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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, perhaps I may respectfully ask him to examine Clause 2(3). As it is drafted, it looks as if it could be construed as limited to the hereditary Peer who is initially elected, not the one who replaces him. That is because of the words

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"throughout his life". There is a decision of the Privileges Committee in the Irish peerage case which is to the point on this type of construction. Would the noble and learned Lord examine that provision to ensure that there is no express or implied limitation of that kind?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I shall consider it in light of what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, says. My immediate reaction is that Clause 2(3) is intended to emphasise that once a Peer becomes an excepted Peer--excepted from Clause 1--he shall enjoy that peerage for life in the same way as a life Peer would, subject to an Act of Parliament providing to the contrary.

It also appears to me that anyone who prevails in a by-election becomes one of the 90 excepted Peers. So I doubt whether there is a problem, but I shall consider it.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord. He hoped that I would be satisfied with his proposal. I am. He hoped that I would be willing to withdraw the amendment. I am. I am grateful to him and thank him for his kind words. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

5.45 p.m.

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 25:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) There shall be an Appointments Commission ("the Commission") which shall make proposals to the Prime Minister for recommendations to Her Majesty for the conferment of life peerages in accordance with the Life Peerages Act 1958.
(2) The Commission shall be an advisory non-departmental public body and shall--
(a) be appointed in accordance with the rules of the Commissioner for Public Appointments and may seek his advice about best practice in attracting and assessing potential nominees;
(b) operate an open and transparent nominations system for peers not belonging to, or recommended by, any political party ("the Cross Bench peers");
(c) actively invite nominations by the general public and encourage nominations from professional associations, charities and other public bodies that it judges appropriate;
(d) publish criteria under which it will determine a candidate's suitability for nomination;
(e) reinforce the present function of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee in vetting the suitability of all nominations to life peerages by the political parties; and
(f) scrutinise all candidates for life peerages on the grounds of propriety in relation to political donations, as proposed in the 5th Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
(3) The Commission shall appoint its own Chairman.
(4) It shall, at least every 6 months, and at most every year, make proposals to the Prime Minister for nomination as Cross Bench peers, sufficient at least to fill any vacancies among Cross Bench peers that may occur through death, disqualification or a decision to join a political party represented in the House of Lords.

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(5) The Prime Minister may not refuse to submit to Her Majesty the names of those recommended as Cross Bench peers by the Commission, and shall not seek to influence such nominations, save in exceptional circumstances, such as those endangering the security of the realm.
(6) The Commission, in considering nominations as Cross Bench peers, shall not give any additional weight to recommendations from the Prime Minister or the Leaders of other political parties.
(7) Following the passing of this Act the Commission shall make a report annually to Parliament on the recommendations made to Her Majesty by the Prime Minister for the conferment of life peerages, in which it will declare if the following criteria are being observed, namely that--
(a) no one political party commands a majority in the House of Lords;
(b) the Government has broad parity of numbers with the main opposition party; and
(c) the proportion of the Cross Bench peers to the total number of life peers in the House remains as it was on the day before the passing of this Act.
(8) The Commission shall consist of eight members of the Privy Council, of whom four shall be appointed by a special Commission of the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords.
(9) One Commissioner shall be appointed from each of the three largest parties in the House of Commons on the nomination of the Leader of each such party, and one shall be appointed from the Cross Bench peers on the nomination of the Convenor of the Cross Bench Peers.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships engaged in considerable discussion about an appointments commission during the earlier stages of the Bill. In particular, the House will recall a number of powerful speeches made in support of both the composition and the terms of reference of the commission being on the face of the Bill. With the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, there has been widespread agreement that some kind of appointments commission is essential.

Since the Committee stage, I understand that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House met a group of Back-Benchers and reinforced her intention, already declared in Committee, to introduce the commission; but not a statutory commission. That remains a real point of difference between the Government and the Opposition.

I read carefully the extremely full remarks of the noble Baroness in Committee on 13th May 1999 (at col. 1368 of Hansard). There the noble Baroness set out in detail the Government's intentions with respect to both the composition and the functions of the commission. She referred repeatedly to the Government White Paper entitled Reforming the House of Lords.

The proposals in our amendment are closely based on the noble Baroness's words in Committee and on the White Paper proposals. They also follow discussions between the Opposition Front Bench and those Peers on the Conservative side who put forward their own amendments in Committee. I hope, therefore, that the amendment will carry my noble friends' support, at least in some degree.

The amendment provides for a new statutory body, outside any existing department, to advise the Prime Minister on appointments of Cross-Bench Peers. The

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Prime Minister would not be able to refuse to submit to Her Majesty names recommended by the commission, although, in exceptional circumstances, such as security, he might be able to add warnings.

The commission would be composed of eight Privy Counsellors. Four would be appointed by a troika of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chairman of Committees and the Prime Minister, ensuring the independence of those appointees but not unreasonably excluding the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister. Three further members of the commission would be appointed by the main party leaders and one by the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers. The commission would appoint its own chairman.

The commission would operate under certain criteria drawn directly from the Government's White Paper and the noble Baroness's speech. These include openly published criteria for appointment, transparency, active invitation, nomination from the public and professional bodies, and operation under the Nolan criteria.

The commission would also take on the role of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee in vetting nominations by political parties. It would consider specifically the issue of political donations. I take, as a purely random example, last weekend's list of those new Peers who are donors to political parties. I make no complaint about it because the same has been true in the past. Caesar, whatever the colour of his toga, would always want to be above suspicion.

The amendment does not seek to determine numbers as to proportionality, something to which the noble Baroness objected in earlier stages. Instead, it repeats the three criteria proclaimed by the Prime Minister: broad parity between the two political parties, no party to have a majority in your Lordships' House, and a safeguard for the proportion of Cross-Benchers in your Lordships' House.

My noble friend Lord Coleraine proposed an amendment to the amendment which would affix the proportion of Liberal Peers to the main opposition party. I can see the logic behind his thinking; but helpful though it might be to the Conservative Party, it would be wise not to resile from what I might describe in this case as the robust common sense of the Government's proposal.

My noble friends Lord Stanley of Alderley and Lord Caithness have tabled a characteristically thoughtful amendment which contains many provisions similar to the one tabled by the Opposition. I have to confess that I prefer ours; but I know my noble friend Lord Strathclyde will be listening carefully to what my noble friends say, particularly with regard to subsection (3)(d) of the amendment. If the Opposition are fortunate enough to win the support of your Lordships' House this afternoon for our amendment, I am sure we will consider any proposal that my noble friends might wish to bring forward at a later stage.

What can the case against the amendment possibly be? That it is statutory and that it is not necessary for it to be statutory? But in the new House the power of patronage will become far greater than in the existing House: first, because life Peers will come to constitute

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the overwhelming majority of your Lordships' House; secondly, because in a smaller House, each act of patronage will be proportionately more significant. The case for safeguards--statutory safeguards--on the use of patronage is stronger than ever, and certainly not weaker than it was before last weekend. So that cannot be the case for resisting this amendment.

Can a case be made out on the content of the proposals themselves? Surely not; for they are the Government's own proposals, have been the Government's own proposals for a long time, and were set out in detail by the noble Baroness during her speech in Committee.

Or can it be that noble Lords opposite want to limit discussion in another place? Much discussion would inevitably follow, I suggest, from an amendment in your Lordships' House. Surely, above all, another place should have the opportunity to discuss such an important matter which a non-statutory system would deny it. In short, I can see no reasonable case for rejecting the amendment.

Would it not be wise, as the noble Lord, Lord Shore, said in Committee, to leave the Government's motives in this matter completely beyond doubt? It would be a sad thing if the impression were allowed to grow that the Government did not want to have an appointments commission yet because they wanted to complete a programme of appointments first. I beg to move.

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