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Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for giving way. It is perhaps not unfair to recall that prior to the votes being taken in the House of Commons—notwithstanding the Labour Party's agreement with the Liberal Democrats prior to 1997 to move to a democratic second phase and indeed its repetition in two election manifestos—the Prime Minister chose to indicate his personal preference for an all-appointed House on the eve of those votes. If that was not an attempt to influence the outcome, I find it very difficult to judge what it was.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it was made clear that it was a free vote; and it was entirely right in my view for the Prime Minister to indicate his view. I simply remind the House of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, said. He made it clear that even within the Joint Committee it was not possible to reach a consensus about the way forward regarding an elected element. So I do not think that the House should proceed on the basis that there is a consensus about the way forward.

It is also worth pointing out that this House voted overwhelmingly for a wholly appointed House. It is perhaps not without significance that there has been a much greater measure of agreement in the debate than perhaps one might have expected on the basis of what had was said on 18th September 2003. Although the reform paper, which was announced on 18th September, does not propose a permanently wholly appointed House, it seeks to deal with many issues that concern this House.

I return to the very important point made by the noble Lords, Lord Selsdon and Lord Strathclyde. Are we breaking undertakings that were given at the time of the passage of the 1999 Act? The answer is, no, we are not. It is perfectly clear that those undertakings were never intended to operate in perpetuity.

I was much impressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said in quoting the end of his own Royal Commission's report. He said that we should not all quest for perfection or we might lose the prospect of further reform for a generation or even a century. Interestingly enough the noble Lord,

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Lord Strathclyde, then echoed that remark. He said that if we pursue our current course there will be no prospect of reform for a generation.

The Government are faced with this particular conundrum: we now have a House in which there are hereditary Peers; and it is open to the Prime Minister at any time to fill the House and make it any size he wants. The Government take the view that both those propositions are bad for this House, which in very many respects is excellent. A major proposal we have made in relation to the House of Lords Reform Bill is to remove the remaining hereditary Peers—not for one moment because of the way they have conducted themselves, and not for one moment because of their individual qualities, but because we take the view—a view that I think practically everyone in the House agrees with—that there is no longer a place in this country for a place in the legislature on the basis of one's birth. It is for that reason that we think that it is right to proceed on that basis.

In relation to the statutory Appointments Commission, I understood the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, to say that that is a good proposition. I believe that it is a good proposition. Again, everyone in the House would agree that it is wholly unsustainable in this age for the head of the executive to be able to determine the size and political mix of the House. Therefore, if those two proposals go forward, we have a much firmer basis for the continuation of the current arrangements.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said that surely we should have one more try in order to get consensus. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, as everyone in this House knows, is the epitome of reasonableness. He himself has a most persuasive style. His misfortune in this area is that very unusually for the noble Lord, the one lot that he has totally failed to persuade of his utterly reasonable views is those behind him. They have failed completely to give him—and I cannot understand this—any support whatever for the totally reasonable proposals that he has made from time to time.

So, where do we go from here? In our view, we have to make progress in relation to getting rid of the hereditary Peers. I am intensely disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, says that we cannot count on the Liberal Democrats to support the removal of hereditaries. I am intensely disappointed that that is his view even though—although he had not heard the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, at that point, so perhaps his view will change now that he has heard him—that might mean that the hereditaries do not go for a very long time indeed. I take comfort from the following. The noble Lord said that we cannot count on the Liberal Democrats. Perhaps they will change; their mind remains open on that issue. Perhaps they are having difficulty agreeing the right course. They have campaigned on this for many years, indeed centuries. Maybe they will eventually see what is the right thing to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, is absolutely right: there is no perfection to the arrangements. However, please do not see the proposals as being issued in bad

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faith: they are not. Please take note of what the wise noble Lord, Lord Marsh, said on 18th September. These are not his exact words, but he said that we have been circling around the issues for years and years and it demeans the House not to deal with them now. That is what our proposals are intended to do.

Perhaps I may deal with two other issues that have been raised in the debate. First, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, is proof positive of the importance of ensuring that there is a place for retired Law Lords in this House. Indeed, in the House of Lords reform paper that we published on 18th September, we made it absolutely clear that the norm would be that on retirement from the Supreme Court—which will become the equivalent of your Lordships' House for appeals—Law Lords would expect to come to your Lordships' House. So I am happy to give the noble and learned Lord the reassurance that he sought.

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The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, referred to the issue of the Speaker of this House—I use that phrase without indicating what the person sitting on the Woolsack should be called; but we all know what the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, was saying. I thoroughly support several of the principles that he described: in particular, that the Speaker should not be appointed by the Government; that the Speaker should eschew party politics; and that whatever arrangements are made—I make no comment on the share out of responsibilities between the Leader of the House and the Speaker—the House plainly and earnestly wants self-regulation to continue.

I congratulate every Member who took part in the debate. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, that it would be a good thing if the terms of this debate had much wider currency than one could reasonably expect.

        House adjourned at two minutes past two o'clock.

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