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Viscount Bledisloe : My Lords, the speeches we have heard—particularly that of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers—have made it plain where they are coming from. It is very interesting that they have been made by noble Lords who have throughout opposed wholeheartedly the abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor, which I also much regret. But they are, with respect, harking back to what has already been decided and forgetting what the House has already decided. We must not allow ourselves to join them in the mire of nostalgia where they are seeking to take us.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, why not?

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, one good answer to that question is: because the noble Earl, Lord Onslow,
 
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wants to be there; therefore, it must be the wrong place to be. The more important answer is that the House has already decided certain things. It has approved unanimously the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. It has approved methods of election and so on for the Speaker, and we have agreed, albeit reluctantly—I suspect the noble Earls and I share this reluctance—that because the Government have decided not to allow us a Lord Chancellor, we have got to go down this route. Also, we have approved a report which says what the new Lord Speaker shall do. Everybody so far has concentrated solely on his role in sitting on the Woolsack and has entirely forgotten what is in the report about his role in representing this House, both in this country and abroad.

Your Lordships spend a lot of your time—rightly—whingeing about the fact that this House is not properly appreciated and that its work is not properly understood by the rest of the country. I wholeheartedly agree with these whinges. But when somebody is to be given a role to try to remedy that and to go out and be an ambassador and explain what the House does and do it properly, are we really to send him out on a pittance which shows our contempt for the office he holds? If he is to do any good in this job, he must be a person for whom the House has shown respect and who is entitled to respect by others. If he is a £29,000-a year salaried clerk, who on earth can be expected to want to hear speeches by him explaining the role of this House?

The noble Earls and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, are, with respect, harking back and trying to undo what has already been decided. We are stuck with what has already been decided. Let us not spoil it for what is, with respect, a halfpennyworth of tar.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the decision has been taken. We have had to live without the hereditary Peers and the House has not folded up and disappeared. For goodness' sake, if we are going to have this person, do not belittle them from the start. They simply must have dignity in the position which has been created. I certainly concur with what the last speaker said about them receiving, for instance, the American president or any president from a foreign country. It has been a most dignified affair until now, and I would hate to see the sort of scratching and biting that is going on—whether in the press or in this Chamber—belittling something that is going to happen and damn well ought to have been done with dignity. I beg of your Lordships not to reduce it to the amount of money proposed by my noble friend but to make it a reasonable sum. Who knows, perhaps he might get a dress allowance.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, two small matters have not yet been mentioned. One is that if the Lord Speaker is going to be a £29,000 salaried clerk, there may not be very many candidates for the job. The other point is that while he may have to sit on the Woolsack for only three hours every day, he will have
 
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to be here every sitting day, so he may find it very difficult to earn a living outside the Chamber. Both those points need to be kept in mind.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, one of the specific things about this House is its unbelievable ability to find difficulty in making up its mind. I speak as somebody who had the misfortune to be elected to the Select Committee to look at this matter under our chairman, who managed to make it work very well. I am appalled by the reactions of some people here. This is not a modest post, but if it does not have any value at all we might as well get rid of it very quickly. It is what your Lordships decided to investigate, however. I went along in a moment of madness, pressurised by the noble Lord the Convenor, and at the end of it—I was surprised because I thought we would never get to the end of it—we came back and had a debate in the House. The House was immediately determined that we should reform the committee and go through the same subject again with all the same witnesses. We are talking about the remuneration of a person who will, I hope, be the representative of the House of Lords. If people want to devalue that they can do so, but we are not terribly heavily regarded already. It is quite extraordinary that we come back to the House again to decide what to do.

The total staff costs of this building top £23 million per annum. The total cash requirement for running it is £80 million a year. The sum of £100,000 a year is not a great deal of money. The amendment moved by the noble Lord suggests that that amount is disgracefully large. That may be the case if one is hiring a chief executive officer of a small engineering company in the Midlands, but it is a bit out of date by today's standards. Given the amounts that we have behind us, we are wasting an awful lot of time talking about a level that is indefensible. The issue was pressured from the beginning by Members who came on to the Select Committee totally cynical from the outset. They have moved in the same way at each point, so that we are back here again. For us to go away now and say that we are going to start all over again, no doubt with a new Select Committee, would do this House no credit at all.

Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former Deputy Speaker in both Houses. Now that the House has decided on a new experiment to have a Lord Speaker in place of the Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack, it seems to me essential that the holder of that office should have the prestige and dignity that are in keeping with the importance that this House attaches to our Parliament as a whole and to our constitution as a whole. That is my fundamental point. I am sorry to find that I am in disagreement with a number of noble friends and others whose judgments I often respect.

The House has decided very clearly that it does not want a House of Commons-type speaker. We wish to preserve the long tradition of self-regulation on which this House prides itself. That inevitably means that the
 
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duties of the Speakers of the two Houses will be different. However, there are important state occasions on which the two Houses combine. One obvious example is the jubilees of Her Majesty the Queen, when many of us have assembled in Westminster Hall to present a Loyal Address to Her Majesty, to which she has been graciously pleased to come along and reply. Who gives the lead on those occasions? Not the Prime Minister of the day, but the Speaker of the House of Commons, who gives the lead to that House as its leader. I hope equally that, when we have our new Lord Speaker, he will do likewise. It is very important that the two posts should be equal. Our Lord Speaker should in no way be the little also-ran. The two should be equal in prestige and in the job that they do.

Another very important occasion is when we have visiting heads of state. We quite often invite them to address both Houses. This is done jointly; the two Houses combine. If the head of state is from a Commonwealth country, we assemble in Westminster Hall to hear their address. If the head of state is from a non-Commonwealth country, we assemble in the Royal Gallery. We do it together as two Houses. It seems to me of great importance that the Speaker of the House of Commons, representing the House of Commons, and the Lord Speaker, representing our House, should be equal and have an equally significant role.

It is for those reasons that it seems to me that our House Committee has got it right. If this were to come to a vote, I should vote in favour of the recommendations that our House Committee has put before us with regard to salary, pensions and allowances.

3.45 pm

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : My Lords, essentially we have heard two arguments about why we should reject the House Committee's recommendation to us. One is that the SSRB has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the job of a Speaker of this House. The other argument, which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, put forward, was basically that he did not want it in the first place and now he does not see why the taxpayer should have to pay for it. That argument has already been settled in the House. It is really the SSRB recommendation that we should concentrate on.

The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said that we never normally oppose SSRB recommendations. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that he has the greatest admiration for the SSRB. Both noble Lords then went on to qualify those statements. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that the post was like no other; the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said the job was unique. Our House Committee—our elected committee—knew that the job was unique, yet it was perfectly prepared to send it to the SSRB. The SSRB is indeed a committee which we trust with our own allowances. This House is like no other. If we are prepared to overturn the SSRB recommendation on the basis of
 
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the unique role of this House, we might start questioning some of the other issues rather closer to home.

I do not think that these arguments stand up. Our committee knew what it was doing by sending the issue to the SSRB. The SSRB knew what it was doing in making the recommendation it did back to our committee, which accepted it. It has been through three decision points already and now comes to us again today.

This House is hugely undervalued. It is undervalued by another place. It is hugely undervalued in virtually every conversation I hear about it—in the media and elsewhere. If we undervalue it in the way that has been suggested by some noble Lords this afternoon, we will have only ourselves to blame if it goes on being undervalued in the way that so many of us object to.


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