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Hybrid Instruments: Select Committee

Personal Bills: Select Committee

Standing Orders (Private Bills): Select Committee

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.


Hybrid Instruments Committee--That a Select Committee be appointed to consider hybrid instruments and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

L. Campbell of Alloway, E. Courtown, V. Craigavon, L. King of West Bromwich, L. Luke, B. Thomas of Walliswood, B. Wilkins.

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Personal Bills Committee--That a Select Committee be appointed to consider Personal Bills and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

L. Faulkner of Worcester, B. Knight of Collingtree, L. Sandberg, L. Templeman, L. Wilberforce.

Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee--That a Select Committee on the Standing Orders relating to Private Bills be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

L. Brett, L. Brougham and Vaux, B. Gould of Potternewton, L. Greaves, E. Liverpool, L. Luke, E. Sandwich.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Code of Conduct

3.23 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the Code of Conduct for Members of this House.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Williams of Mostyn: I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

This approach had been thought to be the most convenient procedure for your Lordships' House. It allows us to have a more flexible debate than if there had been a speakers' list in the usual way. Perhaps it would be helpful if I indicated the intended procedure and order of discussion. The intention is that we take the Motion and each amendment in their natural place. I shall move my Motion and speak to it; then the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, will move his amendment and make his speech; then we will have a general debate in which all who wish to intervene may take part, including, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, who has tabled his own separate amendment.

This is of course a matter for the House and we on this side approach it on the basis that it will be a free vote. My advice is and will remain that if noble Lords want it, we should agree to the amendment standing in my name not simply because it is in my name but,

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significantly, because it is, among other reasons, the majority recommendation of the group to which I shall refer in a moment.

Baroness Blatch: The noble and learned Lord tabled a Motion, not an amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Baroness is as always quite right. I moved a Motion, and the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, moved an amendment.

I shall place this subject in an historical context, although, unusually, the relevant developments occurred quite recently. In November 2000, the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which is usually called the Neill committee after its distinguished chairman, published its report on standards of conduct in the House of Lords.

In January this year, my noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington asked me to chair a small group on implementation. The group was assisted substantially by the staff of this House. I am sure that all those who served on that committee are extremely grateful for the assistance that we were given. We tried to secure a reasonably representative group. The noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, who has enormous experience in public service and subsequently outside, was nominated, and I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, for doing that. Also on the committee was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, who, after all, is a former Law Officer and an extremely senior and respected Member of this House. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, proposed the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Kingsland, and I was very pleased to have their contributions. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, from the Liberal Democrat Benches, brought substantial experience in the parliamentary and local government contexts. The latter should not be overlooked as a reservoir of possible assistance.

We were told to report in three months and we did so in two-and-a-half. We had hoped to be unanimous but we failed to be. We produced a text that four committee members supported; the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Kingsland, dissented, but only in part.

To help noble Lords, I point out that the most useful documents are today's Order Paper and the cross-referenced paper that has been available in the Printed Paper Office. The cross references are most helpfully--I am grateful to the administrative staff for doing this--set out in three different colours. The original text is in black; when the original text is affected by the "Kingsland amendment", if I may refer to it in that way, that text has been emboldened in red and the proposed replacements appear in blue. That is a useful cross reference for those noble Lords who might want to see the difference between what was originally produced in the red bound volume by the committee that I chaired and the effect of the Kingsland amendment. I hope that that is of assistance.

One of the matters to which we put our mind and which I invite noble Lords to consider is: what should an adopted code hope to achieve? I suggest that it is a

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significant protection for individual Members of this House if we all know, in some degree of precision, the standards that we are obliged to maintain. Secondly, and perhaps more fundamentally, it is my deep belief that as this House develops--we have had short debates on the development of our composition and on the possible changes in working practice--we should look to securing wider public support for what is done and said in this House. I believe that a published, demonstrable code of conduct is very useful in relation to that second purpose.

In a code we want something that is clear, coherent, easy to understand and fair and simple to give effect to. I believe that the draft code realises each of those aims. I suggest that any code that we adopt should chime with the spirit of our times and the Neill committee recommendations and that it should command wider public support outside the narrow gates of Parliament.

I know that noble Lords have had an opportunity to examine the documents so I turn immediately to the essential recommendations. First, paragraph 1 sets out--I hope that it does so clearly--the, "Purpose of the Code". There is no dissent on this matter, so far as I am aware. That purpose is,

    "to provide guidance for Members of the House of Lords on the standards of conduct expected of them in the discharge of their parliamentary and public duties".

The latter duty is important; the provision is not limited simply to parliamentary duties.

The second purpose in numbered paragraph 1 is,

    "to provide the openness and accountability necessary to reinforce public confidence in the way in which Members of the House of Lords perform their parliamentary and public duties".

Those Members of the Committee who have the cross-referenced, differently coloured paper will see that there is no dissent from those dual purposes.

The original proposal in the Motion, which I commend to the House, was that,

    "Members of the House:

    - must comply with the Code of Conduct;

    - should act always on their personal honour;

    - must never accept any financial inducement ...

    - must not vote on any Bill or Motion ... in return for payment or any other material benefit (the 'no paid advocacy' rule)".

When we produced our code--I am always open to be corrected--and sent it to my predecessor, all the terms of paragraph 4 were agreed to. We spent a good deal of time looking at a number of different aspects and nuances of these matters. Paragraph 5 sets out the seven general principles of conduct and I do not trouble the Committee with those.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Waddington: Perhaps I may interrupt the noble and learned Lord and ask: who is the holder of a public office? There is no definition in the Motion. I am led to believe that we are all holders of public office. If that is correct, it is not a natural meaning of the term. It may be better to have the term defined in the Motion.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think not. In fact, all seven principles come from the Committee on

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Standards in Public Life. We simply adopted them. That is why I refer to them rather than consider the definitions. I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, that he will be offering his contribution to the Committee this afternoon.

Lord Waddington: But who is the holder of a public office?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: All those who are in public life who are remunerated one way or another by the public or, if not remunerated, are in a position where they affect significantly public life in this country; for example, judges. I do not believe that the noble Lord will be able to find a totally comprehensive definition. The committee said that these are the principles which should inform those in public life. I doubt that we shall ever obtain a satisfactory comprehensive definition. That was not a point at issue between any of the members of the committee, although that does not bind this Chamber.

We go specifically now to deal with the question implied by the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and he may find his answer in the terms of his specific context in paragraph 6, which states:

    "In the conduct of their parliamentary duties, Members of the House shall resolve any conflict between their personal interest and the public interest in favour of the public interest".

Paragraph 7 is another paragraph which was agreed to by the committee. It began, I suggest correctly, with the activity of registration and states that,

    "Members of the House must: ... register in the Register of Lords' Interests all relevant interests of their own or of their spouse, in order to make clear those interests that might reasonably be thought to influence their actions".

The committee's report then referred to declarations (when speaking in the House or communicating with Ministers, government departments and executive agencies) of any interest which is a relevant interest in the context of the debate or the matter under discussion. Your Lordships can see that I am omitting some words, not to be deceptive, but to be economical.

What happens in the context of the Kingsland amendment is that the declaration is put first, in different words, and registration is put second, again in different words.

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