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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I shall be delighted to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and indeed to the new amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, sought to range much more broadly than the amendment before us and to revive the discussions held at every stage of the Bill about the position of the appointments commission. In regard to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I would say simply that I would be very happy to debate those with him in the new House when it becomes relevant--as it will--to the transition.
The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, was kind enough to say in his opening remarks that of course he did not dispute the intentions of the Government (as they depended on the Labour Party's manifesto in the 1997 election; the Government's ability to carry them out being enshrined therein) to take these steps on the automatic right of hereditary Peers to sit in this House. However, the second sentence of that particular commitment stated that this would be a stand-alone reform, not dependent on future reform. I think he would therefore agree--I know that the noble Lord has studied the matter very carefully--that that is consistent with the position we have taken.
This is the third time that the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, has invited the Government to address the specific point in his amendment. On Report, he introduced an amendment which he said at the time formed part of a wider proposal on the appointments commission. He raised it for the second time at Third Reading when he tabled a less prescriptive form of requirement that the appointments commission should report on whether the criteria he was suggesting had been met. In this variation the noble Lord has suggested that the Prime Minister should ensure that at least half the Members of this House have experience outside Parliament. The noble Lord will know, because he has been a most attentive participant in our debates on this subject, that throughout the proceedings the Government have said that they intend, for example, that the Cross-Bench element in your Lordships' House, which to a great extent represents a different point of view and a different form of experience, should continue to be substantially represented. He will know that that is our general intention. However, on the specific way of achieving that, the amendment before us suggests that more rather than less authority and power to intervene in the nominations of other parties should be given to the Prime Minister. I am sure that that is not the intention of the noble Lord.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way and I apologise for interrupting her. If I correctly understood her remarks, there was no indication given in the way the noble Baroness addressed the question of the
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, that is a commitment I am certainly prepared to give. I had feared that the noble Viscount was going to suggest that it should be done in the next week, which might have been a little premature. That would suggest that we were able to take on board the detailed work that has genuinely been suspended because of the inaccurate amendment included in the Bill when it went to another place.
I shall return to the points made in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, insisting that the Prime Minister should ensure that the criteria the noble Lord wishes to see should be introduced on a statutory basis so as to obtain such a cross-section of interests in this House. In those circumstances, the Prime Minister's hand might be more constrained than it is at the moment. He would not necessarily be able, for example, to forward recommendations from other party leaders to the Queen because his suggested criteria might already have been fulfilled and the balance of interests sought by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, might already have been achieved. Indeed, the easiest way for the Prime Minister to ensure that the criteria were met would be to take the whole responsibility for nominations into his own hands.
We also return to the slightly subjective point which we discussed on the noble Lord's previous amendments about how these people would be determined in terms of their external interests. The noble Lord earlier dismissed our concern about that point by saying that he could tell within a few minutes of meeting someone whether or not he or she knew anything about agriculture. With all due respect to the noble Lord's expertise in that industry, I think that those subjective criteria, on the basis perhaps of XI know one when I see one", would not be sufficient to enshrine this proposal in legislation.
We have discussed very widely and deeply on many previous occasions the extent of the appointments commission. The amendment requires the Prime Minister to exercise a subjective judgment about the overall balance and composition of the House of Lords which I would suggest is inappropriate for an amendment. We have given the commitments, which the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, seeks to challenge yet again, about the Government's overall ambitions as regards maintaining the wide interests which the
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness a question. I noticed that the one time she had a smile on her face was when my noble friend Lord Strathclyde suggested that we did not support the amendment. If there were to be, as I understand that there may be, some additional life Peers created in the New Year's Honours List in January--it is now November--would those be as a result of appointment by the Prime Minister or the appointments commission?
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that my peerage dates from Walpole, Pitt and now Mr Blair, for which I thank him very much indeed? We elected Peers, an experience which the noble Baroness has not undergone--
Lord Carter: My Lords, we should remind ourselves that the rules on the consideration of Commons amendments are the same as for Report and Third Reading. The only noble Lord who should speak after the Minister is the mover of the amendment unless there are short questions of fact.
Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I do not intend to delay the House and I do not intend to press this Motion. I do not intend either to answer many of the noble Baroness's questions, particularly those about the appointments commission, because we have done it all before.
I wish to make two points. One is in reply to my noble friend Lord Elton and indeed to the noble Baroness. I would like to have gone much, much further. I liked the Xsunrise" or Xsunset" amendment of my noble friend Lord Tebbit, but I do think that this is the wrong time to do that. All that I felt was proper at this time was a fairly minor amendment, which I hope your Lordships will accept it is.
As far as concerns the remarks of my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Baroness, I am sure that it would be very hard indeed to make into Lobby fodder the type of Peers that I am suggesting should be appointed. They will have better things to do than that and they will have strong views on their subject.
Some noble Lords will have said that we are wasting your Lordships' time. I totally disagree. I was anxious that the final words on the demise of your Lordships' House should not be a history lesson of what good or indeed evil your Lordships have done since Magna Carta but on the future of your Lordships' House. This Motion draws your Lordships and, it is to be