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I cannot imagine that the Conservatives, when they were in government, would conceivably have accepted a doctrine which in essence gives this House a veto over
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the decisions of the other House. It is not on. However you look at it, this House is nominated. This House is not elected; that House is elected.
Lord McNally: My Lords, then why not write into the 1998 Act or whichever legislation contains the next reform, "Two strikes and you're out"? Why leave in the power if you are assuming that it will never be used?
Lord Richard: My Lords, if we were today discussing a reform of the House of Lords Act, no doubt that is an issue that would be considered. I have sat through a number of these debates in the 15-odd years that I have been in this House. About once every 18 months, we have this absurd wrangle between the two Houses. Ping-pong is played. Ping-pong, frankly, is an absurd game anyway, played primarily by people
Lord Richard: I am warned, my Lords, and I take the warning. It is played primarily at least by people who are not constituted in the way that I am. However, that seems a pretty futile and absurd way in which to run a government and a country. This House has its views and that House has its views, but what is the relationship between the two? What the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is proposing is a relationship of almost permanent dissent and dispute. The noble Lord shakes his head at me but, with respect, that will do him no good. The fact is that we have to devise a system of resolving the differences between the two Houses. Until we have in this country a proper disputes resolution procedure such as the one written into the American constitution, then it will be the basic relationship between the elected House and the unelected House that continues to matter. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that the House that should prevail ought to be the elected one.
Should the elected House prevail now? That argument has gone round and round, but there is nothing new to be said on the issues. It is perfectly clear from some of the contributions from the other side that the argument is not about whether it should be tied to a passport, but whether there should be identity cards at all. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, wasto put it slightly neutrallypretty strong in what she had to say about identity cards as such. That view was not shared by everyone in your Lordships' House and is certainly not shared by the general public.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said. She said she objected to it being compulsory and could think of no conceivable reason why a sensible person would do it voluntarily.
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If that does not add up to anything other than an attack on the whole principle of the Bill, I do not know what it is.
I finish on this note. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is raising profound constitutional issues. We all know that, yet the way he raises them will produce an almost permanent confusion between the unelected House and the elected one. I have no doubt whatever which one should prevail.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I have taken no part in any debate on this Bill so far, and I assure your Lordships that I shall be extremely brief. However, I have been stung by some things that were said by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and to some extent by the noble Lord, Lord Richard.
The noble Lord, Lord Peston, said that this debate is no longer about identity cards but about the respective or relative responsibilities of the two Houses. It would be irresponsible of this House, he said, to stand its ground at this stage; I believe that he used a word even stronger than irresponsible. Yet it is not only about the relative responsibility of the two Houses; it is also about the rights of the individual against the Executive. Those who are now the Executive gave the clearest promise to the people that identity cards would be rolled out on a voluntary basis. I can see no ambiguity at all in the manifestoand ambiguity cannot be created out of it, however much they may wish to do so. That promise having been given, the Executive ought to be kept to it. That is why, on this occasion, I will vote in favour of the amendment.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, unlike my noble friend Lord Peston I have been a little involved in these debates and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, on the whole question of being voluntary rather than compulsory. I shall also explain to them why I will not vote with them this evening.
However, I wish that my noble friend would accept that, for 80 per cent of passport holders and, indeed, growing numbers wanting passports, it will not be voluntary. In that sense, it would be better if she conceded that particular point. That being saidand even if she accepted thatthe fact is that, as my noble friend Lord Peston rightly said, this is now a bigger
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issue. This House has been voting in one way and the Commons has twice defeated the views of this House. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, specifically said that he believes in the primacy of the other place. "However", he said, "this is an exception". Those were the words he usedor, "This is an exceptional case". I would be happy to give way if the noble Lord did not say that, but I see that he is not willing to proceed further on the matter. He said that the other placethe elected Houseshould be able to have its way, but that this case was exceptional, which was not what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said. But I do not mind the Liberal Democrats disagreeing among themselves. That is perfectly reasonable.
Lord McNally: My Lords, how simple is it? The House of Commons can have its way via the Parliament Act. What is it there for, if it is not for such an impassea rare impasse? I am as much a House of Commons man as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, but to play with semantics about it is ridiculous. We have a right to say no, and the House of Commons has a right to prevail. That is simple.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord, when he was writing manifestos, put that in. Maybe he didbut he lost on many of the manifestos that he wrote. It is not the pointof course, the House of Lords has the right to say no; I do not dispute that at all. The only question is how often it should be allowed to say no. I thought that my noble friend Lord Peston made an excellent point. For any party that wants to be in government to know that in this place it will never have a majority, however much this place is changed, and that it will always have to use the Parliament Act when it is defeated, umpteen times, is to turn this place into a nonsense.
Of course, we have the right to say no. I welcome thatindeed, I voted on one occasion on this Bill to ask the other place to rethink. But the other place has "rethunk", to coin a phraseit rethunk and voted twice. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, wants the other place to do it again; he is nodding his head. But why? How many times does he want the other place to do that? The thing is absurd.
I am not concerned here with the manifesto or the Salisbury convention. The only people who seem to read our manifesto are the people on the opposition Benches. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who saidand I hope that I am quoting her correctlythat the public rely on it. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Gould believes that as well. But the idea that 60 million people read the manifesto, although I wish it were true
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