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In the debate yesterday we heard a great deal about the experience and expertise in this House. We do have that, but we also have significant gaps. There are some occupations that are well represented; we have some kinds of experience in abundance. That is good and positive. But there are many aspects of life in this country which are not represented at all. I do not
Lord Dubs: My Lords, there are not many, if there is one. We do not have many people with experience of cleaning the streets or of emptying the dustbins. I shall give way, but I am not going to meet the time limit.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. There are four members on the Cross Benches to my particular knowledge and two on the Labour Benches, and probably more, who know a tremendous amount about special education.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I said, "special needs education", which is more limited. My proposition is still that there are many occupations in this country that are not represented in the Chamber. Before we talk about the experience and expertise in the House, I think we should be aware that there are significant gaps.
My other proposition about elections is that individuals who are electedand we are all politicians, whether or not we like itbecome different kinds of politicians from those who are appointed. One's mindset as a politician is different; the way that one responds to issues; and the input of knowledge one gets from one's constituency makes one a different kind of person and, in some respects, a more informed person. There are some issues that arise in this country that take a long time to percolate through the system, but if one holds a constituency surgery on a Friday evening one has that information. I simply point that gap out because we ought to be aware of it.
For the reasons that I have given, I do not like indirect elections. If there is going to be an elected element it should be directly accountable to ordinary people. An indirect election blurs the accountability question.
It is important that if there is a conflict between the two Houses the Commons should always win. There are anxieties about that in another place. But, it is important that we make clear that, even with an elected element, in cases of dispute the Commons would win. Having said that, there is nothing unhealthy in a democracy where there is some tension between two Houses. After all, we are here to protect the rights of individuals in this country, and sometimes those rights are not that well protected. If the two Houses have a little argument with each other about how best to work on behalf of ordinary people that is no bad thing, provided there is no impasse and that there is a way to resolve it. However, in the end I believe it is right that the Commons should win.
We tend to be a little monolithic in our attitude that we should not challenge another place, that devolved assemblies should not challenge the Government, that local government should not challenge the Government and so on. That is not healthy. It is right that there should be some conflicts and arguments provided they can be properly resolved.
I think that this House has an enormous contribution to make. Changing its composition would not lessen that contribution. If anything, it would enhance it and give us more legitimacy than we now have.
Earl Peel: My Lords, in welcoming the report of the Joint Committee, it is fair to say that there are only two clear messages that have evolved from the discussions, both of today and yesterday. First, there is a wide and differing range of opinion as to what form your Lordships' House is likely to take; and, secondly, that the need for a second Chamber is compelling. I am certain that that view can only have been enhanced recently by the deeply unsatisfactory way in which the Scottish Parliament has developed.
Whereas the primary role of this House has been as a debating and revising Chamber, it seems to me that this position has been increasingly challenged in recent times, largely because of the lack of proper legislative scrutiny in another place. I have noticed during my time in this House that this situation has increased. I believe it is not helped by what I can only describe as the increasingly slapdash habit of government introducing important amendments to Bills, often long after the legislative process is under way. That has resulted in your Lordships' House having to take on a greater mantle of responsibility for the whole legislative process.
I regret that. I regret it because it puts additional responsibilities on this House, which are over and above its principal purposes. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it undermines the role of the elected Chamber. My noble friend Lady Blatch was absolutely right when she said that we cannot look at reform of this House without looking at another place as well.
It would be quite wrong for the second Chamber to try to usurp the supremacy of another place, and so the role of your Lordships' House should remain secondary, but, at the same time, it should play a full and integral part in the whole process of democratic government.
I appreciate that to many the term "democratic government" can only be interpreted in one wayand that is through the ballot boxand the very idea of a legislative Chamber made up of members who have not been subjected to the electoral process is anathema. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, yesterday implied that if Members of this House are not elected they are not respected. I do not take that view, and in recent years when your Lordships' House has fought on issues that have had public support the respect for this House has grown enormously.
I would argue that there are two crucial elements to the democratic process. One is clearly to ensure that the final legislative decisions rest firmly with the democratically elected representatives of the electorateanother place. But also, in coming to such decisions, there has been a full, diverse and honest debate in which all arguments have been explored and all interests thoroughly examined, which helps to ensure that another place can come to a better informed judgment. It is because I attach so much importance to that latter point that I remain fully committed to a wholly appointed House of Lords.
I do not propose to discuss in detail how such a House should be appointedthat is a difficult question, as many noble Lords have already pointed outfor I regard that as being of secondary importance to the principle. However, in addition to having as wide a representation of interests as possible, there should always be a percentage of political appointeesespecially of those with experience from another place, whose political wisdom and skills have been so invaluable not just in helping legislation through your Lordships' House but in advising another place on decisions. I am sure that their role will continue to be important.
I cannot for a moment imagine that my noble friends Lord Brittan or Lord Jopling, having already been through the electoral process, would want to do so again. So we must bear in mind that their position in this House could arise only by the method that has been decided on until now. However, I wholeheartedly agree with my noble friend Lord Selborne, who said that equal importance will be attached to the make-up as to the remit of the appointments commission.
My reasons for believing that the whole process of debate and legislative scrutiny is enhanced by this House being appointed are intrinsically simple. As many noble Lords have already pointed out, the existence of two elected Houses would almost certainly lead to conflict, with elected representatives from both Houses seeking supremacy on behalf of their constituents. I feel sure that that would lead to the conventions of this House, which have served your Lordships so well for so long, being undermineda point acutely noted by the Joint Committee.
I remain convinced that the revising Chamber is best served by the independent spirit brought about by Members who are not encumbered by either constituency responsibilities or, more importantly, constituency commitments. I note that the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was amused by the fact that many Conservative Members were taking a different view from our leader, but that simply illustrates my point. In this House, we have a greater degree of independence, and a free spirit flows accordingly.
Only the other day, I was discussing an especially controversial issue with a Member of another place. Out of curiosity, I asked him why he had taken the view that he did on the subject. He looked at me and said, "It is quite simple: if I took a contrary view, when I went back to my constituents, I would be lynched". I suppose
The two Houses of Parliament have two distinct roles. As such, there is nothing wrong with the fact that they have a different type of membership. Apart from anything elsethis point has been made by several noble Lordsthis country is sick of elections. We have parliamentary elections, European elections, local elections andheaven forbidthere is now a prospect of regional government elections. The fact that the second Chamber is not subjected to an electoral process is a real positive towards enhancing informed debate, enacting better legislation and, therefore, enhancing the whole process of democratic responsibility.
Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, now has a new horse to add to his crazy carousel, because this is the first time I have taken part in any debate on Lords reform. However, it seems the right time now that we are debating the Joint Committee report so brilliantly introduced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe.
I welcome many things in the report, such as its recommendation that the reformed House should retain its existing conventions and constitutional long-stops. I agree with the five desirable qualities listedlegitimacy, representativess, no domination by any political party, independence and expertise. I follow the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, and others who would add experience to expertise. I hope that with experience comes common sense, of which this House is not short either.
I am delighted that the committee recognised that we have the latter three qualities, that it wants not only to preserve but to increase our independence and non-domination by one political party and that it considers that it may be possible to achieve legitimacy through increased representativeness. What the House does is fine; the question is who does it and, just as important, how do we decide on that "who"which is almost exactly how I heard the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, express it when I entered the Chamber. However, he will not be surprised to hear that from that point on, we depart.
I should like to speak briefly about the importance of Cross Benchers and how best we can preserve the independence, expertise and experience that theyand some members of political partiesbring. It will be an individual view, because almost everything has been said by now and the case has been well made by many noble Lordsnotably my noble friend Lord Bledisloe, but by others, and not only Cross Benchers.
I came to this place by chance of birth 33 years ago having, again by chance, acquired an interest: disability. Like many members of the public, I am totally uninterested in party politics. Unlike them, I did not have to join a party or pressure group, because this is, I believe, the only chamber of government in the
My noble friend Lady Mar for 10 years conducted a campaign against organophosphates and finally got the Government to admit to having used OPs in the Gulf. She was brave and persistent in her campaign, but perhaps she was also more successful because she had no political axe to grind. I know from experience that that freedom is a definite plus when negotiating with a Minister about an amendment or helping an outside organisation. You build up trust over the years. I glimpse here a parallel with what the report states at paragraph 43 about a new legitimacy developing naturally if the existing qualities, bolstered by greater representativeness, can be transferred to the reformed House.
I shall say a little about representativeness. Yes, this House is seen as too male, too old and too much from the south-east of England, with insufficient ethnic diversity. Here, I mention disability, to which my noble friend Lord Rix also referred. It is important to mention it as a marker, because when discussing balance of ethnicity, age and so on, none of the reports mentions disability.
Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, special needs and special educational needs are well represented at present, but some of us will go with reform and we are all getting older. I am glad that my noble friend Lady Masham and the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, seem to be in fine form, but issues of equality and discrimination will be with us for many years to come. There is no doubt that the experience of noble Lords with disabilities or disabled families has had a marked influence on legislation directly connected with disability and, to some extent, on connected issues with which this House deals so well, such as embryology, genetics and so on. It would be a pity to lose that expertise.
As an ardent Cross-Bencher, I started by being against an all-elected House, because independents would not stand. The report recognises that fact, which is also true of many with specialist knowledge who belong to parties. Furthermore, it recognises that an appointments commission would be the easier way to ensure representativeness. I find myself increasingly favouring an all-appointed Chamber. It has been said many times that it is essential that the appointments commission should be independent and respected to counteract the view that unless someone is elected they are not legitimate. As the noble Earls, Lord Peel and Lord Selborne, said, the membership of the commission is important, and it is vital that it includes members who have first-hand experience of this House and others who really understand what we do here.
An elected House would be more political and have less expertise and experience. It would be less easy to ensure that it was representative; it would be more challenging to another place; and it would be more expensive. Paragraph 59 of the report says that it is,
At the weekend, I conducted a mini straw poll after Mass. The potential voters were not exactly representative: they were white, middle-class, young to middle-aged and Catholic to boot. However, I guess that the result was not untypical. Two were for an all-appointed House; two were for 20 per cent elected; and two were for 50 per cent elected. There was also a totally uninterested 15 year-old. More interesting than the percentage of votes was the fact that the two who had visited the Lords were the two who went for all-appointed. The two for 20 per cent elected would accept an all-appointed House if they could have confidence in the appointments committee. None of them, including those in favour of a 50 per cent elected House, wanted to vote for it in a general election. They wanted some group of voters to vote for whoever was to be voted in.
We have been our own worst publicists. People outside Parliament do not know what we do; those who do tend to approve. The report has confirmed that what we do is good, as is how we do it. We must get across the idea that legitimacy can be secured by greater representativeness and that that can be achieved by having a respected, independent, knowledgeable statutory appointments commission and that that will mean a more independent, less political, less whipped second Chamber. That would appeal to the public, and they would have confidence in it. Not only are many people disenchanted with the thought of more elections; I think they are, at heart, Cross-Benchers. I shall vote for an all-appointed House and against all other options.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon for the courtesy that he has shown in sitting in his place listening to all the speeches on the boring subjects that, from time to time, are raised. As a tribute to him, I remind your Lordships that he and I were at the same schoolI was a lot youngerand I learnt many things there.
Enough of that. Let us talk about cricket. I would like to go back to 1958, when I first met the noble Baroness in the house of the Flag Office, Malta, where we played charades. She will have forgotten that, but she was always a wise and witty lady, and I was pleased to remind her today that she is the 23rd longest-serving Member of your Lordships' House. Back to 1958 and cricket: in 1958, I was proud to be elected, at a young age, a full member of the MCC. I regret the subsequent decline in cricket and our record in the Ashes. Strangely, I always wanted to be good at cricket, but I never was. Occasionally, I was sent in to knock the fast bowling off its length. Usually, I was soon out, but, occasionally, I stayed in, and those of your Lordships who sit to the right of me may have noticed that my nose is not as straight as it should be.
Back to 1958. What a remarkable year that was. We had the first reform of the House of Lordslong, long overdueand the introduction of life Peers, who breathed new life into the House. Was not that a remarkable achievement? I think that only one of them is still alive. I was not here then; I came to the House five years later, never having been invited to play cricket for the MCC. Some of your Lordships will recall that I did not really want to come here. I did not like politics. Now, I find that I am No. 11 in the batting order in that, after 40 years, I am the 11th longest-serving Member of your Lordships' House. That disturbs me.
I was told that I had to come here. In fact, I was severely leant on by the father of my noble friend Lord Goschen. I was told that I had a duty to be here and that I should speak only when spoken to. I was told that I should not say anything until I felt that I knew something about the subject. I was told that one was not allowed to speak with notes or read a speech because that demonstrated that one did not know one's subject. I was told that, when one asked a question or spoke at Question Time, one was allowed one and a half lines in Hansard, not the 10 or 20 lines that the Liberal Party has, from time to time. I was told that one had a certain time to speak. I intend to speak for approximately 12 seconds for each of the years that I have been in your Lordships' House.
After 1958 came 1968 and a wonderful opportunity for reform. The Labour Party's proposals were voted through this House with a majority of 190 or so, and through the Commons with a majority of 116. They were then rejected. I thought that the Labour Party's proposals were rather good, so, in 1999, I proposed them as an amendment to a Bill. The only person to spot that was Lord Longford, who asked me what on earth I was doing promoting Labour Party policy. The proposals were that life Peers would be here for life and
We must go back to the "Pierian spring" and ask ourselves, "Do we know who we are?". Today, I look around and see the PCs' Bench. When I read the list, I thought that "PCs" was something to do with the number of people who had portable computers, but there are only three. How many Privy Counsellors are there in your Lordships' House? There are 191. That is too many. How many former Members of Parliament are there in your Lordships' House? There are 178. That is too many. How many QCs do we have, on top of the PCs and all the rest? There are 46. That is too many. How many "bees' knees" do we have? Your Lordships will know that "bees' knees" are CBEs, MBEs and so on. There are 147. A "bee's knee" must have done something outside for that award. We can go on and ask, "How many Conservatives are there?" or "How many different nationalities?".
The other day, I found, to my horroror, perhaps, to my pleasurethat I am an "IUP"an "Independent Unionist Peer". When I first joined the House, I signed up and wrote out a banker's order for £25 for life membership. Then, I found out that I was not allowed to vote for our leader because, technically, I am not a Conservative. Many of your Lordships on these Benches might want to look at that again. I always wanted to be independent, and I thought that I could speak with an independent voice.
I do not want to throw a spanner in the works, but I believe that this House should be fully elected. I said that in the early days. In 1968, I was involved with a research company that was employed to look at House of Lords reform on behalf of the Labour Party. I have kept that information up to date. I put together a report which had a rather good title, but nothing else. It was called Towards A Peerless Future. I have updated it constantly. I can tell you who was born when and who lives where.
I should have liked to have been genuinely elected. It would be rather fun to take on the Commons, and this House can be democratic only if it is fully elected. But, what are the alternatives? There are not many. There can only be twoeither/or. Either we are democratic or we are representative. If your Lordships were to scratch the surface, we would find how extraordinarily representative we are. As one gets older, one becomes more and more representative. I speak at No. 70 in the batting order of the speakers' listback to cricket. I find that I am still way below the average age. I would so like to be in your Lordships' House when I reach the average age, although I know that I am desperately below average.
How regional are we? I tried to obtain that information from the accountant's department, but there was a reluctance to tell me who claimed expenses from their principal place of residence. However, we know that most Members claim expenses at the address furthest from your Lordships' House. That would be natural because more time is spent there at weekends.
Are your Lordships aware that there are 72 DLs in this House? I thought they were D.Lits at first, but these are deputy lieutenants. How many counties are there in the United Kingdom at present? The deputy lieutenants do not double-up, but they are regional. When looking at Members' addresses, we can see that we are, indeed, regionally representative.
Perhaps we may return to who we are. I believe that I know. We are an amazing collection of people who do not yet know who they are and do not know who they represent. It would be nice if we could issue a mandate to ourselves, advising each of us who we represent. I am not sure that we represent anyone at present. Certainly, when anyone writes to me, I write back. However, I am told that that is not the correct procedure if one is a Member of Parliament. Let us not forget that the Labour Party has got rid of one-third of all Members of Parliament in the past two years, and that a Member of Parliament cannot write to the constituent of another Member.
We have strange rules. I suggest that if we want to be representative, we must be all appointed. If we want to be democratic, we must be all elected. However, if we are to be representative, let us work out who we are meant to represent.
Lord Gordon of Strathblane: My Lords, I join with virtually everyone who has spoken in congratulating the Joint Committee on the report, which I have read with interest. There are some significant gapsissues which, perhaps rightly, have been parked for the moment. In particular, I pay tribute to the introduction to the debate by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and to all other members of the committee who spoke. For those of us who have just had a chance to read the report, it was interesting to obtain the flavour of the discussions and some of the between-the-lines discussions.
I do not want reform of the House of Lords to be hijacked as a term by those who think that the only way forward is election. I believe passionately in the reform of Parliament; it is a mess at the moment. I may alienate some in the House by saying that, if an idea were put forward to bring this House into the same time zone as the rest of the country so that we no longer greeted each other in the afternoon with "Good morning", I would not regard that as the end of civilisation as we know it.
More importantly, it is vital that we reform the way we work in this House. The pre-legislative days could be put together to permit more people to accept a peerage other than barristers, those who are fully retired or those who live within the M25. Members have paid tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Winston, who in the debate yesterday alluded to the fact that he had to leave in order to perform surgery. That is fine because he is here in this House. But would the noble Lord be here if he were in a Scottish university or in a university remote from London? That is a serious drawback. We must be more representative, not in an egalitarian sense but simply making it more possible for people to play a part in the House.
However, more important is the issue of how we interact with the House of Commons. There have been reports on reforming the House of Commons and reports on reforming the House of Lords. I am amazed that no one is looking at Parliament as a whole. The way that we interact with each other affects the quality of our legislation and the way in which the public are served. To that extent, I echo some of the more iconoclastic remarks of my noble friend Lord Elder. I, too, think that there is a wide disparity between the appearance and the reality of Parliament. Having the State Opening of Parliament once every five years in Westminster Hall has much to commend it.
To be honest, it looks as though we are the Upper House. Even the Prime Minister and others are summoned as though second-class citizens to the Bar of the House to hear the Queen's Speech. That is wrong. I do not think that anyone has taken drastic offence so far, but it is only a matter of time before someone does. Let us change such practices.
However, the reality is that the House of Commons virtually ignores the House of Lords. I read with distress as much as I could of yesterday's debate in the Commons. That was one of my reasons for speaking today rather than yesterday. Some good points were made, but generally there was an appalling ignorance of how this place works. It is amazing thatwith the exception of noble Lords who are former Members of the House of Commons, who, interestingly, are almost universally in favour of an appointed Housevery few Members of this House know exactly how another place works. We need to learn how it works and we need to work together a lot more. I wish that a committee would be set up to look at that issue, instead of tinkering about with composition.
There was a given to the committee that the House of Commons remains supreme. I am open to the concept of election. If the House of Lords is changed dramatically and it is given more power than the House of Commonsthere is no reason why it should not beelection must be considered. For the exercise of power, a democratic mandate is needed. However, if it is a given that the House of Commons will remain supremerealistically, there is no way that this issue will pass through the House of Commons unless that is truethere is no case for election whatever.
Another misleading concept appears in the report, which is otherwise very good. People are talking about election and accountability. Election does not give accountability. As my noble friend Lord Dubs pointed out, only re-election and seeking re-election give accountability. If Members are to be elected for long periods, or there is no obligation to seek re-election, there is no accountability. The job may be carried out well, and I believe that the report refers to greater independence of thought. But do not pretend that there will be accountability, because the electorate are not being asked to renew the mandate. The same would be true of any system other than one that virtually replicates the House of Commons, and, as my noble friend Lord Dubs said, seeking re-election on a regular basis.
The problem is that if we take up that system, there will be exactly the same outcome as in the House of Commons. I hope that we are all humble enough in this House to admit that if we were representing a constituency in the same manner as an MP, as well as looking after their best interests as best we could, we would also be ensuring that we should receive a re-endorsement at the next election. We would be just as distracted from the business of parliamentary scrutiny as they are. As a whole, the public would be much less well served.
It is also a recipe for yet another PCpublic confusion. My noble friend Lord Elder referred to the different electoral systems that we would have in Scotland, which is one form of confusion. However, there is also the confusion surrounding who does what. Noble Lords who have been MPs know that half their post bag related to local government matters. They are brought to MPs because a letter from an MP on House of Commons notepaper is more likely to receive a reply than a letter from a constituent. People do not know who is responsible for, say, housing; what Westminster is responsible for; or what Brussels is increasingly responsible for. There is considerable confusion.
In opening, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, suggested that the committee did not greatly address hybridity. That is true. It could be said that we are a hybrid House because we have two genders or because Members come from different parts of the country, but none of us believes that that is hybridity. I hope that I cause no offence to hereditary Peers in expressing the belief that we are not a hybrid House just because we have hereditary and appointed Peers. After all, hereditary Peers are simply people who were appointed ante-natallyin some cases with the removal of several generations.
The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, made an important point. If there is a partially elected House and the government of the day win the vote among the elected Peers but lose it overall, the government of whatever political persuasion will do exactly what this side of the House did in the run-up to the hereditary vote and say, "We would have won the vote had the hereditaries not voted". The recipe will be clearto create more Peers.
The report states that elected Peers would probably demand more office accommodation than we have ever demanded. It is not that we have never demanded more; it is just that no one has ever given it to us! Furthermore, although there was no definite decision from the committee, it recognised that paying Members might be important. Even so, no one has said how much. And shall we really attract the best people by saying to them, "We want you to stand for election to this House. You are clearly inferior to us as MPs and we don't want you to defy us. We are not terribly certain about your pay and conditions, and as to the business of a title which these guys used to get, we are not sure. We will call you something, like Member of the Lords"? That will bring people out in droves to stand for election, will it not?
Moreover, what legitimacy is conferred by election? Would the Joint Committee have been more legitimate had it been elected by each House, with members having a rock-solid mandate from one House to abolish the House of Lords, or at least make it wholly elected, and Members from this House having a mandate to make it all appointed, with no one having an opportunity to change one's mind and listen to arguments? I suggest not. At what point is legitimacy created in the institution rather than in the individual? Does one elected Member make the whole House legitimate? I am reminded of the negotiations of God with Abraham over whether he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if 40 good men could be found. Perhaps we will not get 40perhaps we will get only 30but at what point will we get legitimacy?
If 20 per cent elected Members gives some legitimacy, undoubtedly 40 per cent gives more. The truth is that the only thing that will give full legitimacy in some people's eyes is 100 per cent elected Members. Therefore, do not let us pretend that any half-way House will stop short of that. It will inevitably lead to election.
My objection is that there are things which need to be done in Parliament and the composition of the Lords is an unwelcome distraction from the important and neglected task of reforming Parliament as a whole.
Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, by starting from a feeling of unease, as I suspect most people do, about any House of Parliament being constituted by a means other than election. I spent my Civil Service career feeling that Members of the House of Commons had a particular authority precisely because they were elected. Some of the Ministers I served may be surprised to learn that I felt like that, but I did. So my
I can also understand it if a feeling exists among Members of another place, in particularly the younger ones, that those of us in your Lordships' House have it pretty easy. Members of another place have first to be selected, then to win and to keep on winning their place in Parliament. It is evident that those in your Lordships' House who have been through that experience are not anxious to repeat it. As the noble Lords, Lord Higgins and Lord Rodgers, said, Members of another place may not know much about this House but they know that. They know that we are given a place in Parliament without having to fight elections and are appointed for life. It is understandable that they should not feel very warm about that aspect.
Thus far, I go along with those who argue that, as a matter of principle, places in Parliament should be gained only by election. But I then follow the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, and many others in saying that a fully elected House would so closely replicate the House of Commons that the question would have to be answered why we need a second Chamber at all.
If the House of Commons worked effectively in holding the executive to account and scrutinising its legislation, there would be a very real question whether Britain needs a second House. I could easily be a uni-cameralist. But on this question, I was very struck by the evidence which the Royal Commission received as we travelled up and down the country.
That evidence was overwhelmingly that Britain needs a second Chamber because the House of Commons' control over the executive is inadequate. It was not argued that the second House should usurp the supremacy of the elected Chamber, but it was argued that it should provide a means of subjecting the executive to additional scrutiny.
I believe that this House does serve the nation well in this respect. I also believe that the task needs a greater degree of independence than could be achieved if the House were fully elected. No one has suggested any plausible means of having a fully elected House which would avoid the domination of the existing political parties.
There are those who argue for a large element of election, not just on the argument of principle but, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in this House and Fiona Mactaggart in another place did yesterday, also on the proposition that opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of people want a wholly or mainly elected second Chamber. I suggest it is not very surprising that if you stop someone in the street and ask him which he prefers between election or appointment by politicians he already mistrusts, he will choose the former. Even if the question is asked in the form which the noble Lord, Lord Norton, had itwhether they would prefer an expert or someone electedhe is likely to choose someone elected. If, however, he were to be asked whether he wanted a second Chamber which is similar to the House of Commons, what then do we think his answer would be? I suggest that it would be very different.
I am struck by the fact that many of those who have argued for election in this debate have said or implied that they would like to retain an independent element and have recognised that the independent element could be achieved only by appointment. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that explicitly and it has been implicit in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and many others.
A part-elected/part-appointed House must be hybrid, and many have talked about the difficulties of that. But the point I want to makeand it has also been made by othersis that the greater the elected element, the greater the difficulties for the non-elected minority. To take just one illustration, let us envisage that on a controversial issue the government of the day and the opposition parties are in conflict, but one side has a small majority which is overturned by the votes of the minority of appointed Members. If we have accepted election as a necessary condition for legitimacy, where is legitimacy then? I do not believe that such a situation would be allowed to survive for long.
So if a degree of independence is needed, to say nothing of the other qualities correctly identified by the Joint Committee, and a hybrid House is difficult and unstable, the logic points ineluctably to an appointed House. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has already followed that route on the way to Damascusor, perhaps more correctly, on the way from Damascusbut the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, spoke of compromise, as did the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham.
Human animalsand perhaps particularly political animalshave a tendency to split differences. Sometimes it is right to do so and sometimes it is wrong. One of the tasks given to the Central Policy Review Staff in 1971 perhaps on the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Howellwas to advise the Cabinet in situations where one department, one Cabinet Minister, was right and another was wrong that the issue should not be settled by splitting differences.
In this case I believe it would be wrong simply to split differences. If there is to be a compromise, it must be a compromise which has a rational justification and which, most importantly, would not destabilise the subsequent operation of this House in the way I have described. I supportedI still supportthe compromise reached by the Royal Commission that an element of the House, with the function of injecting regional opinion into our debates, should be elected. I liked the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, yesterday, "appointed by the people". But to avoid the problems I have described, I was, and remain, in favour of that being a small proportion of the Housethat is, not more than 87 Members, or roughly 15 per cent of a reconstituted House, Model B in the Royal Commission report. So when it comes to the votes on 4th February, I shall not support an option with a higher proportion of elected Members than 20 per cent.
One final word. Although Cross-Benchers are never whipped, or even concerted, I am attracted by the suggestion in the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, that those remaining hereditaries who have served this House with such distinction should stay on in the new House for the remainder of their lives. So I would like the noble and gallant Lord to put me down as a supporter of his Option 1A, or possibly 3A.
Lord Rees: My Lords, I congratulate the Joint Committee on the admirable work it has done and on the way it has refined the options open to us. I also congratulate my noble and learned friend Lord Howe for his comprehensive and powerful introduction of the debate on the basis of the Joint Committee report.
At this stage of the debate there have been so many penetrating and illuminating speeches that I felt it only remained for me to mark my card in regard to the votes in February and sit down. But that would be perhaps a slightly too perfunctory discharge of what I perceive to be my duty, so perhaps I may be allowed to offer a few general observations.
As to the question of legitimacy, like many noble Lords I have perhaps slid from legitimacy as an elected representative of the people to illegitimacy. I was not over conscious of a difference in the discharge of my dutiesexcept perhaps for a slight reduction in my labours and the burdens that I carried in my first roleand it is slightly misleading to suggest that, because in our roles as Members of this House we do not commune with the electorate from time to time, we are in some sense illegitimate and therefore not properly equipped to pontificate on the important political issues of the day.
I shall disclose my hand on Option 2 in a moment but, if there is any merit in that distinction, it follows that the moment this House has a large, predominantly elected membershipand therefore, presumably, moves to legitimacy the possibility, indeed the probability, of friction between the two Houses, both at Westminster and, perhaps more importantly, in the constituencies, becomes much more acute and cannot be disregarded.
A slightly unfortunate phrase crops up in the Joint Committee report and in the White Paper about the "pre-eminence of the elected Chamber". I am the first to concede that historically it is a long time since this House provided the forum for the Prime Minister of the day or, indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course one recognises that there has been a gradual drift in power, in many regards, down the Corridor to another place. But, that said, I do not like to think that another place is pre-eminent. Predominant maybe, but not pre-eminent.
The truth is that both Houses have slightly different roles which call for different qualities, different experience and different expertise. The position of both Houses should be respected in that regard if one supports a bicameral constitution. Interestingly, the only noble Lord who has touched faintly on the possibility of a unicameral constitution
Against that very broad opening, may I turn to the options before us. I could not vote for Option 2 for various reasons, some of which have been touched on most ably and, most recently, by the noble Lord, Lord Butler. His training must have been quite different to mine, enabling him to view the political process with a different eye, although quite as closely as I was able to do even sitting alongside him. We have to recognise what are and should be our functions; we have to recognise that we do not want to put ourselves in a position where there is likely to be constant disharmony and friction with another place.
There is also the practical question of what kind of person would be attracted to a position in this House if we went for a totally elected Chamber or a Chamber with a majority of elected Members? If noble Lords were to reflect on their circles of acquaintances and friends, could they identify anyone who would be drawn into coming here for 12 or 15 years, with no possibility of re-election, and self-evidently being dominated by another place? We can discuss what they should be paid and other vulgar practical details, but I wonder whether we would end up with anything little better than a rather limp, aldermanic bench. I do not intend any offence to my friends in local government, but I do not see the kind of quality, drive and stamina that we expect in this Chamber being reproduced against that kind of background.
The point was touched on by many speakers, including the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, that that would reintroduce into this Chamber a much stronger partisan approach than we are used to. Of course, we have our party differences in this House; but on the whole we debate problems with a much greater degree of detachment than we experienced at the other end of the corridor. Therefore, as I said, I could not vote for Option 2. I should vote for Option 1.
There are difficulties, and many practical problems, on which the Joint Committee has not touched. I do not blame the committee; it had sufficient responsibilities. We can reflect on an appointments commission as one solution. But who will draw its parameters? Who will recruit for it? How would such a commission carry out its duties?
It has been said that these matters can easily be resolved. Before we take this matter much furtherdepending on the outcome of the votes in Februarywe must reflect to some extent on these points and reassure the country as a whole that, if that were the preferred option, there would not be a strong element of political patronage. That said, there is a strong element of political patronage even in most electoral processes. It would be naive to imagine that politics will not play a considerable part. But we must devote a considerable amount of thought to the matter.
I now turn to the question of hybridity. My noble and learned friend Lord Howe said that it was a critical issue. I am not certain that as the debate has developed it has turned out to be such a critical issue. Some noble Lords have drawn attention to it and have produced their own solutions. I suppose that we could survive with a very small elected proportion of Members. But, like many noble Lords, I feel that that would merely add a further element of complication to what might well be a delicately balanced solution. I rather doubt whether it would add very much. If the elected proportion were to be 80 per cent, a great deal of what I and other noble Lords have said about the virtues of a nominated Chamber would go by the boardbecause the nominated element would be insignificant and would, I suspect, carry little weight in debates.
If the figure for elected Members were 50 per cent or 40 per cent, all kinds of extremely delicate political issues could arise. I do not believe that at the end of the day the country as a whole would be greatly impressed by a hybrid solution. People attracted by the argument about legitimacy would say that we were not legitimatehalf of our Members might have an element of legitimacy, having communed with the electorate from time to time, but on what basis would remain to be determined. At the end of the day, I doubt whether we should achieve very much in terms of our own status and political power.
My conclusiondepending on how the debate goes, and there may be some further dimensions before the matter comes to a voteis that I am disposed to vote for Option 1. That said, I was extremely attracted by the cogent and practical arguments of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. He impressed on me the number of questions that have to be resolved before we can conceivably put this into operation. I refer to such matters as the number of Membersby whatever route they are brought to this Chamber. One is inclined to say 600, because, give or take a few, that is the number at present and, practically speaking, a certain number is necessary. My instinct is to say that, if possible, it would be better to have fewer. At the risk of offending our colleagues in another place, I believe that the House of Commons is dramatically over-staffed at present. It could well consider a reduction in numbersand I venture this observation. To think that one can determine the future of this place without a very serious look at the composition and powers of the House of Commons is ridiculous. We interlock. Therefore, I hope that the Commons, too, will reflect on this point. Matters of tenure arise and all kinds of delicate questions, such as what people should be paid. We have to devote much more thought to these kinds of questions before reaching any firm conclusion.
In life, I think that I have been a pragmatist over the years and, in a sense, a do-it-yourself practitioner. I am a firm believer in the philosophy: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". So does the House of Lords work?
My experience since coming to this House is that it works extremely well and does the job that it is designed to do of scrutinising, revising and improving legislation sent to this House from another place.
The House is also in my view an effective check and balance on what has been described by others as an "elective dictatorship". With a massive majority, a government of any persuasion can have their way, and there is little incentive to win by good argument something that can be won by the simple expedient of the application of a strong Whip.
That is what happens in the "democratic" Chamber, and we see some pretty awful Bills being passed through to this House for remedial treatment. That is not a criticism of another place. Its Members are busy, and that is the nature of democracy. But you can have too rich a mix of democracy. Quite often, opposites attract. Something sweet goes well with something a little sour. I return to my pointit seems to work.
I do not suggest that there should have been no change. Obviously it was difficult to justify the hereditary principle for people involved in legislatingalthough I tend to believe that their demise could have been arranged with a little more tender loving care. There were, and indeed are, some excellent parliamentarians among our hereditary colleagues, and I pay tribute to them. But they had to go; and of course there is the mechanism, which has been used, of bringing back as life Peers those felt to be indispensable to this House. I hope that it will be used where appropriate.
On a further, not insignificant point, the public have an interest in all this. Politicians, like journalists and estate agents, are not held in very high public esteem. The noble Lord, Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, and other speakers have referred to that lack of respect. But when I go to public meetings and make after-dinner speeches, or even when I make speeches in this House, people do not seem to see me as a politician but still as a policeman. The same applies to many noble Lords who come to the House after 35, 40 or 45 years of distinguished service in other professions such as the military, medicine, the Church, business or even, dare I say, the law.
I realised the depths to which I had plummeted in people's esteem by getting mixed up in politics only when someone asked me the difference between a party politician and a supermarket trolley. When I said
The tabloids continually exploit the concept of "Tony's cronies" and patronage by all or any parties. It is essential to have an independent appointments body that selects, not for partisan reasons, but according to merit, service and commitment to the job. It should be divorced from the honours system and patronage. Whenever I put the point to the public, at meetings or in speeches, it is invariably met with unqualified agreement, which surprised me at first.
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster: My Lords, I pay tribute to the hard work of the Joint Committee. I do not know whether it has kick-started the process, as some noble Lords have suggested, but at least it has cleared the way with its analysis of the reform issues.
I have always taken the view that one should not address the composition of the House of Lords unless and until one addresses its functions and powers. Since it appears, no doubt realistically, that we are not to look for any significant increase in the powers and functions of the House of Lords, we can proceed to the discussion of composition on that basis.
I share the view of the Joint Committee that, if the existing qualities of the Housenamely, lack of domination by one party, independence and expertisecan be bolstered by a greater representativeness, a reformed House can and will develop a new legitimacy.
So the question is: how to arrive at this greater representativeness? It is tempting to suppose that that can best be achieved by having a fully or partly elected House. But there are other ways of achieving greater representativeness than by direct elections. There are two objections of principle to a fully elected second Chamber. First, such a Chamber would be less likely to have any of the three qualities in the present House that the Joint Committee favoursat any rate, in the same measure. Secondly, a fully or even partly elected House would challenge, to a greater or lesser degree, the democratic supremacy of the House of Commons. By supremacy, I mean that the will of the House of Commons must prevail. In our system that would be a serious disadvantage.
The arguments of principle are buttressed by practical considerations. First, will men and women of the quality and calibre we seek be willing to submit to the effort, trouble and expense of standing for election to a House with powers as limited as those of the present House, particularly if it were only partly elected? Secondly, I suspect that British voters already suffer from election fatigue, as the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said. They are already called to vote in elections for this Parliament, local government, sometimes
So, on 4th February, my vote will be for a fully appointed House and against any of the other options. In that respect, as Chancellor of the University of Hull, I am delighted to line up with the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, my colleague at that great university. I like to think that what the University of Hull thinks today, the rest of the world will think tomorrow.
That leaves us with the problem of achieving greater representativeness. Our present constitutional arrangements require the Sovereign to act on the advice of his or her Ministers, so, ultimately, the Prime Minister should remain responsible for all appointments to membership of the House of Lords. Apart from any other consideration, we should reflect on the possibility of what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, referred to yesterday as gridlock. The Prime Minister may need, even in the 21st century, to reserve the right to recommend, or to threaten to recommend, new creations if there is no other way of ensuring that the will of the House of Commons prevails in the last analysis.
There are probably other circumstances in which it is appropriate for a Prime Minister to make recommendations on his or her own motion. For instance, the Prime Minister should be able to recommend a peerage for someone whom he wishes to appoint to a ministerial post. It will also continue to be advantageous for the leaders of the main political parties to be able to submit to the Prime Minister nominations for a limited number of representatives of their parties in this House. And can we be confident that, in its wisdom, an independent commission without guidance from Number 10 would ensure the continuance of the apostolic succession of former Cabinet Secretaries elevated to the House of Lords?
If greater representativeness is to be achieved, and to be seen to be achieved, there will have to be a system that ensures that, for most recommendations to the Sovereign, the Prime Minister gives effect to a nomination from an external body. There will be a great role, therefore, for an independent commission that puts forward nominations upon which the Prime Minister will in no circumstances be expected to act. That commission will be charged with the duty of making nominations that produce greater representativeness.
We already have an independent commission to provide the Prime Minister with nominations of independent non-political candidates for membership of the House of Lords. Some such arrangement should continue. It would not be difficult to devise a system whereby that commission or the "new" commission also received nominations from other bodies for the appointment of representatives of various groups and
It would be the duty of the independent commission in submitting its nominations to ensure a suitable regional balance in membership of the House. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly could have the right to nominate representatives through the commission. So could local authorities and regional assemblies in England if, or when, we have them. Time does not permit me to go into greater detail now. Much work and discussion would be required to set out such a system in detail. But it is not beyond the wit of man to devise workable arrangements on these lines to ensure greater social, economic and geographical representativeness. Complicated legislation would not be required if there were general agreement in principle on a system along the lines that I have tried to adumbrate.
When one is 75th in the batting order of speakers, to return to the cricket metaphor, it is difficult to suggest something new. I have another modest proposal which has not been suggested in this debate before. It has long seemed to me that it would be advantageous for the Standing Orders in this House to be amended so that a Cabinet Minister or Minister in charge of a department who is a Member of another place could be permitted, by leave of both Houses, to attend and speak but not to vote in this House when business warranted it; for instance, the Second Reading of an important Bill. By the same token, the Standing Orders in another place could be amended so that a Cabinet Minister or a Minister in charge of a department who is a Member of this House could be permitted, by leave of both Houses, to attend and speak but not to vote in another place if business warranted it.
I take the view that the system which I have suggested would produce a House which, while not very different in practice from the existing House, would retain the undoubted virtues and benefits of this House to which reference has been made and would have whatever additional legitimacy is conferred by a more assured system of greater representativeness.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I find this an extraordinarily interesting and even momentous debate. I hope it will go down in history. Even speaking at No. 76, following the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, one is constantly hearing interesting solutions and thoughts about constitutional change. I certainly join in the congratulations that everyone has offered my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon and all members of the committee on the excellent House of Lords reform first report that it produced, which has got us all thinking again.
This debate is full of surprises. I really did not know which way the noble Lord, Lord Butler, would go until halfway through his speech. That makes for a very interesting debate. That said, I have to declare that I do not think that Option 1 for a fully appointed House is a practical alternative. It will not give this House the legitimacy that it needs to exercise fully its checking and revising capacity. Moreoverand I have not heard this point mentioned muchI do not think that there is any possibility of it being adopted by the Commons.
I have read a great deal of the Hansard report of the House of Commons debate yesterday. Although there is talk in another place of a move towards appointmentsthat is the fashionable phrasethe clear tenor of the remarks in yesterday's debate is that the Commons will vote for elected Members. They will vote for them either at the 60 per cent, 40 per cent or 20 per cent mark, probably around 60 per cent.
It is important that we are not too far away from the Commons on this issue. We do not want a situation in which, as in 1911, the Commons expects its will simply to prevail. We do not want to be in conflict on this issue if we can avoid it. For that reason, I see no possibility of Option 1 being accepted, and, I have to say to noble friends on both sides of the House that this does not worry me. Since 1997, I have been in favour of a percentage of elected Members. I think that we would do our job better, with more authority and conviction, if we had elected Members, and we would be more democratic. We are having a problem with the use of the word "democratic". I notice that my noble friend Lord Higgins thought we were democratic enough already. But another noble friend whose name I shall not mention said to me very firmly earlier this afternoon, "We do not want to be destroyed by democracy".
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