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Lord St John of Fawsley: Well, my Lords, that should not be beyond the capabilities of the noble and learned Lord, who is good at everything else; I do not see why he should not be good in this regard, as well.
Secondly, how many bishops would there be? That raises an important issue. It is clear that the present Cardinal, for example, would not be content with token representation, which would give us the worst of all worlds. There is studied vagueness in this part of the report, and I therefore make a constructive and positive suggestion; namely, that if Catholic bishops were invited to be Members of this House, there should be a definite number of themperhaps the five Archbishops in England. That should be part of an invitation that I am sure would be seriously and gratefully considered by the bishops.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, before going any further down the road to reform, the Government need to answer honestly the question, "Do you want a second Chamber?". The answers to that question, as provided in the White Paper, are less than honest. Yes, the Government want a second Chamber, but why? The second Chamber that is envisaged by the Government in the White Paper will provide no check on anything that another place wants to do, because it will be so composed that it will be virtually impossible
There is absolutely no point in having a second Chamber in which party strengths approximate to those in the House of Commons. It would be almost impossible to win a Division against the government of the day. One would merely have a rubber stamp for the House of Commons, which is, of course, what the present Government want and what the White Paper proposes.
I point out to the Government that in all likelihood they will probably not be in power for ever and that one day there will be a government of another complexion. In that situation, they might not like the arrangement so much. They are proposing single-chamber government that is thinly disguised as two-chamber government. It would be much more honest to abolish the House of Lords altogether. In that case, the whole country would know that we had single-chamber government. That is already the case in Scotland and Wales. The House of Commons would have to take responsibility for what it did, instead of being able to pretend that the House of Lords was partly or wholly responsible. It would be much cheaper, too.
The House of Commons would have to take over various committees and functions which are currently the responsibility of the House of Lords, in order to find appropriate time. The volume of legislation would have to be drastically reduced, which would be no bad thing. We should also probably have to have a written constitution.
If a second Chamber is retained, it should do all that it currently does and possibly a bit more. In that case, a House that was composed in the following way might be worth having. It would have 240 independent Members, who would be appointed by the appointments commission, and who would include representatives of various professions, religions, races and so on, and retired Law Lords. Those Members would be appointed for 15 years or, better still, for life by the appointments commission. I should retain the 26 Bishops and the working Law Lords. Again, 82 regional Members would be appointed for a term of 15 years by the appointments commission. Finally, there would be 240 party Members, divided between Labour, the Liberals and the Conservatives, in such proportions as the appointments commission, in its wisdom, deems expedient. The appointments would be nominated and made by the appointments commission and the term of office would be for 10 to 15 years. That would of course need adjusting should a fourth party of any significance emerge in the House of Commons. That would be the job of the appointments commission.
As the White Paper suggests, the appointments commission should be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen but perhaps on the advice of the Privy Council, leaders of the political parties in the House of Lords and the Convenor of the Cross Benches. That way, one might get a reasonably independently minded appointments commission.
If the committee on the working of the House decides, in its wisdom, that the House should keep office hours, Members will have to be paid a salary as well as expenses, because it would be very difficult for them to earn a living outside the House. Exceptions to that might include existing life Peers who wish to continue to be Members of the new House. They would not have an obligation to attend regularly and participate in committee work. Those considerations might possibly also apply to the Law Lords and Bishops, who would already be receiving salaries. Those who did not receive salaries would continue to receive expenses.
I am very glad that the present life Peers are to be granted a courtesy that was not granted to hereditary Peers when they were kicked out in 1999; namely, of remaining Members of the House for life, with the ability to retire, should they wish to do so.
Unlike the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, my Convenor, I should like the reformed Chamber no longer to be called the "House of Lords" but the "Senate". Members of it should be "Muggins Mugwump, MS", unless they happen to be a Lord already, in which case they will be "Lord Mugwump, MS". That will finally separate the second Chamber from the peerage. In that case, no more peerages would need to be created at all.
All the present powers should remain, including that to reject secondary legislation, and the power to amend secondary legislation should be added. Most important of all the present powers of this House is the power to prevent any Parliament extending its life beyond five years.
My plea for double the proposed ration of independent Members is entirely my own and I do not in any way speak for the rest of my colleagues. However, it may be helpful and of interest to say something of the voting habits of the Cross-Benchers. The late Lord Halsbury, who was so much loved and respected on all sides of this House, made a study of them. He conclusion was that in general the Cross Benches divided approximately 50/50 for and against the Government. But when they voted on an issue about which there were strong views in the country, then the vast majority of them normally supported those views.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, where do I stand on this matter? The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor fairly asks that question. During the passage of the Bill on reform of the House, he asked, "Where do you stand?". First, I am wholly against any form of elected Chamber for the reasons given far better than I could give them by the noble Lords, Lord
I support the proposal for the retention of the 92 hereditaries, as advanced by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. I have discussed this matter with the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, who I see is in his place but who is unable to be present for the debate tomorrow, and with whom I am in total agreement. I also support retention of an appointed hereditary element in some form. There is not time to deal with the machinery of such a proposal but at a later stage I may try to deal a little with the principle, which emanates from a paper written by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill.
Lastly, I share the view of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde that one must have a form of consensus. I support his speech, in particular what he said in relation to secondary legislation. I believe that that was the view put forward by my noble friend, and it was assuredly the view expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who made a wholly remarkable and magnificent speech, quite beyond the plain of politicson a plain of responsible address to a parliamentary problem. I think that they are sayingand if I am right, this is my viewthat you must have a form of consensus and get the parties together before you can start to formulate your own views on how to reform. Once one has heard what is put forward in that light on the assumption that a Joint Select Committee is created to advise, then, whatever one's own views, one will tend to compromise and accept what is put forward. That is our traditional approach. That, in a clumsy way, is where I stand. On the benign assumption that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will understand that we cannot trim our pipes to the drum, I welcome the opportunity that he has given us for this debate.
The concern of this speech is with the hereditary elementnow the 92, serving under Section 2 of the House of Lords Act. The entitlement of the Weatherill amendment is not the same as Section 2, which represents the Cranborne agreement to which the noble and learned Lord was a party. Again, that was not exactly represented in the Weatherill amendment. That is the concern. Albeit that some proposals, most of which do not require legislation, are acceptable; it is the pre-emptive threat to eliminate those 92 before enactment of the Government's declared constitutional agendato cast them out of the thresholdwhich is contrary to the Cranborne agreement to which the noble and learned Lord was a party. The Cross Benches were also a party to it. It is not in the interests of the House that they should be cast out. It is not in the interests of the people that they should be cast out. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, my noble friend Lord Peyton and other noble Lords pointed out, the
It is appreciated that, in the Government's scheme of things, unless the 92 are removedI am not much good at the mathematicsthe whole structure of the edifice on composition (paragraphs 35 to 64) would collapse as if a house of cards. I accept that and I say, "Well, so be it". In any event, as my noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell said on the Statement on this matter, the parties in this House are deeply divided on the issue of composition. If so, let it be accepted. That would mean that there is no reason why the 92 should not remain. Why should that be? It was because of the Cranborne agreementthe agreement brokered by my noble friend Lord Cranborne, whose absence is our deprivation. It was the result of an initiative of four Cross-Benchersthe noble Lords, Lord Weatherill and Lord Marsh, the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, and Lord Carnarvon. They went to see the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. The idea was that perhaps something like what eventually became the Cranborne agreement would emerge. They then went to see my noble friend Lord Cranborne.
Later my noble friend took over the management and control of the matter and brokered the agreement. It had the support of the Government and the Opposition, and was ratified by the House. But it was tainted with hybridity and could only be implemented under Section 2 after about 14 drafts of Standing Orders.
I have gone into the matter in a little detail to point to the essence of this argument on the Floor of the House which is dependent on what was agreed between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and my noble friend Lord Cranborne, and what was said in the House. That agreement would be broken if the 92 were eliminated before their time has ended under the agreement. Why is that so? It is because the essence of that agreement is that they should remain until the enactment of a Bill which implements the Government's then declared constitutional agenda. That provision would be implemented in the light of the recommendations of a Joint Select Committee of both Houses to be set up for that purpose.
At that time, the constitutional agenda, as understood by your Lordships' House, both before and after the passage of the Bill, was that there would be substantive comprehensive reform to modernise the powers, functions and composition of the House in conjunction with those of another place. That point was another taken up by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, and the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane. These reforms should be produced in the light of the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee.
Under the Weatherill amendment, which has worked welland there is no reason to suppose that it will not continue to do sothe 92 are entitled to remain. Their removal would substantially impair the working of the House. The volte-face on the setting up of the Joint Select Committee was referred to in a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, to which my noble friend Lord Denham has referred; and no more need be said about it, except that the Government would be reneging on the Cranborne agreement if they removed the hereditaries on the proposals in this Bill which do not in any way reflect the declared constitutional agenda.
Perhaps I may end by saying this. I have referred to the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. In the House Magazine on 11th November 1999, the noble Lord expressed the devout wish that, to preserve continuity, if the Cranborne agreement worked wellwe know that it has worked wellit could be left alone to retain in this House a number of very able hereditary Peers to serve the nation and, in particular, as the noble Lord put it, to serve on the Select Committees. That matter has never yet been debated, but it would lie within the remit of a Joint Committee of both Houses if one were set up.
Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords, the debate has been going on for some three and-a-half hours. I feel that I am beginning to draw on your Lordships' powers of concentration, well-known stamina and good will. I am only number 17 out of a team of 82. However, I hope that I shall have your Lordships' indulgence of good will if I try, for my part, to be as brief as possible.
I want to focus on the elected element. I agree to a large extent with the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Gordon of Strathblane and Lord Dahrendorf. I begin with the qualities of the House which are widely admired outside. Perhaps I can say that as a recent entrant. If one talks to people about the House of Lords, the qualities they mention are independence, the experience that is brought to bear on the topics under discussion and the sheer quality of performance. I refer also to a matter that has not been mentioned todaythe scrutiny of European legislation. That is done to a level through this House and its committees that has no match anywhere within the Union.
With regard to domestic legislation, we saw with the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill a very high standard of performance by this House. It may not have been agreeable to everyone, but the quality and intensity of the debate was of a high level. There are
Perhaps I may say something about the overall reputation of the House. I say it on the basis of the work of the committee of which I had the honour to be chairman, the Committee on Standards in Public Life. When I was not chairman it held an inquiry into, among other issues, the standards in the House of Commons and the problems in the House of Commons. Much adverse evidence came from the public in relation to the House of Commons. When I was chairman we carried out investigations into the House of Lords and the reaction was completely different. There was not one word of criticism of the way in which this House functions. It is held in the highest repute. So when I hear the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, talking about the low standing of politicians, I believeI may be wrongthat we are talking about a problem at the other end of the Corridor. I do not think that that opinion is held of the Members of this House.
One day, we may have a debate on what are the underlying problems with the public perception of politicians. That is a fascinating topic. On my shortlist, I would include the perceived lack of candour on the part of Ministers and other politicians, failure to admit error, the response made to a good point when in a corner of saying what someone did when they were last in power, sharp practice, such as publishing bad news on the day after Parliament goes into recess, and of course, more recently, the phenomenon of spin. We could have an interesting discussion about why that situation has come about.
Curiously enough, the remedy of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for all that is to fill the House almost entirely with party politiciansvirtually 100 per cent. I detect not a consensus but a large measure of agreement in the House that it would be a recipe for disaster to have a high proportion of elected Members. We would inevitably create a conflict between two sovereign bodies, each claiming legitimacy. Amusing points were made earlier about how those most recently elected would claim to be more legitimate than the last lot.
I am not in favour of having any elected Members of the House. We used to hear a good deal about the word "legitimacy" earlier in talk about reform of the House of Lords. I must say that it is a most unfortunate word to have entered currency. Legal legitimacy is one thing: the hereditary Peers were as legally legitimate as anything in sight. Moral legitimacy is different, and is being chipped away in the White Paper. Paragraph 37 states:
So I hope that legitimacy will disappear from the argument. We are constructing something on paper that will have to work in practice. We are trying to get the best thing that we can, and it does not help to say that this, that or the other part of the legislature is legitimate.
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