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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am indeed aware of that. The Government recognise that the Church has already made great strides. There are more than 2,000 ordained women in the Church of England. As the right reverend Prelate says, only 1,000 of the more than 13,000 Church of England parishes have sought to rely on the restriction. I hope that, having listened to these exchanges, they will be further encouraged and that the 1,000 may reconsider their position.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the Minister agree that we must have a good deal of confidence in the Church's willingness and enthusiasm for recruiting women priests, but that is not necessarily the most relevant issue? The working conditions of those women could be adversely affected—consciously or unconsciously. Those women might not then have recourse to the appeal available to other women under the equal rights legislation.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, although I sympathise with what the noble Baroness has said, I repeat that the Church of England has to listen to the debate. It must take account of what will best meet the needs of its congregation and how to keep that congregation. We can be encouraged by the steps that the Church has taken to address the issue, but it is a matter for the Church, not for the Government.

Mobile Phone Thefts

3.29 p.m.

Lord McNally asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, the Government set up the mobile phone theft steering group in January 2001, bringing together the industry and police to identify steps to tackle the increase in mobile phone theft. The group is pursuing aspects such as raising public awareness of existing phone security, encouraging greater co-operation between the industry and police and the development of enhanced security features in the current and the third generation of mobile phones.

Lord McNally: My Lords, although I recognise the initiative taken in establishing that committee, does the Minister agree that much of the onus lies with manufacturers not only to ensure that the public are aware of current anti-theft measures in mobile phones, but to implement, as standard practice, new anti-theft technology? Will the Government consider imposing a

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lower VAT rate on consumer products containing anti-theft devices as a major contribution to deterring crime?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, although the general thrust of the noble Lord's comments is correct, the Government do not envisage subsidising this highly profitable industry. The mobile phone market has grown by 600 per cent in the past five years and profits for the manufacturers have been enormous. Some manufacturers, however, seem to give no consideration at all to the security of the products that they sell.

The same applies to service providers, as is well known from discussions held this week. The technology used by BT Cellnet and Vodafone does not easily enable phones to be switched off when they are stolen, whereas that used by the other three providers—Virgin, Orange and One2One—does. Those two providers say that it is not financially viable to introduce the necessary technology and that we should wait until the next generation of phones is introduced. The customer, however, is king. After it was discovered that cars were easily broken into, motor manufacturers discovered that they were selling fewer cars.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, manufacturers and operators must have their proper responsibilities brought home to them. This Question is therefore welcome. Phone users themselves, however, have some responsibility to behave sensibly, and not to act, as one often sees, as if they were almost inviting someone to take their phone from them on the street. Do the Government have any plans to publicise what I can only describe as sensible personal behaviour for those using mobile phones? I cannot help but feel that the problem could be reduced considerably simply by more sensible behaviour by most of us as individuals.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the answer is, yes. As the report published earlier this week—Mobile Phone Theft—shows, many of those affected by mobile phone crime are quite young, school-age people, because of the way in which the market has developed. Part of the group's work in the past year has resulted in the publication of a leaflet entitled Protect Your Phone, 2 million copies of which have been distributed in schools and youth clubs, providing good advice on sensible precautions. Work is being done on the issue. A couple of days ago, at St. Olave's school, John Denham, the responsible Minister, noted that that school had addressed the issue by encouraging children to mark their phones with a postcode and to retain a note of code numbers so that action could be taken if a phone was stolen. However, as I said, some suppliers cannot switch off phones even if code numbers are available because they refuse to update their technology.

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If youngsters, and those who buy phones for youngsters, are aware of the facts, the chances are that they will buy or upgrade only phones that can be easily switched off if stolen in a robbery or lost. However, phone users also have a responsibility.

Lord McNally: My Lords, the Minister's supplementary reply was rather more satisfactory than his initial, rather dry one. I was not trying to protect the manufacturers; I agree with him that there is a heavy onus on them to participate in addressing the issue. I therefore encourage the Government to increase VAT on products that offer no protection. Many new technologies could, if manufacturers chose to use them, deter crime in relation not only to phones but other consumer goods. Where such anti-crime technologies exist, they should be a standard part of the appliance. That is the point I was asking the Minister to support.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the answer is that I do. As for the first part of the noble Lord's comments, the initial reply to a Question is often dry because it is written down for one, whereas, using the notes provided for one—although that depends on the supplementary question—one can answer supplementary questions in a much more precise and targeted fashion.

The noble Lord is quite right. In the next two years, third generation technology will radically change the way in which mobile phones are used. Our implicit objective is to ensure that available security features are incorporated not only in mobile phones but in all consumer goods. People can, for example, buy car tracker devices that lie dormant but can be switched on if the car is stolen, enabling its recovery at the docks or elsewhere. Although there is a cost to such technology, which was not available 10 years ago, it increases security. That benefits manufacturers because it is a unique selling point for the product. The Government should not have to subsidise that technology. In a competitive consumer society, manufacturers can market safe products capable of being disabled or easily recovered if stolen. We should, however, also encourage the public to take normal, sensible precautions to avoid items being stolen in the first place.

House of Lords Reform

3.36 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday by the Lord Chancellor that this House takes note of the White Paper The House of Lords: Completing the Reform (Cm 5291).

Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, I am conscious that there is a long list of speakers today, the second day of our debate. I assure the House that I shall try to be as brief as possible.

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Yesterday's debate seemed to centre substantially on the strength of the elected element in the new second Chamber. I must say, on that key issue, that my background has conditioned me to be in favour of a substantial elected element in the reformed Chamber. I am also very conscious that very little has been said about the role of the directly elected regional Members, or whether the reformed second Chamber should be related statutorily or informally to the devolved Assemblies. I shall focus my brief comments on those issues.

One of the Royal Commission's main recommendations is set out at paragraph 3.30, which states that the reformed Chamber,

    "should give the United Kingdom's constituent nations and regions, for the first time, a formally constituted voice in the Westminster Parliament."

I have to admit that that vision gave me considerable pleasure as it seemed to be taking us in the right direction. I regret that, later in the report, it becomes clear that the new Chamber will not exercise a distinctive regional role, although it is acknowledged that such a role might well develop over time. As for the present, however, the proposal that there be directly elected regional Members means no more and no less than that every area of the United Kingdom is guaranteed representation in the second Chamber, just as every area is guaranteed representation in the House of Commons.

It is a fact that, currently, there are no regional democratic institutions in England apart from the Greater London Assembly. I am bound to accept that regional consciousness within England seems to be weak. But it seems likely that the setting up of the Scottish Parliament and the devolved Assemblies in Wales, Northern Ireland and London, may lead to important alterations in public attitudes in England. Meanwhile, I accept there is much force in the argument which has been voiced in your Lordships' House that we should not look to a reformed second Chamber on its own to provide an English dimension in the devolutionary arrangements.

If we accept that point, as I do, I trust that it will not be suggested that the reformed second Chamber should have no special role to play in relation to the devolved Assemblies which are in being, or which may emerge in the future. Indeed, your Lordships will recall that the Royal Commission was required to take particular account of the new devolved institutions. With the devolution settlement in mind, the commission recommended that the second Chamber should consider establishing a committee to provide a focus for consideration of the issues raised by the devolution settlement. For my part, I wish the Royal Commission had been bolder on that issue. But I am gratified that the House set up the new Select Committee on the constitution, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth.

In addition to an issue which was raised during Question Time today, two other issues of considerable importance are already emerging in relation to

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legislation passed by Parliament affecting the functions and powers devolved, or to be devolved, to the Welsh Assembly. In paragraph 6.21 of its report, the commission foresaw one of the issues:

    "There could well be circumstances in which the National Assembly for Wales would like to promote Westminster legislation on matters outside its competence. It might be helpful to have people in the second chamber who could speak in support of such a Bill".

I want to mention a second issue of importance to the Welsh Assembly which has emerged, and of which the Constitution Committee is already aware. When the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon—the distinguished chairman of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee—gave oral evidence to the Constitution Committee on 28th February last, he drew attention to the fact that a general problem in drawing the balance of primary and secondary legislation was of particular importance to the Welsh Assembly because it does not have primary legislative powers. The noble Lord said:

    "Wales may have a real interest in wide enabling powers, thus enhancing its secondary legislative powers but, on other grounds, it may not be appropriate to have such wide powers".

The noble Lord, Lord Alexander, then asked this pertinent question:

    "How does one resolve that tension?".

That question cannot be abolished or, in my view, ignored for long. The problem identified by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, will almost certainly become more pronounced than it is today as the National Assembly for Wales finds its feet and becomes more confident, and it could certainly become more serious between a Conservative United Kingdom government and a Labour, Liberal or Plaid Cymru administration in Cardiff.

That links up with a fundamental point with which many noble Lords, and many who spoke in yesterday's debate, will have sympathy: how to achieve the right balance between primary and delegated legislation. According to my rough estimate, since the setting up of the Welsh National Assembly, over 40 Acts of Parliament have been passed which affect the subjects devolved to the Assembly. I believe that the smooth running of devolution in Wales and the well-being of the United Kingdom should lead to a new function in Westminster of scrutinising all primary legislation in the devolved subjects with the object of confining it to broad and major questions of policy, thus ensuring that the functions of the Assembly are not unnecessarily limited.

It occurs to me that one possible way forward would be to build a new Select Committee, or possibly a Sub-Committee of the Constitution Committee but drawing 50 per cent of its membership from Welsh Members, to introduce such a procedure into the procedures of this House. That will enable the committee to scrutinise and report to the House on Bills affecting the devolved subjects. There might even be a provision that a Welsh Assembly Minister should be entitled to attend a meeting of such a Select Committee to give evidence as to how the Bill affects the Assembly and to suggest or advise on what changes

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are needed to meet the reasonable needs and aspirations of the Assembly. That would be a great improvement on the current situation.

I wish, in conclusion, to ask my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House whether the Government have any comment on the general point that I have raised: that is, how the proposed reform of the House will give the United Kingdom's constituent nations a formally constituted voice in the Westminster Parliament.

3.48 p.m.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, will forgive me if I do not follow him in his special scrutiny of the provisions for our homeland in Wales. But I may draw some comfort, perhaps, from the fact that the first three speakers in today's debate are all from the Principality, and out of the first five speakers yesterday, three were from Scotland. So there is some representation at least from both countries in the House as it is presently constituted, and there is that virtue in the present position.

Of course there are other virtues as well, which should not be overlooked. The right place from which to start was identified yesterday by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, when she drew attention to the much wider issue outside this specific debate relating to the considerable crisis of confidence in the parliamentary system. That is a view widely shared. Professor Anthony King, in a piece he wrote for the Economist's survey of the year ahead a few weeks ago, pointed out that,

    "the main line of political division in Britain will lie, not between traditional right and left but between political class and the people, between all of 'us' and all of 'them'".

Having made that general point, it is important to understand where and how that dismay, that withdrawal of confidence, is at its most serious. I was surprised to see that analysed just after the debate in this House on the anti-terrorism Bill by a well-respected and, in this context, surprising witness, Hugo Young, in his column in the Guardian when he said this:

    "What happened last week to the Anti-Terrorism Bill supplies a model . . . the House of Lords has shown itself far more willing than the Commons to bring the basic tools of democracy to bear on the making of big new law . . . Something important is being said about democracy when the only legislative chamber to perform the functions the people expect—deliberation, revision, improvement—contains not a single elected politician".

One has to start with that understanding. I refer also to the point made yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, when he drew attention to his appreciation of the debates in this House on that very Bill. I was struck by it myself. I believe that in no other assembly in the world does one see such an intense, purposeful concentration of a diversity of talent seeking the best answer to some difficult questions.

It is against that background that one has to set out in the search for the consensus which all the leading speakers have said we ought to seek. I refer to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the noble

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Baroness, Lady Williams, and, of course, to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. I join him and others in regretting the fact that the Government appear to have chosen to discard the use of a Joint Committee of both Houses as the proper vehicle for seeking that consensus. I hope that they may yet repent of that unwise decision.

But even without that consensus there are large areas of common ground in the debate. The essential constitutional position is that it is the other place alone which disposes of power. This House, in a strictly advisory role, may propose how that power may be exercised and ask the other place to think again. But it is the other place that in the last resort has the power to decide. The Government have throughout—this, at least, is virtuous—acknowledged (I quote from the original White Paper, Cm 4183) that extreme care is necessary and is, indeed, of particular importance to ensure that the present balance between the two Houses is not disturbed.

The other thing that it is important to examine when considering the next step is the general acceptance—which surprised me at the outset of the debate years ago—of the present functions and powers of this House. The performance of this House is described in the original White Paper and in the background papers now before us in almost superlative terms. In the original White Paper the most valued features of the present House are summarised in epithets that I have never heard applied to any other institution. I refer to such epithets as "most valuable", "real expertise", "distinctive", "well-regarded", "distinguished" and "particularly valuable". Those were the tributes paid to the work of this House and to the way in which it works by the Government at the outset of the debate. They are all echoed in the later papers now before us. The basic case made from the outset for this present round of discussions has always been the so-called lack of legitimacy of this House due to its anachronistic composition—the presence, in other words, of the hereditary element and, in the eyes of some people, of its Conservative majority.

However, in almost every other respect—this is the important feature that I want to underline—the Government have claimed and still claim to be ready to retain the advantages of the status quo. That is an important premise for our discussions. I do not dissent from that, nor does anyone who has spoken in the debate. The question before us now is, what more, if anything, needs to be done to enhance and consolidate the basic change; that is, the removal of the hereditaries? Most specifically, what, if anything, needs to be done to enhance and consolidate the legitimacy of this House given that it already commands, as Hugo Young pointed out, substantial respect among wide sections of our society?

Obviously, a legitimate question is raised—and is at the heart of the debate—by serious people who claim that the House would not command the authority that it should have in the absence of a substantial elected element. I do not doubt that many people argue that case sincerely. We were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that the opinion polls also point in that

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direction. However, I imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, will agree with those who say that opinion polls are not always infallible, bearing in mind the view that he and, indeed, I take on the question of capital punishment and many other questions where we do not go along with opinion polls.

I start from that analysis. The important principle then is how we set about looking for consensus on the next stage. To do that it is important to understand the history of how we arrived at where we are. We have not arrived at where we are by revolution or upheaval but by incremental steps, the importance of which was hardly recognised at the time. The introduction of life Peers in 1959 began a transformation of the House. The decision at the outset of part one of stage one to remove the hereditaries was another incremental step which was almost immediately followed by a third incremental step in the opposite direction—the deal arrived at between the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, my noble friend Lord Cranborne and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the resurrection and survival of a substantial tranche of hereditary Peers. Those were three incremental steps. The baton has been passed smoothly from one reform to the next, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, pointed out in an article in the Sunday Times colour supplement in November 2000.

We have had enough continuity over the decade to secure the benefit of incremental change. We have borne in mind an observation that Winston Churchill once made about the shaping of the new Europe when he said that we are not designing a machine but nurturing a growing plant. I believe that that approach is the right one to adopt towards the reform of an institution which has proven itself as well as has this House.

Against that background what is my position? Despite the enthusiastic advocacy of those who take the opposite view, I have not been persuaded that this Chamber should contain any elected Members. Even if it were to do so, I am sure that Members of this House should not be salaried. The present allowance system, coupled, as others have pointed out, with the significant attraction of the title of "Lord"—which I myself should retain—works. It works with a degree of informality perhaps, but it sustains a better attendance in this Chamber, for example, than in the other place. It does so not least in conjunction with the absence of Standing Committees taking so much work away from this House.

There are positive reasons for taking that view. I refer to the two contributions to the debate that made that most clear. First, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford in a deeply moving speech pointed out, as did my noble friend Lord Norton, that we can be an effective, full-time House with part-time Members. As the right reverend Prelate said, noble Lords need him to be involved in his business in the community if he is to be of any value to the House. I agree with that sentiment absolutely and not just as

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regards those on the spiritual Bench. On all Benches this House needs people who cannot be here all the time. That is an important component of it.

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