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How would the 300 appointed Members be made up? Again, the answer is simply to be found by looking around the House as it is now. We would have representatives from the services, diplomacy, medicine and so on. One need not go through the list. I believe that it would be sensible for the appointments commission to be given some kind of guidelines as to how the appointed Members should be made up. Again, I see no difficulty there.
That leaves three other areas for special consideration. In my view, the House would be a poorer place without the bishops. If Parliament is to be the great council of the nation, their presence seems to me to be essential. Happily, the bishops of the Church of England would not need to be appointed. They choose themselves by seniority. However, I would reduce their number from 24 to 18 in order to give room for representatives of other faiths.
Then there must be room for the senior statesmen. They should notI repeat, notbe appointed by the Prime Minister but by the appointments commission after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leaders of the Opposition parties.
Finally, there are the lawyers. As the function of Parliament is to make the law, it seems inconceivable that we should not have a good supply of lawyers. Furthermore, in my view they should be drawn from
I am glad to see that the Royal Commission and the Joint Committee both say that the Law Lords should be included in a new Chamber, irrespective of whether they go off at some remote time in the future to form a separate supreme court. In passing, I am totally opposed to that, but that is for another day.
I accept that the serving Law Lords do not have much time to take part in proceedings on the Floor of the House. However, they do good work in committees and after their retirement they can make a useful contribution between the ages of 70 and 75. They have all had five or 10 years in the hurly-burly of the Court of Appeal before reaching the deep peace of the House of Lords. That provides them with a special insight into how legislation works in practice. I would keep the bishops and the Law Lords. This House would have been a poorer place without a Wilberforce and a Scarman.
It is sometimes said that for the Law Lords to sit in the Upper House is contrary to the theory of the separation of powers. I regard that as a nonsense argument. It could possibly be said to apply to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor as a member of the executive, but it does not apply to the Law Lords. My reasons for saying, "Why a separation of powers?", which have nothing to do with whether the Law Lords should sit in the legislature, will have to wait until another day.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I wish to set my contribution in context because I believe that constitutional change should never be considered in isolation. The debate on the future of this House should have been considered within the context of Parliament as a whole, but unfortunately we are where we are.
In the past five years the Government have introduced into Parliament and secured much ill-thought-through constitutional change. What is regrettable about that is the Government's constant refusal to accept voting thresholds that would have to be reached to support constitutional change both in Parliament and in public referenda. Such constitutional changes include the breaking up of the United Kingdom Parliament by devolving powers to a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly and a government for London; the introduction of proportional representation using a closed list system for electing Members to the European Parliament; the creation of town mayors; piecemeal reform of the House of Lords and now proposals to create regional government.
Barely 25 per cent of the Welsh people voted for devolution in the referendum. There was a majority of approximately 6,000 votes for the whole of Wales, while 75 per cent of the people either voted against
In Scotland, although there was greater support for change, it is interesting to witness the "turf wars" that have broken out between Westminster MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament who were elected directly by a defined constituency, Members of the Scottish Parliament who were appointed from the party lists system, Members of the European Parliament and local councillors. To add yet another tier of elected Members to this same turf would be ludicrous.
There are those who feel that elected Members of this House could come from the devolved institutions. That would exacerbate to an even greater extent the number of people who can have a say in English affairs while English Members are denied a say in their affairs.
In London the statistics were even worse. A mere 24 per cent of people voted for London government. Only 13 per cent of the electorate voted for the present Mayor, rising to only 15 per cent when one takes second preferences into account. The turnout and support for town mayors also calls into question the basis of support for such changes. As if to cock a snook, the people of Hartlepool elected a man in a monkey suit, and in Bedford, barely 12 per cent of the electorate voted in a referendum for a mayor of Bedford. In the election for mayor the successful candidate was supported by only 12 per cent of the electorate.
As a result of proportional representation through a closed party list system in European elections, the relationship between people and their Members of Parliament is dislocated. For Members of the European Parliament to be successful in future elections they need to be placed high on their party list of candidates, which means that it is the party aparatchiks who need to be impressed by them and not the electorate. When it comes to voting by region, the more densely populated urban areas will hold sway over the rural areas.
Regional government will further divide and rule the people of our country. For regional government to be established, relatively small percentages of the more densely populated urban conurbations will be able to overwhelm the vote of those who live in rural areas. It is already evident that county councils will become extremely vulnerable and, needless to say, the rural communities will find that they are more isolated from their local authorities.
Here in the United Kingdom Parliament, Ministers refuse daily to answer our questions about matters concerning London, Wales and Scotland, and no doubt the consequences of regional government will exclude even more areas from our scrutiny. Meanwhile the Prime Minister and the executive show utter contempt for Parliament. Only today in my area of interest the Secretary of State for Education has chosen not to come to Parliament but to give, using the DfES press notice expression, an "off-camera
Cronyism in public appointments is rife and the cost of political advisers, public relations and consultancy services has surpassed all previous records. In a sentence, Parliament has weakened, the executive has strengthened and the axis for decision making is moving to Brussels. Parliament as a whole should be strengthened.
The reason I particularly want to set my comments in context is because I believe that a strong Parliament with a largely independent second Chamber is crucial. Thinking through all of the consequences of constitutional change is also essential before making final decisions.
If an organisation or company, private, commercial, voluntary or public service, was in need of reform the first stage would be to revisit the aims and objectives. Once they were determined one would analyse the organisation's strengths and weaknesses. Then it would be necessary to decide what organisational and structural changes were necessary to achieve the aims and objectives. Only then would one deal with the composition of staffing and personnel issues. But in the case of the House of Lords reform, Parliament as a whole has been ignored and the role, powers and functions of each House have not been defined or agreed ahead of considering composition.
Whether or not at the end of such an exercise it would have been right to have replaced hereditary Peers is open to debate. However, it is sadly the case that the House of Lords Act 1999 had little to do with the role and functions of Parliament or the creation of a stronger Parliament better able to hold the executive to account. It was an act of political malice, and the manner of dismissing our hereditary friends was graceless and unforgivable.
However, we are bound to deal with the propositions before us, which deal exclusively with the composition of this House when all the evidence is that the House of Commons is more in need of reform than this Chamber.
It is not surprising that those, including the Joint Committee of both Houses, who have looked at reform of this House have found it a good deal more complex than expected. An all-elected Chamber, which I do not support, on the face of it looks and sounds the most democratic option. An all-elected Chamber would inevitably challenge the power of the House of Commons and would demand greater authority. Therefore, substantially more powers would need to be ceded to an all-elected second Chamber. The political parties would predominate and the result would be two highly politicised, highly volatile, party-Whip-controlled Chambers and, almost certainly, Titan-like struggles for supremacy between the two Houses would be commonplace. I do not believe that that would, over time, serve the people of this country well.
It will come as no surprise that I shall support a wholly appointed second Chamber with little or no change in the balance of powers between the Houses. The Government of the day, through the elected Chamber, should enjoy supremacy and should have ultimate power; and the second Chamber should continue to influence and call government to account through scrutiny, revision, dialogue and, where necessary, by delaying, but not determining, parliamentary business.
Meanwhile, although I regret the passing of the House of Lords Reform Act 1999, this House, with its combination of Peers from all parties, Cross-Benchers, Bishops and Law Lords, has acquitted itself extremely well. We outperform Members of another place in every way. Indeed, it is common to receive Bills from another place with large parts that have had little or no detailed consideration. We strive, often successfully, to put flesh on the bones of an increasing number of skeletal Bills, where the Government rely upon the excessive use of Henry VIII powers, which in turn spawn endless secondary legislation. We sit for more hours, days and weeks than the Commons. We are more conscientious by far in the diligence with which we carry out the detailed scrutiny of legislation.
If I thought that it would secure support, my preferred option would be to leave well alone; to give more time for the earlier reforms to work; to create a truly independent appointments commission, which is underpinned by statute, to deal with the additional members; to encourage Members of another place to be more courageous in holding the executive to account; and, to leave Parliament to get on with considering those matters which affect the everyday lives of the people in our country.
My first question relates to whether your Lordships' House should be elected, appointed or both, and, if both, in what proportions. There is something to be said for both election and appointment. In any
An appointed House has other dangers. No system of appointment can be entirely foolproof and will always remain subject to suspicion and criticism. A wholly or substantially appointed House of Lords will therefore never enjoy full legitimacy. That does not mean that appointment has no merits. It redresses the obvious deficiencies of election because not many talented individuals want to offer themselves for election. An election would not by itself guarantee adequate representation of women, ethnic minorities or regions.
We therefore need both election and appointment. I cannot see how it can be otherwise. The only question is the relative proportions. We should have both in broadly equal proportions. Election guarantees representative legitimacy; appointment ensures expertise as well as a different kind of representative legitimacy. Therefore, both election and appointment have equal claims on our attention.
I have often heard the objection raised against election that it would detract from the pre-eminence of another place. I am not persuaded by that argument, for at least two important reasons. First, it assumes that another place must always remain pre-eminent. I see no reason to share that view. If one carried that assumption to its logical conclusion, we would have to argue that this House should be a mere appendage to the House of Commonsa relative constitutional cipher. No one here or in another place shares that view.
Secondly, election can take several forms. Another place is based on geographical representation. We could be based on other systems of election and other forms of representation, such as regional and functional. If that were so there would be no clash of legitimacy or interest between the two Houses. We could identify important professions through their professional bodies, such as the General Medical Council, the Bar Council, the Trades Union Congress, the Association of University Teachers, or the National Union of Teachers, and invite them to elect one or more of their members to your Lordships' House. That would give voice to important but otherwise marginalised groups. It would also add both expertise and representative legitimacy to our deliberations.
Whether Members of your Lordships' House are appointed or elected, it is important that there should be some limit on their tenure. The Joint Committee's report recommends 12 years, which seems about right. A 12-year period is long enough to build up familiarity with the place and short enough to prevent Members from getting stale or taking your Lordships' House for granted.
I also support the Joint Committee's proposal that Members of your Lordships' House should be free to resign when they think they have achieved what they wanted to achieve or that they will never achieve it, or
I wish to float an idea, which I hope is not too eccentric. In my opinion, Britain is the most internationally minded country. I say that as an academic who has taught in Canada, the United States and elsewhere. Thanks to our imperial history, centuries-old migration and our close ties of trade with other countries, there is hardly a part of the world where British people are not to be found, or to which they are not related by familial, economic and other ties.
As an expression of our internationalism, I suggest that your Lordships' House could provide for four or five what I may call honorary Members. I have in mind people such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, a past or present president of the European Commission, a past or present Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, a distinguished Nobel laureate with something to contribute to our deliberations or an economist of the status of JK Galbraith. Those men and women could periodically participate in our debates but not enjoy the right to vote. They would be Members of your Lordships' House for a time-bound period.
There are several advantages to that proposal, but I shall describe only three. First, it would reflect and reinforce our internationalism and show that we welcome talent and wisdom from all parts of the world and are not obsessed with narrowly nationalistic notions of sovereignty. Secondly, it would give us the benefit of the presence and views of internationally renowned figures and enrich discussion. Thirdly, it would give Britain's voice in the world what is sadly needed: a unique moral authority and make us what the Prime Minister wants us to be: a beacon for the world. Who knows, such a proposal may even inspire other countries to follow our lead and open up novel forms of international co-operation.
My proposal is not as unusual or eccentric as it may seem on the face of it. After all, we confer knighthood on those who are not citizens of our country. We invite some visiting heads of state to address both Houses of Parliament. The principle involved in my proposal is broadly the same.
For lack of time and expertise I have not gone into the detail of how we might go about appointing or collectively electing such distinguished men and women. That requires more attention than I can give it, but I hope that the idea, or at least the spirit behind it, will engage the sympathy of your Lordships' House.
The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, as a member of the Joint Committee, I could not help noting that we had entered the debate in its 90th year. Admittedly, the pace of the debate warmed up enormously during the past six or seven yearswith legislation that we all remember. Nevertheless, it was perhaps fortunate that
There was no serious dispute that we needed a second Chamber; and that we cannot determine the composition of that second Chamber until we have agreed on its roles and functions and whether new powers are needed. There was consensus from existing reports and deliberations that no further powers were likely to be granted, even if asked for, and should not be needed. It was clear that there was consensus that this House should continue to fulfilas it had with varying success over the yearsa complementary role to another place. That is an important principle that has not been contradicted so far in the debate. It seems to be common territory.
I find that slightly surprising. If one goes on to say that Parliament needs reforming, that it is not performing effectively and that the executive is getting away with more than it should and needs to be held accountable, one should at least ask a question. Are we satisfied that we do not need to make this House more assertive? Are we satisfied that we should happily reconcile ourselves to having Members, whether elected or appointed, who must recognise that they will be overriden inevitablyand sometimes at an early stageby another place?
Nevertheless, that has been the consensus and it is only wise to accept that that is common territory. That is not to say that there is agreement that no reform is needed in the way that this House operates. By changing the composition, we shall get reforms. If we think about it, this House has been reforming itself by an evolutionary process at a remarkably rapid pace. We assume that we have always been a revising Chamber. That is not the case but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, reminded us, we now consider that to be our main responsibility.
If we consider the future composition of the House and recognise that, on the whole, we want to keep the roles, functions, powers and even conventions as they are at present, we should analyse the House's strengths and find out what people criticise about it. There is a danger of complacency when Members of this House repeat the litany of its strengths, although I do not see why we should apologise for them.
We recognise that we have a breadth of expertise that it is unusual, to say the least, to find in other legislative Chambers. That comes from our being a part-time Chamber with people of experience who are prepared to perform much detailed work in committees well out of the public gaze, with little acknowledgement or expectation that their work will be recognised. Nevertheless, that work is, on the whole, performed
Before we change the composition, when we recognise that as a strength, it might be just as well to ensure that what is put in its place can perform equally effectively. Of course, if we go for a smaller, fully or largely elected Chamber, it will not be part time and it will be more political. It may be able to perform that scrutiny, but I am not sure that the evidence from another place makes one automatically assume that. I issue a caution. I have spent an awful lot of time in committees during my membership of this House. I should be hesitant to throw out that expertise too rapidlyor, anyway, not to value it highly.
As my noble friend Lord Ferrers reminded us, the weaknesses or criticisms of the House revolve around two concepts. The first is its representativenessthat is a fair criticism, because an awful lot of us are male, over 60, from the South Eastand, one can add in my case, a farmer, a landowner. So I accept that we are not very representative. I am certain that whether by appointment or election we could achieve a much wider representation. As my noble and learned friend Lord Howe pointed out, if we want to ensure that we achieve a mix of ages, ethnicity, gender and regions, we shall go for appointment, because we can then achieve precisely the modelling required.
The other weasel word is "legitimacy", to which my noble friend Lord Ferrers took great exception, although I think that he was prepared to use the word "acceptability". To whom are we trying to be acceptable? What are the criteria of acceptability? Those people who stand for election think that to be elected is self-evidently a way to assume acceptability. Does the evidence show that that is always the case? People also say that they are rather suspicious of the encroaching powers of political parties. They do not want the Members of this second Chamber to become creatures of the Whip. They want some independents, with a small "i", or Cross-Benchers. That will clearly be difficult to achieve in a largely elected Chamber.
I accept that, to some people, acceptability will be achieved by a greater degree of election, but I suggest, as did my noble and learned friend Lord Howe, that another arbiter would be identification with Members and respect for their contributionin other words, their effectiveness. That is not too difficult a concept to get across. When we talk about legitimacy or acceptability, that must be brought into the equation.
So there are two fundamental propositions on which we must decide when we come to vote. Are we really certain that we do not want to be more assertive? If we do want that, we will probably favour a larger elected element. I am a bit cautious about that and favour a large elementperhaps a majorityof appointed Members.
However, I make one strong qualification. I accept that from outside the appointment procedures introduced for the Cross Benches and the previous arrangements for life Peers appear not to meet the criteria of acceptability and identification. That
I am not denying that we should have people who come from the community in a very real sense, and with whom people can identify. Although they may lack the "legitimacy" of election, they would, nevertheless, command people's respect, admiration and following. However, I believe that that will be achieved if the appointments commission can be seen to engage in a debate that has never happened before. I hope that, when we vote on the options, we will go for a largely appointed element. However, we must make it clear in this debate that the new appointments commission must be very different from that to which we are accustomed.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, the Cunningham committee has done a thorough job of nailing down the major issues in a deceptively simple report. That was admirably demonstrated by the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. Moreover, the committee picked up the exposition by my noble friend Lord Carter of the conventions of the House. In congratulating the committee, I draw the House's attention to the degree of consensus in the report, although, paradoxically, it has been said that there was polarisation. I hope to throw a little light on that paradox.
Parliamentary democracy and representative democracy in generalin a trade union or in a chamber of commercecan accommodate different solutions to the issue of selection or election for different functions or chambers. It must be acknowledged that two facets of democracy are entailed. First, chronologically, there is the internal process of selection within the party. I shall call that "leg 1". Secondly, there is the ratio of Members from the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and other parties. I shall call that "leg 2". Regional balance and the fact that we do not have enough people from the North are distinct factors that can and, perhaps, should be accommodated, but that tail cannot be allowed to wag the whole dog. I shall give my reasons for saying that later.
The democratic ratio between the parties in the second Chamber can be ensured in several ways, as the Royal Commission pointed out. Certainly, it does not require us to pull up the whole tree by its roots. That, too, is now a point of consensus, but it is worth underlining because it is not so often spelt out. Moreover, the second Chamber is generally agreed to
The selection/election issue is often presented as polar opposites, but internal party democracy for the selection of candidates means that the two approaches have more in common than most protagonists care to admit. We can visualise the sequence: the constituency or multi-constituency party selects the candidate. The electorate then votes, in effect, for the partynot the other way round. Ninety per cent of the reason why most of us are here, why a particular person with a particular political label is a Member of this House or the elected House, is internal party decision.
It is about lists, in this case. The open list system sounds democratic, but, again, questions arise about the criteria for choosing candidate A or candidate B. Why would not all the usual hustings requirements of personal media profile skew perceptions of candidate A, who happens to be the local mayor, and candidate B, who is the leading expert in the House of Lords on reforming the drafting of statutory instrumentsan area, incidentally, in which it is hard to get a quorum on the House of Commons side? The answer must be, "Horses for courses". Although many might say, "Hear, hear" to that, it is not always thought through.
What is the conclusion? Whereas the multi-constituency selection principle is vital for the local credibility of MPs, who must deal with local issues, it cannot be so vital or appropriate if someone is not dealing with a significant postbag of constituency issues. On 19th June, 2002, Robin Cook announced the Joint Committee, and his words are reported at column 344 of House of Commons Hansard for that day. He said that "no specific constituency role" was visualised. That is significant.
The House of Commons is based on constituencies, a fact that requires local relationships with the constituency management committee. In setting up the Joint Committee, Robin Cook said that constituencies were ruled out. That removes the case for what one might call the Lords local selection conference. The fact that we are not directly intimate with the problems specific to Burton-on-Trent does not mean that we are not intimate with issues that directly affect the people of Burton-on-Trent. As a former trade union official, I can give examples: security at work, pensions and pay issues. We deal with such issues here every other day, as well as the Communications Bill, the Licensing Bill and the Courts Bill, not to mention all the international issues. We have what we might call a national constituency, a workers' constituency, a health constituency or a university constituency.
Having considered that point, one might ask what is wrong with just saying "Good-bye" to the hereditaries but otherwise staying with the status quo. One thing wrong with thatalthough it should not be got out of proportionis that there are, prima facie, too many people here from the South, as opposed to the North, in the broadest sense. Incidentally, we need some statistics on that, such as where people live at weekends, their birthplaces and so on. That would be
The Joint Committee must now address as one of its priorities the question of striking a balance between allowing party leaders a degree of control and giving an appointments commission a degree of control. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, just identified that point. The general principle of appointment, which, basically, I support, should not be confused with the status quo. Who can make the best assessment of someone's capacity and experience, relative to the exercise?
The conclusion is that, apart from some indirectly elected regional MembersI am coming to that pointthere should be a national appointments system for the relevant party quotas, topped up in the way suggested by the Royal Commission. Not only would that give us the answer to leg 1, but it would also give us the answer to leg 2, if it were generally agreed that the composition of the second Chamber should not swing with the violence that often characterises the composition of the House of Commons. In other words, those who take that view are not persuaded of the merits of one of the biggest changes implied by direct electionthe selection of candidates by local activists. It is understandable that many local activists should be keen that they should be the key people in the selection process, but it is a narrowly conceived basis for selecting Members of this House, and the logic does not stack up, for the reasons that I suggested. "Cloning" the House of Commons would not be a reasonable conclusion to reach from that analysis.
If we are not going down that road of election via constituencies, it should be pointed out that the list system has additional downsides as well. If we went down that road, the likelihood would be of those voters who were still awake wondering why we bothered.
On the regional question, the case for a modest number of regional champions can be made and there is a variety of ways of appointing them. As we move towards regional assemblies in several parts of the country, for those areas there is a strong case for an experiment of indirect democracy analogous to the German system. It is interesting that this dimension was specifically noted by Robin Cook in his Statement on 19th June. It would not be right to have endless speeches just about the regional dimension of X, Y or Z. There is a need to learn experimentally from a degree of experience implied here. Dare one suggest that stage two will need to be followed in 10 years by stage three?.
This must be put into the perspective of many other roles played here. With the advent of regional assemblies, it may be the case that 20 per cent electednot necessarily used in the connotation of 20 per cent in the voting exercise on 4th Februarywould reflect that the regional Members experience for themselves
In conclusion, I see no reason why the people involved in the regional experiment could not operate quite easily on the same system of travel and subsistence allowances as the rest of us. Everyone seems to be saying the opposite. I do not understand why. They would not be working longer hours than most active Members here today.
Finally, I have been trying to get my brain around the rather arresting metaphor of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that election is necessary as a type of anointing. There is certainly no shortage of anointment. Perhaps I may ask: are all full-time politicians always in touch in a way they would like the term to be understood? I give a recent example. Last summer, the House of Commons made a decision radically to improve its pension arrangements with a benefit formula that changed fiftieths to fortieths, consequently moving from 25 years to 20 years to achieve a half-salary index-linked pension. That may sound fine, but this is at a time when much of the industry is moving the other way and moving from fiftieths to sixtieths. In other words, retirement is being postponed from 25 to 30 years when members can have half pension, and to 40 years for a two-thirds pension, which is not index-linked.
The fact is that we should all keep in touch with our various hinterlands in different ways. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the rather different feedback of the different hinterlands of the two Houses adds to the total value of Parliament as a sounding board and representation of the whole of society.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, first, I should like to congratulate the Joint Committee on its report which has been admirably put together. Secondly, in view of my later remarks, I should like to say now that I have the highest possible regard for another place and the Members of Parliament who serve in it. Thirdly, in view of the opening speech of my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, it is probably necessary to say that these Benches are not united. The last attempt to gather where we stood on the issue of election or otherwise was organised by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf three years ago, when the split was in the region of 60 in favour of more election and 40 in favour of less or no election.
I believe, as does the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, that the badge of democracy is elections. For us to support broadly the status quo can look like special pleading. None the less, I run both those risks for the reasons that I shall briefly enunciate. Many of the five qualities or attributes which the Joint Committee put forwardnamely, legitimacy, representativeness, non-dominance by a single party, independence and expertiseare conflicting. However, as regards independence, it is clear that more election will mean less independence.
I should like to turn to the issue of the type of people who would enter this House by election and the manner of that election. It is fruitless for those who support election to pretend that those elected Members would be less dependent on party patronage than their brethren in another place. In fact, they would be more dependent on party patronage because the list system at elections effectively places the elective process into the hands of a tiny clique of party activists. I say that with great regret, but I believe that elections by closed party lists are a gross sham of democracy.
The second reality is the type of people who will come to this place with its inferior powers. All my noble friends emphasise that these inferior powers really do not matter, but who will want to come to a House of inferior powers if he or she is of first-class ability? This will be their second choice, and I do not much like that.
In addition, who will want to be in a hybrid House with a lack of experience and expertise? The nature of modern politics is that people can get into politics only by what one might call a professional political route. Day by day, elected Members will be exposed to the appointees in the House who are here precisely because of their pre-eminence in the real world. The final issue that concerns me is that there is a risk that the elective process will yield a majority in this place the same as the majority in another place. Then, where is democracy?
I turn now to the issue of holding the executive to power, which is the principle role of the House of Commons and, to a lesser extent, this place. I ask: how is the Commons doing? What is the best demonstration of effective holding to power of a Government? Most people would say that it is the ability of the Opposition in the House of Commons to vote down measures by the Government which they think are bad or misconceived. Perhaps we may look at the statistics. In the five Sessions of Parliament since the present Government came to power in 1997, there have been 1,640 Divisions in the House of Commons. On how many occasions were the Government defeated in a whipped vote? The answer is not one.
I put it to the House that for all the grand talk about legitimacy, the reason that there is a decline in democratic allegiance in this country is that the House of Commons is no longer able to hold the executive to account at all.
In the same period, in this place, we had 639 whipped votes. The Government won 475; they were defeated in 164 Divisions. Therefore, in one in four Divisions throughout the five-year period, the Government in this place have been defeated, whereas in another place, on not one single occasion have they been defeated in a whipped Division. In the past year, the number of defeats has risen from one in four to one in three. The Divisions are not the end of the matter because on the back of defeats governments tend to be much more pliant towards opposition amendments. If one were to add up the number of forced amendments, it would be seen to be
I put it to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and my noble friend and colleague Lord Oakeshott, what would have been the position during the past five years if in this place we had had a wholly-elected or a part-elected Chamber? Would we then have defied the Government effectively in those 164 Divisions, so as to give some bracing to the democratic process? If we had, I suspect that the issue of legitimacy would have been in play. How could an elected Chamber here defeat the Government 164 times and the primary elected Chamber not defeat them once without the issue of legitimacy being inescapably to the fore? It is Alice in Wonderland to pretend that legitimacy is about where powers rest. It is from how the public perceive the exercise of power that legitimacy and authority follow.
If, on the other hand, we in this place had gone the way of all flesh and not defeated the Government a single time, we would have let down the traditions of this House and the country. I cannot see any in-between position.
The noble Lord, Lord Richard, quoted from a poll on the question of legitimacy. I tried to gather local opinion in my home town in Suffolk at the time of the last debate and held a public meeting on a wet Friday night in November. To my surprise, 85 local citizens tipped up. They went at it with a will. The idea that the public are not interested in this place or its reform is nonsense.
The calibre of debate, the wisdom of contributions and the awareness of the real issues were quite stirring. The only issue that I put to themI did not speak, I merely chaired the occasionwas whether, at the end of their two hours, they would favour a more elected or a more appointed House. The result was that four out of five favoured a more appointed House.
I hazard a guess that if there were a serious debate throughout the country about the reforms that we are contemplating, that would be the general response. It concerns me just a little that we carry on these great deliberations in a hermetically sealed Chamber. There is a world out there. It is their Parliament. They have a right to express a view and what are we doing about it?
I am not deeply enamoured of referenda, but if we here were to come to a radically different conclusion from our brethren in another place, why not contemplate a referendum of the British people so that they could decide what should happen to their second Chamber?
I conclude by agreeing with the points of view expressed most notably by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth. The complementary nature of this place, vis-a-vis another, is not only desirable, but essential, particularly since another place has become more and more a Chamber of professional politicians for reasons that I think we all understand.
First, I would like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, in congratulating the Joint Committee on its admirable report. That means, I fear, that I have to depart from the hugely enjoyable speech of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. That he covered all the ground, one cannot but agree, but why he had to be so beastly to his noble friend, I am not so sure. Without the Joint Committee, we would not have reached the present stage where the point of a fully appointed House could be debated.
I disagree with very few of the conclusions of the Joint Committee or its views, all of which were expressed with great clarity. The disparity of opinions held in each House, and the requirement of the two components of the Joint Committee to settle the fate of only one House, speaks very highly of the skill of the chairman.
Secondly, I feel the need to express penitence for part of my remarks made during the debate on the Government's White Paper one year ago. After being extremely unpleasant about that document (as were the majority of your Lordships), in an endeavour to be constructive, I came forward with the 50/50 option of appointed and elected. In the year that has elapsed, I have come to believe that a hybrid House will never work. My noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who has moved from his seat to avoid being stabbed in the back, goes for the proposal that I made a year ago. If any noble Lord who is a member of a political party believes that we Cross-Benchers agree with each other, he is totally mistaken. Amazingly, we spend as much time disagreeing with each other as with the parties and it is a miracle that we get so much done.
No matter what the proportions, the elected Members will inevitably feel themselves to be superior beings to the rest. The remarkable effectiveness of the House over the centuries and continuing to this day will no longer be there.
I am in favour of a 100 per cent appointed House and I deeply hope that that will be the decision on 4th February. I wholeheartedly agree with every word that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, in an impeccable speech.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, when a couple in the Highlands who were totally lost stopped in a little village and asked one of the local worthies for directions, he looked at them, scratched his head and said, "Well, frankly, I wouldn't start from here". That is a problem that we have at the moment. We have to start from where we are now.
My second point is that I do not believe that there is such a thing as a perfect constitution. Nowhere in the world is there a perfect constitution. People will always find flaws in it. The one thing that we need, when we finally come to a conclusion on future reform, is stability. It is no use having a second bash at it, in the knowledge that there will be further controversy, and then another bash and so on. That would not do the country or the Government much good.
The problem is that the genie of reform is out of its bottle. I am not sure that we can put it back when we think that we have had enough reform. We are seeing an inexorabale dynamic over which we have no control and nobody knows where it will finish.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, made much of the fact that since the Life Peerages Act we have had a hybrid House which has seemed to work very well. It begs the question: why did we start reform? Why did we abolish the majority of the hereditary Peers with the promise that the rest would follow after a short period of time?
It is not hybridity which is the secret; it is what sort of hybridity one can achieve. Despite the hilarity caused to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, earlier, my view is that there is no in-between. The House is either wholly appointed or wholly elected. The author of that is myself and nobody else. I shall try to explain why.
The powers of this place, which have been under discussion for a long time, drive us to two different perspectives. One is in the present case, where there is a strong feeling that there should be a stronger House of Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has said that. These views arise from the impotence of opposition in the House of Commons. The other proposalthat the House of Lords should be weakenedcomes from a government who are very strong in the House of Commons but fear that the House of Lords will frustrate their objectives.
There will always be intense scrutiny on this House. We are not having an academic, theoretical discussion between the two Houses. The new House of Lords, whatever form it takes, will be under intense media scrutiny. Have we forgottenI certainly have notthat the Labour Party used to say when it was defeated in the House of Lords that it was the hereditaries who were at fault. It did its sums and if the majority against a proposition consisted of hereditaries, it was all the hereditaries' fault.
In a hybrid House, the first time a popularperhaps I should say populistmeasure is defeated in the House of Lords, the sums will be done. If the life Peers stop this populist measure proceeding through the transitional House, I can see the red top headlines now"It was the lifers what did it". Then, when the
In my opinion, there is an inexorable drive towards a fully elected House of Lords. That is inescapable. The challenge between the two Houses will come when the House of Lords tackles a government with a very narrow majority. It will not come when there is a huge majority one way or the otheras there was during the Thatcher years and as there is at presentbut when there is a close balance in the House of Commons. The challenge will come from here and the House will be driven to assert its authority. No elected Members will be able to rest on the proposition that he or she has no power to challenge the House of Commons.
It has been said that it would be very easy to carry on the way we are; that the conventions should remain in place. But conventions exist only as long as there is the will to allow them to exist. Elected Members are certain to feel that they are not bound by convention; that they have a legitimacy. We use the word "legitimacy" as a mantra, as if it is nothing but a simple phrase. But it is very serious. Once you are elected and have legitimacy, you must stand up for that legitimacy.
If we are to go down the road of striking a balance between the rules that govern the House of Commons and the House of Lords and their powers, we must have a written constitution. A noble Lord said earlier that government of the country cannot be settled by unelected judges. I do not wish to cast aspersions on their capacityI have no malicious motive towards the judgesbut they will have to decide on the basis of the merits as they see them. So instead of an unelected House of 600 plus Members, you will have an unelected government of perhaps a dozen judges. It does not make sense. So, quite clearly in my view, there will have to be a written constitutionand most people shy from going down the road of a written constitution.
It is said that elected Members will not have any constituency matters to deal with. An example of how that does not work can be found in the Scottish Parliament. For those who do not know, the Scottish Parliament consists of a number of directly elected Members, with top-up Members from each region so that there is a balance throughout the country. It was initially suggested that the top-up Members should not be paid so much because they would not have a constituency responsibility and would not need the same amount of research moneyI am not arguing on the grounds of costbut the fact is that before they got their feet under the table they were receiving the same salary and the same amount of research money.
Although they are not supposed to have any constituency responsibilities, what happens is that if a constituent is dissatisfied with the work done by his Member of the Scottish Parliament, he will go to the top-up Member, who has been elected indirectly. That
I began by saying that we needed stability. If we are to have that stability we have to bite the bullet and decide whether to go down the road of a wholly appointed House and agree that that will be the end of the matter. I suspect that it will not be. Once the genie is out of the bottle and we start to speak about elections, we will not be able to put it back. We cannot have stability as long as we have the argument every three or four years of "We have got to have more elections"; "We have got to have more elected Members"; "The House of Lords is not legitimate".
On balance, I believe that we have got to bite the bullet and go down the road of a fully elected second Chamber. I accept that that will pose more questions than it answers. It poses the question of how the House of Lords should be elected. Do we accept the fact that in a wholly elected Chamber there would be no Cross-Benchers and no representatives of the Church of England or any other faith? Fortunately there will still be room for atheists like me, although I would go as well under a wholly elected system. I would find that difficult. I have not gone native, but I do like this place.
We are in grave danger of arriving at the wrong solution at the wrong time. I do not advocate delay for delay's sakethat would be the worst of all worlds and make us impotentand so I shall conclude as I began. We have started the process and we cannot hold it back. We have to make a choiceand a hybrid Chamber is the worst possible answer of all.
When listening to my noble and learned Lord friend Lord Howe and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, who both served on the committee, opening the debate, I was fascinated that they both quoted, as an example of this House at its best, the anti-terrorism Act 2002. I had some hand in the passage of the Bill through this House in the few short weeks that it was here. I agree completely that it was an example of this House working at its best, but as an example of this House working within the conventions of Parliament under the existing remit it had no status at all. The Bill was debated entirely outside the
Historically, the reform of this House has always been difficult. The other place has had difficulty over the idea that its legitimacy and authoritymost importantly, its primacymight be reduced if the authority of this House were increased.
That right to primacy is based on the evolution of Parliament over centuries and on the sovereignty of the peoplederived nowadays through elections. That was appropriate and valid. But time has moved on. I cannot see how electing Members to this Chamber would in any way endanger the primacy of the peoplethey would be choosing Members of this House. It is the primacy of the people that matters, not the primacy of the other Chamber. There is a clear distinction.
The Government have ensuredas the noble Lord, Lord Richard, saidthe departure of the old truisms. The 1999 Act removed the ancient problem of the hereditary Peers. I could have wished for that Act to be passed more graciously and pleasantly. Sadly, it was not so. But with the removal of that obstacle to reform, it is now much easier for the process to move forward.
In any event, Parliament itself is continuing to evolve. One has only to look at developments in another place to see great change. Today, after half a century of continuing development, we see the executive arm in the other place completely dominating itto the point where our system of government might be described, in the phrase of the late Lord Hailsham, as an "elective dictatorship".
Given that situationand given that if you are in such a position of authority it is extremely attractive to want to continue to enjoy itI find it sad but understandable that we see an increasing tendency for the press to reportpresumably for high authoritative sources within the Governmentthat a minimalist approach to the reform of this place is appropriate.
The structure and function of Parliament and the relationship between the two Houses should not be determined for the convenience of the executive. It should be determined in the best interests of the people of this country. Again, there is a clear distinction.
Given that background, the issue is not whether one is in favour of an appointed House or an elected House. One can say with certainty that an elected House, or a House with a proportion of elected Members, will be in the greater interests of the British people. I have no hesitation in putting forward that general proposition. Indeed, people at large might feel in the end, whatever happened, that they were benefiting as a result.
When the committee goes back to work, after the votes have taken place, it will have, if not guidance, a knowledge of the way in which the two Houses have voted on the options before them. I hope that the committee will look again at the question of the conventions between the two Houses.
As the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, the parliamentary landscape has changed. We are looking at pre-legislative scrutiny as a matter of routine. We are looking at carry-over as a matter of routine. If we have carry-over, why do we need the Parliament Act?
Scrutiny of legislation is based on a historical perception that Bills must pass in a single Session. I have been in this House for nine years, and I take the simple view that there is one Bill alone which has to be passed on an annual basis. I refer to the Finance Bill. Every other Bill could reasonably wait until it had achieved the agreement of both Houses. I hope that this issue will be thoroughly studied. I hope that we may see a slightly more progressive approach to the conventions between the two Houses.
If this were to result in a lowering of the frenetic pace of legislation passing through the House, I suggest that that might be beneficial. All too often in recent years, as my noble friend Lady Blatch on the Front Bench will recognise, we have started on a successor education Bill before its predecessor has been implemented. I do not wonder that those in the profession are demoralised. It is not surprising. They can hardly know whether they are standing on solid ground or on quicksand. Other government services suffer from the same problem. I am not referring merely to primary legislation. Regulations, guidance and targets pour out of Whitehall in a steady stream and detract from concentration on the basic services that the people of this country are trying to provide.
People are concerned that we should not create a mirror image of the other House. Several years ago, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern indicated the method by which that need not be done. He said that if this House were fully elected, or if a proportion of Members were elected, the number of elected Members should be divisible by three, with no right of re-election and having membership for three Parliaments. That would mean a membership of 12 to 14 years on average. That would create a House, if elected by thirds, that would have the political swings of general elections damped, and it would be very different in character from another place.
I do not think that that would cause problems, even if there were occasionally greater tensions between the two Houses. In the end, the interests of both Houses and of all elected members are identicalthe best interests of the people of this country.
Lord Jopling: My Lords, I begin with a few brief comments on the issue of elected or appointed members. I wish to add little to the points made by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth in a most distinguished speech.
It is almost six years since I came to this House, in the face of the removal of the hereditary Peers. The comment was often made that this House would become more and more like the House of Commons. It has done, marginally. I do not think that it is any the worse for that. But it is my strong belief that if we had
Your Lordships' House has a function totally different from that of the House of Commons. It would be a huge mistake to turn it into a clone of another place. If elections are held, the parties will get hold of, and organise, them. If that happens, the Whips will get a much greater hold on this House. So, my inclination is to vote "yes" to an all-appointed House and "no" to everything else.
I wish to draw attention to the position of the government in your Lordships' House. I have spoken about the influence of parties and party politics. We are involved in a democracy in which party politics play a strong part. We cannot expect this House to be sterilised from the party political process. In the report of the Joint Committee, which I applaud, there is a black hole, which few have recognised. I have been in the Chamber for most of the afternoon, and the matter has been referred to very little. People outside your Lordships' House are astonished when told that, according to the figures in the report, the Government have only 27.6 per cent of the total vote in the House of Lords, while, between them, the two principal opposition parties have 41.5 per cent of the vote.
That is difficult to justify. It is unfair that the Government should have only 27.6 per cent of the vote. We have in the House of Lords a Labour government nearer the centre of the British political scene than we have seen for a long time. This Government's policies have not been as contentious as those of previous Labour governments. But, even so, we are told that the Government have been losing one vote in four in the past five Sessions.
What would happen if we were to have a government, Left-wing or Right-wing, whose stance and electoral platform was much more extreme than what we see today? If a government were elected to pursue much more contentious policies, they would be much more hotly contested on many issues by both the main opposition parties in this House. Would it be fair for a government elected by the will of the people to have only around 30 per cent of the votes in your Lordships' House? I go further: what would happen if in the United Kingdom there were an election result, like those in other countries over the years, whereby a party comes from nowhere a year or two before an election to become the government? In my time, in the 1980s, we saw the rise of the Social Democrat Party, which gave the Labour Party an enormous fright. It reached high levels in the public opinion polls. It would not have been too fanciful to suppose, if events had been different, that the Social Democrat Party, or another like it, could win an election.
What would happen if a party with virtually no members in this House were elected? That is the black hole I refer to. With a party in government with minimal representation, one of two things would have to happen. Either the government of the day would have to appoint many new peers using the Prime Minister's prerogative or Parliament would have to change the rules to enable government to have a guaranteed number of supporters.
I have spoken about the matter before. The only way to do that is for the government of the day, after each election, speedily to be guaranteed an agreed percentage of the vote in your Lordships' House, with the opposition parties together having the same percentage. I have suggested before that the government of the day and the opposition parties might have 40 per cent each, with the Cross-Benchers having the remaining 20 per cent. I would not argue against the government and opposition parties each having only 35 per cent and the Cross-Benchers having 30 per cent. That would be for discussion.
The approach has certain advantages. It gives the government of the day a fair chance. If they suffered a long series of defeats in your Lordships' House, it would stop them from doing what I fear might be happening now: the government shrugging their shoulders and regarding the Lords increasingly as a mere nuisance to be routinely rolled over by the Commons. That would be bad. The other advantage is that it would inherently respect the ideal that no single party should be dominant in this House.
The disadvantages would be, first, that new life Peers would no longer have the right to sit in the House of Lords for life. Secondly, it would guarantee new life Peers a seat for only one parliamentary term. They would be told that, if the party remains in government, they might have a seat for further parliamentary terms. The problem would be deciding who will stay on after each election. In recent years, the hereditary Peers decided exactly that. Looking at some of my noble colleagues elected to stay on, one could hardly call them Whips' narks.
Such an approach would also deal with the problems of age limits and non-attendance, because it would be much easier to drop Peers off. I know that some of these ideas are unattractive to some, but we need to create a House that is better prepared for an election result reflecting an unusual will of the people. The House must be able quickly to readjust its membership to reflect the will of the people. Therefore, conclusion (xix) on page 28 of the Joint Committee's report, which states that 10 or 12 years is about right, would not work. If, because a government have minimal representation, a top-up is required to give them a reasonable working number of supporters in this House, the membership of the House would go through the roof quickly. We ought to make sure that we address the problem now so that we do not have to return to it in a panic in years to come.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I stand before you as a humble Member who has come here through an appointment's commission. I had no gong to my name and was no professional politician. I decided to fill out the demanding forms, motivated by
I should like to pick up briefly on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, concerning any election. In Wales in 1999, only 40 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote in the Assembly election, despite the publicity and the obvious importance to their future. Healthcare and education are delegated powers; there is a long-standing tradition of concern about both topics among the population of Wales.
Each constituency is well covered by those "elected" by this minority of the population. I shall give two typical examples. Preseli in Pembrokeshire is rural. It is covered by an MP, one constituency and four regional Assembly Members, one MEP and additionally, at local level, 60 county councillors. Wrexham in north Wales is similar. It has one MP, one constituency and four regional Assembly Members, one MEP and additionally, at local level, 52 county borough councillors and 34 community councillors. One way or another, up to 15 people can claim to represent one householder.
I, for one, would never have the resources to run an election campaign. In any case, how would independents be picked to stand? Even local political parties have not always had perfect reputations in the way in which candidates have been selected. Some selection committee would need to be held for those wishing to stand as independents. I remind your Lordships that apparently just over 3,600 applications were submitted for the 15 places that were available when I was appointed. If even half of those people had stood for election, mayhem could have ensued, and at what cost? How would the system be fairly organised? Would the electorate be asked to rubber-stamp some out of the selection committee's final shortlist?
I support the proposal of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, that a statutory independent appointments commission is established. Such a commission must examine all the nominations. Everyone to be considered should complete the forms and be considered. They could be from any political party or be non-party independent. They could be senior religious figures or even the occasional current hereditary, whose great expertise has much to offer a reformed Chamber, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, eloquently advocated. There should be no patronage and no party donation to influence the process. They must be open, transparent and subject to scrutiny.
The commission must be charged with ensuring that there is representation across the socio-economic, ethnic and expert strata of society. I know people who would contribute a great deal but could never get elected. Let me give an example. Long-term unemployed through disability, this highly intelligent and widely read man's lame leg restricts mobility, his deafness makes campaigning without help and resources difficult and his marked facial palsy would not make a pretty picture on an election pamphlet. But his formidable intelligence and experience of poverty, loneliness and social exclusion through deformity might well inform debate.
There is another issue of powers. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, highlighted, the checks and balances that this House exerts over English legislation are not similarly in place for Scotland, nor for secondary legislation affecting Wales. Perhaps there are major issues lurking here. When will major incompatibilities in legislation emerge?
The expertise here is formidable. I should like to see more women and greater representation of different ethnic and social groups in society being openly appointed, with a commitment to work hard for this country and to remain up to date in their area of expertise, contributing where they should for the good of this great nation.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, along with other noble Lords, I know that a great deal that is said in this debate will be repeated. There is no doubt that I shall touch on an argument that has previously been expressed. But I make no apology for this, as I believe that the historical development that we are embarking on needs to be addressed by all those who feel passionately about the issue.
Before us we have a range of options spanning a wide spectrum, from a totally appointed House to a fully elected House. At the outset, I immediately confess my unequivocal support for a wholly appointed House. I know that there will be those who will say of me, as an appointed Peer, "He would say that, wouldn't he?" However, such a superficial view is not of great value because, as I understand it, we life Peers are protected whatever formula is finally determined for this place.
In my arguments I hope to show that a fully appointed upper House is not anti-democratic but is in the best interests of the nation. Of the range of options before us, it is my view that the only principled alternatives are a fully appointed or a fully elected House. Although I am against the introduction of a wholly elected House, I appreciate that those who support it do so from a standpoint of principle. However, the range of options expressing the introduction of a part-appointed and part-elected House reflects a total absence of principle and only mirrors a compromise attempting to satisfy the varying shades of opinion.
Although I saw no justification for hereditary Peers remaining in this House, and said so at the time, there was a greater consistency between hereditary and life Peers than there will be between appointed and elected Peers. Hereditary and life Peers were appointed, one group by a system of heritage and the other by the Prime Minister. Those are different forms of appointment, but appointment nevertheless. Far more complex difficulties will arise from the presence of elected Peers in this House.
An overwhelming majority of life Peers in this House have considerable experience in one or more areas of our national lifein industry, culture, the arts, media, the judiciary, medicine, the armed services, education, the diplomatic service and so on. That is what enables the House to make a unique contribution to the country's democratic system, and it should be reinforced and underpinned rather than destroyed or removed. With the introduction of elected Peers, I fear that the fruitful paradigm that we now display will be lost for ever.
If the experience of the introduction of the European Parliament is anything to go by, there is no doubt that many standing for election to this House will see it as a stepping stone to another place. Whether elected Peers are directly or indirectly elected, they will be more accountable because of their election than will appointed Peers. Even if that accountability is difficult to define, they will legitimately be entitled to claim it.
That will throw up further problems. For instance, elected Peers could claim that they are superior to appointed Peers and therefore entitled to all the Front Bench positions. They will feel, and claim, that their election entitles them to be more a part of government or opposition than appointed Peers. However, the much greater problem, on which I shall elaborate when I come to my opposition to a fully elected House, is that elected Peers could not possibly accept the limitations of this House, which have evolved in the interests of the country's democratic process. I hope to show that, contrary to being undemocratic, a wholly appointed House of Lords bolsters democracy, as do many other unelected institutions in this country.
Having relatively recently removed the trappings of a hybrid House with the removal of hereditary Peers, only further confusion will result from the introduction of another hybrid House through the provision of part-elected and part-appointed Peers. That is worse than jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, if that is possible.
It is a gross oversimplification to state automatically, as I have heard so often, that election equates to democracy. The pre-eminent House in our democracy is the House of Commons. Members of the Commons fight the general elections, form the government, determine the legislation and face the electorate. They are accountable to the people of this country and responsible for the stewardship of the country's affairs, both nationally and internationally. That is as it should be, and I fully support that position, which fully satisfies the fundamental democratic position that we in this House work to underpin. Many institutions that underpin our democratic structure, such as the Civil Service, the
This House has very limited legislative responsibilityand I emphasise the phrase "very limited". We scrutinise and sometimes propose revision of legislation and can delay but not prevent the passage of legislation. We debate matters of widespread importance. We more often helpfully complement the Commons than obstructively challenge it. That is our unequalled contribution to the democratic process. We dot "i"s and cross "t"s.
To some that may seem boring, and I fear that that would be the case for elected Peers. I can understand that. However, for appointed life Peers who have made their mark before coming herebringing a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise that enables them to draw attention to the practical difficulties which can often arise from the principled legislation that is proposedthe only motivation is to serve.
The whole approach would be different with a wholly elected House. Elected Peers would not see their work and responsibilities as we see them. They would not accept the limitations which we accept in fulfilling our part in the democratic process. In such circumstances, I fear that, sooner or later, there would be an unavoidable head-on collision between the two elected Houses which, after a lengthy period of chaos that will do nothing for the well-being of this nation, could very well lead to abolition of the House of Lords. I believe without any doubt whatever that this House best serves the people, the country and the country's democratic structure by being a wholly appointed House.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, until recently, I thought that if we had to have a new House of Lords, we should do best to have one that was directly elected on a system different from that applying to another place. I have come to realise, however, that it is our current diversity of interest that makes this such a useful and interesting Chamber. The presence of a large Cross-Bench element is desirable. As the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pointed out, that probably would not occur if this were a wholly elected House. I think that we should go to very great trouble indeed to ensure that something like that which we currently have is preserved or at least improved.
Like many other noble Lords, I believe that we should aim at a system in which election and nomination are combined. However, both the method of nomination and the method of election should be considered originally and imaginatively. Let us suppose that we had a House of 600, half nominated, half elected, and let us consider first the nominated element. I have some suggestions. To maintain what might be called the religious reality of the country, we could, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, suggested, cut the number of Anglican bishops to perhaps 18as was indeed suggested, in the 1960s, in the Crossman reformsand fill their places with some Catholic
The Speakers of the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland and the Welsh Assemblies might also be appointed as ex officio Members, as the current incumbents suggested in a letter printed at the back of the committee's report. If the ceremonial side of Parliament is to be preserved and maintained, as is certainly desirable, surely there is a case for thinking that the noble Lords, the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain, also should remain in this House as ex officio Members. I think that, in the long run, British civilisationor English civilisation; however one wishes to describe itwill be remembered for our poets more than for our parliamentarians. So I suggest that the Poet Laureate is another candidate for ex officio nomination.
It could also be agreed that several other office holders should always be nominated to this House. I cite the Secretary-General of the TUC, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the heads of the Foreign Office and the Treasury, the Cabinet Secretary, and perhaps the Permanent Secretaries of one or two other departments of state along with some ambassadors, such as those to the European Union and the United Nations. They might normally expect to join this House on their retirement. Such nominations happen very often now, but it might be good to have the convention formally and even legally agreed. Currently, ex-members of the Cabinet customarily join this House, as do European Commissioners after they leave Brussels. Those conventions should continue, and they might be enshrined in a parliamentary convention, if not in law. I hope, too, that Law Lords will remain Members of this House at least for some years after their retirement.
Noble Lords will see that I am making several different proposals: one for ex officio membership along the lines of what now obtains with bishops; one for ex officio membership for Law Lords; and one for membershipprobably, but not certainly, for lifefor some others on the ground that their experience should enable them to make a good contribution to this House.
It has always been the case that the Prime Minister has named persons to this House because he or she wants them to be Ministers. The commission's reports specifically envisaged that practice continuing. It would be desirable, if the House goes on doing more or less what it is doing now. That is all I have to say for the moment in respect of nominated members.
I turn to the matter of election. I have here another complicated series of suggestions for your Lordships' interest. Half the elected members might, indeed, be chosen by direct election based on some system different from that which pertains in the elections to another place. Perhaps it could be comparable to the proportional representation which obtains in the elections for the European Parliament, and even be carried through at the same time and in the same constituencies.
We could assume that the vast majority of those new members would be politicians, and the Front Benches on all sides of this House might be expected to come from those persons. That would account for a quarter of the new Housesay, 150 members. As to the other half of the elected membersanother 150I suggest some arrangement whereby professional associations elect members. My noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd thought that it was not necessary to specify who should be elected in such a way, but I think that there is a case for specifying. To take an obvious example, two or three vice-chancellors could be elected members of this House by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. I refer also to schoolmasters and university teachers; solicitors, barristers, doctors, surgeons and vets; authors, including historians; trade unionists, of course; newspaper, television, magazine and media workers and proprietors; people who work in the social and health services; those who work in City companies or in manufacturing industry; members of the Armed Services and the police; nurses and firemen, and so on. All could hold elections too through the professional body which most of those professions have, although if necessary such things could be specially devised for the occasion of the election.
Electors might be able to choose whether they wanted to vote for members by proportional representation in the way that I suggested a moment or two ago, or in the elections within those professional groups. Some will think that this idea smacks of corporatism, as was said when something similar was proposed in the 1970s by the late Lord Hailsham. But we should not be afraid of words if they can serve us. Others will argue that what I have suggested is far too complicated. However, the way in which a Doge was elected in Venice was extremely complicated but, as your Lordships will be aware, the institution lasted 1,000 years.
I make no claim that the proportions I have suggested150 here, 150 there, a third there and so onare exactly right; but I do think that if we were to adopt something like these plans, we would have an upper Chamber which would preserve, even expand, the diversity of what we have now but establish it on a better moral basis.
Lord Wolfson: My Lords, we have heard a number of powerful opening speeches and others that have followed, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, a brilliant historian. They have made a significant contribution to the discussion in hand.
Clearly, there is a variety of views still to be expressed in this important debate, culminating in a vote next week on seven options. I support a programme for the ongoing evolution of your Lordships' House, part of a process that began with the Parliament Act of 1911an interesting example of the inevitability of gradualness.
I realise that another place would be unlikely to agree, but any democratically elected element of the upper House should have similar voting powers to the Commons, with reasonable use of Whipping to secure the maximum possible freedom of decision-making.
Consideration should also be given for a select committee of the Privy Council or a senior advisory board on present lines to recommend appointed Members. Present and new Members engaged in a variety of key national areas would be involved, particularly all those engaged in enhancing the quality of education in science, technology, healthcare and a comprehensive range of the arts and humanities. Expertise would continue to be maximised in other priority sectors by the regular addition of further senior figures, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, for the many areas of public and religious life represented in the House. The remarkable record in this country and the Commonwealth of inventive and literary genius, as evidenced by the number of Nobel Prize winners, should be reflected by a larger representation of them in this House.
As a retired businessman, I feel that there is a positive role in this Chamber for active and independent leaders of commerce and industry. Their organisational skills could help parliamentary committees to improve the value obtained in public capital investment, commensurate with the high quality standards required.
I became slightly worried when my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon began telling us that this discussion has been going on as long as history. I felt slightly more at home when my noble friend Lord Selborne said that it had been going on for 90 years. That ties in with a letter that I have at home written by my grandfather to my father, saying that the reform of the House of Lords was due and that it had gone on in the previous generation's daythat of my great grandfather.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, in winding up the debate in this House on 18th December, hoped that the Government would receive the approval of history for their record of constitutional reform. There has certainly been plenty of such reform but, as we contemplate the further reform of this House, it might be worth reminding ourselves of the sentiments of Edmund Burke in 1790 in the midst of the most fundamental changes in the British constitution or "commonwealth" that we have ever known. He said that,
I realise that there are those in various walks of life who think that our past and traditions as represented in this House were somehow misguided and a terrible mistake: a catalogue of exploitation and misery that should be swept into the dustbin of history. However, that does not appear to be the overall mood of the country. I like to think that a different view was in evidence recently at the time of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Millions place great value in our customs and traditions, our religious persuasions and our links with our origins, however tenuous they may be.
At the level of practical experience, as a farmer, I have been able to see the marks in the countryside of the struggles over hundreds of years of previous generations with the land and nature. The structures and shapes of the past are things from which each succeeding generation has learned and benefited. I like to think that the same can be said of your Lordships' House and the concepts that have underpinned it. Of course, we have come a long way from the feudal concepts that established this place. As I see it, because of their property, the nobles in the early centuries were representatives of their areas, but also in those areas they were the ultimate authority in local government, in Church appointments, in the local courts of justice and in collecting the finance to support those functions. In those days what we now call "the local enterprise company" and the wealth of their area depended on their actions and initiatives. Along with that, they were encouraged to bring a sense of history and civic duty. So there was a reason, other than just their rank, for having them involved in the legislative process.
However, the general experience over the years, both then and now, has led us to conclude that, when individual men are given so much power, it can corrupt their judgment and self-interest can lead them to make their own interests paramount. That was the accusation that was most often levelled at hereditary Peers such as meand sometimes, one has to say, that was done with reason. Those who come to occupy this place in years to come will have to show that they can overcome that accusation. In the event, successive governments have taken away most of that power and the structures of the country are now very different.
The Joint Committee demanded that the quality of representatives should be one of the major features of a new House. I would like to think that in fulfilling representativeness, any revised Chamber should be constructed in such a way as to give a voice to those different strands of our national life, whether it is of institution, geography or community.
That leads me to favouras do the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, to mention but twothe first option listed in the committee's report. However, in doing so we must recognise that much will have to be done to convince the general public of its authority and that that is a sensible and modern thing to do.
As was perhaps illustrated by the convictions of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, we must face the fact that our representatives have gone to the ends of the world telling everyone that governments must have elections without pointing out that this country has gained by having within its structure an element of appointment. Not least in that regard have been the present Government, who have been able to appoint a large selection of very able Ministers to sit on the Front Benches in your Lordships' House. I have the temerity to suggest, rather like the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that it would have been extremely difficult for some of them to be enlisted on any other basis.
If asked whether any other proposals were thought to have merit, I should not be totally opposed to having a small elected element, but certainly not one that represented a democratic mandate to challenge another place. I should see it mainly as a way of ensuring regional representation and in particular for letting the public comprehend that this House does contain a regional voice, whose authority comes from the people who live in the area.
The committee's present proposal which comes nearest to that is that 20 per cent of Members should be elected. But, following the mathematics of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, that must mean in the region of 120 or perhaps even 140 elected Members. I should have thought that a perfectly reasonable representation could be made by half that numbersay, 87based on the old European electoral constituencies. Compared with some of the others, such an arrangement might offer a little less confusion for the voters and less demand on the returning officers. If it were, as suggested in a submission to the committee, a matter of including the speakers of the various regional assemblies, then they would be among those subject to appointment.
The committee is right to emphasise the five qualities that it lists in Part 3 of the report. I believe we should have confidence that those can be met and that a reformed House will be able to attract a membership with a sense of history and of the civic duty which is required in the modern world.
What did the executive-dominated House of Commons do? It made two great errors: the poll tax and the privatisation of British Rail. Those measures were strongly opposed throughout the whole of Parliament, yet they were carried through by the strong will of the executive. Robert Adley, whom I remember with great affection, called rail privatisation the "poll tax on wheels". That is what it was. We do not need to duplicate in the House of Lords the same political representation that is found in the House of Commons. That would result in the same kind of domination by the executive here, which is not the case at present.
There are 659 Members of the House of Commons and there is little benefit in tackling the problems and the questions in the same way. But there is an advantage in having a House of Lords which, with the experience and expertise of its Members, looks at decisions made by the Commons and, in the light of the comments made, calls for further examination of the issues. That is the real gain in constitutional terms.
I played a part in the Parliament (No. 2) Bill in 1968. In my view, since those days in 1967 and 1968, the House of Commons has moved even further from what I would want it to be. As a consequence of the reduction in the hereditary element, the House of Lords has become rather more relevant. Today, the House of Commons is too dominated by the executive and there has been little separation of powers between the executive and the legislature.
Of course, as we know, that separation of powers has always been limited, but the limited independence of the legislature has weakened over the past 50 years. The power of the House of Commons has declined as more MPs have become full-time Members, subject more and more to the pressures of the executive. People who made a contribution to life outside the House of Commons with their experience and independence nowadays rather more rarely come to the House of Commons. Therefore, the House of Commons continues to be increasingly dominated by the executive.
The very limited separation of powers that we had in the House of Commons has been diminishing, partly because of the narrower recruitment taking place from outside and partly because of the improved pay, which makes a parliamentary career less of a financial sacrifice for some would-be MPs than it used to be. For some, that financial sacrifice was more acceptable in a world where the Member of Parliament could more readily play an important role in national and international affairs. That does not happen in quite the same way today.
Those who came from outside into Parliament were captains of industry and leaders of one kind or another. We had the trade union leaders, Frank Cousins and John Horner of the Fire Brigades Union; we had d'Avigdor Goldsmith, a bullion dealer and a great
Today, on any subject, the House of Lords can field Members with experience and expertise who, even if one disagrees with them, need to be listened to with some attention. The proportion of those with that experience and expertise has increased considerably since the reduction in the number of hereditary Peers. That has changed the whole context of this House. Nowadays, the quality of debate here differs fundamentally from that in the House of Commons. Government do not have a majority here and ultimate power does not reside in this House, so crude party political points are more rarely made and argument is a more persuasive way of convincing Members.
Let us consider status and performance since the departure of the hereditary Peers. As I said, that has been enhanced. There have been more votes against the Government; their legislation has become more justifiable and has been revised well. Even Eric Forth, the shadow Leader of the House, pointed out in the House of Commons on 19th June at col. 370 of Commons Hansard that the House of Lords examined parts of Bills better than the House of Commons. There is no guillotine here; we can continue the argument. We do not leave whole patches of Bills unexamined. To introduce into the House of Lords a greater degree of party politicisation could seriously affect the progress of business. The ultimate catastrophe for the proper examination of legislation could be the necessity to introduce the guillotine into our procedures. That could well be a consequence of party political opposition in this House.
Let us consider what would be the relationship of elected and unelected Peers in the same House. It is not likely that the elected Peers would give way in debate and in Questions to unelected Peers. Even with fewer numbers they will assert themselves, indeed, as being more representative with a popular mandate, as we have heard in a number of contributions. Added to that, party politics will be more conviction based, with less compromise. The Joint Committee saw the independence of the House of Lords as important in holding the executive to account, and it is important. However, elected Peers will echo much of the confrontation that we see in the House of Commons. That danger of conflict between the two Houses would be likely to become worse.
There would be greater electoral legitimacy. Even if there were the same dates for elections in another place and here, by-elections could claim a legitimacy which would lead to greater conflict between the two Houses.
Members of Parliament would be aware that elected Peers could be an avenue of appeal against the efforts of Members of Parliament. My noble friend Lord Hughes made this point, and he is right. They could take up constituency cases. That could be invaluable. A Peer still has a certain status. It could be felt that if one failed to get a result from one's Member of Parliament, one could go
What does accountability mean when there is no re-election? If there is no re-election what, then, is the difference between appointment and election? It would be the electors who make the appointment rather than looking at objective realities and understanding of the kind of people concerned. The elected Peer could say, "Thank you for voting me in. There is nothing you can do about it now".
There is an important distinction to be made here between serving five years or 15 years as an elected Peer. For a five-year term we would be replicating the House of Commons. For a 15-year term without re-election we would be replicating the present life Peers without proper consideration of their experience and expertise. There is also a paradox in that the elected Peer, even without re-election, will still claim a greater legitimacy with secretaries, research assistants and offices, and would change the nature of the whole parliamentary process.
So, how do we make the selection? The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will have a part to play. What we would then seeand what this debate has shownis that this argument is still to be continued. The various methods need to be discussed. The question of appointment is the key to maintaining the important standing of this House. I look forward to it continuing.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, since reading the report of the Joint Committee, I am quite convinced that an all-appointed House is the only sensible option, which is contrary to what I said in debate a year ago. I am eating my words.
Some noble Lords have contended that this is already a hybrid House. I would argue that a mixture of hereditary and life Peers is not hybrid at all in the same way as a mixture of appointed and elected Peers. Hereditary Peers are merely second or third-hand, or whatever, appointed Peershand-me-downs, if you like. Life Peers are just new appointed Peers. We both sit very comfortably together, just as old and new furniture sits very comfortably in an agreeable sitting room. Therefore, I take issue with Peers who have said that this is already a hybrid House.
If you have a truly hybrid House, which is what a part appointed and part elected House would be, the elected Members will believe that they are much more important than the appointed Members, because they will say that they have more "legitimacy"whatever that is supposed to mean. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has already mentioned this matter. It is total rubbish, because if you are an appointed Member of this House, as all my life-Peer friends are, under the law as it stood when you were appointed, you are every bit as legitimate as anyone who has been elected.
Any of your Lordships or any Members of another place who think otherwise, and particularly members of the Joint Committee, should consult the Oxford English Dictionary or Roget's Thesaurus. You may not be quite as democratic, but "democraticness" is not legality, but merely a matter of fashion and political correctness, which are transient. The Joint Committee was quite rightly not concerned with whether the House was democratic.
People who depend on an electorate to keep them in office are never totally independent. They are always looking over their shoulders to see what their electorate is thinking. I think some people call it "coming round Tattenham Corner". They are also obliged to spend a good deal of time on constituency business and so would have less time for the business of scrutinising legislation, which is the most important business of this House. And it really is the most important business, since more and more Bills which come to this House from another place have been guillotined and given scant scrutinyfar more than when I first sat in this House 23 years agoand because, for better or for worse, and mostly it is worse, far more legislation is being presented to Parliament than ever before.
The work of this House has thus increased enormously in the last quarter of a century. Whatever we do to this House must not adversely affect that work. You may say that a figure of 20 per cent elected Peers will not seriously affect the ability of the House to do that work, but their outside commitments would detract from their ability to play their part in that work. Their appointed colleagues would not like that very much and there would be ill-feeling.
But if you have elected Members, they will expect salaries. Imagine the ill-feeling if you have a hybrid House and elected Members get salaries and appointed Members do not. There will be over-worked appointees and over-paid electives. So are you going to pay the same salaries to everyone? The electives will then want allowances for their constituency offices, and so on, and we know that that will cause more ill-will. The Joint Committee has said that work will have to be done on costing options, and I hope that when it comes to do it, it will keep those problems in mind.
But far worse than that, if the powers of this House are to remain roughly the same as they are now, you will be asking people to stand for election to a House that has very limited powers indeed for what, unless the Audit Commission undergoes a sea-change, is likely to be only a mediocre salary. What calibre of candidates are you going to get standing for election? They will not be people with the sort of experience that you need and have now for the purpose of revising legislation; they will probably be failed candidates for election to another place and others who are incapable of doing any other job. I mean that.
I am convinced that if you want the best people to do any job, you must pay either nothing at all, as now, so that you get people who are basically volunteers, or you must pay tip-top salariesand we all know perfectly well that the Audit Commission would never agree to that.
I firmly believe that we should have an appointed House. By what means it should be appointed so as to retain a large independent element and be representative of all areas of the country, I shall not embark on nowthis is neither the time nor the place. I really believe that to have any proportion of the Members of this House elected would be disastrous. I shall vote for an all-appointed House, when we come to vote, and against all other options. I say to all noble Lords who want an appointed House that it will be just as important to vote against all other options as to vote for the first one.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, in making the points that I consider most important in this debate I am greatly helped by two earlier contributions: that of my noble and learned friend Lord Howe, together with the first report of the Joint Committee, to which I shall refer in a moment; and that of my noble friend Lord Fowler in the debate on 18th December on the British constitution.
I have spent almost 33 years in Parliament17 in another placeand I can confirm that analysis and what my noble friend said about the conventions that limit the powers of the Lords. Like him, I should be much more militant in my demands if I were an elected Peer and would no doubt stand on the toes of MPs whose constituencies overlapped with minea point effectively made by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. The Joint Committee also places heavy emphasis on the existing conventions of a self-restraining nature, which impact profoundly on the relations between the Houses and need to be understood as a vital part of any future constitutional settlement.
I pick up another key point made by the Joint Committee: the importance of independence and expertise. I place experience alongside expertise, a point strongly made by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. On 18th December, my noble friend Lord Fowler said:
The Joint Committee emphasised that the independence came not just from the Cross Benches but from among party members, for reasons that it set out, which were repeated by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon. It also drew attention to the extraordinary range of expertise in the House and said that it was,
There are several reasons why such expertise is even more important today than it has ever been. I will refer briefly to the valuable reports that we produce and to our scrutiny of, for example, European Union legislation. Peter Riddell is just plain wrong on the subject in his article in The Times today. He says:
The expertise of the House is more crucial than it has ever been, because of the changes that have taken place in another place over the 33 years since I was first elected to it. There is more legislation, and much of it is worse prepared. Time and time again, we see the Government table hundreds of amendments to Bills. There is far less expertise in the House of Commonsa point made effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Sheldonthan when I joined it. The professionalslawyers, trade union leaders, people engaged in business, those who had served in the forceswho were there then are not there today. Their experience has been replaced by the far narrower experience of full-time politicians.
There are also the changes in working practices, which have meant that the scrutiny of legislation in another place is wholly inadequate. This House now performs a central and fundamental function in the legislative process. Expertise and experience are essential components of the manner in which we perform that function.
I have a great deal of sympathy therefore with proposal 1(a) as suggested by the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. But if we cannot stand exactly where we are, where should we go? I hope that those who cast their votes on 4th February will be careful not to destroy something that works and replace it with something much worse, on a basis of ignorance or prejudice, or create the "super elective dictatorship" referred to by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe.
I would add that it is regrettable, but perhaps understandable, that Members of another place should reach their conclusions on the basis of inadequate informationI put it as politely as I can. Some members of my party apparently base their support for a wholly elected House on the basis that it might embarrass the present Government. I do not believe that great constitutional issues should be decided on such shallow and shabby grounds. My fear is that if we have a wholly or substantially elected House, it will become a genetically modified House of Commons, with its independence and expertise greatly reduced. I am totally against that.
When the Government produced their original proposal for a 20 per cent elected House, I was tempted to support it on the grounds that it was the least bad option I was likely to get. But the Joint Committee produces a pretty effective argument against it20 per cent would hardly stimulate the electorate to much interest. My noble friend Lord Wakeham, the great fixer, has again, with his usual persuasiveness, asked for "a bit more". But the trouble is that fixers usually
Like my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, I doubt the view that the legitimacy supposedly given to the elected Members would transfer to the others. I think that that sort of compromise in the middle would be a recipe for conflict and would mean less expertise, less experience and less independence. Therefore, I shall vote for a wholly appointed House and against the other options.
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, my purpose in putting my name on the speakers' list today is not because I have some original or important contribution to make. All the issues have been promoted and fully debated. I rise to speak because I wish to stand up and be counted on where I stand, so your Lordships will be pleased to know that I will not detain the House for long. I simply wish to highlight one or two of the main issues as I see them.
I shall never forget when I first entered your Lordships' House marvelling at the wise and brilliant contributions from all Benches on any and all of the subjects that were debated. I felt privileged and indeed fortunate to be in a position to take part in proceedings in this House. I have listened carefully to the arguments on all sides and I have been convinced that an appointed House is the only way to maintain that expertise and experience.
Eminent people would not stand for election and the House and indeed the country would be the loser. It is, I believe, essential that we preserve the difference between the two Houses and not end up with the Upper House being a House of Commons Mark 2. A second elected Chamber would be not only a very costly alternative but would definitely be a threat and a challenge to the other place. I believe most strongly in the pre-eminence of the elected House and wish to preserve its status.
Changes in the procedures in the other place now mean that Bills come to your Lordships' House with whole portions having had no scrutiny at all. If legislation is to reach the statute book in an acceptable manner and in a clear and understandable language, it is the role of this House to ensure by careful and detailed examination that this is accomplished. I believe it can be achieved only by prudent appointments to your Lordships' House.
Finally, I believe a hybrid House would be a real disaster, with some Peers being in a different position from others. Various questions would arise. Would they feel and be seen as more legitimate representatives than appointed Peers? How long would their term of office last? Would they be paid as Members of another place are paid? Would they have similar back-up and support? What would be the relationship with their counterparts in another place?
Lord Barnett: My Lords, as so much has already been said in the debate, I do not propose to go into detail. I want merely to emphasise some of the major points. I begin by emphasising the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, at the outset. The major issue is not composition: the first and major issue is what we are proposing to do in your Lordships' House. That is what we should be examining and then how we best proceed to do it.
First, in a revised House we should not be challenging the supremacy of another place. Everyone who has spoken so far agrees with that and it is a starting point. I was a Member of the House of Commons for nearly 20 years and I am sorry to find them so stupid as to imagine that 50 to 60 per cent of Members of this House can be elected without implications on what they are doing. It seems that Members of Parliament do not seem to know what they are talking about. That is what we should not be doing. One might say that to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, who is in favour of 80 per cent of Members elected. That would be even worse. I once told him privately that I had not found another Member on his side who agreed with himexcept one and that one was the Chief Whip.
What should we do in a revised House? We should do what, as many have said, we now do so well. Paragraph 10 of the report highlights what we do so well. I welcome the Joint Committee report in that respect, as I welcome its comments at paragraph 24: that at the next stage of its discussions it would hope to proceed on how to make your Lordships' House, as revised on an appointed basis, more effective than it is even today.
If one agrees with what should be done, then what kind of composition would best do it? What would best meet the objective of scrutinising government policies and forcing another place to rethink the policies it has implemented in legislation? Three choices have been put forward very clearly in the Joint Committee report and in the debate today. Essentially they are a wholly elected House of Lords or second Chamber; a wholly appointed second Chamber; and a partly elected second Chamber.
Let me take them in that order. A wholly elected second Chamber would certainly not meet the objectives that most of us want to see a second Chamber meetthat is, carrying out the kind of functions that we carry out so well now. A wholly elected House, I fear, could elect idiots as well as intelligent people like all of us here, and some elected houses do. I say nothing about another place, but that can happen.
The only objective a wholly elected second Chamber would meet and have in its favour is that it would be fully democratic. One has to accept that it would be a democratic House. But, more important, how would one ensure its independence from party control? No
Perhaps the most serious argument against a wholly elected second Chamberand this certainly has not been appreciated in another place or by some noble Lords who have spoken todayis that it would be quite impossible to continue the existing conventions. We would need to have a new constitution. There would be no other way of doing it. The idea that Parliament should go through the whole process of establishing a new constitution beggars belief. Frankly, we all know that that would not happen, and so I am perfectly happy that we will not have a wholly elected second Chamber.
What about a partly elected second Chamber, whatever the percentage; a hybrid House? My noble and learned friend the Leader of the House said to me on one occasion that we already have a hybrid House. I assume that he was joking, of course. The idea that a hybrid House of hereditary and life Peers could be the same as one consisting of some elected Peers and some appointed Peers and that there would be no difference, is, frankly, a nonsense. Given the intelligence of my noble and learned friend, I know that he did not mean it.
If we had a hybrid House we would have the worst of all worlds. We would have all the problems of a wholly elected House with knobs on. Even the pleasure of having the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in your Lordships' HouseI would love to see him here; perhaps he can get himself appointed in some waywould not be a sufficient reason for me to agree to a hybrid House.
The difference between an elected and an appointed House has been spelt out very clearly by many noble Lords and I shall not go into it again. But, again, you could not have the present conventions. As with a wholly elected House, you would have, for example, to get rid of the Lord Chancellor. I know that many would be in favour of thatin my view, for the wrong reasons because there have been wholly unjustified and unfair attacks on my noble and learned friend. But, having said that, even under his idea of only 20 per cent elected Members, there would have to be a Speaker in your Lordships' Housesomeone to select who should speak. We certainly could not have the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees sitting there doing nothing. I am not suggesting that he should do anything because under our rules he cannot.
I turn now to the question of a wholly appointed House, which would meet all the objectives and benefits spelt out in paragraph 10 of the report. The only semi-serious argument that has been put before us relates to the question of legitimacy. It has been answered by many. I merely add that if we keep the existing conventionsand especially if we keep the supremacy of the House of Commons in front of us
The question of legitimacy comes down to this: if a few Members of this House were to be elected on a list system, frankly, the constituencies would need to be so large as to be meaningless. They would be rather like Members of the European Parliamentno one knows who they are. Equally, if they were to be elected on a list system, we might as well appoint them. It would be a better way of doing it than having the leadership of the parties preparing the list and deciding who should be at the top of it. We all know that that is what goes on. A list system or a directly elected system would create a much worse House. The new legitimacy, as has been pointed out by the Joint Committee and many others, would come from the natural way in which an appointed House would operateand, I believe, operate well.
My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is reported as having saidI do not know whether it is true because I read it in the newspaperthat the general feeling is between an all elected or all appointed House. He said that most think that a hybrid House is a nonsense. I agree with him. But what I found rather strange was that he still favours 20 per cent. No, he is shaking his head. I hope that it does not mean that he is in favour of more. I shall wait until tomorrow night. But he is no longer in favour of 20 per cent so he has to make a U-turn. I am delighted.
I have made a U-turn. I confess that I have changed my mind in the light of the evidence that has been placed before us by the Joint Committee. As I have said, the idea of a hybrid House remains a nonsense; but I have always favoured either a wholly elected or a wholly appointed House. I now recognisea view strengthened by comments in the Joint Committee reportthat an all elected House, although truly democratic, would create a nightmare scenario. We should then need a new constitutional Bill. Can one imagine introducing a constitutional Bill in both Houses of Parliament? I hope and believe that it would simply not happen. I believe that the way ahead should be to come down in favour of a wholly appointed House. I certainly shall, and I shall vote against everything else.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I address the House with some caution as one of 26 turkeys who have yet to learn the date of Christmas! Nevertheless, I feel that I should like to comment because it is clear that enormous care, weight and analytical clarity have gone into the production of the report with which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, has presented us. We owe it to the committee to be as critical as we wish, as a sign of our appreciation of its work.
I have listened to the debate with a declining sense of hope, and for this reason. What I think I hear is a commentary on the political life of this country disguised in statements supporting an appointed House of Lords.
I could not possibly comment since I am not of any eminence. But I do not understand why it should be assumed that eminent people would not stand for election. What kind of commentary is that? Many such comments were made by noble Lords sitting on party Benches. I find that at least odd. It raises the question of how the work of the Joint Committee has been affected by its being presented with terms of reference that effectively deprive it of the opportunity to consider the political life of this country as a whole and to place any recommendations about this House in that context.
I wish to go to the other end of our political processlocal government. I have never been an elected councillor but I am now an independent member and chairman of the standards and ethics committee of Worcestershire County Council. It has been a learning curve towards depression as I contemplate the steady undermining of the authority and strength of local government in this country, probably over three decades. If party politics are so grubby and electoral politics so oppressively dominated by parties, somebody must be to blame. It is time that this discussion were placed in the context of a vision of what it would be like to have a vital and interested political citizenry in this country. If we thought in those terms, we would want to connect this House with the base of our political lifelocal life. We would want to give a certificate of worthiness to local government by allowing it some say in who sat in this House.
One of my criticisms of the Joint Committee report is that it presents us with a choice between election and appointment without considering the possibility of indirect election. Indirect election has the great virtue of leaving unchallenged the directly elected Chamber as properly having superior power, with the right to choose the government, to regulate supply and to have the decisive word on legislation. It would also give more to local government, whose memberssome sit in this Chamberspend hours, days and weeks giving themselves to the concerns of local communities and getting burdened with increasing prescription from the centre, over which they have little control. I am surprised that the Joint Committee has not addressed the possibility of indirect election precisely as a way of revitalising the political engagement of local communities.
I would not rest if I had not said that it would be unsatisfactory to allow proposals to go through on the basis that electoral politics and political life in this country are such a grubby business, and have gone so
I hope that as a House we might insist that some political vision about the politics of our country should engage future decision-making on these proposals, even if the committee could not do so because of its terms of reference. In that way, we would not simply be tinkering with what goes on at the top of the tree but reconnecting ourselves with the base of our common political life. We would be doing some small bit to rehabilitate the politics of a country where electoral turn-outs and political party memberships have decreased. It is good for people to belong to, and to be active in, political parties. I thought that most people in this Chamber would think that.
We should not rest with making proposals on the basis that we are the only good thing left in British politics. That would be a terrible shame, but it is how we would be seen. I also think it unwise for us to accept from the Joint Committee a proposal that includes the likelihood of existing Members of this House not being asked to tender their resignation when a new House is constituted. If we believe in something but then say, "This will see me out", we shall rightly be dismissed as a cynical and self-serving group of people, and that is not what I think of the Joint Committee. So I hope that that issue will be reconsidered.
Despite all the work that will be necessary to clarify constitutions and electoral methods, I hope that new thought will be given to the reconnection of this House with the base of our democracy in a way that is clearly different from that which produces Members of the House of Commons but which nevertheless has credibility and will allow this House to draw on many of the people upon whose voluntary efforts our local communities depend.
Although the Joint Committee has not yet reached the question of what to do about those of us on these Benches, it would be poor if I did not say something about it. It is a bit demeaning to be one of a series of problems that will be dealt with in due course. The bishops are in this House for a rather different reason. However, we are not here to defend our position but to draw attention to the fact that it is possible to construct a Chamber of a legislature on the basis of a real attention to spiritual values and, indeed, to prayer and reflection, without necessarily resorting to ex officio membership of particular Churches.
The Scottish Parliament, which had to begin from scratch in this respect, shows that it is possible imaginatively to create a situation in which the dimensions of spirituality, reflection and faith are built into the House's proceedings on the basis of a clear recognition of the different faith communities which, I am delighted to say, constitute our society.
Apart from the detail of my remarks, which is no doubt highly contestable, I have said what I have because before we start choosing from among the seven options, which we think is the realistic thing to do, we need to be realistic about the political environment of our country
It is a fundamental religious conviction that where there is no vision, the people perish. Another biblical comment that looks pretty realistic in the light of much of this discussion is that political vision seems to have become rather rare in the land.
I believe that we have a unique opportunity, which we should not avoid, to reconsider the vision of a common society united with a political endeavour that we admire and honour. We have real examples of that. When the Roman Catholic bishops, who have no seats here, produced their account of the common good, it had an electrifying effect on the quality of the political discussion at the time. When, before he has taken his seat, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury gives a Dimbleby lecture of important spiritual content, the response reveals just how hungry people are for politics that are genuinely spiritual. I hope that we shall attend to those dimensions as the proposals proceed.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has made a refreshing and important speech. He has asked us to look at ourselves slightly more carefully than perhaps we have been doing during the debate so far.
I have scrapped most of my speech, as it has all been said, particularly by my noble friend Lord Norton and the noble Lords, Lord Lipsey and Lord Phillipsand, more recently, by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell.
Given the facts, and the options that the Joint Committee has put before us, it seems to mealthough I used to think otherwisethat the only kind of second Chamber able to counterbalance the present-day House of Commons would be a wholly appointed Chamber. I agree with the right reverend Prelate that there is a gap in the report, in that the question of indirect elections has not been considered. There are considerable problems with indirect elections, although many of us have thought about them for a long time. It may be that what the right reverend Prelate wants to happen could happen through a wholly appointed House. The wholly appointed House that I propose is not as far from the ideas of the right reverend Prelate as he might think.
What is needed is, as many noble Lords have said, a part-time, unsalaried House with Members of widely varied experience, most of it current experience outside Parliament. Members should be appointed roughly as proposed by the Joint Committee in its Option 1. The House's legitimacy would be based on its Members' expertise and the way in which they behave. Members would come from all parts of the United Kingdom; they could come from local government and the devolved Assemblies. The House should have the same broad answerability to the people of the United Kingdom as a whole.
Linked with that point, I suggest that a new appointed House might work best if the legislation providing it gave a clean break in membership. The new appointments should start from scratch. Continuity could be maintained by a number of existing Members being appointed, as doubtless many wouldit would probably be very necessary. That clean break would solve several problems, including the fact that anyone suitable could be appointed, such as life Peers, hereditary Peers and people who were not Peers at all. I do not believe that noble Lords should continue in this place until we dropand I very much include myself in that. It is absolutely wrong, and this is an opportunity to see to it without breaking the necessary continuity.
Before noble Lords hold up their hands in horror, I suggest that they read carefully the speech made by the right reverend Prelate, as he partly made my case for me. I also suggest a brief glance at the article by Peter Riddell on page 12 of today's Times, which was mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey. I disagree with most of what he says, but there may be a grain of truth in his sketch of how we see ourselves in this House. I say no more.
I believe that there is at least something to be said for a clean break in appointing our new membership. When we come to vote on the seven options, I think that I shall vote for Option 1. I shall vote against the six other options.
Lord Winston: My Lords, I must declare very firmly that I feel, and have always felt, strongly in favour of an unelected second Chamber. Given the current situation in the House of Commons, where there are ever more professional politicians who have ever less experience of the working environment, I think that we need more expertise, not less, in the upper House. So I for one feel very strongly that an elected Chamber would give no advantage in the way in which it would actually work. It would simply give a merely external impression of "democracy".
This word "democracy" has been bandied around. It was bandied around by my noble friend Lord Richardwho is not in the Chamber, but to whom I owe a great debt. When I first came to the House just over seven years ago, in his great kindness, he stimulated me and made me feel very welcome on these Benches. However, in his speechwhich I try to quote accuratelyhe said that an elected Chamber was needed if parliamentary democracy is not to become unbalanced. Is he suggesting that we have been unbalanced all these years? Is he saying that we will suddenly become more balanced by being "democratically elected"?
What is the gain of this veneer of being "democratic"? Why is it so essential? A huge number of British institutions, by their very nature, do a fine service in supporting this country, but they are essentially not democratic. The Law Lords are not democratic. The universities are not democratic. The monarchy is not democratic. The regulatory bodies, such as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Genetics Commission, are not democratically elected. The research councils are not democratic, but they need to be transparent in their working. Most important in terms of government, the Civil Service is not democratic either.
It does not seem to me that this notion of democracy is necessarily something that we should automatically accept as part of our parliamentary procedure. It seems to me that democracy lies very firmly in the primacy of the elected Chamberwhich not only is elected, but also, I think, represents the various regions. That is why I do not think that we have to pay much attention to the notion of regional representation in this House. That comes simply by the very random nature of appointment.
I think that it would be only reasonable of me also to mention the Church. The Church is hardly democratic. Yet, in my view, the Church of EnglandI hope that I can spare the blushes of the right reverend Prelates on the Spiritual Benchhas lent a very important part to the workings of our democracy in its moderation, its liberality, its espousal of true human values and its notion of ethics. The presence of the Church here could never be democratic, but it is essential to the workings of this House in its guidance and in the way it sometimes challenges the Government and the Opposition. I would only add that it might be reasonable to consider some expansion of that representation. It would be good to see some Muslim, Catholic and perhaps Jewish representation on the Spiritual Bench. However, there is no question but that the Anglican Church, in the very work that it does, has lent a unique aspect to our British democracy. It seems to me that that work should continue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to the lack of respect for being a Lord. That is true. I am sure that all noble Lords know this but I should point out to others who read Hansard that being a Lord does not even get one a table in a good restaurant, as I discovered in my first week in the House of Lords. Far more respect is accorded to the fact that I am a university professor. But, of course, I was not elected a university professor. So the notion that being elected accords one respect is nonsense. I was an appointed professor in a personal chair at my university. That seems to me to be an adequate reason. It occurs after due process.
Nor do I think that there is any advantage in there being hybridity in this House. There has been a rumbling throughout the debate this afternoon and this evening that somehow the House has been hybrid and that therefore a hybrid House will work in the futurethe notion that somehow hereditary Peers and
One of the problems that we have concerns the failure of understanding of what goes on in this House. I think that now finally there is a glimmer of understanding in the House of Commons in that regard. I believe that there is a gradual realisation that what we do in this House is worthwhile. That is now realised in a way that has not been previously appreciated. But, certainly, the public at large are not generally aware of that. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, mentioned figures in regard to how many people would want a democratically elected Chamber. I take those figures with a very large grain of salt because it seems to me that most of those people have not seriously considered the working of this House.
Much has been said about the expertise of noble Lords. I recognise that I am extremely privileged to be here. Many other doctors could have taken my place. Many other much more eminent medical scientists than I could have been here in my place. There is always an element of luck in that regard. I need to remain here as a working Peer. I do not mean a working Peer in a political sense. It is advantageous to the House for me to be able to work in the university, the laboratory and also with patients. We have still not decided whether we want the House to be part-time or full-time and how professional we want it to be.
Last week we had what I considered to be a ludicrous debate about attendance during debates such as this. I believe that it is difficult to sustain the argument that I should sit here for two days throughout the debate in order to be able to take part in it. My university might reasonably hold different views as to how I might best use my time.
All kinds of conflicts arise, not just those concerned with work. For example, this evening as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, made his excellent speech, to which I listened with great interestI congratulate him on his excellent summary of his committee's wonderful reportthere was a meeting of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. If I wished to take part in this debate I was prohibited by the rules from attending the POST meeting. I chose, of course, to speak in this debate although the POST meeting was important. Such conflicts are always arising. We ought to consider making the rules of the House more flexible.
We cannot always make up our minds. One of the problems is that people like myself run the risk of losing our expertise in the community at large. For example, I note that when I am now in the Barry Room and the waiter asks me whether I want my sole off or on the bone, I say, "Frankly, you should do the dissection", because
An issue that we need to debate much more seriously is the notion of an arbitrary age of retirement, which seems unjustified. There is no question but that, over the next 50 to 100 years, our society is going to get considerably older but fitter. All the demographic projections show very clearly that, within the next century, something like 1 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom and the United States will be 100 years old or more. They will still be mentally fit. We need to reconsider our attitude towards age. A large number of Members of this House are totally alert, and to enforce arbitrarily an age of retirement seems quite unjustified.
Finally, a key issue is appointment to the House. One problem is that we clearly feel strongly about prime ministerial patronage. The notion of an electoral college is rather unsatisfactory. Perhaps the debate should be more about how we arrange a suitable appointments commission, so that we appoint those appointed Peers in a way that is truly transparent and more transparent, and better for the workings of this Parliamentand for Parliaments for many generations to come, which is what we should be legislating for in the next few months.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, with 99 speakers over two days, noble Lords must expect me to be even more subliminal than usual, and so I shall be. The last advice Lord Longford gave me was, "You are here to speak; do so", so I am trying.
I have an interest to declare, being a hereditary Peer, but that is something I share with all noble Lords. We all share the privilege of being Peers, and we all share the human honour of being hereditary. Like all noble Lords, I am immensely proud of my parents and grandparents and, like those of us lucky enough to have them, of my children and grandchildren.
We are also proud of our British constitution, which is one of the splendid things that we have shared with the rest of the world, like our law, our democracy and our language. We are all, I think, agreed that we need two Houses of Parliament. On that point, perhaps the colours of the carpets are significant. The Sovereign's carpet is blue, representing the sky and the heavens above; the carpet in the Commons is green, representing growing things and the grass roots of our people; and the carpet of the Lords is red, not so that you cannot see blood spilt on it, but because it is the colour of our hearts and the life blood of our people.
Each House has its own part to play. If there were any element whatever of democratic election in our House, we would only end up fighting with the Commons as to who was the more democratic. As it is, our role is to sift through the legislationit pours out like untreated sewage, though naturally we hope that the Commons will have worked at it a bit firstto apply a brake to the executive with a power of delay and, by our debates, to contribute much to the wisdom of government.
There only remains our composition. I believe that we are a very good mix at the moment. First, we were all hereditaries and bishops, then Law Lords were added, then life Peers and then women. I do not believe we should all be hereditaries and bishops, nor all Law Lords, nor all life Peers, nor indeed all women. We ladies much enjoy our male companionship. Nor do I believe that there should be any restriction on age. There is a difference of opinion as to when a Peer reaches his prime; some would say not before 80, although we are particularly proud of the wisdom and expertiseand charmof the 90 year-olds in this House.
We are a splendid mix of the best of Britain. I sit surrounded by noble friends who are air marshals, generalsnot so many admirals as there should beheads of the Civil Service, distinguished doctors, nurses, professors, judges and Speakers of another place; and, of course, bishops, Archbishops, Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries and Peers with long roots, such as my noble friends Lord Strabolgi and Lady Mar, who take us right back to the dawn of our history. My ancestor, the first Lord Strange, was beheaded after the Battle of Worcester for supporting Charles I. His last words were:
Lord Gray of Contin: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Strange. She always gives us an interesting talk on different issues. She wandered a little tonight from her horticulture to history, but her speech was equally interesting.
When one is number 40 on the speakers' list, all that really matters has already been said, by most other people but not by yourself. Perhaps noble Lords will excuse me if I do not follow my notes to the letter and reminisce a little on some of my experiences in the Commons and since I came here.
The case for an appointed Chamber has been well made in recent months by a large number of distinguished colleagues, ably led by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, who again excelled himself today. Indeed, it is difficult to be original on this subject, such is the breadth of the arguments already deployed.
I welcome the first report of the Joint Committee, which was ably introduced by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon. Recently your Lordships debated the constitution. I did not speak in that debate but I read it from start to finish and found it quite fascinating. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell has already referred to the speech of my noble friend Lord Fowler and I, too, would like to refer to it. His reference to his attitude to the House of Lords while he was a Member of the House of Commons fits well with the views of most of us who were
It was not until I came to this House that I discovered just how thorough noble Lords were in their scrutiny of legislation and how dedicated many of them wereand still areto their parliamentary responsibilities. I suspect that there may be Members in the present House of Commons who are as ill informed about this House as were my generation. I do not wish to imply for one moment that Members of the House of Commons neglect their legislative duties or do not do a splendid job; of course they do. They are as dedicated to what they do as we are to what we do. However, the nature of the two Houses is very different and the attitude of Members illustrates those differences.
When a Bill is guillotined in the Commons it is not uncommon for very large sections to go almost unexamined. Because this House is much less confrontational and has more time to deliberate, those sections are scrutinised very carefully here. I use that as only one example of the effectiveness of this House. That point is further confirmed by the fact that in the 19992000 Session, for example, the Lords secured more than 4,700 amendments to Bills. The overwhelming majority of those were accepted by the Government when the Bills were returned to the Commons.
In an average Session, something in excess of 70 per cent of Lords amendments are accepted by the government of the day. That speaks volumes for the quality of the detailed examination which takes place in this House. That is due, to no small extent, to the wide-ranging experience of the membership of your Lordships' House. All the professions are here, together with a host of business and academic experience. Indeed, one noble Lord who spoke earlier listed all the various categories represented in this House. That, in itself, is significant.
Relatively few of those peopleI think particularly of the noble Lord, Lord Winston, who spoke a few moments agowould stand for election and therefore we are very pleased to have them here. It would be a tragedy if we were to lose them. In any event, so far as concerns an elected Chamber, the public show little enthusiasm for elections. If assemblies were to be created throughout England, that enthusiasm would be likely to diminish rather than increase. In Scotland, the electorate is already over-burdened with elections. The figures given by my noble friend Lady Blatch earlier were most revealing.
Originally I had some sympathy for the idea that a proportion of the Members of the reformed House should be elected. However, the more I have discussed and thought about that, the more convinced I have become that appointed membership of this House is far and away the most satisfactory way forward. I hope that we shall not be tempted to have a mixture of appointed and elected Members. I believe that that would give us the worst of all worlds.
The House of Lords is sometimes accused of being undemocratic, but an elected second Chamber is much more likely to follow the European Parliament and demand powers commensurate with its political powers. Even the more recent Scottish Parliament has among its Members some who seek control of Treasury matters. In a new House of Lords which was wholly or partly elected, would that body happily leave Treasury matters only to the House of Commons? I doubt that very much.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, time, like death, concentrates the mind wonderfully. Therefore, I shall concentrate my remarks simply on the question of elections and speak a little of my disappointment that many Peers who have spoken and who I respect greatly seem to be going down the track of asking for elections to this place or for a fully elected House of Lords.
I believe that if we go down that path we shall destroy the character, competency and independence of this place. The cost would be unbelievable. We are all realists here. We know that money does not fall out of the sky. If it is spent on this place, it will not be spent on hospitals, houses, roads or all of the other things which are so badly needed. There will be serious clashes with another place which will threaten our ability to govern ourselves.
Many times we debate issues here on which we feel strongly. We do our duty to scrutinise legislation and to seek to check what may have been unintentional flaws. We amend or sometimes even vote down a Bill. But when the Commons disagrees with our view, we always recognise, with no argument, that it has been elected and we have not, and we surrender. Does anyone seriously believe that if we are elected too, even partially, that tradition will be maintained? Of course not. "You have no such superiority and validity any more", we shall say, "for we are elected too. Democracy rules, OK!"
Another major concern for me is that we would lose the Cross-Benchers for whom I have a great regard. I believe that they form an essential element here. The report states that it is likely that we shall have few if any independent Members. That is not likely; it is inevitable. Voters always want to know where a candidate stands before they give their vote.
Everyone in this House who has ever stood for election knows that it is vital to have a political party's endorsement. It is the party that provides the money, the workers who address the envelopes and the people who go out canvassing and deliver leaflets. It does all the organising. It is the party that provides the office and the stature. Without that backing there is not a hope of being elected.
Is it possible to get round that by electing some and then appointing independents? The noble Lord, Lord RichardI am sorry he is not in his placeadvocated that. Yet he rather spoilt his argument by going on to say that the public has no respect for patronage or for those who are elected in that way. I am not sure which he wanted, but it seemed to me that that is simply not on.
Let us suppose that we go half and half. That would mean a fish-and-fowl House. Some people say that we have had a hybrid House already. However, I was never treated in any way differently from an hereditary Peer when I became a life Peer. If we had a fish-and-fowl, half-and-half House, we could not have some Peers being paid and not others. That is one hybrid too far. No one would stand for election to a busy and time-consuming job in the public eye with no pay. So, all Peers would have to be salaried, but those who were elected would have much more work than those who were not.
When a voter gives his vote, he expects a number of things in return. I refer to correspondence, for instance. When I was an MP I would have at least 30 to 40 letters every day. Every letter had to be answered and many other letters had to be written because of them, either to Ministers, local authorities, or whatever. That was a big job in itself. That is what the elected Peers would have to do; let us make no mistake. Not only does the voter want replies to letters, but he wants surgeries to be held so that he can put his case to his Member. He wants interviews, school, factory and hospital visits and a host of other services from his chosen and successful candidate. I foresee serious difficulties between elected Peers and elected MPs who represent the same area.
What is all this rubbish about the need for Peers from different areas? There is not a soul in this whole land of ours who does not have his own MP. Whatever area he lives in, he has one already. What are we arguing about? But if we have two sets of elected people, both representing the same area, there will be big trouble. If they differed politically or if one worked harder than the other, there would be trouble. The electors would go straight to the one who worked hard, whether he sat in this or another place. He would have to put in a lot of extra hours. So there would be trouble not only between this House and another place, but also between Peers who were elected and those who were not.
Finally, I must say that I have never heard a single peep from the electorate demanding the changes we are now debating. I have never had a single letter or conversation pressing for this constitutional upheaval that we are arguing about. People are interested in the National Health Service, transport systems, schooling, university fees, jobs, tax and housing. No one is jumping up and down screaming for this place to be reformed. I have not seen a single march. Has any other noble Lord? Has anyone seen placards? I have not. I really do not know what we are arguing about.
We have proved many times that we can do our job well. No one claims that the House of Lords does not operate effectively or work hard and well. For the life of me, I cannot understand why it should be destroyed. I shall vote for a totally appointed House and against everything else.
Let us look at the sort of House we are talking about. I do not see the House in as rosy a light as the noble Baroness has painted. I believe that it is a House that is long overdue for change, that is outdated and that is out of touch. Indeed, the change has been waitingapart from the matter of the hereditariessince 1911. If we cannot have another look at the issue and find a better alternative, then there is something wrong with us all.
I am rather surprised that the noble Baroness talks about an appointed Houseas have other noble Lords on both sidesthat does not have any democratic authority and does not have a base with any democratic authority in the country itself.
The House has an average age of 68. I know that there are some very nimble 68 year olds and above. But would it not be better to have a more even spread of ages? We would have the benefit of younger people sitting here and giving us their advice. That would be revolutionary to this House, but I think that that is what the country expects. The House is also male-dominated. I was rather surprised that the noble Baroness did not say that there ought to be more of her own gender in the Chamber. Certainly, there ought to be far more people from ethnic minorities sitting here than there are at the moment.
There is also the structure of the House. It represents many people from the South East and not manyagain I must hiccup with many noble Lordsfrom the regions. We ought to have more cross-party representation and a wider spread of people than we have at present.
The noble Baroness said that she has not had many letters and many others have said that there has been no pressure, but when there was talk of the people's Peers, I received letters from many able and worthy people who wanted their names to be put forward and wrote to me asking how to go about it. They were wasting their time, were they not? The people who were appointed were very able, with expertise as captains of industry, people from the diplomatic service, those who run the great charities. The one thing that they were not was people's Peers. I have had no letters since then. The only way that we will get over that is through elections to this Chamberif we want people to take notice.
Many people have been saying that our Select Committees produce good reports and have a lot of expertise. Peter Riddell wrote in The Times today that, yes, that is all good, but he has never yet been stopped by a Minister, Secretary of State or leading civil servant who has said, "I am going to take note of what is being said by the House of Lords, with all its expertise". That is probably true. The truth of the matter is that people do not understand or take any notice of what happens in this House.
We cannot continue to run a second Chamber in that way in this century. We cannot carry on like that. There is no legitimacy about it. So we must look for a change. Rightly, the Joint Committee states that it will leave the question of the Law Lords and the right reverend Prelateswho must have gone to another place; they are certainly notable by their absencefor another day. I am content to await the proposals on that question. However, again, change is needed. In relation to the right reverend Prelates, if there is to be room for them in any future House, their representation must be wider than one particular Church, or they should have no representation at all. But let us await the report on that.
Something that has not been mentioned in the debate, but was certainly mentioned by the Royal Commission, is that there must be a break with the Peerage in this Chamber. We must have a new start, a new name and be more democratic. Although many of us may prefer that the House become entirely elected, I not think that any of us would advocate that that huge leap be done in one go. That is impossible; that is why we must return to a hybrid House.
It is often saidit has been said again from all sides of the House todaythat if we have a hybrid House, the elected Members will challenge the non-elected Members. I must remind the House that throughout the world there are many hybrid Houses that work perfectly well. There is no reason why there should be such a challenge. Indeed, there is no reason why some appointees should not be retained with a new independent commission, so that expertise is retained.
I have always advocatedquite apart from the question whether they should be in the Housethat a panel of experts should be appointed from whom we can draw as and when we need them.
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