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Baroness Amos: My Lords, there have been questions over our position on Israel and Palestine linked to our position on Iraq. I make clear that our prime aim with respect to Iraq is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. As regards what is happening in the wider Middle East, again the Government's position is clear. Lasting security can be achieved only through a
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, at the weekend the Foreign Secretary stated that his patience was running out. That was an unfortunate statement unless there was a terrible and imminent threat to this country. Is there such a terrible and imminent threat? If not, are not negotiation and patience far better than going to war in which many thousands of innocent people will be killed? Surely, we should heed the Churchill dictum that, "Jaw jaw is better than war war".
Baroness Amos: My Lords, negotiation and patience are critical. The UN has been negotiating and patient with Saddam Hussein for over 12 years. As noble Lords know, we are going down the route of negotiating with North Korea in the wake of disclosures from there. However, noble Lords should recall that the inspectors last had to leave Iraq because they were unable to carry out their functions effectively. We were able to secure their return to Iraq only because diplomatic efforts were backed up by the threat of force. Iraq is the one country which has consistently and repeatedly flouted many UN Security Council resolutions. Clearly, that is an issue which we must address.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, Resolution 1441 refers to serious consequences for Iraq for failure to comply with the terms of the resolution. Those serious consequences are now being defined by the noble Baroness as disarmament by force. Will we not be in some difficulty if the inspectors give Iraq a clean bill of health on 27th January and pronounce that they have not discovered any traces of weapons of mass destruction?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am not sure why the noble Lord thinks I said that the serious consequences would be disarmament by force. I said that we would not have got to where we are if our diplomatic efforts had not been backed up by a visible and credible threat of force. Our priority remains to go through the UN. The inspectors will make a report on Monday. The Security Council will assess that report and decide what next it wants to do.
Lord Rea: My Lords, I am not sure whether my noble friend has fully answered the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Wallace and Lord Phillips, that an attack on Iraq is likely to inflame and increase the danger of international terrorism rather than the reverse. It is likely to play into the hands of the terrorists, particularly if a just solution towards the Palestinian problem is not fully addressed. The conference in London last week was a paper exercise. Israel prevented the people who hold the power and influence in Palestine from attending.
Perhaps I have not made myself clear, but no decision has been taken regarding military action in Iraq. My noble friend says that an attack on Iraq will exacerbate problems and will make terrorism more problematic for us. I repeat: no decision has been taken to attack Iraq.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I undertake this rather daunting task with some diffidence as I recognise that we are at an important stage of a historic debate; a debate that is almost as long as history, in truth. I shall try to explain where we are in the light of the first report of the Joint Committee and I hope that I shall be forgiven if from time to time I stray into expressing some of my own opinions.
The report marks the end of the first stage of the Joint Committee's work. It sets out the seven options on which both Houses will be invited to express their opinions on 4th February. The interval between these debates and that date is intended to provide a time for mutual reflection by both Houses on the views expressed in each House.
Some noble Lords have asked why so many options are set out in the report. The answer is that we were required to do that by our terms of reference. We were required to consider an all-elected and an all-nominated House and options in-between. The options effectively chose themselves.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor looks to us rather flatteringly for genius in responding to his challenge. I cannot promise that. However, I can promise the House at least a glimpse of hope, because in paragraph 2 of our first report the committee expresses and identifies an historic opportunity to enable this House,
We need as much help as we can get from both Houses, after consideration of each other's debates, in order to make further progress. For that reason, when voting on these issues on 4th February, candidatesif I may state the matter in this wayare required to answer all the questions. We would like candidates in both Houses to give their views on each one of the seven options.
Your Lordships will be glad to know that there are many questions that are not before the House today, which have been sensibly postponed to a later stage. For exampleand they are all importantthe future of the Law Lords, the future of our right reverend colleagues and the pattern of elections, if any, and their timing, method and so on. So, too, the financial implications of the alternatives, very important for institutions as well as for individuals, remain to be considered.
A second group of questionswith one outstandingwas considered by the Joint Committee, perhaps in a little less detail than might have been expected. We were required by our terms of references to consider,
I add my own comments to that proposition; that this House has never included an elected element in its mixture. There is that significant change, which is why I must confess that our answer to the question falls short of complete clarity.
The second point, which has not been considered in full yet, is that if there were to be a mixed House, in my judgment it would be essential that all members should be "financed"and I use a neutral wordin the same way.
There is a third group of questions, to which, I am glad to be able to say, the answers we give are largelyif not entirelyagreed. First, there is the key question in Part 2 of our report that the existing role, functions, powers and conventions regulating this House in relation to the other House should in all essential respects be
Secondly, in paragraph 51 of our report, there is the proposition that, if there are to be any nominated members, they should be appointed by a statutory, independent, commission, which is empowered to scrutinise effectively all nominations.
One turns to the central question: whether any Members should be elected, and, if so, how many. So far as another place is concerned, there has neverin our day at leastbeen any doubt about the importance of it being an entirely elected chamber. It is the function of that House, which expresses the will of the people, to choose the Government and to empower that government to deliver their programme. But the role of this House, the second Chamber, isand we must never forget thisto respect the right of the Commons to decide and to recognise the strong advisory nature of our role to require another place to think again about matters, but in the last resort the power to decide issues rests with another place.
The difference between those two roles involves very different considerations. In Part 3 of our report we identify four qualities that need to be considered alongside the central proposition that no party should dominate in this House. They are, first, representativeness; secondly, independence; thirdly, expertise; and, fourthly, "legitimacy".
On representativeness, sex and ethnicity we are far from perfect, but very similar to another place. On age, no one can challenge the proposition that we are somewhat older than our colleagues in another place, but one wonders whether that is such a fatal conclusion for a body that reformers wish to describe as a senateif we remember the derivation of the word senate, wisdom that comes with age. On regionalism, at paragraph 33, we conclude that there is a disproportionate number of Members from the south-east of England and too few from the English regions but, for the rest, regionalism is not too badly represented. We acknowledge that that could be remedied by either method, in one way or another, but at paragraph 64 we state:
In the course of our deliberations, I considered one striking example: the debate that took place on the Second Reading of the Human Reproductive Cloning Bill on 26th November 2001. There were 20 speakers during three hours and 20 minutes of debate, speaking for 10 minutes each. They included the following 15 speakers. There were the heads or former heads of two Cambridge collegesthe noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, who chaired the committee that inquired into the relevant matters, and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill of Bengarve, who was a member of the Human Genetics Advisory Committee. There were two former presidents of the Royal College of Physicians, the noble Lords, Lord Walton of Detchant and Lord Turnberg, each with other formidable international as well as national qualifications; two practitioners, the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley; and two consultants especially engaged in the field, the noble Lords, Lord Winston and Lord Patel.
There were two others not without relevant experience, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, from Mencap and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, vice-president of Life; two other specialists in different fields, the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, former chairman of the Bar Council and the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, former chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission; two right reverend Prelates, the Bishop of Oxford and the Bishop of St Albans; and, last but by no means least, the Minister responsible for the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.
There are few legislatures in the world that could begin to command that range of expertise on a topic of that nature. Although they are all courageous spirits, how many of them would ever run for election in any system that one could design? The Commons is always free to accept or reject the advice given by experts of that kind, but its availability is invaluable and cannot be matched in any other way.
I turn to legitimacy, the last listed factor, which is often, understandably, equated with election, so as to exclude any alternative candidate for legitimacy. That is close to being the key question. However, when one considers legitimacy, one must not forget effectiveness. Does the institution work? What are the identifiable faults of the present system? What mischief is complained of? How much of that reeks from the past, not the present? If there is such a mischief, how far will it be remedied by the introduction of an elected element?
Legitimacy and effectiveness are, to some extent, two sides of the same coin. One asks oneself: where does this flavour of illegitimacy come from? The 92 noble Lords who qualify under this heading will forgive me for putting it like this, but heredity is regarded, very perversely, as conferring illegitimacy. Rightly or not, it is common ground that our hereditary noble friends are unlikely to be here after reform takes placewhen and if it does.
"Cronyism" is a word that has become increasingly popular because of its rhyming capacity with Tony"Tony's cronies" is a convenient phrase that tends to embrace a large but unidentified army. I do not pretend that the Prime Minister's predecessors have not from time to time appointed those who might be so described, but if one looks around the Chamber, of the 984 life Peers appointed under the Life Peerages Act 1958, not many can be fairly identified as cronies. In so far as that charge survives, the future legitimacyif that is the right wordof those appointed will be assured and guaranteed, so far as one can do so in this world, by the appointment of a statutory, independent appointments commission, with all the features attributed to it by the Royal Commission chaired by my noble friend Lord Wakeham.
Finally, I return to the effectiveness of the present House. The 1998 White Paper, which we tend to forget, considered and evaluated the effectiveness of the present House. I have not brought the relevant passage with me, but it is laden with superlatives. If I may be mildly impertinent, even the document published by Conservative Central Office, of which my noble friend Lord Strathclyde was one of the two authorsI hope that he will forgive me if I do not place its authority any higher than thatpays tribute to,
Rather more convincingly, the report of the Public Administration Committee in another place made no significant proposals for improvement, or even for change, in the role or powers of the second Chamber. On the contrary, it stressed its,
Another test of the effectiveness of this House is given by another example. Noble Lords will well remember our proceedings on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. The Commons spent about three days considering the Bill; in this Chamber, we spent eight days considering ita total of 53 hours. As a result, some crucial changes were made. An appeal mechanism against deportation was provided; any additional police powers provided for were confined to anti-terrorism and national security matters; the offence of inciting religious hatred was struck out; and many of the Bill's provisions were subjected to a sunset clause. That was a notable achievement, which depended on the special quality of this House and its tenacity in exploiting its powers at that time. It provoked an observation that I have quoted to your Lordships before:
I close by offering a slightly more impertinent personal view and posing a last, even more fundamental question, also posed and, to some extent, answered by the Public Administration Committee. The committee identified the existence in our country of,
The late Lord Hailsham christened that phenomenon the "elective dictatorship". The operative word in that description is "elective". How far can we be sure that it would make sense for the most fundamental change proposed for this Chamberthe introduction of elected Membersto be the one most likely to pave the way to the kind of partisanship that makes today's House of Commons a key instrument of dominance by the
Lord Carter: My Lords, it was a privilege to serve on the Joint Committee under the excellent chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of Dr Jack Cunningham and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. The committee worked well together and has produced a report that sets out clearly the considerations to be borne in mind when deciding on the composition of a reformed House. My view has always been that composition is a second-order problem, so I was pleased when the Joint Committee decided to consider in some depth the role, powers and functions of a reformed House of Lords, with the supposition that composition should flow from role, powers and functions and not the other way round.
Four propositions must be reconciled in deciding on the right composition of a reformed House: first, the primacy or pre-eminence of the House of Commons; secondly, the demand for a more powerful and effective second Chamber; thirdly, the fact that, under virtually all the proposed reforms, the government of the day will always be in a minority; and, fourthly, the undoubted rightnot often mentionedof the elected government to deliver their programme of legislation. I shall deal with each of those propositions in turn.
The primacy or pre-eminence of the Commons is always stated as a first principle, but with no definition of what primacy means in practice. The possibility of gridlock involving a reformed House of Lords and the Commons has not, so far as I am aware, been examined in any depth. In its report, the Commons Public Administration Committee airily dismissed the possibility of gridlock and, in almost the same breath, said that concern to maintain the pre-eminence of the Commons was "grossly overdone". I respectfully suggest that unverified assertion is no substitute for proper analysis and argument.
Many of those who argue for an element of election in the second Chamber ignoreor are, perhaps, unaware ofthe fact that, when handling legislation, the House of Lords is more powerful and effective than the House of Commons in its ability to amend or delay legislation. The powers of the House of Lords, when handling legislation, derive from its rules and, above all, from its conventions. We have no Speaker, and the House regulates itself. That means that the House can operate only if all its Members observe those conventions. I shall not take up the time of the House to spell out the conventions, but they are central to our operation.
The two most powerful conventions under which we operate are that the elected government are entitled to have their business considered and that the elected Chamber should finally have its way. Your Lordships must decide which option for composition would best ensure that those powerful conventions continued to be observed in a reformed House.
Secondly, there is the demand for a more powerful, effective and legitimate second Chamber. That demand, made by some Members of the House of Commons, has always puzzled me. I was assured many timesin the long years of opposition and after forming the Government in 1997by experienced parliamentarians in another place that the House of Commons would never agree to set up a second Chamber that would challenge and, perhaps, reduce the powers of the Commons. Now, we have that demand.
How much more powerful and effective is the reformed House of Lords to be? It hurts me, as a former Government Chief Whip, to remind the House that the Government were defeated in the Lords 56 times in the past Session alone. Should we have been defeated 112 times, instead of 56, to show that the House was more powerful and more legitimate? If the House is so powerless, why does every Bill that comes before it have a detailed "Lords Handling Strategy" attached? We introduced that change halfway through the previous Parliament. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, said, this House gave eight days to consideration of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, while the House of Commons gave three. I am proud to have had some part in organising that business.
Do the proponents of an elected House of Lords remember the Wilson Government of 1964, who had a majority of three, or the Wilson and Callaghan Governments of 1974 to 1979, who had no majority at all? It is a curious feature of our constitution that, once a government have a working majority in the Commons, the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature is more evident in the Lords. The admitted inability of the Commons to call the executive to account may explain the demand for a more powerful second Chamber, without any definition of "more powerful". Again, your Lordships must weigh up which option for composition will produce the right balance of power between the two Chambers of Parliament and between a reformed House of Lords and the elected government.
The fourth point, which is rarely spelt out, is the undoubted right of the elected government to obtain their programme of legislation. Despite the figures that I gave for defeats, the Government have got their programme through since 1997, albeit with substantial concessions on some Bills. I think I am correct in saying that, in the five Sessions since 1997, only one Billthe Trial by Jury Billhas been dropped. The Parliament Act has been used only once on a whipped Bill. That was the European Parliamentary Elections Bill, which was a very special case.
To put it bluntly, the delivery of the Government's programme in a House where the Government are substantially in the minority will always depend on two essential factors; namely, the co-operation of the Opposition parties and the observance of the rules and, above all, the conventions of the House by all its Members.
If we are to consider elections to the Lords, we must take into account the possibility of a very low turnout in such elections. The British citizen can currently vote, if he has the inclination, for his parish, his district, his county or his unitary authority councils, his Westminster MP, his European MEP, his member of the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and, perhaps in some areas soon, his member of the regional assembly. The British citizen is not exactly under-represented; nor do I detect a mass demand for more elections.
To conclude, I would take a lot of convincing that any element of election in a reformed House could satisfactorily reconcile the four central propositions that I shall describe. They are: the primacy of the Commons; the demand for a more powerful Chamber; the fact that the Government of the day will always be in the minority; and the right of the elected Government to deliver their programme of legislation.
I understand and support the arguments of those who say that a proper system of independent appointment, backed by statute, would produce a House with the right balance of politics, regional representation, gender, ethnicity and occupation. Such a House would, by definition, have a secondary mandate which would not threaten the primacy of the Commons and would have the right balance of power which is central to our constitution.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, perhaps I may first pay my respects to both the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, who have been very distinguished members of the Joint Committee. The whole House owes a great deal for the tremendous amount of work they have put into proposing what is embodied in the first report we are discussing today. I believe that it exemplifies the ability of this House to think seriously across party divides and about the ways in which we might reform this House to the benefit of our citizens.
I want to start briefly with a story which has echoed with me throughout my life. Many years ago I was travelling in Romania at a time when it was still under communist rule. I remember going to a remote hotel in the Carpathians. When I handed over my passport which, in those days, stated as occupation, "Member of Parliament", the man sitting behind the hotel reception desk said, "Mater liberorum""Mother of the free".
I have never forgotten that, but we often forget that the role and, indeed, the history of both Houses of the British Parliament, in standing up for the individual liberties of citizens is one of the proudest heritages we have and, I believe, one of the major obligations of this House as well as of another place. Two other obligations should be added to that. The first is to hold the executivethe Government of the day, regardless of politicsaccountable to the people and to Parliament. The second is, of course, to scrutinise legislation, to amend it, and to make it as good as it can possibly be. I mention those three roles because if we forget them we may forget what reform is all about.
The primary job in all three respects rests with the House of Commons. I find one of the oddest arguments in this whole debate the strange suggestion that, in some way, the pre-eminence of the House of Commons would be put at risk by a further reform of this House. The Commons alone has power over supplythe crucial element that goes right back to the English Civil War. There is no right of supply in the House of Lords. The Parliament Act underpins the primacy of the House of Commons. The public recognise, as do the media, the primacy of the House of Commons. There will be far fewer people in these galleries than in another place for this debate today.
I find strange the suggestion that in some way we might wish to threaten the primacy of the House of Commons. I say in very precise terms that the primacy of the House of Commons rests with the House of Commons. It is how it behaves, how it deals with its business and how it deals with the issues before it that will determine the public respect in which it is held, or otherwise, and not, frankly, anything that this House might do.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, about the third partyI accept his argumentfailed to recognise that no third party in this House can have any influence at all unless it can persuade other parties to support it and, frankly, unless it has a large measure
I turn now to the effects of the reform and modernisation of another place. I believe it to be crucial in our own argument here. There has been an increasing concentration on policy as a result of Commons modernisation. That means more and more emphasis, rightly so, on the work of Select Committees. There has also been theI believe welcomeinnovation of debates in Westminster Hall. We would be foolish not to recognise this but those two changes, together with the growing and constant demands of constituencies, virtually means that another place cannot undertake fully the tedious, boring and absolutely essential job of scrutinising legislation.
Noble Lords in all quarters of the House will know how much legislation reaches us today which has been inadequately and sometimes not at all debated, and where there has been nothing like a proper scrutiny of legislation. That remains our first and abiding duty.
It is also the case that the timetable changes make it yet more difficult for that job to be done by another place. We make no complaint. We believe that the role of Select Committees, which are departmental in large part, is extremely important. But we recognise that this means that the job to be done in this House, assisted by such improved working practices as pre-legislative scrutiny, is a job that we cannot and should not escape.
I shall now say a wordit is a crucial wordto underpin the need for reform taking both Houses together. We on these Benches and, with respect, I believe the Leader of the Conservative Party too, strongly believe that we must look at the way in which the two Chambers work together and not try to split them one against the other. We have a common duty. As regards legitimacy, we must recognise that position no longer attracts the deference it once did. Being a Lord, being a Privy Counsellor or being a bishop no longer automatically attracts respect. It must be proven on the basis of practice and example. That is one reason why the legitimacy of this House, in the view of our Benches, depends upon there being an elected element. Election today is almost the only way in which people acquire respect for their authority because it is recognised as a kind of secular anointing of individuals.
It means that there is a third choice. I have great respect for the high intelligence of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, so I hope he will forgive my belief that in saying there were only two choicesa wholly elected or a wholly appointed Househe was making a typical legal judgment, but not a typical political judgment. The essence of politics is compromise. We all know that is the only way to make politics work. It is not the essence of a proper philosophy of a judge or a senior lawyer. I would suggest that it simply is not the case that there are only two choices because the choice of a so-called hybrid Housewhy do we use that term?remains open to us all.
We have been a hybrid House ever since life Peers were appointed. We got on perfectly well with our companions and colleagues from the hereditary establishment, and we still do. I believe that those of our colleagues who were elected by their confrères to become their representatives in this House would agree that they work extremely closely with those of us who are appointed Peers. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, was right when he said that we have to recognise there is a great deal of distrust in a system particularly of political appointments. Whether one uses the phrase, "Tony's Cronies" or, may I suggest, "Thatcher's Matchers", it does not make much difference. The public are deeply distrustful of a House composed entirely or largely of political appointments.
I come to the penultimate part of what I want to say. The Commons Select Committee on Public Administration stated in its brilliant sixth report that it believes that two-thirds of the two Houses believe in an elected, or largely elected, Chamber. It stated that,
The work of the Joint Constitutional Commission, back in 199697, and subsequently that of the Commons Select Committee on Public Administration, and now the work of the Joint Committee, could all be at risk. I conclude with three quotations. The first is from the sixth report of the Commons Select Committee:
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, the Joint Committee's report covers the ground well so far as the first part of its terms of reference require. But what stand out starkly from its report are the number of issues that must be resolved before the committee is able, in its own words,
Key issues abound, as mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. They include maintaining the existing conventions between the two Houses, conventions that were introduced because of a perceived lack of legitimacy and a massive Tory majority. Reform is supposed to ensure that there is far greater legitimacy and no domination by any one party. It is not self-evident to me that a very reformed House has to be bound by current conventions, desirable as that might be for the party in power.
Conventions and their observance are more subtle than Standing Orders. They are passed down between members from Session to Session and from one Parliament to the next. A large new intake might not be minded to be so disciplined. Indeed, would self-regulation continue to work and would the conventions be observed without a Speaker? I share the view that self-discipline would still be the best approach for the new Chamber, but the warning given by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, of the risk of gridlock is timely. I do not think that Commons' primacy is a full answer to gridlock.
The methods and periods of election if one of the elected options were to be favoured, the period of tenure, the remuneration, the size, make-up and responsibilities of a statutory appointments commission or the size of a new House and how to reach it from where we are today, all need to be settled.
The list continues to grow. I agree that it is essential that some detailed work should be carried out on costing options. Even House reform must have some upper limit in its cost to the taxpayer. Despite the depth of work that was undertaken by the Royal Commission, I do not think that the way ahead on many of these issues is yet clear.
Experience of achieving change in this House, and throughout Parliament, is that it will not be rushed. Realism is that a new constitutional settlement will not be achieved quickly. Realism, not aspiration, about the pace and achievement of change is necessary.
It is understandable that many parliamentarians and the Joint Committee's terms of reference concentrate on the issue of democratic election and, by inference, legitimacy. However, I was struck by the Joint Committee's view that there are other routes to legitimacy, as it discusses in its report:
An election for an element of the House that fails to attract a reasonable turn-out of the electorate would not be able to claim much in legitimacy. Again, realism and not aspiration should guide the choice.
I welcome the Joint Committee's acceptance that a reformed House must be a large onearound 600 plus. Size matters and it has not been given the same degree of consideration as the elected, or the percentage elected, issue has been.
Today there are around 700 Members and over 350 committee-member places listed in Who does what in The Lords, (the grey book). Not all the current membership is able to allot the time and effort that Select Committee work entails. The vast majority of committee members rotate off after a three or four-year period.
Thus there is slim chance that a House significantly smaller than the present one would be able to discharge the workload of the existing House, even if there were an elected, and therefore more full-time, membership. Unless the roles and powers of a reformed House are to be greatly changed and curtailed from the present one, a large 600-Member House seems essential.
The present Cross-Bench group comprises individuals drawn from a wide variety of careers in which they have made their mark before they were granted or inherited their peerage. The House is enriched by this past experience and knowledge, a unique and valued feature unmatched in any other legislature in the world. For the future, special thought must be given to the incentives that will ensure that the House remains attractive to those who can contribute their experience and expertise as present and past Cross-Bench Members have done.
It will take more than a statutory label to devise an appointments system that must retain credibility over a long period of timeover yearsand, albeit after a first flush, nominate only a very few independents in any one year for preferment, perhaps six or eight a year. This might even be less if some of the independent places are to continue to be filled, as I hope they will be, by recommendations direct from the Prime Minister of the day to the Monarch.
I hope without presumption to take as common ground that the involvement and valued contribution of Cross-Benchers should continue. If that is to be one of the building blocks of further reform, then the impact on the options for the proportions of elected Memberseven of a large, 600-plus Chamberis that the full or majority elected options are incompatible
It is generally agreed, both by the Joint Committee report and more widely, that the present House of Lords, following on from the 1999 Act, has continued to work well in all its roles, functions and powers identified in the report. I believe that any of the options that I have identified for further study should also be compared with the way in which the present House is working before arriving at a final judgment.
One of the features of the present House that is surely widely recognised is the great level of commitment and responsibility for the smooth running of the House provided by the hereditary Peers who remain. Office holders, such as the Lord Chairman of Committees, a dozen Deputy Speakers, the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, and many other hereditary Peers on all sides, contribute greatly to the House's activity and reputation. They do so because of their commitment to Parliament and duty to the House, not because of their titles.
As Convenor, I am extremely dependent onindeed, I could not function withoutthe willing and totally voluntary assistance of a number of Cross-Bench hereditary Peers in discharging my responsibilities, including keeping the obligatory detailed accounts for our Cranborne money. Departure of all the remaining hereditaries in one go would leave a very, very considerable gap indeeda gap that could affect for some time the ability of the new House to perform as well as does the present one. It would be perverse if stage two were to end in a debasement of the present capability of the House to carry out its roles and functions.
I am attracted to some arrangementand this would fit best with a decision to adopt the fully appointed option, Option 1that would allow the reformed House to continue to draw on the experience, knowledge and remarkable sense of duty to Parliament and the country that hereditary Peers on all sides of the House bring to its work. If they were to continue as Members for life, as has been suggested for existing life Peers, with no provision for their replacement on death because the by-election standing order was repealed, there could be a much smoother transition to a new, all-appointed Housea House that continued to function well in all its roles.
After careful thought that is the option that I favour. I describe this alternativethat is, a non-elected House that retains today's hereditary Peers as Members for life, without their replacement by by-electionto myself as Option 1A. Option 1 is a fully appointed House.
I hope that other noble Lords who speak in the debate and who also favour Option 1A will say so in the course of their speeches so that it is possible to ascertain whether the idea has support in the House. I commend it most strongly.
Lord Wakeham: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the Joint Committee, to its chairman, the right honourable Jack Cunningham, and especially to my noble and learned friend Lord Howe and the noble Lord, Lord Carter. Clearly as they have grappled with the issues they have shown a remarkable degree of objectivity and understanding. My conclusion from reading their report is that they still have a very difficult task, but not an impossible one, to devise a solution that ought to be acceptable to the vast majority of the Members of both Houses.
I stand full square by the report of the Royal Commission that I chaired. It was designed to please no one completelyand in that respect it was a total successbut it was a carefully crafted compromise that everyone got something but no one got all that they wanted. I believe that that second objective is more clearly understood as these matters have been thought about in more detail.
One small point. Paragraph 22 of the Joint Committee's report states that I may have changed my mind about secondary legislation. That is not quite correct. I am still in favour of a reformed House of Lords having a three-month delaying power. Where I have doubts is whether the method we proposed in the Royal Commission report would in practice work. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, slightly unnerved me on this in the earlier debate. My objective remains the same, but the method may have to change.
If I am calling for flexibility, how would I show it myself? First, the exact numbers or proportion of so-called elected Members, especially if they do not come all at once, is not my first priority. Around 20 per cent would still be my preferred number, but I could be moved on this. The terms upon which they are elected are paramount. My priorities are: they should be elected only once, and no chance of re-election; they should have the same opportunity of being appointed for subsequent terms as appointed Members; they should serve for the same term as appointed Members, but I think that 12 years is too short and would prefer 15; there should be severe restrictions on the ability of ex-Members of a reformed House going to the Commons; and the support services available for all Members, whether elected or appointed, should be the same, including any attendance allowances. In my view, those issues are more important than the exact number of so-called elected Members.
The Joint Committee set out five qualities desirable in the make-up of a reformed Chamber with which I agree legitimacy, representativeness, no domination by any one party, independence, expertise. I believe that, by common consent, the existing House meets these qualities fairly well, except that it falls short on representation.
That said, better representation could be achieved by a significant proportion of Members coming from the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. These could be elected or, as I prefer to look at it, appointed by the people. They would not come as Members representing a constituency but as Members prepared to play a full part in the work of the House, with a background of knowledge and expertise gained from their particular parts of the United Kingdom.
This House has always been hybrid and, in my view, it can continue to be so successfully if care is taken in the way new Members are brought in as the old Members fade away. This has to be done over an adequate period of time.
We said in our Royal Commission report that an opportunity for long-term reform of this House is an essential part of the constitutional changes taking place in the United Kingdom. We will have failed our country if we do not grasp that opportunity.
This is an important subject. The fundamental question is whether we believe that, in a system dominated by the executive, Parliament as a whole should be strengthened by means of increasing the legitimacy of this House, or whether we do not. At the outset, I state my belief that the easiest, simplest, most accessible and recognised method of increasing the legitimacy of this House would be some form of direct election.
In answering the question whether this House should be strengthened, we have been helped enormouslyperhaps surprisinglyby our colleagues in another place. Indeed, we may be helped further by the debate that is presently taking place there and by the votes that will follow. Members of Parliament have recently overturned the received and accepted wisdom about their House.
Since 1969, it had been assumed that MPs would never vote for a reformed House. We do not know yet what the Commons will vote for, but we have some indications. Over 300 Members of Parliament signed an Early-Day Motion tabled by my honourable friend Fiona Mactaggart and other Labour colleagues calling for a wholly or substantially elected second Chamber. Since Ministers do not sign Early-Day Motions, that represented over half of the House.
Nor was this an isolated case. In the previous Parliament, a cross-party Early-Day Motion led by Mark Fisher and Andrew Tyrie drew wide support; and in what I believe to be the most significant development, the all-party Commons Public Administration Committee, chaired by Dr Tony Wright, unanimously reported last
In doing that, Members of Parliament have sent a very important signal to this House; namely, that the certainties of the past have slipped. The assumption that there is a zero-sum game between the two Housesthat strengthening this House would necessarily weaken the House of Commons and be seen by MPs as a threatis simply no longer the case.
Many of the objections raised in this House in the pastand likely, one suspects, to be raised again over the next two daysare based on those assumptions and fears. Yet if the Commons vote for more democracy in this Chamber, those fears would be shown up for what they areillusory and insubstantial. Once MPsif they dohave cast those fears and assumptions aside, for Peers to cling to them would be deeply ironic and damaging. It would be a sad reversal of the position in 1969 when this House voted for reforma piece of moral high ground that it has held ever since.
This Government have shown that they can embrace plural politicsthey have enabled these free votes to take place. But we do have a stronger executive in this country than exists in almost any comparable country. Neither its interests, nor those of the governed, are best served by seeking to preserve such a one-sided system.
We should recognise one other important component in the change that has occurred. In terms of the proportion of election, the debate has moved on since the commission of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, reported. On that defining issue, in my view the commission was too cautious: the percentage peaked at 35 per cent elected members.
But, none the less, the Wakeham commission reported in favour of allowing some elections to the second Chamber. That crucial finding has led to the Joint Committee's options and to today's debate. It also produced one other important conclusion; namely, that a mixed House would worka very important finding for those of us who favour a largely, but not wholly, elected House.
In answer to some of the questions raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, the proposals put forward by those of us who believe in a partly elected House would mean the preservation of the Cross Benches. No one is arguing that Cross-Benchers should disappear. No one is suggesting that the list of eminent people read out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, should cease to be Members of this House. On the contrary, if my views were by some miracle to be accepted by the Government, the political side of the House would be dealt with by
Given that Parliament is, or should be, a counterbalance to the executive, the objective of reform, and the test for its validity, is surely that it should strengthen the second Chamber to the point where it has the legitimacy vis-a-vis the House of Commons to perform its functions without threatening the position of the Commons. If the second Chamber does not have that legitimacy, the constitution becomes unbalanced and has to be remedied.
I turn briefly to the various options contained in the report. A wholly appointed House would ensure continuity and a range of expert opinion; but its basis would remain patronage. I do not think that patronage any longer commands the respect that it once did. It could amount to swapping one form of elite rule for another, and even run the risk of creating members who saw themselves as delegates from their interest group or policy community.
The same objections would apply to a House that was only 20 per cent elected. That option should perhaps be regarded as having expired: the Government had to drop it, not because it produced a mixed House, but because it was not democratic enough. It retained a House based essentially on appointment and patronage. Forty per cent elected is nearing the first point of legitimacy, but begs the question: what is so wrong with elections that you cannot have more than that?
Only a House with a majority of elected Members would have the legitimacy to give this country a truly democratic system. It would strengthen this Chamber to the point where it would have sufficient legitimacy to carry out its functions, but not too much. It would make the Members accountableas any parliamentarians who are given the power to ask a government to think again should be.
But a wholly elected House would have three drawbacks: first, the superiority of the Commons might be challenged; secondly, there would be no independent elementa key component of this House would be missing; and, thirdly, one party could achieve a majority in this House.
A partly elected, partly appointed House meets those three objections. First, its composition would be less legitimate than that of the House of Commons, so it could not challenge it in the way some believe could happen. Secondly, it would retain the benefit of Cross-Bench expertise; and, arithmetically, it would be almost impossible for one party to control a majority, especially if the electoral system were proportional.
A House of that kind would be in line with Liberal Democrat policy, with some parts of Conservative policyI shall be very interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, tomorrow, expounding, perhaps as a
And what of the electorate? The results were published today of a poll by a reputable polling organisation produced for Charter 88. The favoured options for reform of the House of Lords were as follows: "don't know": 10 per cent; wholly appointed House: 3 per cent; largely appointed: 5 per cent; 5050 elected-appointed: 28 per cent; largely elected: 22 per cent; wholly elected: 33 per cent. If my arithmetic is right, according to this poll, 83 per cent of the population favour a House in which there is at least a 5050 division between elected and appointed elements.
This is a historic occasion"historic" is an overworked word; but, in a sense, it applies. We will not have another chance to reform the second Chamber for a very long time. I hope that, as a result of deliberations here and in another place, the opportunity will not be missed yet again.
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, I know from conversations with many colleagues on these Benches that we share the widespread gratitude to the members of the Joint Committee for this report. It is clear, concise and balanced. The House owes deep gratitude to the Members of this House and of another place for producing it.
In Monopoly terms, it feels as if the report and the Joint Committee have got us out of gaol and back to "Go". We have not yet been able to collect £200, and, unless we address the board game a little differently, we face the prospect of ending up in gaol yet again on this subject. That will happen if we consider the problem as being narrowly about this House. The issue is the construction of the second Chamber. Our challenge concerns the quality of our parliamentary democracy and institutions. Surely, the opportunity of the Joint Committee in bringing two Houses together to look at the matter is for them to work together, not for one House to instruct the other about how it should construct its life. The task is to find agreement.
Unless we can answer the question, "what is this House for?" we shall never get its construct right. The report does not envisageand, I am sure, rightlyany change in the conventions of the power of this House within the parliamentary system. So the future House broadly continues the traditions as we have received them.
The things we do well are scrutinising and revising legislation. I sat here, as did others on these Benches, for the debate on the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, which was not one of the most marvellous pieces of legislation Her Majesty's Government have brought into Parliament. We are here to broaden political debate; to assist in guarding the constitution; to share the task of calling the executive to accountthat is urgently needed, given the powers of government todayand, dare I say from these Benches, to bring the spiritual and moral aspects of our public life to the fore.
In considering how we can bring a greater legitimacy to this House by reforming its construct, we need to ask what sort of people need to be here to do those tasks. We have a choice between what I call the "old" politics and the emerging "new" politics. The old politics would answer the question, "who do we need here?" by proposing another 600 professional and party-selected politicians to be added to the 650 already in another place. Alternatively, they would propose 300 of the same, or even a significant proportion, who would be elected on a one-party ticket by 30 per centlet us be generous: 30 to 40 per centof those going to the polls, or nominated by bodies elected by those proportions. Will that lead to this House doing its work better? And will it lead to the public having confidence in the work done on their behalf?
The new politics looks at what representation might mean and how it might meet today's needs. It seeks to answer the vital question: how are people to be encouraged to bring their voice to bear more directly on our public and political life? Direct elections are fundamental to democracy. That is why we need to consider both Houses in the frame together. But people are asking how direct elections in the modern political world can be complemented and enriched. The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, has spoken eloquently on these themes in the past. I am sorry that we shall not hear his wisdom in this debate.
This debate could be quite sterile: on the one hand, elections; on the other, appointment. The first option fails to capture people's imagination today; the second looks like we are saying we do not want much change. The debate must get beyond that level if it is to capture the imagination.
I shall share some stark facts about how we are represented. I do not intend to cause offence. The total number of members of the party supporting the Government, the party supporting the Official Opposition, and the minority parties in Parliament is lower than the number attending Church of England churches last Sunday.
The people have themselves represented in a variety of ways. We all struggle about how to get people to commit themselves to inherited traditional institutions. For those reasons, people are trying new styles of politics and forming partnerships. The south-east of England regional assembly contains a significant element of people representing voluntary agencies and includes two members representing faith communities who work alongside local government representatives and those representing the community in other ways. There is growing recognition that many people in a multitude of roles represent the community and need to be brought inside our political life.
The crunch question facing us, and in many international contexts, is how to give a voice to the people through the many faces of their common life. Is it not odd, therefore, that at a moment in history when these challenges are bubbling up all over the place, we are thinking of reducing Parliamentthe people's Parliamentto a narrow place for politicians alone? I am glad that the report identifies the issue and that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, set his face against it in introducing the debate.
By a quirk of history, we are still here. Every endeavour to reform this House has not succeeded. However, I accept the challenge of the noble Lord, Lord Richard; this gives us the opportunity to see whether, in the parliamentary process, there is another way of representing the people in a complementary way alongside the House of Commons. What an irony it will be if we miss that opportunity.
This is not the time to dwell on the complex issues to do with the presence of bishops as Lords Spiritual. When the moment comes and we want to get on with this business on these Benches, we shall look for inclusivity and creative ideas. There shall be no defensiveness here about our position.
Earlier this afternoon, we were discussing the threat of war in the Middle East. Complex issues of religious belief, which has such a deep impact on what matters to people, are at play. The Middle East is the cradle of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Since yesterday we have watched the Finsbury Park mosque on the news and the issues that it raises. No one has a chance of tackling these confusing and complex problems without recognising the power of religious belief for good or ill. In our country and in this House, people have been on these Benches to bring faith to bear for good on our political life and on the practice of government. Surely this is not the time to narrow the life of Parliament to the realm of professional politics; it is certainly not the time further to secularise our national institutions and debate.
Baroness Goudie: My Lords, we are looking at the wrong topic from the wrong starting point. The true issue is not House of Lords reform but parliamentary reform. An unreformed House of Commons ensures that there must be a second Chamber. It must perform much the same functions as it performs now and be equipped to perform those functions. Nor is the correct starting point the composition of the House of Lords. Function and size must come first. Composition must be related to function and size must not be excessive. When we come to composition, we do not start with an empty sheet. There are, of course, a substantial number of appointed life Peers.
Within these constraints, what should be the basis for new creations? Should all new Peers be elected? If not, should some be? If so, by reference to what principle, if any, does one determine the proportion?
We all believe in elections and representative government. That means essentially two things. First, the representative House of Parliamentthe House of Commonsmust be, as it is, entirely elected. Secondly, that wholly elected House must be supreme, as essentially it is. Its supremacy must not be diluted. The second Chamber must then complement, not duplicate or threaten, the first Chamber.
The second Chamber does not need to be elected. The need for election is met by the House of Commons. Those offering themselves for election have access to the House of Commons, the European Parliament, local authorities and, under the present Government, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Greater London Authority. There is no evidence of which I am aware that the public believe that there is a substantial pool of unused or under-utilised talent upon which to draw for further elections.
Not only is the need for election and representation well met by other bodies, to which regional assemblies may soon be added, but the House of Commons and, indeed, other wholly elected public bodies demonstrate what happens when one has a wholly elected body. The upside is obvious, but there are also downsides. First, the House of Commons tends increasingly to consist of full
In terms of public attitude, it all depends on what question we ask. It is by no means self-evident that people would give a resounding yes to such questions as: do you want the standard of debate in the House of Lords to be assimilated to that of the House of Commons? Do you want the thoroughness of legislative scrutiny in the House of Commons to be reproduced in the House of Lords? Do you want the House of Lords to be as polarised, partisan and party-dominated as the House of Commons? Do you want the House of Lords to be much more expensive? There is no doubt that an entirely elected House would be massively expensive and exclude most suitable candidates. I suggest that an entirely elected House would not be a sensible option. It would greatly reduce the existing strengths of this House, with little benefit in return. Reform should concentrate, rather, on the methods of appointment.
A hybrid House is surely the worst of all worlds. A Chamber consisting partly of those elected and paid and partly of those appointed and not paid is surely a nonsense. It simply represents a failure to decide between appointment and election.
In truth, no one bothered about appointment, even appointments made exclusively by the Prime Minister of the day, when it was the only legitimate element in a House otherwise dominated by hereditaries. The Government's welcome abolition of the hereditary element in two stages is no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water.
We should keep the existing appointed Peers and add to them, but with appropriate provisions in relation to appointment. Total or part election is not the answer and would do much more harm than good. It would be a populist response that would ultimately, I believe, prove deeply unpopular in the long term.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, I want to deal today with one fashionable false argument. We have just heard it repeated in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie. It rests on the simple slogan "no hybrid House". Its proponents, from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor down, imply that they are indifferent to whether we have a wholly elected or a wholly appointed House, but reject as "nonsensical hybridity", as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, put it, any outcome between the two extremes. What short memories they have. Did not the Government's own White Paper propose a hybrid House with 20 per cent of Members elected and 80 per cent appointed?
Every day we use thousands of hybrid words, such as jollification, television, disbelieve, bureaucracy, speedometer, genocide and microwave. Hybridity makes the language that we are speaking here today one of the richest and most effective in the worldand so it can be in the reform of this House.
As my noble friend Lady Williams pointed out, and as the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, made clear in his very constructive contribution, this House is hybrid already in the way in which the Members are chosen and contribute to its work. The arrival of life Peers since the 1950s and reduction of the number of hereditaries in 1999 are the most striking signs of change. An independent commission to make appointments independently of the Prime Minister could produce a significant change in the long run. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I who arrived in this place in 2000 were partly elected in that we fought a primary election within the party before our leader picked us. Who knows what the modernising tendency in the Conservative Party will lead its selection process to in future?
The danger is that the Government would then announce that reform by agreement had failed and include whatever they fancied as their own plan in their next general election manifesto, which they might force through this House using the Parliament Act. Is that really what we want? If not, let us read the writing on the wall and vote for options that will let the Joint Committee bring forward a plan made in Parliament, not in 10 Downing Street. We should think back to the labels used in the great battles over the powers of this
If there is any significant appointed element in a reformed House, the overriding priority for the new independent statutory appointments commission proposed by the Joint Committee must be to appoint more women to this place. How else can it possibly ensure a "quality of representativeness" as the report says? There are 549 life Peers, 109 of whom are women, which is just under 20 per cent. In this House there are 143 hereditary Peers, bishops and Law Lords, of whom four are women. In total, therefore, there are only 113 women Members, which is under one-sixth of the House. I notice that 14 are down to speak in this debate, which is 14 per cent.
The new statutory commission can prove that it really means business by starting its work with at least half its Members women and chaired by a woman who will be a regular attender in this House. The Higgs review, published yesterday, describes non-executive directors of leading British companies as,
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, it was a great privilege to be a member of the Joint Committee. I reassure your Lordships that although I am a hereditary Peer and therefore, in the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, a bastard, I do not intend to follow our Convenor in suggesting that hereditaries should be allowed to stand. Instead, as the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and I were the only two independents among a membership of 24 on the Joint Committee, I want to speak about the position of independent non-political Members in any reformed second Chamber.
By "Independents" with a capital "I", I mean those who sit in this House without any political allegiance and who are free of Whip and party pressure. In labelling those people independent, I do not in any way overlook or underrate the fact that there is a considerable degree of independence displayed by many noble Lords who sit on the political Benches. I shall return to the value of that independence and the need to ensure that it continues.
All previous reports on the future of the House have recognised the importance and value of the independent element in the House and recommended procedures to create a separate quota of places for independents appointed by a commission. By the time the Select Committee of the House of Commons reported, it was able to identify the principle that,
Everyone would accept, as the Royal Commission said and the House of Commons Select Committee recognised, that appointment as opposed to election provides the only sure way in which to secure a reasonable proportion of independent members. Even in the House of Commons, the election of an Independent is a rarity occurring only in special circumstances. With larger and less personal constituencies such as are envisaged for elections in this House, the chances of an election for an Independent are even more remote. Indeed, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, said, most of the individuals who would be suitable to be Independent Members are unlikely to be willing to stand for election, nor would they have the resources to do so. It therefore follows that a vote for a wholly elected House is an unequivocal statement by the voter that he rejects the unanimous views of all who have reported so far and sees no useful value in an independent presence in the new House. For that reason alone, although there are many other reasons, I hope that noble Lords will completely reject the all-elected option.
I also sound a warning note against Option 4, which is 20 per cent appointed and 80 per cent elected. At first blush, that might seem to accommodate the need for an independent presence taking up the 20 per cent appointed places and leaving all the politicians to be elected. Quite apart from the point that any 80/20 or 20/80 split would smack of tokenism, a 20 per cent appointed element would not sufficiently provide for adequate independent representation.
It is accepted that the Prime Minister, and perhaps Opposition leaders, must have the power to make occasional Front Bench appointments. Then there are the special appointments, such as ex-Speakers and others, and the Law Lords and religious representatives of whatever kind. If there was a 20 per cent limit on appointments, all those would eat into the independent representation and render Independents an endangered species. Unless noble Lords reject the need for a proper independent element, one cannot accept any option that does not provide for 40 per cent, at the very least, of the reformed House to be appointed.
I emphasise that all appointmentsI emphasise "all"must be in the hands of a sound and strong commission, independent of party influence and with a real knowledge of the workings of the House, established by a statute containing clear parameters for appointments. It is vital that the appointments system is not, and is not seen as, political patronage.
I turn to some general comments of my own on the other issues presented by the report. My first observation, which I make with some diffidence, is that, whereas most of your Lordships have given deep and wise thought to the issues involved, the approach of many others to this matter is simplistic and is determined without any real understanding of the complexities involved. Many people simply rely on the mantra, "Election good, appointment bad". They do not appear to have applied their mind, first, to the question of who would want to stand for regular election to the second Chamber. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, listed the experts taking part in the debate and
Nor, perhaps more importantly, have devotees of election taken on board the substantial consequences of having a wholly elected House. To me, it seems almost inevitable that one of those consequences would be that there would cease to be any reason why the second Chamber should in the last resort defer to the wishes of the elected House. Many of our colleagues from another place seem to think that the present situation and the relationship of ultimate deference is enshrined in constitutional law and can be altered only by legislationa view which, surprisingly, seems to be shared by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. However, the reality of the position was set out with complete clarity in a paper written by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, which was undoubtedly the most valuable single contribution to the deliberations of the committee and which has largely been repeated in his excellent speech today. He has explained how the relationship between the Houses rests very largely on conventions voluntarily adopted by this House, from which this House could at any time depart if it felt that, in the new order of things, the rationale underlying the convention had gone.
The basis of the Salisbury convention was the fact that the Commons is elected and that we are not, and that this House was in those days politically extremely unbalanced. If this House becomes a wholly elected body, that rationale is gone and surely the convention goes with it. As the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, said in the debate before Christmas on the British constitution, there is a great risk that Members in another place will vote for an elected or largely elected element and yet insist that the status quo as regards power remain the same. If they do that, he said, they will simply set the scene for a bitter struggle between the Houses.
The natural conclusion of much of this is in favour of a wholly appointed House. However, it may be necessary to temper that ideal with realism. We do not yet know what another place will say, particularly if, as the newspapers tell us, the Prime Minister comes out in favour of a wholly appointed House. However, I believe that it is vitally important that the reform of this House proceeds on a consensual basis and that, to this end, it may be necessary for us to be willing to compromise and make it plain that we would accept a hybrid House that was partly elected and partly
It is vitally important that the only questions left outstandingtenure, re-election and reappointment, remuneration, religious representation, the appointments commission and the whole issue of transitionare worked out to reach satisfactory solutions with a consensual approach. That will not be achieved if the Government decide that consensus is impossible and seek by diktat to impose a solution of their own devising, although I recognise that that may not be a likely scenario if, as it appears, members of the Government are themselves divided on the best solution.
Finally, I should like to make one point that I think has not been made so far. We have talked a great deal about whether we are to have election or appointment. I would venture to suggest that perhaps more important is the question of tenure and whether there are to be re-elections or reappointment. Members who are here for life have no fear of deselection or electoral rejection and thus are very freeas the Whips will have noticedof the discipline of their party Whips. If, in contrast, we had a new House which had regularly to be reselected and re-elected or reappointed, the powers of the party mechanism would be very greatly increased and the present robust independence would be greatly diminished and probably almost extinguished. Therefore, when we come to it, in my view, it is going to be very important that we ensure that Members come here, whether by election or appointment, for one, single long term with no prospect of reappointment. That will be necessary to ensure that this House retains its independence.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it would be a dull old person who did not express a wry smile at seeing this subject being discussed yet again. It is rather like how, as a child, one watched the carousel go round at a fair. One saw the horses come round and round. Although the same ones came round again and again, that did not stop one watching them. I feel bound to congratulate the members of the Joint Committee on being prepared to try to tackle this Herculean problem, but I find it impossible to congratulate them on the result. I say that standing next to my noble and learned friend Lord Howe; perhaps I ought to stand a pace to the rear.
The first quality which the Joint Committee says it is necessary for a second Chamber to have is the word with which my noble and learned friend found such discomfortlegitimacy. He went on to say that he thought that hereditary Peers equated with illegitimacy. I must say that I thought that that was putting it a bit far. However, I was glad that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, said that if all hereditary Peers were to go at one fell swoop, it would leave an awful hole. I think that he is quite right. I do not say that out of any sense of self-preservation, because I will frizzle into anonymity either at the
Legitimacy is an appallingly hackneyed word. It appears in this report over and over again, and it appeared in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, over and over again. It is a buzzword in House of Lords reform; but what does it mean? The Oxford English Dictionary says that it means,
I am bound to say that we really are witnessing, if I may be so bold as to say so, the most absurd farce over House of Lords reform. The Government were determined to get rid of hereditary Peers, which is a perfectly understandable point of view if one happens to think that way. So, four years ago, they introduced the House of Lords Bill, which said, "Out they all go". Then, halfway through the passage of the Bill, they said that they wanted 100 back, and so back they came. Now, they say that they want them all to go again. It is hardly the most elegant or intellectual way of reforming the constitution or, indeed, of reforming Parliament.
The Government then said, "We must now have stage two but we do not know what to do". So they set up a Royal Commission. The Royal Commission said, "We do not know what to do either but here are three options". None of those was acceptable, so the Government then set up an all-party committee which said, "We do not know what to do either but here are seven options". If anyone does not think that that is an inappropriate and obtuse way to try to reform Parliament, I can only say that they take a different view from me.
But the absurdity does not end there. We can choose any option provided by the committee between an all-elected Chamber on the one hand and an all-appointed one on the other and, as it were, all stations in between. The one thing that we cannot do, though, is to vote to retain the House which we already have. Yet that is the one which Parliament voted for four years ago. Four years ago we spent hours debating the nuances of reform in the House of Lords Bill. That Bill eventually is what we got and that is what appears in law. Now the all-party committee says, "You cannot keep that. You must not even be asked if you want to keep it. It was all wrong. Do not touch it with the end of a barge-pole". It really makes one wonder what on earth we were doing and why we all wasted so much time four years ago.
It would seem that between, and including, the two extremes of a totally elected and a totally appointed House, it is hoped that some kind of phoenix will rise up out of the ashes and we can all, like the reaction of footballers to a goal being scored, jump up and down and hug it and say, "Hoorah. Well done. That is the answer". I find it hard to believe that that is the right way to reform Parliament.
Four years ago the Government knew what they wanted and they propelled their view through Parliament. Now the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellorthere he is smiling as usual and I am glad to see thatwho is in charge of House of Lords reform says, "The Government have arrived at no view as yet but we shall be listening to the debate"I am glad as that did not happen on the previous occasion"and looking at the votes. Some 'genius'a lovely word"will have to make sense of the votes. I am pleased to say that that genius is the Joint Committee". Well, you cannot get much more of a volte-face than that, can you?
I am perfectly clear as to what I think should be done, and that is that it would be wrong for this House to be elected. There is one elected Chamber and that is the House of Commons. That is where the power lies and where it should lie. This House should not seek to vie with the House of Commons or to usurp its authority. If it is elected, it will do both. The present Members of another place may say that they want an elected second ChamberI cannot understand whybut their successors will hate it.
My noble and learned friend Lord Howe reminded us of the astonishing expertise that was made available on the human cloning Bill. He asked the telling question to which the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, referred: how many of the people involved with that Bill would have wanted to stand for election? Like my noble and learned friend Lord Howe, my guess is not many. They would not have the time or the inclination to do so. But they were highly valuable.
A partly elected and partly appointed House would be an impossible compromise, whatever the mix. The elected ones would always consider themselves to be the top dogs and the appointed ones to be their inferiors. The elected ones would always jump up and down at Question Timeheaven forbid, it would be worse than it is at the momentto try to appear in the media. If a constituent wrote to a Member of
If there were to be, say, 600 Members of the House of Lords, of which 20 per cent were elected, there would be 120 elected Peers. But they would have five times as many constituents as have the 660 Members of the House of Commons. Most MPs have about three helpers: research assistants, secretaries and so on. With five times as many constituents, would elected Peers need five times the amount of help as an MP has? Perhaps not, but they would need a great deal more than they have at present. If elected Peers were to be paidand they would have to beunelected ones would also have to be paid. Then the House of Lords, together with its new army of research assistants and secretaries, would vote for another Portcullis House just like the House of Commons has, and up would go the cost. Another place costs £380,000 per Member. The House of Lords costs £85,000 per Member. That modest figure would change radically.
This is all done in order to try to find some intellectual fulcrum which does not exist upon which to build a new House. With all its drawbacks, an appointed House would be infinitely better than an elected one. But why does one need to have a revamped appointments commission? For goodness sake, the appointments commission was appointed only four years ago. Some £100,000 was spent on head-hunters to try to find the most appropriate people to put on it, and now it is said that it must be revamped. Who will the new people be? From where and how will they be found? What is wrong with the present commission? What makes anyone think that the new one will be any better than the existing one? In my view, the more we stir this water, the more the mud comes to the surface and the deeper into it we get.
I am not surprised that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, together with his right honourable friend the Prime Minister, are reputed to be sick and tired of the whole thing and wish that it was all over. The whole point of any reform should be that a new House will be better than the one which we already have. I offer again to the Government and to your Lordships the advice given many years ago by someone who was not then a Member of this HouseI refer to Lord Attlee"It works rather well. Leave it alone".
The report of the Joint Committee embodies a fundamental premise; that is, that the second Chamber should be complementary to the elected first Chamber. In this, the Joint Committee is not alone. The same premise underpinned the report of the Bryce Commission in 1917, the conference of 1948 and the proposals of the Labour
I shall vote for the option of an all-appointed Chamber. I shall do so because an appointed Chamber alone can, and does, add value to the political process in a way that the alternatives on offer cannot.
There are two fundamental benefits to having an appointed second Chamber. First, it ensures that the accountability of the political system is maintained. Accountability is at the heart of a democratic system. Under a system of representative democracy the people have to be able to elect, and to call to account, those who determine public policy. In the United Kingdom there is one bodythe party in government, elected through the House of Commonswhich is responsible for public policy. A party is returned to office on the basis of a manifesto placed before the electorate. If the government make mistakes or fail to fulfil their promises, electors can sweep them from office. Election day is, in the words of the late Sir Karl Popper, "judgment day". An appointed second Chamber is not in a position to challenge the political supremacy of the elected first Chamber. Ultimately, the House of Commons can get its way. That may be after due consideration, and in its wisdom it may take on board proposals from this House, but ultimately it can prevail. As such, accountability to electors is maintained.
Secondly, an appointed Chamber can fulfil functions that the elected Chamber has neither the political will nor the time to carry out. This House fulfils a vital function of legislative revision. That function was clearly identified by the Bryce Commission and has been fulfilled to great effect. That point is generally conceded, and was well made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, in his excellent speech. Legislative revision can be identified as an essential and distinctive function.
The House also fulfils functions that are desirable although not exclusive to it. Those were identified by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, and include scrutiny and debate. The House scrutinises not only Ministers and domestic policy, but notably European legislation. In so doing, it dovetails neatly with the scrutiny carried out in another place. The House of Commons goes for breadth and the House of Lords goes for depth. This House debates issues that frequently fall outside the party conflict of another place and which are important to different groups in society. It has the capacity to bring new issues on to the parliamentary agenda.
The House is able to fulfil those functions because it has a membership that is different from that of another place. I make no comment on quality. The fundamental point is that the Members of this House are drawn from backgrounds that are not the same as those of Members of another place. This is pre-eminently a House of experience and expertise. I stress experience; it is not only a question of expertise. I have previously characterised it as a full-time House of part-time Members, Members able to come in as appropriate to offer the benefit of their knowledge and experience. As such, this House adds value: it complements the work of another place.
It is those two fundamental benefits that, taken together, make a compelling case for an appointed Chamber. A predominantly or wholly elected Chamber has the capacity to rid the political system of the first benefit. If Members of the second Chamber are elected, they will sooner or later demand powers commensurate with the fact of election. Why should they not do otherwise? It would be difficult to resist the claim. Once they have those powers, the fundamental accountability of the system is lost. If clashes between the Chambers result in policies not acceptable to citizens, whom do citizens hold to account? If the two Chambers start making deals independent of the wishes of electors, what can voters do about it? Having two elected Chambers is a recipe for buck-passing and policy outcomes that may bear no relation to what electors actually want.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, seems to think that the existence of the Parliament Acts will be able to constrain an elected second Chamber. The reason we have those Acts is that the other Chamber is elected and this House is not. Once we have an elected second Chamber, we destroy the basis on which those Acts were passed.
A part-elected House has the capacity to undermine the second benefit. Having some elected Members will not add value to the tasks fulfilled by the present House. If anything, they will be value-detracting. They will, in terms of the argument advanced for them by proponents, be pointless. A number of elected Members will not confer electoral legitimacy on the House as a whole. The argument for a part-elected House is based on the acceptance of having some Members who are not elected, and who therefore must have some legitimacy deriving from features other than election. That legitimacy will not be bolstered by the election of some other Members. They are, in essence, separate legitimacies. The argument advanced for a part-elected House thus strikes me as a logical nonsense. No one has yet managed to square the circle and explain how the electoral legitimacy of some Members will transfer and embrace the membership as a whole.
The election of some Members will inject an element of instability while delivering no obvious benefits. As some noble Lords have touched on, why will electors bother to vote if it is a small number to be elected? For what will they be voting? Who will bother to stand, and what will they be able to bring to the second Chamber that is of greater benefit than the attributes of those appointed Members that they will, in effect, be displacing? There is no clear benefit to be derived from the injection of elected Members; they will, if anything, be value-detracting.
The case for an appointed Chamber is thus, I contend, compelling. To support the all-appointed option is not necessarily to be against change. To criticise the present method of appointment is not to make the case for election. It is to make the case for a different method of appointment. A point made quite powerfully earlier this afternoon in another place by the chairman of the Joint Committee was that reform of the appointments process can ensure that Members are drawn from a wider range of backgrounds. An
To be in favour of an appointed Chamber is not to be against radical parliamentary reform. I am in favour of overhaul of the legislative process, including in this House, but the most significant change required is not here but in another place.
Those who blithely claim that an elected second Chamber is necessary in what they call a "modern democracy" seem incapable of thinking beyond the slogan. The accountability that is the core of a representative democracy is best served by retaining a single elected, and hence politically supreme, Chamber. A second Chamber is worth while so long as it complements the first, fulfilling distinctive and worthwhile functions. That is what we have, and it is worth fighting for. On 4th February I shall vote for the all-appointed option and against all the others.
Lord Lipsey: My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow a speech such as the one that we have just heard, and indeed to participate in this historic debate. In preparation for it, I reminded myself of the debates in this House on what became the Reform Act 1832, especially the great speeches of the Duke of Wellington. Noble Lords will remember that he excoriated the then Bill as "mere democracy".
It behoves those of us who are at least sceptical of mass election to this place to ask how our words and arguments today will resound in 200 years from now. Will we seem absurd creatures, as the Duke of Wellington now does, or will things be very different? Will future generations marvel at the hyper-democracy that is the fashion of our age, in which all other previously recognised qualifications for legitimacy, such as experience, intelligence, impartiality and expertise, count as nothing?
Elections in Britain are in crisis, with turnout slumping and new elections failing everywhere to attract the attention of the electorate. One need only look at the turnout for some of the referendums on elected mayors. Therefore, will people wonder that the preference of the Commons was to invent yet another unwanted election in which people will abstain? Will they understand the argument used by those in favour of electionthat it will increase legitimacywhen the likely turnout in any election is around 30, 25 or 20 per cent and when most such elections will happen under the closed list system that seems to be preferred, in which people vote simply for a party list?
Many valid arguments have been made against election in this debate, but I want to add one of my own that might be slightly different. I very much agree with the Joint Committee that the system whereby the Members of this House are chosen depends wholly on its function. I am in favour of two functions that have
Another function, which is much less remarked on, may be more important; it is that in this House we have a corpus of people with a broad interest in public life but who are not wholly dominated by party. That is why, when the Government set up a committee of inquiry, they very often choose a Member of this House to chair it. The noble Lord, Lord Sharman, chaired the inquiry into audit and the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, went up to Burnley to study the race riots there. Neither of those noble Lords is in his place. The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, who is in his place, chaired the Royal Commission on this place.
We are sent here with a duty to attend to public affairs, to act as a repository of public expertise and knowledge and to contribute to broad national debates from our relatively detached position. Elected Members, wherever they are, hold a different function. They hold a different duty to those who elected them and perhaps even more sojudging by practiceto the party that selected them. That means that an elected House simply could not perform the function of providing that corpus of broadly dispassionate but informed opinion, which is the chief glory of this House.
The whole point of having two Houses of Parliament is that they should be different. Choosing Ministers, holding governments to account and, if necessary, even bringing them down are the functions of the Commons, and for those tasks there is no substitute for election. But what is the point of having two competing Chambers doing precisely the same thing? That is like a man who has a large Rolls-Royce in the garage who thinks, "I will have a second car. I shall go and buy a Bentley". That is mad. What he needs is a Mini to do the other job of running round town collecting the shopping.
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