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A noble Lord: The same as the Liberal Party.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: No one denies that. I make no particular defence of Lloyd George and no defence of various other persons who at the time happened to be in the Conservative Party. I would like to think that this debate would rise a little above that kind of remark. But I make it quite clear that I do not believe that at the time I would have defended Lloyd George. I have no intention of trying to defend his role in history. I have no intention of trying to defend either, a matter pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, the appointment of people to this House because of the size of the contribution they make to a particular political party, whatever that political party may be. All of us live in glasshouses on this point. We had better address the real issues.
Having said that, I return to the issue of "following consultation". We well understand the Government's stand on the issue of hereditary Peers. No one could argue that further consultation would make any particular sense in that respect. My concern is on the issue raised by the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord Moynihan, and others; that is to say, the issue of the composition of the House.
The Wakeham Commission, which need not be the last word, useful though it was, put forward three models which involved various numbers by various methods of an elective element in a reformed House of Lords. The issue of which, if any, model is the appropriate way to go should be the subject of "following consultation"; that little word "consultation". I am strengthened in that thought by looking back at recommendation No. 22 of the White Paper, which states that,
I turn from that to ask the much wider question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in a speech which I wish I had made myself. I thought it was a brilliant speech. In a House which still has very strong party loyalties, I find it embarrassing to have to say that my admiration for that speech is virtually unbounded.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: I simply said what I must say. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, can put up with the praise I am giving him. Who knows, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, will get a note from me saying how good his speech was. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will do the same.
Perhaps I may say why I believe that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was so good. I have not said it on every occasion that he has spoken. The reason I think that it was so important and why it bridges party loyalties is that the noble Lord pointed out, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, that we are today looking at a very serious moment for democracy. I am not simply making the point, which is crucial to make, that at the recent election 60 per cent of the electorate bothered to vote. Let us not say that it was the lowest figure since 1918, which was the last year of a major war. It was the lowest figure since universal franchise was introduced, because young women could not vote in 1918. This is the lowest figure ever in history since universal franchise. That is extremely disturbing.
Even more disturbing for all of us is that the MORI and Gallup polls figures clearly indicate that the proportion of young people who felt unwilling or resolutely decided that they would not vote was three
Why was that the case? I shall give some of the reasons. First, the Houses of Parliament are no longer regarded with particular respect by most of our fellow citizens--least of all by the young ones. The culture of adversarial yah boo politics is now deeply unpopular and is turning more and more people off democratic politics. Secondly, the range of recruitment is more and more narrow. The people coming into the House of Commons from all parties look more and more like one another. They have similar backgrounds, occupations, incomes and education. Although I am a graduate of Oxford University, I am not sure how pleased I am that around 30 per cent of all MPs come from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Thirdly, we have a media which is now driven by the pursuit of circulation and ratings almost to the exclusion of everything else. More and more newspapers have either completely stopped reporting Parliament or report it only in the minimal possible way. What they are interested in is scandal and revelation. What they are not interested in is the deliberative work of Parliament--scrutinising, legislating and communicating. That goes to the back of the burner.
Finally, we suffer greatly from the levels of individual donations that come to different parties, in the way--I can speak on this matter with some authority--that I have in several years of teaching politics at Harvard seen the gradual slippage of the United States from democracy towards plutocracy, with senators spending up to 80 per cent of their time raising funds to enable them to fight their next campaign. I find it deeply troubling that in this country we are seeing money speaking more and more loudly in politics, which is not good for any of us.
What we need is not just the minimum reform of the House of Lords. We need a major look at the whole of Parliament, Commons and Lords together. We need to look at that openly and to invite people to come in and be part of that whole examination. It is the other place as much as this place that passionately and desperately now needs reform.
One of the sadnesses of this debate--it is an important debate--is that we have heard from only one Back-Bench speaker on the Government side. I know many of those on the other side of the House. I was extremely interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, had to say. There are some excellent minds on the other side of the House. There are some excellent sources of ideas. It is a real tragedy that we
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, at the beginning of this excellent debate, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor took us on a rather nostalgic tour of the main legislative features of the previous government. His tone was--dare I say it?--one of engaging triumphalism. He trespassed, however, very little on the Government's future intentions. Perhaps that will be the task of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams, when I sit down. I should add, incidentally, how delighted I am at his appointment.
In the course of his speech, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made two observations which I can hardly let slip by without some comment. He referred to the devolution reforms--their target being the philosophy of "England first". I was rather surprised to hear that expression. Before the passage of the Scotland Act the scope for every Member of Parliament--whether a Member of your Lordships' House or of another place--ranged over all the affairs of the United Kingdom. That was not true after the passage of the Scotland Act.
The noble and learned Lord rather suggested that it was Scotland that was discriminated against before the passage of the Act. But, in truth, what has happened is that an illusion of a democratic deficit in Scotland before the Act has been replaced by the reality of a democratic deficit in England after the passage of the Act. Whereas Scottish Members of the United Kingdom Parliament still have a say in what happens in England, English Members have no say in most of what happens in Scotland. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will reflect again on his doctrine of "England first", at least in the context of the constitution of the United Kingdom.
The noble and learned Lord then referred to the importance he attaches to human rights, to the rule of law and to our fundamental freedoms under the law. As he was speaking, I asked myself whether he had glanced at the legislative programme intended for our country by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
What do we see? We see the abolition of the principle of double jeopardy--an abolition which we understand will become retrospective--a principle that has been around in our country for a mere 800 years. We see the Government reaffirming their intention to remove the right of trial by jury for a whole range of offences. We see the Government's stated intention, in some circumstances, to allow previous convictions of the criminal accused to be put in front of the jury before it reaches its verdict. We also
Does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor seriously think that any of those measures conforms with the principles of which he said he was so proud? Of course they cannot. I call on the Government to think very hard before introducing or re-introducing measures in the course of the first Session of the new Parliament which will impose these limitations on the liberties of the citizen.
The noble and learned Lord said nothing about another important constitutional issue, the single currency, to which my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch referred. Whatever your Lordships' views about the merits or otherwise of the single currency, there is little doubt that its introduction would have significant constitutional implications. We understand from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night that it is likely to be two years before the Government decide whether or not to go ahead with a referendum. That would take us to the summer of 2003.
If the Government then conclude that it is right to go ahead with a referendum, your Lordships' House and another place will have to consider a paving Bill for the referendum legislation. Is the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House in a position to tell us anything about that paving Bill? What form is it likely to take? For example, what kind of options are likely to be included? Is your Lordships' House to be given an opportunity to consider what question will be put to the country? Can the noble and learned Lord tell us anything about the timetable?
Perhaps I may speculate and say that the earliest the Bill could be introduced would be in November 2003. Since there is no guillotine in your Lordships' House--I trust the Government have no intention of introducing one--we might reasonably assume that the Bill will take some months to pass through. I suppose, therefore, that your Lordships are considering a referendum that would be held, at the earliest, during the summer of 2004. I wonder whether that would give the Government enough time to recover, politically, in the event of a "No" response?
In the light of that analysis--with which the noble and learned Lord may quarrel, but I put it to him as plausible--is it realistic to think that we shall hold a referendum at all during the lifetime of this Government?
I should like to share the enthusiasm expressed by the right reverend Prelate for regional assemblies; but I for one am very relieved that nothing of that kind has been included in the gracious Speech. Adding another layer of government in England would make the situation to which the noble Baroness referred even worse than it is already. It would be far better to strengthen local government, whose representatives are much closer to the people, at its grass roots than to introduce an intermediate layer between the county councils, with their great historical traditions, and our national institutions.
As always, I listened with great care to my noble friend Lord Wakeham. His speech, although short, was full of interest and acute reflection. In his report, my noble friend set out three options for the future of your Lordships' House. Over the months or perhaps years that lie ahead, I hope that, before taking a final decision, noble Lords will consider two other options: first, no change at all; and, secondly, a completely elected House--perhaps established along the lines suggested by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern in his excellent report drafted some years ago. For those noble Lords who have been unfortunate enough not to have had the benefit of reading it, my noble and learned friend suggests a completely elected House whose Members would have one term lasting for 15 years.
I am going to disappoint your Lordships by not opting for one out of those five proposals. Instead, I simply suggest to noble Lords how I think the ultimate choice might be approached. My noble friend Lord Wakeham was quite right to point out, as were other noble Lords who repeated the same view, that composition should follow powers. Thus, depending on the powers that your Lordships' House will exercise, so one of the five choices in the portfolio of options will have to be chosen.
But the question of the powers of your Lordships' House depends in turn on the question of the powers of another place. I submit that it is not possible for noble Lords to reach a conclusion about powers, and therefore a conclusion about composition, until another place has considered what it is going to do to rein back the powers of the executive.
My noble friend Lord Renton pointed out, in his characteristically incisive contribution to the debate, the change of character that has taken place in another place over the past 30 years--in particular in relation to the substitution of full-time for part-time politicians--and the adverse effect that that has had on the ability of that House to stand up to the executive.
The fact is that it is no longer possible to have a respectable career in another place as a parliamentarian. One's worth as a Member of another place depends exclusively on how far up the executive ladder one has climbed. That is a very unsatisfactory situation.
A number of noble Lords have mentioned a report published two or three days ago by the Hansard Society. I submit--I say this with great humility--that what another place should be aiming for is to make it just as attractive for a young person entering that Chamber to become a Member of those committees which control the executive as it is to become a member of the executive itself. How would that be achieved? I think that it could be achieved in two ways. First, members of the Select Committees must be granted the same privileges as members of the government. They must be paid as much; if they are sufficiently senior, they must be sworn of the Privy Council; they must be given motor cars of the
I understand that the right honourable Robin Cook MP is somewhat disappointed that he is no longer the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have learnt that from the newspapers. I have no idea whether it is right. In The Times today, Mr Matthew Parris graphically depicts Mr Cook as someone who found it difficult to remain awake during the speech made by his right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I hope that, very soon, the right honourable gentleman, Mr Cook, will become aware of what an exciting and challenging task he has in front of him. There is no more important task than that which today confronts the Leader of the House of Commons; namely, to change the balance of power between the executive and those Members of the House who control the executive.
If Mr Cook succeeds totally and successfully in introducing a programme of executive control, then the increase in power that will be required by your Lordships' House will be modest. I could then see the force in maintaining the status quo. However, if Mr Cook fails, then it is my view that nothing less than a wholly elected House will do. If he succeeds partially, we ought to aim for somewhere between those two options.
However, I have a reservation as regards arriving at a point in between the two options, which is partly reflected in what was said by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. If we have both elected and appointed Members in your Lordships' House, there is a danger that, politically, we shall end up with first and second class citizens. Noble Lords will have to consider that matter carefully before moving to a decision which would allow for elected and appointed Members to inhabit the same Chamber.
Your Lordships also have to be confident that the elections will be taken seriously by the electorate. Nothing could be more damaging to the future of the reformed House of Lords than to have a turnout of 30 or 35 per cent--that would be a very damning debut for your Lordships; yet it is difficult to see how the electorate will be prepared to go out and vote for those of your Lordships who will become elected members unless it is convinced that something can be achieved by that election.
That, in turn, brings us back to power. So, although composition should depend upon power, power influences the enthusiasm of the electorate. I cannot pretend for one moment to have an easy solution to that problem. That is why the consultations that the Government undertake will be so important.
I hope that the consultations will be real consultations and not simply a charade. Knowing how honourable and honest is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, I am confident that the consultations will be true consultations. For our part, we on the Opposition Benches will be thoroughly co-operative.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, it was a pleasure to hear the right reverend Prelates today and to see them both still in their places. They and I are soul brothers because we have listened to so many repentant sinners today that they must feel quite at home.
I take it--coming from the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland-- that a wholly elected House is official Conservative Party policy? I thought not. Shall we have two for the price of one? Is it or is it not now Conservative Party policy that there is to be a referendum on the euro?
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