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If the House is partially elected, the elected Members will want to be paid. You cannot have half the House paid and the other half not paid. That would be hideously divisive. So everyone would have to be paid. The cost would be enormous, but nobody bothers much about that these days. The atmosphere and the attitude of the place will alter beyond recognition. However much Members of another place may say that your Lordships House ought to be elected, their successors will hate it. Members of Parliamentunlike many of your Lordships, I have never had the privilege of being onewill hate to see another elected Member strutting around his constituency stirring up or trying to placate trouble or trying to garner admiration for himself.
I am against an elected second Chamber, and I do not follow my noble friend Lord Wakehams ideas, which he expounded earlier. That leaves us with an appointed Chamber, with or without the hereditaries. It is remarkable to think that 47 per cent of all the Members of your Lordships House today have been created since 1997, and 72 per cent of all the Labour Peers have been created since 1997. That has altered the House considerably. It has also given huge powers of patronage to the Prime Minister. It seems that the hereditaries are the only part of the House over which the Prime Minister does not have any patronage. The funny thing is that they are the only ones who have been elected. I know that your Lordships do not like being reminded about that. That is why I enjoy doing so. If the hereditaries were removed, the Prime Minister would have total patronage. I cannot believe that that would be in anyone's interests, other, of course, than those of the Prime Minister.
If the hereditaries were to go, why call everyone else Lords? The House of Lords as such will have gone. Why not call it a senate or a second Chamber? Why, then, should Members dress up in parliamentary robes if they are no longer Lords? What will happen to those other participants in that wonderful ceremony that we all witnessed last week? Will they still appear in their uniforms? Will the Yeomen and the lanterns still have a part? Will the procession, made up of all those intricate parts of the constitution, upon which we are all dependent, and which are interdependent one with another, still take place, and yet end up in a dowdy, dull senate? I know that your Lordships might say that I have a vested interest in this and, in a funny way, I suppose that I have, but I suggest seriously that if the hereditary Peers are removed the raison d'être of the House of Lords will go, and the pressure to change the name and the nature of the second Chamber will be unstoppable. Then you really are upheaving the constitution.
You cannot continue to chip away at accepted constitutional institutions without chipping away at the buttress which supports the monarchy. If you chip away at the buttress which supports the monarchy,
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The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is, by an astonishing whisker, still mercifully with us. He is also the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. He has had a good old go at upheaving the constitution recently, of which I know he feels proud, but in which pride I feel unable totally to share. I hope that he can be like a cat for a while, and sit and lick the cream from the bowl of his achievements and not set off on another jungle hunt, initiatingor being propelled by others to initiateeven more reform to your Lordships House.
My strong advice to the noble and learned Lord the Lord ChancellorI love being pompous and giving advice to Lord Chancellors, particularly as they never take itis to leave the House of Lords alone. It works well. Let it settle down and do its work for a few years, without the sword of Damocles perpetually swinging over its head. If, after 10 years or so, it is thought worthwhile to consider altering the House again, there will be a fresh position to take and fresh minds can be directed towards it.
For a change, my contribution to the debate on the gracious Speech will concentrate on Northern Ireland, as I was advised that this was the appropriate day to do so. Two of my main interests there are in policing and, more recently, integrated education, about which I shall speak in a moment.
One area of policing in Northern Ireland in which I take a particular interest is domestic violence. Last year, of 123,194 recorded crimes, your Lordships need to know that 23,059 were incidents of domestic violence. This is a quite appalling figure. In the larger Metropolitan Police area last year, the figure was 10.5 per cent of all notifiable offences, including domestic violence incidents. While statistics can be read in many ways, these are nevertheless particularly worrying. The PSNI, in partnership with other agencies such as social services and Womens Aid, is doing excellent work, offering support and help to vulnerable women and children. They need our support. Last year, they helped over 1,000 women and over 900 children escape to Womens Aid from abusive relationships.
Sadly and inexplicably the Government have reduced the grant to Belfasts Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre by £60,000 at a time when the need for help, support and sanctuary is growing at an alarming rate. Why has that been done and will that funding be replaced urgently? Salaried workers at the centre have not been paid for months, and the volunteersthe majority of workers thereare becoming dejected because of this lack of funding and commitment for an essential service.
Remembering that there are still very real and horrific crimes being committed in Northern Ireland and that the victims of all those crimes can be subjected to the most appalling intimidation by continuing paramilitary groups, the police service there has probably the most difficult job of any police force in this country. They deserve our support and thanks for their bravery and dedication.
Every time I visit Northern Ireland, I am more amazed by the changes I see, compared to my first visit there some 10 years ago. Admittedly, things were still very difficult then. There was barbed wire on top of high railings surrounding every police station I saw. There was paint daubed over pavements and flags flying indicating entry to the majority communities. There were murals, of differing artistic quality, splashed on to many walls, telling the stories of the Troubles. Belfast then appeared to me a somewhat sad and dejected place.
Anyone visiting for the first time now would be hard pressed to recognise that description. Beautiful new buildings seem to go up every week; the excellent hotels are full of business people from all over the world looking to invest there; clean streets and a general air of prosperity replace many of the worn-out and run-down areas I first saw. The only glimmer of hope I saw 10 years ago was in the eyes and spirit of the people of Northern Ireland. They were determined to embrace the Good Friday agreement, as they saw it as their only hope for a peaceful and prosperous future. Those people were then, as they are now, the most generous, warm-hearted and determined citizens you could find anywhere.
Last week, a group of parliamentariansof which I was onemet some 15 year-olds who told us of their hopes and aspirations. They were bright, articulate and happy teenagers: Northern Irelands future leaders, I have no doubt. They were being educated in a controlled integrated college, the Priory, in one of Belfasts districts. The colleges ethos was one of self-respect; respect for each other and for other backgrounds; the acknowledgement of what separates communities; the ability to discuss those differences openly; and, most importantly, accepting them. This they must learn in the fast-changing world, where the ability to get on with ones neighbour is essential.
These young people came from every background. There was no distinction between them. They did not ask each other, Are you a Catholic? or Are you a Protestant?. When we asked them if they asked their friends who attended other schools that question, they were bemused. They simply and genuinely accepted each other as young people, interested in the same things all young people seem to be interested in these days: the latest hot pop group, clothes, gossip and where they would go out that night. They wanted the opportunity that a good education would bring them. They wanted good jobs in Northern Ireland, and it is for those excellent young people that I hope the politicians will find a way through their difficulties, nominate a First and Deputy First Minister tomorrow, and provide the sort of country their young people deserve.
We also visited Rowallane Integrated College, a new school opened only in September this year. It is independently funded by the excellent Integrated Education Fund in Northern Ireland, which saw its huge potential and committed funding for its start-up because the Government here would not. In spite of well documented facts about how many parents wanted their children educated in an integrated college in that area and in spite of the Government's stated aim that they wish to see more children so educated, there is still no commitment to fund this extraordinary school.
I will tell your Lordships more about Rowallane on another occasion. The Government seem happy to provide vast amounts of money to fund academies up and down the country, but are not minded to help this small, vibrant school whose staff, pupils, parents and governors are the most phenomenally dedicated people you will ever find. They have to suffer in cramped conditions and the insecurity of not knowing when they will get government funding in the future. I hope the Government will resolve to help fund them as soon as possible.
We have come a long way since the days when no one wanted to visit or invest in Northern Ireland, which is now poised to move even further forward. Its young people want the opportunities the peace dividend has brought them to be magnified and encouraged by the politicians who have worked so hard to make it a possibility in the past few years. Young people are the future of Northern Ireland. They will make their country great again, and it is to them that their political leaders must pledge that support. I do not underestimate the difficulties that lie ahead for them, but they have come so far now that it would be a real tragedy were their political leaders not to succeed in providing good governance. Differences, however deep and bitter, can be overcome with good sense, good will and good communication. I most sincerely urge those who will have to make those decisions to think of their young people and what their future will be if the Assembly cannot be reinstated.
Lord Cobbold: My Lords, I propose to confine my contribution this afternoon to House of Lords reform. In my opinion, there are two vital issues that any further reform must take into account. First, the House as it is stands is a unique reservoir of expertise and experience in almost all walks of life and from all corners of the United Kingdom. Many if not most Members have existent outside commitments and thus bring to the House up-to-the-minute expertise in their respective skills and fields. That expertise and experience is available for the detailed scrutiny of legislation coming from the House of Commons, and at relatively low cost to the taxpayer as Members are paid expenses only. It would be a great loss to the people of this country if this unique reservoir were to be lost or diminished in a reconstructed House.
The second major issue is the primacy of the House of Commons. It is a fundamental principle that this House acknowledges the primacy of the
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Those two issues are central to any consideration of the second stage of Lords reform. As we all know, the House of Lords is now working extremely well. Since the first stage of reform and the abolition of the hereditary entitlement to membership, a rough balance has been created between the two major parties, and no party has an absolute majority. Members do occasionally vote against their party Whip or abstain. That must be healthy. If everything is working well, is there a need for further reform? Broadly speaking, the answer is no. However, a number of relatively detailed issues need to be addressed. For example, if the House is to remain fully or partly appointed, the composition and role of the Appointments Commission must be more clearly defined.
I believe that it should be a statutory commission, responsible to Parliament rather than to Ministers. Membership should be confined to existing Members of both Houses. It is invidious to have independent non-Members on the committee, since they themselves might be potential candidates for appointment. In practice, therefore, the commission should be composed of one member each from the three political parties from both the Lords and the Commonsthus, two members for each partyplus two members from the Cross Benches, making a total of eight members. They should elect their own chairman from among themselves.
The role of the Appointments Commission must clearly be to maintain and enhance the pool of expertise and experience that already exists in this House. It should also ensure that no single party, no matter how big its majority in the House of Commons, should command an overall majority in the House of Lords. The commission will also focus on the need for Cross-Bench independent Members and on religious representation, racial and gender balance and regional representation.
Lastly, I turn to the question of hereditary Peers. As one of them, I feel extremely fortunate still to be a Member of your Lordships House. Like most hereditary Peers, I recognise that the inheritance of a peerage should not carry an automatic right to a seat in the Upper House. However, I have a strong sense of history and, like the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I believe that the role played by the hereditary peerage over the centuries in the House of Lords, in its traditions, customs and ceremonies and its relationship with the monarchy, is of value and should be acknowledged by a continued modest representationgiven, of course, that the present appointed Chamber is to continue. I am not suggesting that the figure of 92 should remain, but I think a lesser figure of, say, around 30 might be
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In summary, I believe that this House should continue to be fully appointed. A hybrid, partly elected House is the least attractive option and would not attract the quality and range of Members that are currently available to the House. A fully elected House is clearly a workable option. However, it would be wholly political and would radically change the relationship between the two Houses. It would seriously threaten the supremacy of the House of Commons. Also, the prospect of yet another election to an electorate already faced with district, national and European elections, is unlikely to inspire electoral fervour. So, let us remain fully appointed.
Consensus and proposals are the significant words. Anyone unaware of what has been going on could, from those words, be forgiven for being lulled into looking at the question with a degree of simplicity. But we know better. We know that the proposals referred to mean an intention to bring elections to your Lordships House, which is the issue that I wish to address.
The gracious Speech also refers, as I said, to building a consensus. I clearly recall that consensus was unequivocally established in this House in 2003fewer than four years agowhen we overwhelmingly rejected six options, all of which contained an element of election, and we voted by a three-to-one ratio for a wholly appointed House. Despite what some may believe, we did not vote that way on the basis of self-interest, but because of our concern for the well-being of this nation and the way we influence legislation, albeit to an understood limited extent. We must also not forget that the other place failed to support any of the options before them, unlike this House.
I believe that my right honourable friend was correct then and that this approach is the correct one
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There is now a real possibility of establishing a hybrid House, with a proposal being mooted for this House to be made up of 50 per cent elected Peers and 50 per cent appointed Peers. I can do no better than repeat what I said on 21 January 2003:
Although I am against the introduction of a wholly elected House, I appreciate that those who support it do so from a standpoint of principle. However, the range of options expressing the introduction of a part-appointed and part-elected House reflects a total absence of principle and only mirrors a compromise attempting to satisfy the varying shades of opinion.[Official Report, 21/1/03; col. 638.]
As I see it, two fundamental characteristic features make this House unique in its contribution to the nation's parliamentary democracy. First, through appointments, the make-up of this House brings together people from all walks of life: from industry, the arts, economics, medicine, science, the armed services, banking, financeand, yes, politicsas well as many others. They are people who bring with them a lifetime of experience, expertise and knowledge; people who have achieved success before coming here and now have only one motivation: to use what they have gained to serve. Secondly, because we are appointed, we have no difficulty in acknowledging the primacy of the other place, as Members of the other place are elected by the people. As they must parade their stewardship before the people at a general election, we recognise that, ultimately, the other place must have its way.
Our skill in this House lies in scrutinising and proposing revision, making our case by sound and rational argument. For the most part, our deliberations complement the work of the other place. That is our strength. In addition, we flag up and debate intelligently many issues affecting this country and its people and through those debates we can see the value obtained from appointed Peers, especially in the fields of medicine and science.
It is often said by those who favour elections that in order for the House to be democratic, there must be elections. It is my view that for democracy to be satisfied we need not only elections but those elected to be empowered with the necessary authority without
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What about a wholly elected House with full democratic rights equal to the other place? There would be no primacy of the Commons; no limitation on scrutinising and revising in this place; and no Parliament Act. That is a recipe for unprecedented conflicts between both Houses which will be of no benefit to our people and could not be allowed to continue. As I see it, it would ultimately result in a one-House Parliament, and so much of what is good in this place would be lost.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, it has been a quite fascinating week of debates in your Lordships House. I remember particularly the remarkable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Giddensthe man whose third way was the driving inspiration of new Labours return to government, now almost a decade ago. That idea has rightly had a significant impact on many different aspects of social policy. One of the most striking examples has been the Governments No. 1 priorityeducation.
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