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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I believe that I am right. If no one agrees with me at all, that does not mean that I am wrong. Another view must be put. One cannot just pass this issue on the nod on Establishment support. Some other argument has to be put before the House.
No case has been made out for voluntary registration, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Wakeham in his evidence, or in the form proposed in paragraph 46 of the report, with ancillary implementing provisions for keeping the register and enforcement. I refer to paragraphs 48 to 59. That would assuredly change the nature of this place and the way it operates, in particular by using the Committee of Privileges as a disciplinary tribunal with complex and elaborate rules, but without any available sanction save (as stated in paragraph 57 of the report) the stigma of publicity. My Lords, watch it! Just imagine a false charge of misconduct. Imagine the impact of the publicity regarding this misconceived complaint on the noble Lord and on the dignity of your Lordships' House. The mind boggles.
I suggest that the proposal of the Procedure Committee in its Paper 98 that the recommendations of the sub-committee regarding registration be implemented without delay should not be accepted by your Lordships and that the matter should be remitted to the Procedure Committee for further consideration and report in the light of this debate. That would permit further debate in the next Session of Parliament and a free vote on implementing orders to which amendments could be tabled.
The recommendation of the Procedure Committee is wholly unusual because adoption of the recommendations on registration involve a fundamental change of principle as to the nature of the House and the way in which it operates. Furthermore, no reasons whatever are given as to why there is urgency to adopt the recommendation save that Paper 98 states that its adoption in whole or in part would cause no difficulty to the Nolan Committee.
Although the Procedure Committee welcomes the report of the sub-committee as a compromise, as indeed it is, which could be made to work, as indeed it could, the Nolan Committee may well conclude that the onus of justification as regards registration has not been discharged. The position of the distinction between the two Houses will be fully understood, and the Nolan Committee will take note of the absence of any evidence of interest misconduct in your Lordships' House, to which my noble friend Lady Young referred, and to the fact that, in the absence of available sanctions, in practice no further effective enforceable procedural safeguards may be afforded other than now obtainby speaking and acting on honour, and accepting the substance of recommendations as to declarations of interest.
It appears from the deliberations that the report was not unanimous. The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, moved to reject proposals which are now recommended. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, who wished to establish a comprehensive compulsory register along the lines of another place, moved to reject the proposals for the voluntary register. Those motions to reject were manifestations of the only available means by which any minority or dissenting opinion could be expressed.
The Cross-Bench Peers were consulted on three occasions. In evidence, they expressed no support for the register or for any departure from the practice of relying on honour. I mention that expressly in view of the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, stressed that he expressed his personal view. It is a view which any of us can express; I do the same. However, the Cross-Bench Peers, when consulted on three occasions, did not support these changes or see any need for them.
My noble friend the Leader of the House was of the same opinion. In his evidence he said that having made exhaustive inquiries he was satisfied that the practice of speaking on honour was generally observed and was wholly sufficient to meet the case. He did not believe that noble Lords were breaking the rules. As regards the register, he did not regard it as the necessary panacea.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: If my noble friend will forgive me, I feel that I should do so. It was stated that four Peers had received direct or indirect financial benefit for asking questions or for rendering other unspecified parliamentary services, assumed later, by answers 72 and 73, to be the lobbying of Ministers. There was also the assertion of belief, founded only on hearsay and suspicion of a client who is not prepared to identify the four Peers and whom the noble Lord was not prepared to name, that this type of behaviour was "widespread". That comes from answers 80 and 81. Reading the evidence of the noble Lord as a whole, in particular answers 70 to 76, neither suggestion of misconduct was substantiated. Your Lordships may well think that this unwise, unfortunate, unwarranted aspersion upon the integrity of this place should not only be disowned but relegated to oblivion.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, did he give notice to my noble friendwho is at the moment in Sub-Committee E of the European Communities Committeethat he was going to refer to him? I just ask that for information.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I state no. Why should I? It is a public report, I quoted from the paragraphs; I have stated them accurately. Why should I give notice? No. If I am found to be at fault, I will apologise, but I see that I have done no wrong at all.
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, my noble friends Lady Young and Lord Campbell both challenged the issue as to whether there was any evidence of abuses by Members of your Lordships' House. I support that challenge. I know of none. If there is no such evidence, then the justification for imposing a system of registration disappears. That is the issue which your Lordships' House is called upon to consider tonight.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, in what I hope he will allow me to say was an admirable and delightful speech, advocated that there should be an early introduction of registration in a modified and moderate form. I wish to say a word about that form in a moment. However, unless there is real evidence that there have been abuses, it seems a pity and somewhat damaging to the reputation of your Lordships' House that we should introduce a system of registration for which there is no apparent need. I hope, therefore, that in considering the matter your Lordships' House will take the view which I personally take that if there is no real evidence of abuse, then it is wrong and foolish to introduce a complex and complicated system of registration.
Before I continue on the aspect of registration, I wish to say how delighted I was with one passage in the report which stated that they (Peers) should not read out extended briefing material from outside. In this House
I return to the issue which to me personally is the most important: whether registration should be imposed, even in the modified way which the noble and learned Lord indicated. If there is to be registration, there will be real difficulty as to what is to be registered. It is all very well to suggest, "Oh, well, it will be on a voluntary basis. Any noble Lord who feels he ought to register or would like to register can do so, but there will be no absolute compulsion". However, that is building up an embarrassing situation for many noble Lords who will have to decide for themselves whether they should register any particular transactions with which they have been concerned. Why should we impose that difficulty upon them? I agree that it is better to have it on a voluntary basis than on a compulsory onethough how compulsion would be imposed is an interesting question on which I shall not waste time in speculating. The system whereby all noble Lords will have to ask themselves: "Should I register this action of mine?", is difficult, particularly as no clear guidance has been given or could be given as to what is the issue on which it is necessary to register.
I therefore firmly join my noble friends who have just spoken in saying that I hope that, for the time being at any rate and until there is evidence of abuse which requires it, registration of interests is not to be imposed nor, indeed, to be made possible. That is an important point and in due course your Lordships' House will have to judge it as the outcome of the debate.
It has been a most interesting and important debate. I must confess that it leaves me believing still that the rule that Members of your Lordships' House speak from their personal honour and not after registering their interests of one kind or another is real. The proposed registration, though modified, undermines the system which has existed for many years in this House that we accept that each of us speaks honourably from our own point of view and each of us honourably tries to tell the truth and put issues fairly. I merely add that registration does not seem to me to stand up. No evidence has so far been adduced to make it stand up and I hope that we shall reject it.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I believe that the House will agree that, as one might have expected, that was a notable and remarkable intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. He has given much pleasure and enlightenment to the House in the past. For my part, I shall follow my noble friend Lord Weatherill, both in the substance of what he said and, I hope, in brevity.
I was initially not convinced of the need for any change in the procedures of this House at all. I thought that the current arrangements were perfectly satisfactory, that noble Lords spoke and acted on their personal honour and that they always declared an interest, if they had one. That view is based on familiar arguments, many of which have been rehearsed today:
There is one small point upon which perhaps I may be enlightened at some stage in the evening. I detected in at least one speech and possibly two some doubt about whether the House had the power to suspend or remove its Members. I know of no possibility that that could happen and I hope that the matter will be made clear before the debate is over. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, among others, touched on the point and I felt that the problem with any form of registration is that it would make it less likely that noble Lords would be required to and moved to speak upon their personal honour. That would be a great shame. In making this point, I place great reliance on the evidence given to the sub-committee by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House.
It was suggested by several noble Lords; namely, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and more recently the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that the problem in this House is greatly exaggeratedif indeed the problem to which we refer ever really existed at all. I tend to endorse that view. However, it is very important to state that this view is not universally held. It is not the universal perception. I refer to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the programme to be shown on Channel Four tonight. Incidentally, if the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, told the researchers of this programme what he intended to say, I suggest that he need look no further for the reason why his interview was cancelled! The trails for the programme that we have seen give rise to considerable cause for concern. Many of us who watch the programme tonight will be interested to see whether it maintains the standards of accuracy and impartiality that we have come to expect from television journalists.
I read the sub-committee's report with great interest. I find it extremely persuasive. I find the arguments put forward regarding the perception that standards of conduct in public life have declined very persuasive indeed. Paragraph 43 of that report refers to sanctions that might need to be imposed on people who do not sign the register. I find slightly ironic the passage that states,
It seems somewhat odd that a noble Lord's personal code of honour is not enough to ensure his proper behaviour in this House, but is strong enough to persuade him to submit fully to the discipline of such a register should it be introduced. However, that is not a point of primordial importance. I suggest that if a sub-committee as distinguished and thoughtful as that presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, recommends a register, your Lordships might find it possible to accept the proposal, if not with enthusiasm then at least with equanimity.
I strongly endorse that view. Indeed, I go further. I hope that when we come to establish such a register, if indeed we do, it will not require financial details or the quantum of remuneration to be disclosed at all.
The Nolan Committee recommended that Members of the other place should be required to declare in the register their annual remuneration in respect of consultancy agreements. As we know, that has given rise to a great deal of controversy in and outside the other place. Paragraph 52 of the sub-committee report states that,
That aspect apart, it is clear that the recommendation of our own sub-committee is that noble Lords with consultancies should not seek to exercise parliamentary influence. Therefore, by extension, there is no need for disclosure similar to that required by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, for the other place. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, said in his extremely interesting contribution to this debate, it would discourage many people of experience and qualifications from giving this House the benefit of that experience.
That leads me finally to the fifth report of the Select Committee, which makes recommendations regarding the way in which we should now go forward. The report recommends that much can be done by standing order. It even includes what is presumably a provisional draft of what such a standing order might look like. We must examine that wording with very great care when the time comes to do so. I do not believe that the wording in the report at the moment quite meets the case.
However, as other noble Lords said, the House must be grateful to my noble and learned friend for his chairmanship of the committee, and grateful to the sub-committee as a whole for its careful and detailed examination of this problem and for its thoughtful and constructive conclusions. After all this, I still find it sad that we should need such a register in this House. Nevertheless, if that is what is required to satisfy public concerns about the integrity of Parliamentconcerns that are as important as that integrity itselfwe should be prepared with some reluctance to accept it, provided that in due course we examine the small print very carefully indeed.
Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, emphasised in his impressive speech that it is a longstanding custom of this House that noble Lords speak always on their personal honour. It is also a longstanding custom of this place that interests are declared where appropriate. It may then be asked: why do we need a register? What is the matter with the status quo? I am bound to admit that I have some sympathy with that argument.
As already mentioned, there is also the character of this House to consider. We are part-time and unpaid. Some noble Lords attend regularly; others attend occasionally when they have special knowledge of the subject being debated. As we all know, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in this House on virtually every subject under the sun. As the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, stated, in that respect this House is more representative these days than another place. I say that with no disrespect to the other place, in which I had the privilege of serving for 28 years. The fact remains that that is essential to our character and it is one of our great strengths. That could be said to be another argument for maintaining the status quo.
On the other hand, there are powerful arguments the other way. They all come under the general heading of, "Politics is the art of the possible". We live in the age of Nolan, if the noble and learned Lord will allow me to express it in that way. There is some concern about a decline in standards in public life. It is nothing like as great as is often suggested in the media and other sources, which take a perverse delight in knocking British institutions, always focusing on the bad and neglecting the good things in Britain. Nonetheless, there is a problem and we should be unwise to ignore it. It is far better to nip it in the bud.
Then there is the very impressive and weighty report of the noble and learned Lord's recommendations. It is to be noted that on the noble and learned Lord's committee there is a wealth of knowledge and experience from members who have served for many years in both Houses of Parliament. I do not believe that we can brush on one side a report of that kind. Then there is the Select Committee on Procedure which recommends that the report should be adopted. Here again, we have a large and very representative committee.
But what perhaps has impressed me most in this debate is the strong consensus that is emerging. My noble friend the Leader of the House commended the report to your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, as Leader of the Opposition, agreed. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, as leader of his party, agreed. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, admittedly speaking for himself but as the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, agreed. It seems to me of great importance that when we are dealing with matters concerning the constitution or procedure, we should, if possible, proceed by consensus. That consensus appears to be present, though, of course, one or two noble Lords, such as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, have their reservations. I believe that those are powerful reasons in favour of adopting the Griffiths Report.
I have one detailed criticism which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter a moment ago. I am doubtful about a voluntary register of wider interests. I should prefer the register to be restricted to parliamentary interests. If there is a combination of compulsory and voluntary elements there is a danger of misunderstanding and confusion as well as of unfair criticism. Let us take the example of Lord A, who declares all his interests, both parliamentary and otherwise; and Lord B, who declares just his
Therefore I should prefer to see the register restricted to parliamentary interests. It would then be the same for all. But I certainly do not want to spoil the consensus that is emerging. Unless there is strong agreement within the House on that point, I would not propose to pursue it.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, when I first took my seat in your Lordships' House nearly 20 years ago, it was a different place and operated in a different climate of public opinion from that which we find today. I shall speak more about that in a moment. Then, as now, the House was made up of men and women who among them were able to produce knowledgeable contributions based on the experience of what my noble friend Lord Dean has just called "every subject under the sun". That was widely valued both by the government of the day, the country at large and abroad. For example, the reports of the Select Committee on the EEC were eagerly awaited not only here but in Brussels and the capitals of member states as an invaluable contribution to the debate on any particular subject.
Over the years two things have changed. One is the introduction of a larger proportion of life peers, who have been a widely acknowledged asset to the House, and on many occasions have filled in the gaps in our expertise. "Working peers" is a term that had virtually no currency then. I believe that it has meant too that we have become a much more political House and that has tempered the cold logic on which we mainly used to base our counsels. The other change is the prurienceI can think of no other wordof the media. How often does one pick up a newspaper today to read an article and discover that Mr. or Mrs. X is doing something or other? Invariably somewhere in the article X's age is stated, whether or not his or her age is germane to the subject of that article. I detect the same thing happening more and more with regard to X's earnings. Both those matters are defended by the media as the public's right to know, that being determined of course by the media, which more and more seek to set public opinion.
It is against that background that I shall consider the report of the sub-committee chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths. How far do we believe that the public's right to know extends? I believe that the committee headed by the noble and learned Lord has the answer as right as it could do. We have always believed in that much quoted phrase "a peer speaks always on his personal honour". The fact that peers now act always on their personal honour is I believe an added benefit.
It follows that any pecuniary interests should be declared when they are pertinent. When they may be pertinent is left to the individual peer. It is possible, either through oversight or inattention to detail, to transgress that simple rule.
I am not the only sinner in the Chamber. Only last week I kicked myself for not declaring an interest on the occasion of the Third Reading of the Gas Bill, having earlier used what some may call a belt and braces approach by having declared my interest at every earlier stage of the passage of the Billeven though I had been told in Committee that, so far as the main Opposition spokesman was concerned, he felt that once per Bill was sufficient. On previous occasions when I have transgressed in the Chamber I have been taken aside by a noble Lord and told very firmly what I had done wrong and not to do it again. In other words, what my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal calls the accumulated wisdom of the House came into play. I am sure that many noble Lords will have had that experience. It did not happen last week, my Lords. One rather wonders why.
That incident illustrates very well the problem of the interpretation of standing orders. I believe that one way to improve the situation would indeed be to have a register of interests, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, has promoted. Like the report, I should like the interests declared to be those which are both paid and unpaid. I very much take the point that unpaid interests are extremely difficult to define.
In my research for this debate I looked up the unpublished report of the 1974 Procedure Committee on the subject of registration of interests. In it I came to a memorandum by the then Clerk Assistant which well illustrates the problem. It says:
However, I had some difficulty when I came to paragraph 38 of the report, around which much of the debate has centred this afternoon. There have been enough quotes from it already and I shall not trouble the patience of the House by reading it again. Unlike another place, noble Lords are not paid as Members of this House; we must earn our living elsewhere.
I can see that if a noble Lord is the director or employee of a multi-client lobbying company, it would be inappropriate for him to speak on behalf of one of his clients because it would be impractical, if not impossible, for him to declare his interest in the register. Clients of the lobbying company no doubt come and go and it would be impossible to keep the register properly up to date.
Where a single company or charity is involved, there is no reason why the Peer in question, having first declared his interest, should not speak from the knowledge gained in his employment. These days that employment may be occasioned in part by previous experiences in your Lordships' House. Having said that, I still believe that it should not apply to lobbying. I am sure that general comments should be permitted though I am certainly not in favour of tabling amendments or instigating debates, with the possible exception of probing amendments which are a valuable instrument of your Lordships' procedures. How that can be excised from the general run of my suggestions, I do not know.
I began by referring to the valued expertise of this House. That expertise is provided by individual Peers who have gained it through their employment, their hobbies or their other interests. I do not believe that we should do anything to prevent that expertise, however it is accumulated, being made available to the House. That really would be throwing out the baby with the bath water.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, said that he had been a Member of this House for 20 years. I am conscious that in contrast I have just over one year's service in this place and it is therefore with some sense of trepidation that I approach this subject at all, conscious as I am of the greater experience of all those around me on both sides of the Chamber.
Having declared an interest, I should also make a confession. I was asked to take part in an interview for a television programme to be shown this evening. It was arranged many weeks ago and I had to think hard about its substance. I took part in the interview. I am nervous now, in view of what has been said about it, as to whether or not my recollection is accurate. As far as I can remember I made three points. The first was the one contained in the Griffiths Report; that is, that Members of this House should not accept any financial inducement for exercising their parliamentary influence. My second point was that I supported the introduction of a register; and my third point was that, as far as I am aware, there is no evidence of any abuses such as have been alleged.
Some time ago, not long after I took up my place in this House, I was walking along the street outside my home when I was approached by somebody who said, "You have done alright for yourself". I asked what was meant and the individual, who I think was unknown to me, said, "You are on the make just like everybody else". We had a brief discussion about the nature of the unpaid service in this House and the size of the daily allowance for attending here. However, he was not convinced and went off muttering that I was "on the make".
It is partly for that reason, but also for wider reasons, that I support the proposals in the Griffiths Report. In one or two instances I should like them to go a little further, but believe that they would represent an enormous aid to us in improving the public perception of what we do and how we conduct ourselves. It is not that the proposals would help us to understand each other; that is unnecessary. They would enable the wider public to have a better perception of what we are about and what interests we have. I hope that we shall be able to move quickly towards accepting the proposals. I am aware that we may have to look at them again when the Nolan Report comes along and also when the Commons finally decides what its reaction is to be.
Both Houses need similarly high standards. It may not be of benefit for one House to be significantly different from the other in its approach. Provided that we bear in mind the different characters of the two Houses, we should not find ourselves with a Trojan horse in one House or the other which would undermine the standards of either. Having said that, if we can take the lead and set high standards quickly, that may be salutary for the other place.
"Lobbyists" have been described in terms such that it has become a dirty word. I am not here to defend lobbyists. I have criticised them on many occasions. They are not all bad, though some of them do not behave as they should. The Griffiths ReportI have some difficulty in this regardclearly identifies lobbyists, consultants and so forth. But I am not totally clear whether there is a distinction between a lobbyist
I turn to the question of the register. The register I should most like to see is a register of lobbyists and a code of conduct for lobbyists. If such an innovation occurred, it would improve the image of those lobbying firms which try to behave in a reputable manner and therefore isolate those which do not behave in that way. If there was a code of conduct to which they had to adhere as a condition of obtaining access to the Palace of Westminster, that would not be a bad thing.
The case for a register should depend primarily on the declaration of financial interests. I appreciate the force of the argument about other interests, but for the same reason as that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, I find it difficult to see how one can put the whole range of non-financial interests into a register. I should therefore prefer the register to be confined to financial interests.
There are good arguments as to why there should be a register. As we all know, it is impossible to declare an interest when one is voting; it is difficult to declare an interest when one is asking a parliamentary Question. Those two reasons alonethough there are othersprovide a case for introducing a register. The other reasons would include the fact that abuses in the other place have come to lightI believe they are well documentedand the public believe that those abuses cover all of us in this building, even those of us in your Lordships' House. A register would help us to reduce some of the criticism that we receive from outside.
In any case I am not clear in my own mind what is the difference in principle between declaring an interest when making a speech here and registering that interest in a document which can be published annually, as in another place. Those are very similar activities. One of them is clearer and one of them is more susceptible to examination and can make up for a failure to declare an interest when one is making a speech. However, the principle is the same. Therefore, the suggestion in the Griffiths Report that there should be a register does not represent any new principle. It simply accepts present behaviour and says, "Let's put it down on paper so that the wider public can have a look at it". I appreciate that it is not all that easy for the public to get hold of the Register of Members' Interests in the other place. It is even harder for us to expect the public to peruse Hansard in the detail necessary to pin down our interests. That is why I would support a register.
I am not totally happy about the voluntary nature of part of the register. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, referred to an engineer. If someone is an engineer and is making a living out of being an engineer by working for an engineering firm there is nothing wrong with that individual declaring an interest in that he derives a substantial income from being an engineer. I see no problem in that. Therefore, I should like the register to be a little wider. I do not see why being an
I am not saying that the register we would have would be identical to that in another place, but some of the difficulties of keeping a register seem to be more theoretical than real. In practice it is not very difficult to keep a register. The register in another place records foreign visits when they are paid for by foreign governments. That is not a bad thing. I believe that there were six headings in the old register in another place.
Having made a few suggestions about how I would like some minor changes, I very much welcome the work that the noble and learned Lord and his committee have put into this report. It takes us a lot further and I hope that the House will quickly support and implement the proposals.
Lord Mottistone: My Lords, having heard what my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale had to say about the quote he gave us, it seems to me that whenever I make a speech about the Navy I should declare the fact that I have a naval pension.
I entered the House nearly 30 years ago because my brother died somewhat earlier than expected. It happened to coincide with my leaving the Navy and I had to get a job. As some of your Lordships will know, the younger sons of Peers never have any money, particularly if they go into the Navy for the first part of their lives. I have always had to earn my living. Roughly speaking, for the first eight years in your Lordships' Housethat was up to about 1975I was doing what I call my apprenticeship. That is the great strength of the hereditary peerage, although that is not the subject of this debate. That enabled one to size up whether one would be able to make a decent contribution.
One can make a decent contribution only if one has a job which gives one knowledge which is of use to the House from time to time when certain subjects are debated. And so I changed my job to come down to London. My previous job had been in Manchester and one could not serve this House from Manchester. Having worked for a company and having also seen how trade associations worked, I realised that it was much better to work for a trade association because it would be more general in its coverage, one's knowledge would be greater and the subject matter which related to the business of this House was much more likely to come up in that way. I deliberately chose that course in order to provide this House with some useful contribution by myself. Noble Lords may ask, "Why on earth did you do that?". I did it because my noble father was a distinguished parliamentarian in both Houses. He had two elder sons who, for very good reasons which need not worry us now, did not make their way to this House. I thought that he would like it if I carried on his tradition. I suspect that that applies to several of my noble colleagues.
I mention that and I mentioned the other point because when we tackle the problem of declaring interests and saying what we do we all do it for two reasons; first, because the rules say that if one is paid for something one has to declare it, which makes a lot of sense. I do not think anyone deliberately avoids that, although sometimes, as some noble Lords have mentioned, it comes up during the course of proceedings on a Bill. However, one does not mention it every time there is a new amendment. Secondly, we do so because it is terribly important for the House to know where noble Lords have obtained their knowledge from.
I was on the central executive committee of the NSPCC when the Children Bill was going through the House. I was not paid, but that is not the point. However, I would always mention the NSPCC because people would then know that I knew a little more about various factors in the Children Bill than I would have done if I were talking just because I had brought up a family of four and had 14 grandchildren. It was much more relevant to have been on the central executive committee of the NSPCC. That needs to be thought of in the context of what we are talking about.
When I was working for my trade association, which looked after the manufacturers of biscuits and cakes, I discovered to my surprise that there was not a proper focused voice in the House for the CBI. I thought that the captains of industry would fill that gap but they did not. The captains of industry are usually too busy. When they are not too busy they are not inclined to take part in the nitty gritty of going through amendments during the various stages of a Bill. It is not their way of life. I deliberately offered my services to the CBI in order to help it. As most noble Lords will know, for most of the 1980s I did just that. After I had been doing it for about three years representatives of the CBI said, "We think we should pay you. You are being terribly helpful". That was kind of them. After a little thought I said, "Well, why not?", particularly as I was about to retire from my full-time job. It helped to have the extra cash. So I made an extra point of saying that I was declaring an interest. Before the payments were made, I had always said that I was advised by the CBI because that gave credibility to what I was contributing to the particular activity. I believe that is a sensible way to do things.
Having observed and listened to your Lordships and to your Lordships' predecessors over the past 30 years or so, I would say that everyone else does much the same thing. I could not find an easy example where people did not declare an interest when it was the proper thing to do. What one does may be well known; for instance, there is no point in saying that one is chairman of Vickers because everyone will know that. That kind of thing is taken care of in any event.
I shall not continue my own history. I ask noble Lords to forgive me for doing so but it gives point to what we are talking about. I applaud the proposals of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, because he has tried to steer the right course. I suspect that it will be wise for us in, say, three or four years to take out the Griffiths Report and dust it down to see whether it can be improved because, in the nature of things, matters do not turn out as expected. Look at all the legislation that never worked out as expected by the people who planned it. Basically, I am in favour of the report. I very rarely agree with noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench but I do agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard. He said that he thought that the report was not revolutionary. I do not believe that it is. It is a natural development of what most of us have been doing in any event. We may not have written down that we are closely connected with the NSPCC, or whatever, but we have told the House about that in order for it to know what we are talking about.
The only matter which I believe will be disadvantageous is this. I have had, happily, a long life in your Lordships' House and I have been able to grow up with the system. I am very happy to adjust myself to whatever happens and that will not be a problem. However, I fear that a young Peer coming to this House in his late forties, as I did, might attend for the apprenticeship phase and say, "Yes, that would be a nice thing to do. I shall adjust my life in order to be able to do it", which, in effect, is what I did. I do not believe that such a young Peer would be so enthusiastic if he had all kinds of pressures on him created by the Griffiths requirements and the way in which they had developed. Perhaps he would not be so enthusiastic because of the appalling effects on the freedom of assemblies such as your Lordships' House, which are continually being impressed on your Lordships by the media people who have been mentioned. They are doing so much harm to this country. We must find a way of dealing with the media people. In the meantime, let us have the Griffiths Report.
Lord Henderson of Brompton: My Lords, some years ago a Motion was moved in your Lordships' House that speeches should be shorter. But shorter than what? The noble Lord did not say. He said that they should be shorter, and the House agreed. I can be much shorter than I would otherwise have been because, quite clearly, the debate so far has revealed a remarkable consensus to which I subscribe and which I hope will continue until the end of the debate. I offer my unstinted praise, as others have done, to all concerned for having
Apart from saying that, I wish to say only one thing of substance. I slightly differ from those who have spoken before where the emphasis has been on the freedom of each House to be different from the other. That is so, and of course we can be different from each other; but we tend to forget how similar we are, and we do so at our peril.
For example, we sit roughly the same hours, the same days, the same months of the year and so on. We have, by the rule of comity, conventions by which we do not, for instance, quote directly from a speech in the other place unless it has been made by a Minister. There are also the important rules on sub judice and the mentioning of proceedings before a court, which is not allowed in both Houses. We wish to speak as similarly as possible on that subject, and endeavours to that end have recently been made in this House. There are other similarities which are too banal to mention. Let us by all means have differences which reflect our composition and so on, but do not let us wish to be wilfully different.
It is in that context that I so much welcome the recommendations which, so far, seem to have been entirely successful in their reception in this House today. They are not too different from those which are, or are in the process of being made, in another place. It would have been unacceptable to the general public, and very difficult for people to understand, if the other place had a register and we had not. The registers are going to be different, and quite rightly so. They will reflect the differences between the two Houses. In my view, there would have been an unacceptable divergence of practice if one House were to have a register and the other House were not to do so.
Finally, I wish to make a small correction to the evidence which was given to the sub-committee. I refer to that given by the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, on behalf of the Cross-Benchers. I say this with her permission. She correctly reported my view that the introduction of a register of interests is,
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I too should like to welcome the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, and also that of the Select Committee. It could hardly be a worse time to deal with this issue because standards in public life are under remorseless attack; some of it altruistic and some much less altruistic, in fact, I would say, distinctly anarchic. I am glad to see
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