then you have-this is one of the difficulties and joys of the place-the hugely distinguished people.

Perhaps I can cite Nick Stern, the environmental economist, who came into the House and, for a year, was hugely involved in global issues on climate change, but he was not there very often. You would have put him down as a bad attender, but he came, spoke and added his expertise in Committees and debates in a way that was invaluable to that bit of the Lords function-not revising legislation, but informing debate. That is why I talked earlier about the corporate whole being a mixture of those things.

I am no defender of people who never come, and I am no defender of inflating the size of the House and the cost to the public purse by having people who come in, often when they are very elderly and do not want to do so, but who will not leave because they think they are diminishing the strength of their party in the House if they do. That is one of the issues we have to deal with internally when we talk about retirements.

Q56 Stephen Williams: Do you think it would be a worthwhile incremental reform completely to do away with the daily attendance allowance of £300 and have salaried peers? Mr Flynn mentioned the geographical balance, but isn’t a disadvantage of the current system that, out of that £300, a peer from, say, Lancashire has to fund overnight accommodation in London, whereas it is basically pocket money for peers who live in London?

Baroness Hayman: They don’t have to fund their overnight accommodation, but I think "pocket money" is a bit of a demeaning term. The salary issue is very difficult in a part-time House.

Q57 Chair: And it is not addressed in your Bill, is it?

Baroness Hayman: No.

Q58 Stephen Williams: My question was whether it should be, given the scandals.

Baroness Hayman: The reason why we do not have overnight allowances any more-we have a flat-rate system-is because of the concern about people having two different residences, some of them out of London, in order to have geographical diversity. It is very difficult to get a perfect system.

Q59 Paul Flynn: Margaret Mackworth, who became Viscountess Rhondda, battled for 40 years to claim a right to sit in the House of Lords. The Bill passed in 1958, after being blocked by F. E. Smith in the ’20s. It was a fortnight after her death. I mention this because last Sunday we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the day she tried to blow up a post box in my constituency-not very successfully, because the post box is still there, now decorated with suffragette ribbons.

On the basis of the slowness of change, can you give us a ray of hope that there is real will in the House of Lords to reform, particularly in the area of lobbying? We have emerged from the great, screaming nightmare of the expenses scandal, and we seem to be plunged into a new area. There will be a great many negative comments about our system, which will apply to both Houses.

Chair: Paul, there has to be a question.

Paul Flynn: There is. Is there a ray of hope?

Baroness Hayman: Yes, I think there is a ray of hope, absolutely. We changed our rules some time ago, and we now have an independent Commissioner for Standards. You cannot say that no one will ever break a rule, but we now have a system for disciplining people who do. As I say, I would like my Bill to be extended so we have further sanctions beyond those that we have for people who have committed disciplinary offenses.

Chair: I am sorry to be a little terse with colleagues, but this is the debate that we all said we would not have. I would like to focus on the Bills that are before us and the possibility of our helping to achieve a consensus, however small. I know that Chris will help me in that.

Q60 Mr Chope: I will try. I am sorry, I had to go out to ask a question about wind farms. Can I ask you whether you would now wish to add to your Bill a provision that would prevent any more appointments to the House of Lords up until the next general election? Both you and Lord Steel seemed sympathetic to that proposition.

Baroness Hayman: No, I would not, because I think it would diminish the chances of getting the Bill through. That is the reason.

Q61 Mrs Laing: While the provision for allowing the replacement of an hereditary peer with another hereditary peer is still in place, do you consider that the system would be improved if the campaign that has been started to change the law of male primogeniture for the peerage, as it has been for the royal family, were brought in so that women could succeed their fathers?

Baroness Hayman: I am tempted to answer that by saying that I think that really would be small and insignificant, to use Mr Flynn’s phrase. I am in favour of it because I am a feminist and an egalitarian, but I do not think it would make a lot of difference. I am going to sound like the Deputy Prime Minister here, but I do not want to do anything to give any credibility to the system of by-elections because I think it is a nonsense.

Could I just add something, because I was not here right at the beginning when Mr Flynn talked about "small and insignificant"? These are small and limited measures. I do not think they are totally insignificant, because I believe that if we started to make some progress in this area, there are other areas in which Government could take the lead, the party leaders in the Lords could take the lead and the Lords follow on from this. You cannot have the argument both ways, which I think some opponents of Lord Steel’s Bill did, by saying, "These are miniscule and unimportant and they would make no difference, but we cannot have them because they would entrench the House of Lords as it is now and we would never get major reform." I think there is total logical inconsistency in that position.

Chair: Thank you very much for your evidence this morning.

Baroness Hayman: Just one last point, because I did not get the chance to speak about the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments on Tuesday. I am worried about inclusion in another Bill for two reasons. One is that we had it in CRAG and we lost it, and you are never sure of it. The other is that he said he would be prepared to consider incorporating this "in a wider Bill if the need arose during the coming period." The need has arisen since 1999, so I would like to get on with it.

Chair: Excellent. Helene, I think we would all say amen to that. We have probably demonstrated how difficult it is to keep the focus on small changes, because everyone has a view on the bigger changes. I thank my Committee members for their discipline this morning.

I think it is very clear, even from the exchange today with you and Lord Steel, that the tighter we keep the focus on this and the less extraneous matter and ability for debate there is around, the higher the chances of achieving a Bill that can find consensus in both Houses and that will pass, potentially, before the next general election, which I think is the direction of your remarks. Thank you so much for coming this morning, and thank you, colleagues, for your patience.

Prepared 16th October 2013