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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, not on every occasion, but certainly on all those occasions when it is clear that planning requirements ensure that that should be the case. That would apply to areas of outstanding natural beauty.
We are reviewing issues with regard to planning laws in relation to these developments. Obviously planning will play a major part in the consents required for such projects. However, as I indicated earlier, it is already the case that major projects for the future seem to be a considerable distance away from some of the more sensitive areas to which noble Lords have alluded.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I explained, no arrests were made under Section 44. Two individuals were arrested under Section 41. I know that the difference between the two sections has caused difficulties in the past. As regards authorisation, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Home Affairs is responsible for designation, but operational issues are of course a matter for the Metropolitan Police.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, is the Secretary of State responsible for authorisation? If such an authorisation was given to the police, did it apply to the whole of London or only Docklands, and is it still in force?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, any complaint alleging misuse of police powers will be investigated by the Metropolitan Police. There is a procedure under the Terrorism Act that allows an individual to request reasons. The Home Secretary has asked for a reply in relation to those matters.
The role of the Secretary of State is to confirm whether it is appropriate for Section 44 powers to be put in place. The Government's position is that those powers should be applied correctly during police operations in strict compliance with the legislation; that is, for counter-terrorism purposes only.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Earl that it is absolutely critical to take precautions in those circumstances. We believe that appropriate action was taken in order to keep safe all those who visited the site.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I did not quite understand the reply of the noble Baroness to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. His question was whether the powers used required the authorisation of the Secretary of State. If so, was that authorisation supplied and over how wide an area?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, all Section 44 applications are scrutinised. If there were any indication that a police force intended to use those powers in a way not compliant with the legislation, the Home Secretary would not confirm their use. The situation was that the powers were used properly.
I have tried to explain a number of times that there was no use of Section 44 on that occasion and that the arrests took place under Section 41. If it helps, I shall be happy to describe the difference between the two sections because I know that this matter seems to be causing a little confusion. However, I notice that noble Lords do not want me to do that. I am more than content.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, what is absolutely important is that appropriate action was taken to keep London safe. Noble Lords will know that since 1998 a number of incidents have taken place right across London. It is right that there should be reviews of whether the continuance of the relevant actions is proper, and those have taken place.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the problem with Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, under which the arrests were made, is that it enables the police to arrest someone even though he has not committed, or is not thought to be about to commit, any specific offence? That seems to illustrate the dangerously wide nature of Section 41, to which I have drawn attention before.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, of course, I hear what the noble and learned Lord says. The noble and learned Lord also well knows that we held quite intensive debates on the balance that must be borne in mind before the proper exercise of powers under Section 41. It was for that reason that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, was invited properly to keep under review the provisions, and that does work.
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, before public business begins, may I take the opportunity to inform the House that I shall be undertaking ministerial visits to Manchester and Bolton on Monday, 6th October and Thursday, 9th October respectively? Accordingly, I trust that the House will give me leave of absence.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, a little later this morning, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs will make an announcement of interest to at least 93 of your Lordships. I wish to remind noble Lords of the procedure outlined in the Companion. The noble and learned Lord makes his Statement; there is then 20 minutes for Front-Bench interventions and a further 20 minutes for Back-Bench interventions.
On this occasion it seems that only 20 minutes for the Back Benches is somewhat restrictive. I propose, therefore, if noble Lords are content, to double the time to a maximum of 40 minutes, if that is wished for.
These papers form another significant part of the present phase of constitutional reform on which the Government embarked last summer, with the creation of a Department for Constitutional Affairs to take overall responsibility for these issues.
May I begin by apologising to the House because a report of the House of Lords proposals appeared in a Sunday newspaper? I can assure the House that no one in my department was authorised to speak to the press on this subject. It has always been the Government's intention to ensure that Parliament should hear first about these proposals.
I shall deal first with our proposals for further reform of your Lordships' House. Last February, this House and the other place voted on the range of options for the composition of our second Chamber proposed by the Joint Committee of both Houses. Your Lordships voted three to one in favour of an appointed House. In the other place, there was no majority for any of the options.
In these circumstances we intend to make progress where we can. So the Government are proposing further reforms to ensure that we have a stable and sustainable House of Lords. It was never our intention that the remaining hereditary Peers should remain Members of the House for ever. When this interim arrangement was reached, as well as the immediate benefit of the agreement, we accepted the argument that the presence of the remaining hereditary Peers would act as an incentive to further reform. That has not happened. There is clearly no consensus in Parliament on the way forward.
So the context for reform has clearly and significantly changed. The circumstances which gave rise to the original arrangement over the remaining hereditary Peers no longer apply. The solution which the remaining hereditary Peers were here to help is no longer available.
So the Government must act, and act decisively, to bring about stability and sustainability. It is for the Government to act but it is for Parliament to decide. It will be for Parliament as a whole to decide on the removal of the right to sit and vote of the remaining hereditary Peers.
Therefore the next step of our reform programme will be to introduce legislation, when parliamentary time allows, to remove the right of the remaining 92 hereditary Peers to sit and vote in your Lordships' House, thus completing that element of the reform process on which we embarked in 1997.
In moving on from the current arrangement, I want to pay tribute to the contribution which those 92 Peers make to your Lordships' House. Many of them are among our most active and effective Members. I hope that we shall continue to benefit from the contribution of at least some of them should they be nominated as life Peers in the future.
We shall set up a statutory commission to select and oversee appointments that are made to this House. This will build on the present non-statutory Appointments Commission, which itself represented a significant voluntary relinquishing by the Prime Minister of his powers of patronage. The statutory commission will be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen in response to an Address from Parliament. The three major parties in this House and the Cross-Bench Peers will be directly represented on it, together with a number of members selected in accordance with the principles of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in an open selection process. The Government will discuss with the opposition parties how they may best be involved in the selection process. The commission's funding and accountability arrangements will maximise its independence from the Government. The consultation document asks for views on various detailed aspects of these arrangements.
We propose that the functions of the commission will be threefold. First, it would decide on the number and timing of new appointments to the House. This will be a massiveand voluntarydiminution in the Prime Minister's influence over the membership of the House. In making its decisions in relation to political
In the mean time, the existing non-statutory Appointments Commission will continue its work, of which the Prime Minister has already expressed the Government's appreciation. The Prime Minister will invite it to make recommendations for new non-party Peers until the new statutory commission is in place.
We also propose to bring the rules for disqualification for membership of this House in respect of detention following conviction for an offence into line with those for the House of Commons. We do not believe that this difference of treatment can any longer be justified. We therefore propose that in future such Peers will forfeit their membership of the House exactly as they would if they were MPs. In addition, they will deprived of their peerage. The provision will have retrospective effect. Parliament is a privilege, not a possession. Such Peers will, of course, be free to seek renewed membership of the House by applying to the Appointments Commission or their party, as relevant, for nomination, just as former Members of Parliament can seek re-election.
We propose that life Peers, like hereditary Peers before them, should in future be able to resign their peerages and membership of the House. This is a fairer and more reasonable arrangement which will allow those who feel they wish to move on and no longer sit in the second Chamber the opportunity to do so.
Nothing in these proposals relates to the powers of the House. We are not proposing any extension of the role of the second Chamber. For example, the traditional role of this House in relation to Finance Bills is clear and works well, its powers being constrained by the Parliament Act 1911 and Commons' financial privilege established in resolutions in the 17th century. I am sure that your Lordships would not seek to extend its powers, for example, in respect of supply. The House of Commons should and must remain pre-eminent in our constitutional arrangements.
Taken together, these changes amount to a substantial set of reforms to the House. When added to our previously announced decisions to set up a separate supreme court and to remove the office of Lord Chancellor, thus leading to reform of the office of Speaker, they will create a House that is significantly different from that which presently exists.
I am also publishing today a consultation paper on the reform of the office of Lord Chancellor. Work to bring an end to the multiple roles of the Lord Chancellor is already well advanced. I am formally inviting views on the Lord Chancellor's ecclesiastical patronage, his visitatorial responsibilities and other functions relating to specific charities, schools and other institutions.
The proposals I am announcing today are part of the programme of constitutional reform which the Government have been pursuing since 1997. They will contribute to the further strengthening of Parliament. Alongside our earlier reforms of devolution to Scotland and Wales, the Human Rights Act and freedom of information, they will take their place in the shaping of our nation, to make the institutions of the state fit and responsive to the demands of our citizens in the modern world.
But here we go againdays behind the Sunday Times. Is it not utterly extraordinary that this great House of Parliament is being told about the latest edict on its future six days after the media? Why such glaring discourtesy and contempt for this House? How much longer are we expected to tolerate this treatment?
Apologies are no longer enough. The Government need to clean up their act. They promise an end to spin just as they reach for the pager. They talk about looking for consensus, and then plunge into self-seeking, go-it-alone change. Time was when the Government boasted of governing for all the people. Now they behave as if the constitution were the private property of the Prime Minister and his friends.
This is a fundamentally dishonest Statement. It is pretending that the Government are still interested in long-term reform when they are pushing a short-term political fix. No one can believe what they say any more. No one can believe that they have the slightest intention of ever delivering genuine reform.
Why have they totally ignored the Royal Commission? Why have they pre-empted the Joint Committee of both Houses? Were the members of that committee consulted on this announcement? If not, how humiliating is that for them?
The issue at stake now is not the future of the hereditary Peersthat issue was done and dusted in 1999. No one any more has the right to sit by virtue of a hereditary peerage alone. The real question that Parliament has to face over the next few months is far biggerwhat this House will be in the future and what authority it will have. No legislation affecting this House can be launched without opening up questions that go wider than the narrow compass of a Bill, and every one of us will be affected by it.
Here and in another place we will all face a choice: to buy the Prime Minister's three-card trick and strengthen No. 10 even further at the expense of Parliament; or see this Statement for what it isa blatant attempt to rig this House and to have a free hand to cook the constitution. It is a political statement of one party and for one partythe very opposite of what constitutional reform should be. Any principleany pretence of principlehas been dumped. The ideals of the Cook-Maclennan talks have been betrayed, all the pledges of a more democratic House have been trashed. The legitimate expectations of this House in 1999, when so many of its Members surrendered their places, on the basis that 92 hereditary Peers would remain to guarantee genuine reform, have been gratuitously and deliberately dishonoured. It is a sorry and shabby tale, and I am not alone in believing that this ancient House deserves far, far better.
The noble and learned Lord, for all his honeyed words, cannot escape his role in this. Once we all saw him, with some affection, as the man who had to clear up the Prime Minister's messesthe Dome, the latest concessions to the IRA, even legalising sex in public lavatories. Name the problem and the noble and learned Lord would offer a solution. But now we can see that he was part of the problem. He was up to the hilt in bouncing this House over the removal of the Law Lords and now his fingerprints are all over this tacky little plan.
Can the noble and learned Lord tell us why more tinkering with this House is suddenly so critically urgent? Frankly, most people in this country, if they have a view, think this House works rather well, as indeed it does. What has changed since the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, was still talking of a search for consensus as recently as this summer? Can it be anything to do with the fact that this House has begun to show independence and win respect and authority? Can it be that we have questioned the Government over issues such as trial by jury, media ownership, the snoopers' charter and the fair conduct of justice in the courts? Could it be the issue of a referendum on the new EU constitutiona referendum this House might support and the Prime Minister so desperately wants to avoid? Is that why the noble and learned Lord wants to remove 20 per cent of the non-governmental Peers in this House, some of the most active and experienced Peers among us?
Let us look at who will lose: great campaigners like the noble Countess, Lady Mar, the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. We would lose the wisdom of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, my noble friends Lord Denham, Lord Ferrers and Lord Elton, who have devoted years of their life to serve this House. At 88, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, devotes more time to this House and contributes more than many new Labour Peers who come here, take their seat and are never seen again. Will the noble Lord have to present himself before an appointments commission? It is utterly contemptible. So why now, and why them?
The Government talk of losing Divisions as if Parliament had no right to suggest alterations to their Bills. So let it be put on the record, before their spin doctors get to work, that in 40 per cent of the Divisions the Government have lost this year, fewer than half their own Peers supported them. The Government's policies have simply failed to convince this House.
The noble and learned Lord made great play of the statutory appointments commission. In principle, it is welcome. We have waited a long time for it, though, so can he say precisely when it will be enacted?
The House will note that the Government no longer talk of broad parity with the main opposition party. Instead, they now talk of not having an overall majority in the House. Does not that mean that the Government would have a majority over the two main opposition parties combined? Can he also confirm that the White Paper explores the further option of seats in this House reflecting the number of seats won in another place? There would not be much point in a statutory appointments commission if it had terms of reference to gerrymander. The House will wish to look very sceptically at these proposals.
The Statement also referred to the future of the office of the Lord Chancellor. We will have the opportunity to debate that more fully, as we have been promised a debate by the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House.
The bottom line today is that the Government are in a hurry. Perhaps that is because there is an increasing sense of time running out for those in Downing Street. But surely this is the last moment to pile more constitutional change on the incoherent mess that we have already been given. It will be a major task for the next government to bring order from confusion and breathe back into Parliament the life that is steadily being squeezed from it.
We have known for a long time that the personal dream of the Prime Minister was not the democratic House he once talked about but an appointed House he could ignore. He has never dared to advocate that openly, but this proposal, taken together with the removal of the Law Lords, will now give it to him through the back door.
In some ways, this is a model new Labour policypre-spun, ill thought out, tactical, planned in the party interest not the national interest, sold on old-fashioned prejudice and calculated only to make a complex problem even worse. If this Bill is ever presented to this House, the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues can be assured that he can expect a major fight on his hands, and it will not be confined to this Bill. This House values its independence, and in the past four years it has found a voice that the country is increasingly willing to hear. We on this side of the House will not give that up lightly.
The second paper on the future of the House of Lords is an entirely different matter. I have looked through that paper to find whether there was anything acceptable in it. I eventually found something in the last paragraphthe power to renounce a life peerage. It is a power that I doubt will be much used. I also welcome the power to disqualify Members after conviction leading to a prison sentence, although I wonder if retrospective disqualification is legitimate under Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights. But the overwhelming reaction I have is a feeling of contempt and betrayal.
In 1997, we and many others seeking reform of your Lordships' House believed that the Government meant what they said in their manifesto and would make your Lordships' House a wholly or mainly elected House. We believed that the Government meant what they said when the House of Lords Act was passed in 1999 and most hereditaries left. We believed that the Government meant what they said in their 2001 manifesto. Even last February, when both Houses voted on options, we believed that there was a real chance of reform.
The Government scuppered that chance by putting pressure on Labour MPs to reject the options on what was supposed to be a free vote. Without that pressure, there would clearly have been a majority for either 60 per cent or 80 per cent elected, or both. So the Government's use of the failure to reach agreement in the House of Commons is frankly like the boy who murdered his parents and then asked for mercy because he was an orphan.
The Government have now made it clear that they want no democratic reform at all. They have betrayed the trust of those who believed that they were truly committed to full constitutional reform. They have done so because your Lordships' House is a nuisance to them. We amend their Bills and we take up their time in debates. A proper reform would make things even worse for the Government, so they take the easy way out. Your Lordships' House will remain wholly appointed.
It is, and remains, the aim of my party to end the hereditary basis of membership. But the remaining hereditary Members should go when, and only when, they can be replaced by a mainly elected membership.
That is not the end of it as regards this report. In 1997, the Prime Minister said that, pending reform, the two largest parties should have equal membership in your Lordships' House and that the third party should have representation proportionate to its share of the vote. The Government now say only that the Government should not have an overall majority in your Lordships' House. But given that 20 per cent of your Lordships' House will plainly remain as Cross-Benchersindeed, that is stated as the objectivethe Government could end up with a massive majority over all other political parties, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the Opposition, said.
Furthermore, the Government are reopening the question of whether party representation should be proportionate to the share of the vote or to the share of seats in the House of Commons. If representation were proportionate to the share of seats, we would end up with a clone of the House of Commons. That would mean, among other things, that since 1997 almost every single political appointment would have been an appointment of the Labour Party. So long as Members of the House of Commons are elected on first past the post, it is essential that appointments to your Lordships' House should be proportional to votes, not to seats.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, both those interventions appeared not to take into account that this House voted overwhelmingly for an appointed-only Chamber. I am quite unable to understand the position taken by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. He himself may have voted for an elected element, but more than 120 of those behind him voted for a wholly appointed House. We have to recognise that no consensus emerged within the other place and none emerged between the two Houses.
So what is it that the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord Goodhart, would have us do? Both of them, as I understand it, would have us do nothing. That would have two consequences. First, the hereditaries would remain; I believe that everybody agrees that they have done sterling service but that they no longer have a place in the second Chamber. Secondly, it would lead to a non-statutory appointments commission, with the numbers and timing determined by somebody other than an independent commission.
Let us take the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. He complains that the measure would allow the Prime Minister to determine the size of the House. It would not. One provision made in the consultation document is that the size of the House and the timing of when people go in is to be determined by the statutory appointments commission. Conveniently for those on the other side of the House who make their various arguments, that leads to the preservation of the hereditary Peers and to the position of the Prime Minister retaining his patronage.
We are in the business of making progress where we can. That is why we have proposed these things. One reason why we have proposed them is because this House, on the basis of how it reacted in February, would reject any elected element. We have to be practical and realistic and move where we can.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I start by thanking the Lord Chancellor for his courtesy in informing me as Convenor on Monday about the Statement and its content. But that is the sum total of my gratitude. I was under the impression that there were to be no further changes in the make-up of the House until stage two was reached. We have not reached it.
Is there not a serious breach of faith at the heart of this Statement? Is this Statement today not just a hawkish position to ease the party conference problems that the Government are about to face? If it is, it is a gross discourtesy to this House.
Does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor acknowledge the immense contribution made to the Cross Benches by the 28 independent hereditary Peers? Does he accept that there is good reason to continue to draw on the experience and expertise of all hereditary Members for the benefit of the House, its legislation and the country? It is widely acknowledged that the House performs its scrutiny and other roles with a sure and constructive touch. The hereditaries' deep knowledge and experience is irreplaceable in one go. Must they be culled all at once? Do the Government really envisage a kind of reincarnation whereby all those removed may return as life Peers?
It would be perverse if this change, short of stage two, served only to debase the capability of the House to carry out its roles and functions. If a Bill comes to your Lordships' House, I hope that the House will support what I termed option 1A in my speech last January on Lords reformthat is, to retain existing hereditary Members for life, but without replacement, so ensuring that the country continues to benefit from the loyalty and commitment of the present hereditary Members to the House. Will the Government accept this option for inclusion in their Bill?
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor makes much of the relinquishing of the Prime Minister's patronage, but will the Prime Minister continue to recommend individuals such as archbishops, Cabinet Secretaries and chiefs of defence staff for a peerage, as an honour, without recourse to the Statutory Appointments Commission? Are future life peerages recommended by that commission to be treated as honours or merely as working Peers to replace departing Members of your Lordships' House?
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