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Earl Ferrers: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt. I am absolutely delighted that we can all be at one together on somethingI am not quite sure what. But what is the point of making a person a Peer and then saying, "You can't be a Member of the House of Lords"?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am afraid that my double negatives may have failed me. I was not saying that he or she could not be a Member of the House of Lords; I said that it did not automatically confer a seat in the House of Lords. It would be an honour which might lead to an appointment as a Member of the second Chamber, but would not do so automatically. I apologise to the noble Earl if that was unclear. I am sure we agree on ML.
Secondly, whatever the Members are called, how and by whom will any elected Members be elected? In my experience, this has been one of the most complex, sometimes arcane issues faced by every forum that discusses reform. Again, at this stage, the Joint Committee does not give clear guidance. The tentative preference in paragraph 69 seems to be for some form of indirect election. Personally, I am attracted to this potential solution. The idea of allying an indirect election system with regional representation could be a useful method of improving representativeness. The Royal Commission helpfully described in some detail what it called "elected regional members". The Labour Party put it well in its evidence to the Wakeham commission when it stated that,
With respect to all the eminent committee members, I feel that it is hard to reach a conclusion on the value and size of an elected element of membership without more work and perhaps more firm conclusions on electoral systems.
My final regret is that the Joint Committee has avoidedI realise temporarilythe knotty problem of transition to a different Chamber. How do we get from here to there? The committee does not give us a map beyond saying that there should be about 600 Members and that the transition process may be very long and drawn out.
"Compulsory retirement" does indeed sound harsh and redolent of bad industrial practiceI state clearly that I am not advocating ermine-lined retirement packagesbut if we are to avoid the embarrassments of a House which gets considerably bigger before it gets smaller or takes a generation to reach the optimum membership, tough decisions about us, the increasingly elderly life Peers, need to be taken sooner rather than later.
In conclusion, I hope that we will hear that the Joint Committee is determined to produce recommendations on all these issues in a consensual way. As I said, my main enthusiasm for this work is that it has kick-started what I had come to believe was a stalled reform process. Now the time has come to accelerate. It would be a sad historical judgment on this generation of parliamentarians if a future generation could fairly accuse us of wasting decades between one stage of reform and the next.
In the course of the long-running saga on Lords reform, it is important to distinguish two issues. The first is the question of what should be done about the hereditary element. The second is the proposal that there should be a wholly or partially elected element. As regards the first, I deeply regret the departure of the hereditary Peers and I pay tribute to the substantial work which those remaining undertake in this House. If anything is to be done on this issue, yesterday's speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, as Convenor of the Cross-Benchers, with regard to what he described as Option 1A, deserves careful consideration.
As regards the possible move to a wholly or partially elected House, the central argument is that it will make the parliamentary system more democratic. I believe that that is a profoundly wrong and superficial view. We have a democratic system. It rests on the House of Commons being elected, in Burke's famous words, as "representatives not delegates". It is vital that the House of Commons should remain supreme and having elected Members in the Lords would inevitably call that into question.
Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that this is not a "zero sum game", an expression I was intending to use. It is a zero sum game. If the elected Members are to be given greater authority, that inevitably reduces the power of the other place and we must oppose that most strongly.
Having listened to yesterday's debate in this House and read yesterday's debate in the Commons, I am struck by the extent to which there is a difference of view between the existing Members of the House of Commons and its former Members who sit in this House, the majority of whom are not in favour of an elected element. That is an important issue to consider. Why are the views of those two groups so different?
The enthusiasm of present Members of the House of Commons for an elected element in the House of Lords, which was not apparent some years ago, reflects a disillusionment with the situation in the Commons and a frustration with the overwhelming majority there.
A second reason is the almost unthinking and superficial view that election is good and appointment is bad. That was somewhat qualified yesterday because one of the few unanimous views which appeared in the debate in another place was that candidates for this House as elected Members were likely to be the export rejects who failed to enter the House of Commons.
A third reason is, frankly, ignorance. I find that from my own experience. In 33 years in the House of Commons, apart from State Opening and an occasional visit to this Chamber to see whether Mrs Thatcher's government would be defeated, I rarely visited it. I strongly suspect that the knowledge of this place in another place is appallingly low. Perhaps the Joint Committee should organise an "overseas" visit and cross the gulf between one Chamber and the other. That should ensure that those in another place understand what happens in this Chamber. It would be a marvellous advantageirrespective of what one does about having a Mr Speakerif our Question Time were transferred to the other place. I fear that its Members do not understand and those who vote next week will not understand that the situation in this House is a tremendous advantage to our democratic system. We must not undermine it or undervalue the important contribution which we in this House make.
Hybridity would be the worst of all possible worlds. Yesterday, some noble Lords argued that we already have a hybrid House because some Members are hereditary and some are life Peers. That concept is completely different from a hybrid House in which some are elected and some are not. That would be wrong. However, it is curious that those who argued against hybridity of the first kind seem to be in favour of hybridity of the second kind. I do not understand why that is so.
The crucial point about a hybrid system is that, whatever the percentage20/80, 60/40, 50/50it would not be stable. The first time the unelected Members defeated the elected Members there would be increasing
This House is not here to be democratic; this House is an effective revising Chamber. Yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, in the course of a series of good rhetorical questions, asked whether we want the legislative scrutiny in this House to be like that in the House of Commons. My Lords, I hope not. It is appalling. "Modernisation" and the introduction of programming in another place has undermined its central role properly to scrutinise legislation. It no longer does so.
That is why it is vital that the situation in this House should be preserved. I give as an example the Tax Credits Bill in which I was much involved. It arrived in this House in a totally unworkable state, apparently having gone through all stages in another place. We had to rewrite it line by line from beginning to end. Clearly the Minister in another place did not have a clue what was going on. We must exercise our expertise and, if I may say so, our enthusiasm for scrutinising legislation, if we are to offset the deterioration which has occurred in another place.
If we were to have either a wholly or partially elected House, in scrutinising legislation we would have less expertise and it would be less representative than a House in which appointment was made by an independent commission which could take into account issues of gender, race, regional representation and so forth. Moreoverthis is a point made by many noble Lords and is vitally importantthere would be far greater pressure from the Whips in this House than is presently the case. We are vastly better carrying out our task of scrutiny in our present form than we would be if there were an elected element.
Of course the present situation is not perfectthe status quo is not perfectbut we are in a position where, with comparatively minor changes to the House, we can resolve this long-running saga in a way which will preserve our democratic system rather than undermine it. I hope that those in another place will gradually understand that. Time is running out before the votes take place in a few days time, but I notice that in another place Mr Forthwhose views I fundamentally disagree with at the momentsaid that he would listen to the debates in this House. Despite the inadequate knowledge of this place in another place, I hope that its Members will at least study carefully what has been said in this debate.
Lord McNally: My Lords, speaking on the second day of the debate feels a little like being invited to join a Roman orgy half-way through. Yesterday was certainly an orgy of self-congratulations, self-delusion and not a little arrogance. I therefore welcome the more constructive approach adopted by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and the momentum she urges to our proceedings.
I remind the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, of a meeting we both attended in 1979. It was the Labour Party manifesto drafting committee. Mr Benn wanted a commitment to abolish the House of Lords. The then Prime Ministernow the noble Lord, Lord Callaghanresisted. He did so because he believed that manifestos should reflect what parties intend to do in government, and he had no intention of abolishing the House of Lords.
Fast forwarding 18 years, in 1997 I served on a committee of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats under the joint chairmanship of Mr Robin Cook and Mr Robert Maclennan. The result of those deliberations was the Cook/Maclennan report, which was published as a joint manifesto on constitutional reform which both parties submitted to the British people.
To the great credit of the Labour Government, much of the Cook/Maclennan report has passed into law. But in 1997 both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats said to the British people in regard to reform of the House of Lords that,
The noble Baroness has put the 2001 manifesto gloss on that commitment, but perhaps the Lord Chancellor will tell us where and when the Labour Party changed its commitment to a democratic and representative second Chamber?
Let us be absolutely clear that such a second Chamber could fulfil all the criteria set out in the first report before us today and not carry with it the stigma of cronyism and patronage which would stick to a wholly appointed House. Legitimacy, representativeness, no domination by one party, independence and expertise could all be delivered given the kind of voting systems, regionally-based constituencies and term lengths envisaged.
Cook/Maclennan recommended retention of the Cross Benches at about 20 per cent of the reformed House. I see merits in so doing. But let us not get too carried away by the mystique of the Cross Benches. You do not have to call yourself a Cross-Bencher to have independence of mind or integrity of action. To listen to some speeches yesterday, you would think that there could be nothing so shaming as to be a party politician. It took the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester to speak up for party politics, and those and other of his remarks about the health of our
The other self-delusion expounded yesterday was that things are not what they used to be in another place, a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, today. Speaker after speaker bemoaned the falling standards, lack of expertise and lack of experience now to be found down the Corridor.
I can speak only from personal experience. Part of my job as Deputy Leader on these Benches is to attend the weekly meetings of the parliamentary party. Listening to Dr Evan Harris on the health service, or Professor Steve Webb on pensions, or former headmaster Phil Willis on education, or the former chief economic adviser to Shell, Dr Vince Cable, on trade, or Dr Jenny Tonge on child health in developing countries, I do not find the present Commons so lacking in experience as some would have us believe. It is true that our leader, Charles Kennedy, entered the House in his early twenties, a handicap that he shares with William Gladstone and William Pitt.
As for the fear that an injection of democracy would simply bring into this House failed MPs and political retreads, I think I can recognise that description. In that self-recognition, as I look around the Chamber I do not feel particularly lonely.
My view is that the system, tenure and job description would bring in a whole new range of people, including some of those terribly eminent people who are unwilling to run for elective office at present. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said that Peers elected on a regional basis for long tenures by a system of fair votes would be little different to life Peers. In some ways he is right. I would hope that the system would give them some of the attributes for which this House is rightly praised. But it would also link them with the people, and, like the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I have a long-standing trust in the people as the final arbiters of power in a democracy.
But we are told that reform is awash with dangers. We are told, for example, that hybridity would produce first and second class Peers. There is no evidence that hybridity would produce the kind of problems which the Lord Chancellor simply asserts. On the contrary, my fear is that the elected Members would show undue deference to those appointed on grounds of eminence, forgetting that a former president of the Royal College of Surgeons might talk the most awful tosh when not talking about medicine, or even that an ex-Lord Chancellorand we all become "ex" one daymight be considered a legal dinosaur by the modern legal profession.
The truth is that a hybrid reformed House would soon settle its own relationships and get on with the job. The most authoritative source of opinion in the other placeMr Tony Wright's Select Committeeshows no fear about either hybridity or a reinvigorated second Chamber.
Neither are we talking about stand-alone reform. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Birt, that we must press on with wider and more fundamental reforms of our constitution and governance, including contemplating the written constitution which the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, finds so shocking.
The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, asked what historians will make of our deliberations. I suspect that they will wonder in amazement that a Labour Government, with all but 100 hereditaries gone, with their largest ever representation in the House of Lords and two successive landslide majorities under their belt, should settle for so timid and conservative a solution as the one now being advocated by those calling for a wholly nominated House. It would be a supreme irony of history that a Conservative Lord Chancellor, at a time when this House was packed to the gunwales with hereditaries, produced more radical proposals than those now being leaked and spun from No. 10.
When I saw this Motion for debate, I looked forward to it being concluded with a final flurry of radical Welsh oratory from the Leader of the House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. But he is silent. Instead, casting his long, dark shadow over this debate is the Darth Vader of British politics: the Lord High Chancellor himself, ready to deliver the coup de grace to radical reform.
But I believe that there is still time for this House to move to an historic compromise between itself and another place which would pave the way for genuine reform. If it were to approve a hybrid House with a majority of elected Peers, that would produce a result not far different from the Commons. But if the Labour Party abandons its firm and settled commitment to introduce a democratic element into this House, then we on these Benches will take our case for wider constitutional reform back to the hustings. Then the electorate will remember that the clearest and most solemn pledges on reform made by the Labour Party meant nothing when it came to delivery.
Lord Elder: My Lords, in rising to add my views to the debate, I am conscious that I shall not receive an enormous amount of support for my basic position. Although there are seven options in the Joint Committee's report for the future membership of your
Unicameralism is dismissed by the report as having little support. Perhaps so, but I believe that it would be the best final outcome, and that belief defines the way in which I examine the available options. Indeed, because of it, I cannot bring myself to support the idea of two elected Houses. There would be bound to be a clashnot least because, as the report fairly points out, a second elected Chamber would have some representative role. There would be bound to be challenges to each other's mandates and authority. The result would be inter-House rivalry, at the expense of fulfilling the main task of the legislature; namely, holding the executive to account.
Already, given the limited reform that has taken place in this House, there have been moves by the House into previously banned territory. Much has been made of the Commons' control of supply, but with your Lordships' Economic Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, already authorised to examine the detail of tax changes in the Finance Bill in the coming Session, I have no doubt that were there to be a second elected Chamber there would be further encroachment on the activities of what is at present the one elected House.
All these problems would be exacerbated if, as some wishit would, I fear, be inevitablethe second Chamber were to embrace proportional representation, with claims and counter-claims as to which House had the greater legitimacy. Perhaps I may point out, as a Scot, that were there to be an election for a second Chamber, I would personally opt for an open list system, for the simple reason that we should then have the full set in Scotlandfirst past the post for Westminster; additional member for Holyrood; closed lists for Europe; open lists for this place; and, if the Liberals have their way, STV for local government. If nothing else, my noble friend Lord Carter would be able to add to his list of explanations as to why so few people turn out to vote.
If we believe, as I think is common ground, that we must preserve the primacy of the Commonswhich arises because it is the sole elected Housethe best way of doing so is to limit the tasks of a second Chamber to its role as a revising Chamber: not the upper House, not the senior House, not Lords rather than Commons, but a revising Chamber pure and simple, whose prime function would be to assist the elected House in doing its job, without challenging its fundamental rights, or threatening its mandate.
There will always be difficulties so long as this Chamber appears the more historic and senior House. Presentation matters. My noble friend Lord Desai suggested that the Queen's Speech should be made, not here, but in Westminster Hall, before both Houses, perhaps with the Prime Minister reading the Speech to both Houses and presenting it to the monarch. It is an
Much has been said in the debate about legitimacy. I believe that legitimacy comes not from direct election but from appointment by a directly elected body. No one would doubt the legitimacy of the Cabinet of the United States, but it is, of course, unelectedbeing appointed by the elected President. The legitimacy of the second Chamber comes from the legitimacy of the first, elected Chamber, and the definition of its role as subservient to the first Chamber. In the interests of clarity, I should like to see a Queen's Speech made in Westminster Hall after every general election, and a formal appointment by the executive and by the Commons of the second Chamber for the period of that Parliament, to fulfil the task of assisting the Commons in its work.
I must make it clear, however, that having an unelected Chamber should not mean keeping the Chamber as it is. Of course there must be reform, and a great deal more imagination must be shown as to composition. We shall need to avoid a re-run of the "People's Peers" systemwhich is now, I fear, wholly discredited. A potentially important initiative, it was in fact a badly disguised way of rounding up some wholly predictable candidatesall entirely worthy who have added much to this House but who in all likelihood would have arrived in the Lords in due course. There was nothing new or imaginative in the system; by pretending otherwise much damage was done.
I myself would be in favour of a much more open approach to membership. I cite as an example of what I have in mind the case of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who has made an outstanding contribution to this House, based in part on his knowledge of and contact with Mencap. We have been very fortunate to have him here. We need to find ways of getting such organisations and such individuals representation here, to improve the quality of our work. However that is done, I fear that it will not be done by further elections.
The committee points out that in recent years the House of Lords has developed its role as a revising Chamberand, I would say, whether as a result or not, at the same time the Commons has apparently lost interest in scrutinising legislation. Someone must do it. And in the absence of interest in another place, it must be done here. But that is to assist the elected Chamber, to allow it better to fulfil its role.
The recent reforms of the Commons timetable have not been encouraging to someone who supports the idea of a single House. With MPs having more time to spend on constituency businessand I do not play down the importance of their representative rolethey have, perforce, less time to spend on the scrutiny of legislation.
I have no illusions that, were there to be only one House, the Commons would need to be much reformed. But I do not doubt that with further changes and the proper resources the Commons could fulfil the role that is required. I reject the argument that a second Chamber is essential to provide checks and balances; that somehow the Commons, left to its own devices, could not be trusted. I believe that, precisely because it has been able to leave scrutiny to us, little has been done by it. That could easily change were the option of "Leave it to the Lords" not available. Some constitutional backstop would have to be built in to any new system to replace the present role of this House.
Whatever happens next, interim arrangements will need to be in place as a new House is established. Had we a written constitution, the changes that we are talking about would require a re-writing of that constitution; and I have no doubt that there would be a wide debate in the country about the way forward. There is, frankly, no such debate. But that should not encourage us to think that this is not a matter of the highest importance. The case for caution is considerable. Perhaps the constitutional settlement has been "settled" for too long; but we need to move with care before we introduce a wholly new, necessarily untried, set of arrangements.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, the Joint Committee has already achieved a remarkable degree of consensus, judging from yesterday's debate and what we have heard from the noble Baroness, in particular. It has been given an almost impossible task so, not surprisingly, it is asking us to dig it out of a hole and will ask us to do so again. But the absurd range of options should serve as a warning to all of us that the time is up for stage two. Elections will not work, and common sense should now replace experimentation.
I have had the privilege of serving this House and the country for nearly eight years, during a fascinating period of change. Why do we need more change? We should feel content with what we have achieved. Abolishing a whole system of inherited power, obvious as it may seem, is no small reform; it is a historic landmark. We need to move beyond it.
I hold no brief for the continuation of the hereditary Peers or the hereditary principle. But the interim House has worked well, and I know the House recognises the contribution of hereditary Peers and the dedication shown by many. The House will miss the remaining younger Peers, in particular, and the random effect that has made some hereditary Peers from different professions seem closer to the public than distinguished life Peers. I do not, however, see how that can be perpetuated, even under the interesting version of people's Peers suggested late last night by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, or the vision
I am glad that enough time was taken during stage two for the Joint Committee to recognise the difficulties of transforming this House root and branch. The whole Parliament is being educated by the process, which has helped us all to appreciate the value of the House and to understand the subtleties of parliamentary checks and balances.
Having started out, after Wakeham, in favour of a 20 per cent elected House, I no longer think that the principle of even a partially elected Chamber is right. Regional balance can be achieved without it. In any case, the southern English regions are still a fiction. An elected Chamber would cost at least four times more. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, David Clelland and George Foulkes in another place and many more have said that an elected Chamber would only create more politicians, whose names, like those of Members of the European Parliament, would be almost meaningless to the public, at least after their election.
We cannot move from a high-bred House to a hybrid House. A hybrid House would be unequal and unworkable. It would jeopardise the important principles mentioned many times of independence, expertise and experience. Kenneth Clarke says it would be a betrayal of the oldest democracy not to have an elected second Chamber. I disagree profoundly. I have seen democracy in many forms in many parts of the world, most recently in Uganda and Mozambique, and I am impressed by one fact: each society must make its own arrangements. There is no longer a Westminster model or an absolute system of democracywe did not even invent the word. It would now be a mistake to expect our democracy to translate into the same constitutional principles around the world. It will not. Nor should we copy or envy any other system. So it is not a betrayal.
We need to preserve and improve our own version, not to attempt an approach hitherto untried simply on grounds of apparently popular representation, when we already have our elected Chamber. I agree with many others that we should not shadow another place. It is unimaginable that we would send home our present life Peers and expect them to be returned in an election. They would not. The elected, professional, political Peer, as other noble Lords have said, would be a different animal. Such Peers could never develop the expertise in this House at present, nor could they work in committee with technical experts as some clever people have suggested.
More than that, I am anxious that we preserve the principle of independence, for which this Government have reaffirmed their support. The noble Lord, Lord Bledisloe, and others have spoken about the need for independent Peers to give an undertaking that they do not feel any hidden loyalty to a political party, which would comprise their independence. That may
The expertise available to this House, mixed with the political experience of the parties, provides just the right recipe for a revising Chamber. We should build on that rather than throw it out because of some notional idea of democracy, as the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, has said. Independent Peers can also represent a broader spectrum of this country's professional life. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, helped us with the phrase, "second-order legitimacy".
At present, it is pot luck whether an appointed Peerthe noble Lord, Lord Rix, has just been mentionedspeaks for his or her profession. But, as the Joint Committee implies, a strengthened independent appointments commission could seek nominations more formally from the recognised professions. Acclamation could be another way. It may not be possible to represent birdwatchers, furniture restorers or bee-keepers, for example, but the commission could look more systematically at the balance of professions and invite recommendations. Those could come directly from associations and interest groups, rather as the Honours List is developed today only more visible to the public. The appointments would not be delegated or even indirectly elected. I do not go as far as my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, although he is very imaginative, but they would be more transparent and seen to be more representative of the professions than at present.
The commission would be much more proactive than the present one. It would have more authority, taking soundings and receiving nominations from a wider constituency as well as Parliament. It would be independent of Downing Street, which is very important, especially for our acceptance in another place. But I cannot see why the Prime Minister should not make recommendations, provided that neither he nor the governing party had any power of veto over decisions by the commission.
In conclusion, I believe that this House has already made up its mind and will vote to retain its present compositionnot out of complacency, but from a conviction that it is working well and suits our present constitutional arrangements in a way that directly benefits the people of this country.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, on the first list of speakers issued for this debate, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth and I were down to speak twice. That seemed to betray a laudable desire for a theological input and to reinforce the case for the Bench of bishops having a place in a reformed House. I support that case, not least because it was with considerable eagerness that I awaited the arrival in this House of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop
I speak this afternoon not on behalf of my party, which may well be horrified by what I say, but as a Peer who has served in this House longer than all but four or five of your Lordships. I find it difficult to keep in touch with all the obituaries. I am seeking a short-term solution. Indeed, I take the view that if something is bust, you mend it, but you do not then think it necessary to replace it entirely to stop it breaking in other ways.
Parliament has had a serious fracture since at least 1906, when my grandfather won the Commons seat at Eastbourne as a Radical on a platform for abolishing the second House. We have more or less mended that fracture. I see no need for reconstruction.
The glory of this House is its expertise. When I first entered it, the Liberal Front Bench suggested that I make my maiden speech in a general debate. It so happened that I saw an opportunity in an Unstarred Question on primary schools in Hong Kong, on the grounds that I was probably the only Peer who had been the chairman of a primary school in Hong Kong and it was good to keep up the traditions of the House of having an expert on every subject. It may not have been an earth-shaking maiden speech, but I do hold that expertise, both major and minor, is our best contribution. For this reason, I will be voting straight down the line for an appointed House.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, speaking on the second day, it is extraordinarily difficult to find something to say that was not already said on the previous day. However, even if it has been said many times over, I wish to express my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, for moving the first report of the Joint Committee and the way in which he did so. I say that as a member of the committee. He is making a significant and influential contribution to the committee's work, as well as being a most congenial companion. His advocacy of a 100 per cent appointed House of Lords takes some matching.
As we heard last night, the noble and learned Lord has won over at least one former PPS, who is also on the committee, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. But as yet, so far as I know, he still has not made a great deal of impact on his other former PPS on the Joint Committee, the right honourable Kenneth Clarke. As I know from conversations with many noble Lords opposite, Mr Clarke is, as they see it, their only hope of reconnecting with the people. Given the Conservative Party's record in recent years of getting
In fairness to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, before I stood up, one of my colleagues behind me said, "I hope you're now going to make a formal announcement that you have also been won over by his arguments to support a 100 per cent appointed House." I regret that that is not so. I believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, argued yesterday, that the game has changed and moved on.
My fear is that my partyor, to be more precise, my governmentis at risk of making the same kind of mistakes as the Conservatives have done. As I said, I am on the Joint Committee and, in favouring elections, I am in the minority. I was persuaded by the force of the Royal Commission's findings and its recommendations that we should have elected Members to represent the nations and regions. Its report, in my opinion, is the most comprehensive and compelling document with evidence that exists on the subject. If, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said, we are to avoid making ill judged decisions, it is important to turn, wherever we can, to hard evidence rather than relying on assertions.
The Royal Commission identified our strengths; we have heard a good deal about those over the course of the past 24 hours. We have many, and I am proud to be a Member of this House. But we have our weaknesses too, and it is important, in a changing world, to recognise and address those wherever we can. To remedy them, the commission gave us a range of options. I maintain, even though it is almost three years since it produced the report, that the principal lines of analysis still stand and have not, in spite of all the argumentation, been fundamentally refuted. In my opinion, they provide a basis for a settlement that will last. I favoured option C, which would have given us a House that is around 35 per cent elected, with a substantially appointed majority. Some problems will arise from having a hybrid House, but if the will is there, they are not insurmountable.
I accept that some of the Royal Commission's recommendations, particularly in relation to finding representatives from the nations and the regions, could be addressed through a revamped independent appointments commission. I gather that that is what senior members of the Government favour. I shall introduce a number of new elements here in analysing the problems of the appointments system to some degree. We should make no mistakethere will be problems, and I leave aside entirely the influence of the media and the part that they will play. Do all those who have spoken in favour of a system of 100 per cent appointments really think, in their heart of hearts, that having some obscure body in London selecting people in secret and then foisting them on Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and the North East, will work without problems?
Do colleagues believe that a settlement based on 100 per cent appointments will hold? I know the Labour Party pretty well, and my view is that we will not get a permanent settlement within the party on these terms.
I regret that all the good work that the Government, especially the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, have done on constitutional issues is likely to be overshadowed by this. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, indicated from the Liberal Democrat Benches yesterday, we end up with an impasse, which is a distinct possibilityI believe that all the hot money is being put on an impasseLabour Peers, including members of the Government, will find themselves in extraordinary difficulty with the party further down the line. I recognise that I am making a party political speech and that it is primarily addressed to colleagues here. If that proves to be the case, we must bear it in mind that the ambitions of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, will be met. The hereditaries, as we see increasingly when there is an impasse, will stay with us.
The speech made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, as the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, indicated, was an important contribution to yesterday's debate. If noble Lords did not hear it or have not read it yet, I suggest that they do so. I shall give a short quote, because it goes to the heart of some of the difficulties that we have in this House. He said:
Why does the noble and gallant Lord make that point so strongly? I tried to raise it in the context of some of our discussions in the Joint Committee. We were given details about who attends the House, how frequently, who votes and in which way, but regrettably those details were not included in the report. However, they are worth having a look at and they are illuminating in several respects. As I mentioned before to the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, it casts some doubt on whether 100 per cent appointees attending on the present patterns would enable the House to continue to discharge its principle responsibilities.
In the light of what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, said, I shall give noble Lords a few figures about how we are working.
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