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The Committee has received the Report of the Sub-Committee appointed "to consider the practice of the House in relation to financial and other interests of members, and in particular the case for a register of interests, and to make recommendations". The Committee expresses its gratitude to the Sub-Committee, and its Chairman, Lord Griffiths, for undertaking this enquiry. The Committee will meet again after the summer recess to give further consideration to the recommendations made in the Report. The Committee hopes that time may be found for a debate on the Report as early as possible thereafter.
In the meantime, the Committee would like members of the House and others to have the opportunity to study the Report, which is accordingly printed as an Annex to this Report.
Lord Griffiths: My Lords, perhaps I may commence my short introduction of the sub-committee's report by expressing the thanks of the sub-committee to all those noble Lordssome 50 of themwho gave us the benefit of their advice in writing. I must also thank those who responded to our request to come and assist the committee with oral evidence. We are most grateful to all of them for all the help that we received in what we found to be not an easy task.
The committee commenced its deliberations, with the assistance of an excellent paper produced by the Clerk of the Parliaments, by reviewing the past practice of the House which eventually led to the present guidance on declaration of interests which was last revised in 1990. It then proceeded to receive oral evidence. At the end of the reception of the oral evidence, the first report of the Nolan Committee was published on 11th May. We naturally paid the closest attention to its contents and particularly its recommendations for the other place. But we were conscious that the composition, the traditions and the practices of this House are different to those of the other place. We therefore approached our task not by seeking to transpose the Nolan recommendations (with slight amendments) to this House, but to consider what was best for this House.
The last major review of practice in relation to Members' interests was carried out by a sub-committee of the Procedure Committee over 20 years ago, in 1974. That was in response to the decision of the other place
That has apparently been interpreted as meaning, "Whereas you may not accept a specific feesay £1,000to speak on a specific occasion in favour of a specific measure, it is permissible to receive a general retainer". That means merely this: that it is perfectly all right to speak seven times for £14,000, but not once for £2,000. I cannot believe that that was the intention sought by the introduction of the word "specific". Indeed, I had the matter looked up and the earlier advice had been thought by some to inhibit those who were professionally qualified from speaking on behalf of members of their profession. That is why it was amended by introducing the word "specific". How it was thought that that had been achieved is not for me to say; but that is the history behind the matter.
We then considered the present position and in the past 20 years there have been three developments that were never faced by those who considered the revision in 1974. First, there has been a greatly increased public interest and awareness of the behaviour of those in public life; secondly, there has been a great growth in the parliamentary lobbying industry; and, thirdly, there has been the emergence of the profession of parliamentary consultant.
The Nolan Committee, by an analysis of the register of the other place, found that around 30 per cent. of the Members of that House were paid parliamentary consultants. As we have no register, we had no means of knowing with any certainty how many Members of this House hold such consultancies. I doubt that it is anything like as much as 30 per cent. of Members; I
Building on past traditions of the House, of which I have already spoken, the majority of us concluded that the guidance on declaration of interest should now be founded on two fundamental principles:
There is nothing wrong in a Member of this House accepting an appointment as a parliamentary adviser to a company or an institution. The Member may be able to give wise and valuable advice on the workings of this House and how best to approach matters if Parliament is considering something of particular interest to that organisation. But if the Member accepts such a position, he should not play any parliamentary part in furthering the interests of the organisation. If he does, he will be perceived by the public outside as selling his voice and, worse still, selling his vote. Of course he may not be doing that; he may be speaking from conviction. But the price is too high to permit it to be paid.
The sub-committee therefore recommends extending the guidance to make it clear that those who accept parliamentary advisory posts"parliamentary consultancy" is the term of art that has now emergedshould not speak, vote, lobby or in any other way use their parliamentary position to further the interests of their client. That we have spelt out in the guidance.
At this point I wish to make it as clear as I possibly can that this inhibition applies to a very narrow group of persons. As has already been said, it is of the essence of the value of this House that we draw on the experience of the Members. Some noble Lords have said to me, "But I have a consultancy. I am an engineer. I advise a large engineering conglomeration. Does this mean that when a matter comes up in Parliament that affects its interests I cannot speak because I have a consultancy?" Of course not. That is not the type of consultancy one is speaking about. That is not a consultancy one enjoys because of one's membership of this House. It is a consultancy one enjoys because of one's expertise and skill as an engineer. Of course one must place one's knowledge and expertise at the disposal of the House. But naturally one will declare one's interest before doing so. That has been the practice of this House from time immemorial and we have no intention of changing that at all. We are just aiming at this narrow group.
We also feel that this should extend to those who have interests in parliamentary lobbying companies. They too, if they hold such a position, should not take part in parliamentary affairs on behalf of a client. That is the effect of the extension we recommend in the wording of the guidance.
Perhaps I may now turn to the question of the register. In so far as those who hold parliamentary consultancies or analogous arrangements or are members of lobbying companies, our recommendation is that there should be
Finally, there is the question of discipline. As noble Lords will know, the Nolan Report recommended that an ombudsman be appointed to oversee affairs in the other place. We did not think that there was any necessity for this House to adopt an ombudsman. We believe that the matter can be perfectly satisfactorily investigated and dealt with by the Committee for Privileges andperhaps I am not the best person to say thiswe thought that there was a real advantage to this House in having Law Lords available to sit upon any such committee. They are, after all, judicially trained and they are not the most active of parliamentarians, as noble Lords will have judged from this performance. We did not think that there was any necessity for having an ombudsman and we felt that the matter could be perfectly satisfactorily dealt with by a sub-committee of the Committee for Privileges. If there was a complaint that a Lord had failed to declare an interest or failed to register when he should have done, it would go to the sub-committee which would investigate it; first of all in private to see if a prima facie case could be made out, as a lot of damage could be done by purely mischievous allegations. If, however, the committee was satisfied that there was a prima facie case, the matter would be investigated in public and the noble Lord would have the opportunity of defending himself or of being professionally defended if he so chose. We thought that that would be the most satisfactory way of handling procedures. Of course one cannot expel a Lord if he is found to be in breach but we were satisfied that the shame of any such public finding would be a more than adequate sanction. We are hopeful that such a procedure will never be necessary.
I conclude by expressing my own personal and deep thanks to the Clerk of the sub-committee, Mr. David Beamish, who gave so much help throughout our procedures and in drafting the report. Lastly, as always, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, who came to my rescue and corrected my grammar. In one of the first recommendations about the register that I, not David Beamish, had drafted:
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, implied that he was not a very frequent parliamentary performer. If he will forgive the undoubted impertinence, I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that, on the basis of his exposition to us this afternoon, that is a very great pity. If that is the only way we can bring him into regular contact with the Chamber, I hope that we will be able to find him some more investigations to pursue on our behalf.
This afternoon's debate is on a subject of very great interest and importance to the House. The recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, if implemented, as the Lord Chairman said, would represent a very substantial departure from our custom and as such would be bound to affect the ethos and atmosphere of this place. For that reason alone it is right that we should examine these proposals with care and due deliberation. However, we cannot help but be aware of the climate in which the noble and learned Lord's report has been published. In that climate it is clear that Members of both Houses of Parliament will increasingly be expected to demonstrate to the public at large that they are not abusing their positions. It is therefore equally important that our judgment this afternoon should reflect the second consideration at least as much as the first.
So I do believe that we are all the more fortunate that the noble and learned Lord undertook the difficult and delicate job of chairing the sub-committee. I can think of no one whose experience and clarity of mind better suited him to the task and I hope, as a result, that our own deliberations this afternoon will reflect his clarity and judgment. I am sure that your Lordships will agree with the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees that the House is greatly in the noble and learned Lord's debt and also, of course, in the debt of the other members of the sub-committee. I should also like to express my appreciation of the way in which the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees has conducted the Procedure Committee's deliberations and the helpful way he has introduced the debate this afternoon.
Any noble Lords who have taken the trouble to read my evidence to the sub-committee will perhaps have observed that all my instincts in the matter of declaration of interests are conservative with a small "c". It has always seemed to me that in matters of this kind the simplest rules are the most practical and that to expect noble Lords to declare an interest before
However, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, in the present climate, this is no longer a sustainable option. We need to be able to find a system that inspires confidence in the public but which at the same time preserves, as far as possible, the ethos and effectiveness of this place. I would suggest to your Lordships that it would be difficult to find a better solution than the one the sub-committee recommend, particularly in the central matter of a register of interests.
The recommendations which the sub-committee has made, and which the Procedure Committee has endorsed, I believe take as full account as is possible of the nature and circumstances of your Lordships' House. The sub-committee recognised the significance of the fact that noble Lords do not receive a salary and will therefore have other sources of income. It also acknowledged how desirable it was that the House should not be deprived of the benefit of the wealth of experience of many walks of life which noble Lords bring to our proceedings. In the words of the sub-committee,
With these points in mind, the sub-committee, I believe, wisely reserved its most stringent recommendation for what, if your Lordships will forgive me, I characterise as "taxis plying for hire". The sub-committee said, quite unequivocally, that,
I do believe that that must be right. After all, if it was right in 1974, it is no less right today. It would surely be against all the interests of this House for any noble Lord to sell both his voice and vote. The sub-committee therefore recommends that Peers should registerthis appears in paragraph 60 of the report
Of course, a register of this type of interest will be effective only if noble Lords comply with the requirement. The sub-committee observe that it is doubtful whether the House has the power to suspend or expel its Members; so there can be no question of
Those recommendations of the sub-committee, which the noble and learned Lord has outlined to us so far, as I understand it, are intended to allay public suspicion that any Member of this House should deliberately exploit his position in Parliament for private gain by offering his services for hire. I am persuaded that they can be made to be effective in that objective and I do hope that in due course your Lordships will agree to adopt them.
In respect of other interests, such as outside employment or directorships not arising from membership of the House, the sub-committee, as the noble and learned Lord told us, acknowledged that hard and fast restrictions would be inappropriate. I believe that what he set out today is a clarification of present practice, which your Lordships should greatly welcome, as I welcome the proposal that noble Lords should beI believe that this is from paragraph 60
As I say, these recommendations seem to me to strike a balance between, on the one hand, ensuring that the House, and indeed the public, will be aware of any interest relevant to their assessment of a noble Lord's words or actions and, on the other hand, not needlessly deterring noble Lords from giving the House the benefit of their experience.
I have already referred to the difficulties of definition. The noble and learned Lord's sub-committee acknowledged them and it judged that it would be virtually impossible to define the circumstances in which noble Lords should feel inhibited by wider interests from speaking or voting, and that this in the first instance should be left to the conscience of the individual. I believe that in principle this must be right. The details of interpretation and implementation of all these new proposals will be delicate. However, I do not believe that your Lordships will feel that this is entirely a weakness. So much of the practice of your Lordships' House is determined by self-regulation, by precedent and by accumulated wisdom. The learned Clerks are available to advise, and I believe that, over time, our practice will evolve and develop. Moreover, I have no doubt that in due course we may find it appropriate to take stock of what the effect of these proposals may have been if your Lordships feel able to implement them.
As I have previously said, I feel a personal sympathy with those of your Lordshipsand I know that they are not to be found only on the Benches behind mewho consider that the changes we are debating today are unnecessary and will sadly alter the character of your Lordships' House. But to those noble Lords who are of that mind I would say this: the noble and learned Lord's sub-committee was charged with seeking a solution to a problem which, albeit in my view one, above all, of
Of course, in due time it may be that the Committee on Standards in Public Life will wish to consider the arrangements which prevail in your Lordships' House, and it will be, as I made clear when I repeated a Statement in your Lordships' House at the time of the announcement of the committee of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, quite within its remit for it to do so. But I for one am, as I hope your Lordships know, a believer in the sovereignty and independence of Parliament and of this House in particular. If we can ourselves formulate and adopt safeguards which will satisfy the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, and his colleagues, then I for one would feel so much the better. Indeed, if I may say so without too much risk of impertinence, the difficulties which have been experienced in another place in attempting to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life go a long way towards persuading me that we should persist in seeking our own way forward if we can.
I hope that the sense of today's debate will deliver a clear message on this difficult question. There will be many members of the public watching for our reaction today. If the message is one of approval of the sub-committee's report, it will enable us to proceed to introduce appropriate resolutions very soon. The timing would depend on further consultation in all parts of the House, through the usual channels and with the Convenor of the Cross-Benches. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will agree to proceed along the lines which the noble and learned Lord proposes in the light of the expressions of opinion to which we shall listen with great interest this afternoon.
Lord Richard: My Lords, let me say at the outset that I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have already spoken, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, the Chairman of Committees. I am grateful also to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, who set out the substance of his report's recommendations with a clarity which did not seem to brook a great deal of argument once he had sat down. I am also grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for outlining the Government's response to those proposals.
This is an important issue. Certain new procedures may be introduced and it is therefore right that the House should be treating the matter as seriously as it clearly is today. We on this side of the House welcome the report and the recommendations. It has tackled some delicate and serious issues in a considered manner and will, I hope, lead to a useful and informed debate in the House today. We accept the report and recommendations as a package. That is not to say that everybody on this side of the House agrees with all of the recommendations; nor is it to say that there are not matters which we would wish to have included in the report but which do not appear there. However, it would not be a productive use of your Lordships' time if I were to argue about that which is not in the report but which should be. It is much more important that I should make our attitude absolutely clear in respect of the recommendations which do appear in the report and, as far as they are concerned, we accept them.
There are three issues that we have to consider in this afternoon's debate. The first is the question: was there a need for such a report on the House of Lords? On this side of the House we are agreed that there was a need to look at the issue of Members' interests and we are pleased that noble Lords now have the opportunity to consider and debate the reports. However, I do not think that we should exaggerate the scope of the problem in this House; nor do I think that we should minimise it. The public perception of politicians, particularly it must be said in another place, now seems to be at an all- time low. Without introducing any party dissent into the debate, I do not think that that perception will be enhanced if the House of Commons accepts the recommendations of the Conservative majority on the Select Committee and rejects one of the main proposals of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan.
I do not believe that there are many offenders against the existing rules in your Lordships' House. By and large, noble Lords can be trusted to behave as they should, but that is not really the point. The fact that most behave underlines the need to try to deal with the minority who do not. The way to preserve the good apples in the barrel is to deal with the rotten ones; not to pretend that they are all perfectly ripe and ready for eating. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, told us, the last time that this question was looked at in detail was in 1974 when the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Procedure of the House stated:
At that time, that was generally accepted as sufficient guidance. Since then, however, there have been substantial changes in public opinion. There has been intense and critical media observation and an enormous growth in lobbying companies. All of those factors have led to the need to look at the guidelines afresh. There have been a number of undesirable incidents, with the
This House is a vital and active legislative body. Accepting the differences between the two Housesand there are differencesI think that the public have a right to expect similar standards of objectivity and transparency here to those in another place. It is because of that that I was reassured when this House decided to appoint the sub-committee in December 1994,
However, it is important to emphasise that the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, is not made in response to the setting up of the Nolan Committee, but was our own attempt in this House to renew public confidence in the legislators here and to consider how we manage our affairs with respect to parliamentary standards as a whole. On that point, I was pleased to read the Nolan Committee's statement:
With respect, I think that that is precisely what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, and his colleagues tried to do, and they succeeded. The report was confined to an investigation of what may be appropriate for this House and no other. We are not the same as the other place and it is right that the differences are recognised at the outset. Therefore, on the first point I conclude that an investigation was, indeed, necessary.
Secondly, against the background that a report was necessary, we must ask whether the proposals which have emerged are sensible for this House. The annex to the report is a useful outline of how the recommendations will be implemented. Perhaps I may spend a moment detailing what the report says. It calls for the institution of a register whereby:
In respect of that part of the report, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, used the word "mandatory" this afternoon. If it is not exactly compulsoryvery little is compulsory in your Lordships' Houseit would nevertheless place noble Lords under a duty to register and non-registration would be a serious matter and one for the Committee of Privileges. Given the self-regulatory nature of this House, I read that recommendation as virtually imposing an obligation to register on those who fall within the description set out in the report.
I am not sure that the report looks closely enough at those who are employed as directors of companies who may be able to participate in matters that affect the interest of those companies. The report says again that,
We on this side of the House would have preferred it if this aspect of the report had been tightened up but, in the interests of good governmentif I may put it that waywe accept the report as a package and would support it.
We would like to see a greater obligation to register or disclose non-pecuniary but relevant interests, to try to avoid confusion. I would underline the advice of the report that noble Lords should make a declaration whenever they are in doubt. I am sure that that is sensible and right.
I emphasise that, although we have some reservations on this side of the House about the strength of the recommendations of the reportparticularly so far as the register is concernedwe welcome it, as a package, and are grateful for the guidance it has given. The report has gone a long wayalthough not all the waytowards meeting public concern about greater transparency by its legislators. I am grateful for all the work that has gone into producing these important proposals, and I am sure that we will all, in due course,
Those two points seem to me to be almost unarguable; they go to the heart of the report itself. If the House accepts those as principles that we are in favour of, and principles that we should be trying to uphold, then what follows from that are the specific recommendations set out in the report.
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, we all are, and certainly should be, grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, and his committee for having moved so expeditiously in this matter and produced a report which is in all respects sensible and in most respects clear. I would like to place on record that I found the committee a most courteous and perceptive body before which to appear.
The first question is whether we can match the expedition of the committee by proceeding to adopt its recommendationson the run, as it were, following directly from this debateand have them in place, more or less, for the beginning of the new Session. The advantages of this course are, first, that it would put us ahead of the game, leaving the other House, as it appears, somewhat floundering behind us. Secondly, it would mean that we had firmly occupied a defensive bit of centre ground so that when the Nolan Committee comes to pronounce on matters relating to your Lordships' House in May or June it may well be, but obviously not certainly, disposed to endorse what we have done. Thirdly, I know that there are noble Lords who regard this as rather nasty medicine to swallow and, on the whole, nasty medicine is best swallowed fast. I am therefore inclined to this course provided that it carries broad agreement across the House. If there is widespread dissent, we shall have to take it a little more slowly. In any event, we must be prepared to deal with the second Nolan Report in six or seven months' time.
It was disclosed that 30 per cent. of Back Bench Members of the House of Commons held parliamentary consultancies of one sort or another; in other words they were paid to exercise parliamentary influence on behalf of some outside interest. I found that a revelation, and not a very reassuring one. I do not know what the percentage is in your Lordships' House. I hope and believe that it is substantially lower, but it certainly exists. So there is a problem here, one which affects, in varying degrees, both Houses of Parliament.
The existence of the problem can only be denied by those who are prepared to say that there is nothing discreditable in Peers or Members standing up in Parliament and making a speech, asking a Question or moving an amendment, not because it is in accordance with their interest or conviction, not because it affects their constituents, if they have constituents, but because they are paid to do it. That denigrates Parliament at a time when the last thing that Parliament can afford is further denigration.
Therefore, there is indisputably a problem, which cannot be met by a complacent refusal to change. Nor can it be met by just talking defiantly about honour. For my taste, there was rather too much talk of honour in some of the evidence to the Griffiths Committee. Honour is important, but it should be like consciencea still, small voice. If it is talked about too much it becomes at once pretentious and suspect. I think Emerson got it unforgettably right with his spoons. I do not think that noble Lords need the quotation.
So we need something more than a severation of honour. It is easier to diagnose the problem than to solve it in a way that does not run us up against other undesirable consequences. The major danger I see is that of the further professionalisation of politics. We have moved a long way towards making politics a tight little occupation with a career structure almost as rigid as that in a building society or a high street bank. You begin as a research assistant and work your way from a bad seat to a good seat; a parliamentary private secretaryship; a period in the Whips' office; a parliamentary secretaryship; a minister of stateship; and a little further, if you are lucky. But all the time you are terrified of falling off the ladder. In the course of that progress you will have acquired few skills other than that of manipulating the political process, and very little width of knowledge. That is a large part of the reason for the startling figure of 30 per cent. of Back-Benchers holding lobbying consultancies.
The products of the new system feel an entitlement to a standard of living higher than a parliamentary salary provides or, to be frank, is ever likely to provide, but they have precious little to sell except their knowledge of the processes of Parliament. Those developments have not been conducive to the production of statesmen
The Griffiths Committee has done its best to steer a difficult course between the Scylla of restoring public confidence after a few nasty shocks and the Charybdis of making this House a place from which people with wide interests will be tempted to seek leave of absence. That is why I support the broad thrust of the committee's recommendations and think it best to implement them quickly.
I turn to the important question of whether there are relevant differences and, if so, to what extent between this House and the other place. One obvious similarity is that we are both components of Parliament with certain responsibilities for legislation and for public policy. However, set against that, there are at least two significant differences. The first is that we are not merely in practice but in theory and in concept an amateur Chamber.
I believe strongly, as my previous remarks must have indicated, that MPs should be allowed to engage in reputable outside activities. Indeed, in some ways the more outside the better, for it is the inside onesusing the parliamentary positionwhich have caused the trouble. Although I believe that, I can conceive that some people, mistakenly but not irrationally, might take a different view about the other place. They might be attracted by a full-time Chamber. Mind you, it would need to be much smaller and there would still be disadvantages. But they could be hoping that some future government and Parliamentagain, I think, mistakenlymight be tempted to go for that.
That is just not remotely possible for your Lordships' House as at present constitutedand, let me add, quite independently of what is or is not done about hereditary peerages. You cannot have an unpaid House, which is a full-time House, unless you elevate inherited wealth into an absolute qualification for membership, which would seem rather contrary to a move to make an inherited peerage an absolute disqualification. In addition to that, and beyond that point, you have also many life Peersoften but not always Cross-Bench Peerswho have been sent here specifically because of the nationally valuable outside jobs they do, and the occasionaloften very occasionalshafts of wisdom and experience they bring to your Lordships' debates. You cannot sensibly describe the raison d'être of their peerages. We should therefore be careful of making these very occasional attendants fill in forms in such detail that it will take them more time to fill in the forms than they habitually spend in the House in the course of a year.
I have no objection to a man who has spent his lifetime in an industry speaking from the point of view of that industry, even if he has a financial interest in it. What I object to is someone without such a background, without such a commitment, being a hired advocate either here or in the other place. The profession of well-paid advocate is of course an honourable one, and
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I intervene briefly. Sadly, I have not known a time when the reputation of Parliament has been at a lower ebb. That has serious implications for democracy. It is far easier to lose freedoms than it is to regain them, and the greatest threat to freedom is, and always has been, apathy, and, more seriously, apathy fuelled by cynicism.
When I speak to audiences outside your Lordships' Housespecifically in schoolsI always remind them of the words of Plato, which I hope I may be permitted to repeat this afternoon, and I had better make it politically correct for your Lordships House:
In that connection, and as a former Speaker, I hope that I may be permitted to say that much of the present cynicism of politicians in the other place is misplaced. There is no country in the world where constituents are more personally represented than they are by Members of Parliament, or by a more dedicated group of men and women.
The days are long past when Members of Parliament paid an annual visit to their constituency. I took the trouble this morning to go to the postmaster and check with him the volume of post into this place. When I first entered the House in 1964, I had a third share in a secretary. She sacked me after two years when she became too busy. In those days we had 7,000 letters a day in and out. The postmaster this morning told me that today there are 40,000 letters in to both Houses and 20,000 letters go out of this place. It is very expensive to write to Members of Parliament and even to Members of your Lordships' House, and it is also expensive for us to reply.
I do not detect the same cynicism about this House by the public. In fact my suspicionI may be biasedis that we are held in high esteem. That may be because we are not paid, we come to Parliament for motives of service; and, secondly, because your Lordships are in close touch with the world outside. That is specifically true of Cross-Bench Peers who are here only because of their outside interests. So we are able, and we do, speak from personal experience, and are therefore perceived by members of the public to be more in touch with the real world than the professional politicians in the other place. They have become increasingly professional and I have indicated the volume of their work.
I regret the need for a register of interests but, given the publicity of the very few cases of unacceptable behaviour and given the fact of Nolan, I believe that it is now not only essential but that it is also a protection for us. What would be unacceptablethough this was not recommended by the committee of the noble and learned Lordwould be figures. I hope that that will never be suggested by the noble and learned Lord's committee, but, if it were, it would deter many distinguished and valuable future Members of this House who might find that to be an unacceptable barrier to coming to join us. Therefore, this House and the whole country would be deprived of their expertise and of their knowledge.
I cannot speak for the Cross-Benches because, as your Lordships well know, we are all individuals. But I wholly subscribe to what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House said and what the Leaders of the other parties said. I would go as far as to urge the House to accept the report without substantial amendment or, at any rate, amendments of substance. I believe that it strikes a fair balance and that it will be perceived by members of the public outside to be right and fair. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and other speakers have said, I believe that that might cause the Nolan Committee when it comes to consider this House to say, "This is fair enough". Above all, I hope that it will not become a subject of controversy as Nolan has become in another place and that we shall have the report in place and in our Standing Orders early in the new Session of Parliament.
Baroness Young: My Lords, I, too, would like to start by thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, for introducing his report to us this afternoon. Perhaps I may tell himand we know from my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor that judges like to be praised from time to timethat I thought it was an extraordinarily clear and well-argued report which set out the case very well indeed. I should like to begin by saying that I very much hope that your Lordships will accept the recommendations as they have been presented. I should also say that I see from all the arguments that have already been adduced by my noble friend the Leader of the House and by the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lords Jenkins, that they should be implemented as soon as it is reasonably possible to do so. We should have the opportunity of seeing them in place before there can be any question of a further inquiry from the committee under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan.
I would not in any way wish to go over the detailed comments which have already been made, except perhaps to add this gloss. One of the reasons that I agree so much with the reportalthough I recognise that it
Perhaps I may just say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that I do not agree with his unhappiness regarding the use of the word "honour". In my experience today, it is a word which has almost gone out of use. If many people were asked to define it, I strongly suspect that they would find it quite difficult to do so. I believe that it is a most useful word to have at the beginning. It stands for a very high principle. It is one I am sure that Members from all parts of your Lordships' House will recognise.
The second principle which I also believe to be most helpful is the one of self-regulation. That is one of the great strengths of your Lordships' House. I believe that the recommendation that a Member of this House accused of malpractice should be investigated by a sub-committee of the Committee for Privilegesand I agree with its compositionis a means of self-regulation which the House will recognise as being the right way to go forward. It follows on all our procedures. Once we were to get away from the principle of self-regulation, I think that we would weaken what goes on in the House.
I am also very pleased that the committee in its report did not find any evidence of malpractice in your Lordships' House. One of the most distasteful aspects of what lies behind the setting up of this committee and that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, especially with regard to your Lordships' House, has been the fact that a number of unsubstantiated allegations have been made. In my book, I am afraid that unsubstantiated allegations fall into the same category as anonymous letters. I believe that it is most dangerous. If someone has reason to believe that another person has acted improperly, then he or she should say so; otherwise, the remarks should be withdrawn.
All of that is very damaging to your Lordships' House. I am gladand I believe that I heard him correctlythat the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, said that he did not believe that there was widespread evidence of it at all and, further, that he believed, as certainly I do, that there are very few Members of your Lordships' House who are involved in lobbying as described in his report. It is most important to keep a sense of proportion and balance over all such matters.
As it is topical at the moment, perhaps I may say that I have great concern about the Channel 4 television programme which I believe is to be broadcast this evening. I am bound to say that I was astonished this morning when I inquired whether it was possible to see it. I was told that my noble friend the Chief Whip had tried to do so but that he was told:
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