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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I ask his forgiveness for intervening. Perhaps I may ask him this direct question. Does he see the possibility of a link between those in this House who are concerned with reform and the Commons modernisation committee? Such a link would enable us to consider some of these issues in that particular context—between the Houses rather than on our own.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I have no objection to taking that suggestion forward to the Lord President. I am happy to discuss it with him.

We have already started on pre-legislative scrutiny—not sufficiently, but we have made a good start. I have stated privately to both Leaders of the opposition parties—I state it publicly now—that it is my presumption that we should accept any PNQ that is proposed. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will agree that I have done that.

We can do all kinds of important things. What we cannot do is just muddle along in the same old way, whether in the way we work or in terms of our composition.

3.56 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it may be appropriate for me to intervene briefly from these Benches in view of the implications of the White Paper. We are grateful to have had a brief sight of it, and we are pleased with the progress that is being made. We

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believe that a half-reformed House is worse than no reform whatever. We shall study the White Paper carefully and make our representations.

So far as concerns religious representation in this House, we recall our submission on the Wakeham report, when we concluded that a minimum of 20 Bishops should have places in the second Chamber in order for us to be effective parliamentary servants. We stated then that fewer than that number would mean that a diminished range of experience would be represented. It could result in Bishops facing a conflict between their diocesan and their parliamentary responsibilities. We look forward to further opportunities to make the case in more detail. I emphasise that we approach the matter in terms of an argument for responsible service, certainly not privilege.

I note that the Government's present proposals have recognised the practical difficulties in broadening the religious constituency in this House. I sympathise with those problems. However, I want to emphasise that the principle of broad religious presence is one which we have strongly affirmed, and will continue to affirm. The Church of England seeks assurances that in some way this principle will be given real substance in the final arrangements for the composition of the House. We believe that it is especially important, following the recent tragic events, that forums are developed in which complex and sensitive matters to do with relations between the faith communities and their place in modern society can be aired and debated in a measured and well informed manner. The House of Lords, with its distinctive tradition of religious presence, has a unique potential to play a significant part in meeting this challenge.

Speaking personally, perhaps I may add a word on the subject of election or appointment. The issue touches the perceptions of this House's contribution. I hope that we shall give close attention to the broad representation that unelected Members can bring to the deliberations of the House.

Noble Lords: Cross-Bencher!

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I think it is for me to answer the right reverend Prelate at this stage. I understand his point. I think he will know that I wrote to the Archbishop in the early summer. We are having a meeting shortly on this question. We shall listen carefully to any concerns that are raised.

I immediately endorse the principle that there must be real substance in religious attendance and representation in this House. I have no doubt that the Appointments Commission would regard that as an extremely important duty.

Also, if one does not simply adopt the purist approach—which I entirely recognise—that everyone ought to be elected who has any part to play in a modern democracy, I believe that unelected Members are capable of giving a considerable amount of value and public service to this House.

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Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, first may I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams, for the Statement and for his courtesy in allowing me to have a copy of it and the White Paper? There is much to absorb in nearly 40 pages of the White Paper, but may I first welcome the intention to preserve the Cross-Bench element and Her Majesty's Government's recognition of the great value of the Peers who sit as independents?

Does the noble and learned Lord agree that it will be necessary to look closely at, and to have rules about, who should be included in the make-up of the suggested low figure of 120, which represents only 20 per cent of a 600-strong House? On these Benches we now total almost 25 per cent, excluding the Law Lords.

The Statement appears to lump together representation of independent expertise and the broader community in the United Kingdom. Is it the Government's proposition that the 20 per cent is to embrace all non-party members of the new Chamber, including those from other faiths? What if a Member of your Lordships' House decides to surrender a party Whip? While such Members are welcome to sit among us on the Cross Benches, and to be supported by the Convenor, their political independence will not have been screened by the appointments commission. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that the Government should not be allowed to diminish the total number of independents appointed to the House?

Increased representation of women and those from ethnic minorities is mentioned. Are the Government proposing that the 30 per cent guidance should be applied across the House as a whole, or to each party and group within it? Reference is also made to the peerage continuing as an honour. Will such honours be awarded along with others in Her Majesty's New Year and Birthday honours lists? Who will be responsible for selection for these awards?

Finally, have the Government a view on what the new House will be called?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the House will be called the House of Lords and Members of it will be called Members of the House of Lords. The question of honours will be a matter for Her Majesty and it will be her decision as to whether there should continue to be New Year and Birthday honours lists. The fact that a peerage is decoupled from the right to sit in the House of Lords will have no effect on that.

It is intended that new appointments should comprise not less than 30 per cent women. On the question of political independence, one would have to trust noble Lords. If they said that they had left the Conservative Party, or indeed any other, one would assume that they had done so scrupulously and that they had genuinely gone to the Cross Benches. Obviously, the appointments commission will have to monitor those matters, which are some of the intricacies we shall need to work through. There will be no difficulty if one has a statutory appointments commission with a good deal of power.

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I shall consider any figures that are suggested by noble Lords. The Royal Commission figure is 120, but if the noble and gallant Lord wishes me to reconsider it I shall be more than happy to discuss the matter with him.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord give an assurance that hereditary Peers will not lose their right to sit until after the elections have taken place? Otherwise, there would be a temporary imbalance between the parties, which the appointments commission would hardly want to address. If it did so, a new imbalance would occur as soon as the elections took place. It is obvious that the Government cannot get rid of hereditary Peers until after the elections have taken place.

My second point concerns remuneration. Has the noble Lord closed his mind to the possibility of different remuneration for the elected, as distinct from the unelected?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, no, I have not closed my mind to that issue. The first point made by the noble Lord has some validity and needs careful thought.

Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, does the Leader of the House accept that this Statement has a rather different impact on this House than most government Statements? Whatever the precedents, opinions are being formed as we speak. It is difficult to have such exchanges on the matter when most noble Lords have not seen the White Paper.

I support the protest of my noble friend Lord Waddington. We made a powerful case in the Royal Commission for a mixed elected and nominated Chamber. Will the Leader of the House accept that despite his own silver tongue, the Government have done their best to undermine that case?

I have always argued for a strong elected element, but the case for a nominated element is also strong. It is made stronger by the rapid disappearance from the other House of practical experience of life outside politics. That is a real deficit in our parliamentary system that we can remedy if our arrangements in this House are right. But that will not happen if the arrangements consist of providing that 360 out of the 600 Members of this House are nominated by the party machine. That is not the correct remedy.

Will the Government please consider the matter again in the light of the arguments in our report? Unless they do so, I have the feeling that no Bill will pass through the House because the parties are so deeply divided on the question of composition. We shall be left to proceed more or less as we are, and imperfect as we are, for several years to come.


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