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The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford—whom I am delighted to see in his place, representing the whole of the established Church of England, on which I congratulate him—said that belief in election, along with the powers as they currently are, is a “delusion”. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and my noble friend Lord MacKenzie of Culkein went further and suggested that an elected House of Lords would want to exercise more powers than the current House even theoretically has. The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, wanted the House to have more powers anyway, I think even in the absence of elections. My noble friend Lord Sheldon suggested that the effect would be to lead to increased, even routine, use of the Parliament Acts.

I suspect that those views, which are obviously widely shared throughout the House, are the pivot around which the debate eddied and flowed over the past two days, and I have three things to say with regard to them. First, while I completely accept that a substantial elected element requires us to revisit the conventions, it does not of itself lead to the undermining of Commons primacy. There may well be a demand for more power, and the conventions we currently have may well come under strain and might have to be further developed in the light of changing circumstances. That, however, is not the same as a rejection of Commons primacy.

Several noble Lords referred to legitimacy coming from fitness for purpose. That principle applies also in

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the context of elections. Elections are for a purpose. We elect Members of the Commons to form a Government and to hold them to account. We elect Members of the European Parliament to consider and determine European legislation. We elect local councillors to exercise local powers. We elect Members of devolved Assemblies to exercise devolved powers. And we would elect Members of the Lords to exercise powers of scrutiny and revision.

An electoral mandate is not open-ended; even Governments do not claim that. Yes, there would have to be changes in the conventions and in the way the two Houses work together, but the fundamentals would remain unchanged. The Commons would still form the Government, the Commons would still control supply and the Commons would still be able to use the Parliament Acts. Further, as my noble friend Lady Quin suggested, it would not be for this House to decide unilaterally that it could take further powers.

Secondly, as I suggested, there is broad agreement that the House of Lords does a good job now and that its powers and the relationship with the Commons are in about the right place. The Government believe that further reform is necessary to ensure that any lack of legitimacy does not lead to the undermining of the respect and seriousness in which the views of this House are held. More legitimacy does not mean the same legitimacy as the Commons, as my noble friend Lord Whitty rightly said.

Thirdly, as many noble Lords suggested, a more assertive House is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, as many noble Lords have hoped for, a more assertive House could strengthen Parliament. I agree with that. A reformed House of Lords could be more assertive without challenging Commons primacy, even if both Houses will in the future have to look afresh at the mechanisms for underpinning that primacy.

I took note of the comments of those who referred to the conclusions of the Joint Committee—that the present conventions would hold only given the present composition of the House. The Government have already said they accept that changes to the composition of the Lords would call the current conventions into question, and that having brought forward those proposals for reform, there would inevitably have to be debate and evaluation about how the conventions might evolve. But there is a difference between looking at the conventions that underpin the House’s actions and looking at the fundamentals of the relationship between the two Houses. A more assertive House of Lords would strengthen Parliament as a whole by helping the Commons to hold the Executive to account. It should not and would not undermine the supremacy of the Commons just through election, particularly of only an element of the House.

A majority of noble Lords spoke in favour of a fully appointed House. Many praised the speeches of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Irvine of Lairg and Lord Howe—two outstanding speeches in favour of an appointed House. They made a strong case for a fully appointed House—a reform and a change from the status quo, for the reasons that I have touched on, but something that would be similar to the House we

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have today. There is much to be said for a fully appointed House. It can deliver much of what we want from a second Chamber. However, the one thing that it cannot deliver is democratic legitimacy. That is the Government’s view, the view of the other place and the view of three important cross-party reports on Lords reform.

Some noble Lords cited the views of the public on this. Some, like the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard, told us that their postbags were empty of letters on Lords reform. Some, like the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, referred to polls on the public’s view of Lords reform. Both fail to indicate the right course on this. Neither polls nor postbags determine the decisions. Parliament, and in particular our House, because it is the Lords, but also the Commons, have to make a judgment on what they think the right course on constitutional reform is. Without democratic legitimacy—

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the question of constitutional reform was rightly raised. The objection was made in several speeches that without further constitutional reform any greater legitimacy for this House would raise enormous problems. In several speeches in recent months the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the need for a new constitutional settlement. Does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor see further reform of this House as part of a broader scheme of constitutional reform which might indeed lead to a new constitutional settlement of the sort which the Chancellor of the Exchequer so often speaks about?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I address Lords reform at the moment rather than a broader constitutional issue. Without democratic legitimacy, this House will be vulnerable to the argument that, because it is unelected, its views can be ignored or marginalised. They could be ignored or marginalised in the way, with characteristic candour, the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, described. The noble Lord basically told us that he ignored the Lords for all of the 10 miraculous years that he was a Cabinet Minister. Why did he do that? He did it because—

A noble Lord: Because he was a Tory.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Not because he was a Tory, my Lords, but because the House was not elected. Without some degree of democratic legitimacy, this House will be vulnerable to the argument that, because it is unelected, wholly or in part, its views can be ignored or marginalised. That will inevitably lead to the effectiveness of this House being eroded. When noble Lords such as Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, Lord Rodgers, Lord Steinberg, Lord Lawson, Lord Tomlinson and Lord Forsyth, the noble Baroness, Lady Knight of Collingtree, and others ask what the benefit of an elected element in this House would be, my answer is that it would give this House democratic legitimacy and make it stronger.

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Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his approach and for the spirit of his speech tonight, which in itself has been a major contribution to reaching a consensus. Could he answer the question that I asked him about whether the Prime Minister’s pledge, that the Parliament Acts would not be resorted to in any attempt to impose reforms, still stands?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not sure to what the noble Lord is referring when he refers to the pledge. We are at a stage that is a long time before legislation. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the other place and I have said that we genuinely seek consensus. The search for consensus includes agreement not only between the parties but between the two Houses. With respect to the noble Lord, his question is utterly premature.

The House as constituted does a good job but, as my noble friend Lord Whitty said, we need to raise our eyes sometimes from what it feels and looks like here in the House to what it feels and looks like to those outside. I agree with him that it is increasingly difficult for those outside and for the Commons to accept a wholly appointed body with the sort of powers that this House exercises.

What sort of Chamber do we want to be? I have heard so many persuasive arguments in favour of the work that we do now and the role that we play now. For myself, I want a sustainable role as a revising Chamber. We can, with increasing confidence and authority, keep the consensus about our scrutinising, revising and delaying role, while changing the context that my noble and learned friend Lord Irvine referred to. Furthermore, the argument in principle for a wholly or partially elected House has been supported by a number of Peers, such as the noble Baronesses, Lady Whitaker and Lady Quin, and my noble friends Lord Hoyle and Lord Dubs.

Some have argued that there is no need for elections to be held to this place because of the limited powers of this House. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, who is in his place, made that point. However, this House is powerful. It has a significant and vital role in making the laws that govern this country. I am pleased that this House often compels the other place to do things that it would rather not do. I am sure that, away from the heated debate, the other place is sometimes pleased about it too. The debate in this House has been marked by the relative absence of the argument that democracy is right in principle for a legislative Chamber, but it is surely a powerful argument. Those who make the laws should do so with the consent of those who are subject to those laws. I believe that that is right, and I believe that the Commons think that it is right. If possible, we should reflect that in our arrangements.

Arguments were made for and against a hybrid House. The most powerful speech in favour was made by my noble friend Lord Richard. Many have argued that a hybrid House will not work, including my noble friend Lady Symons and the noble Lords, Lord Higgins and Lord Armstrong of Ilminster. The noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, described the idea,

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somewhat graphically, as dead and decomposing. Some, such as the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, dislike the idea because they believe that there would be competition between the different kinds of Members. The noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, said that he feared a them-and-us culture in a hybrid House.

Several noble Lords were concerned that a hybrid House would be inherently unstable and lead, eventually and inevitably, to a wholly elected House. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, having said that he did not favour a substantially elected element, argued that the problem was that once the unelected element began regularly to swing the vote against the elected element we would eventually arrive at a wholly elected House. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester made a similar point.

One of the defenders of hybridity was the noble Lord, Lord Soley, who made a speech late last night, and so was insufficiently recognised for it. He argued that a number of other countries such as India and France had hybrid Houses but had not drifted towards fully elected Chambers. Others pointed out the value that a hybrid House could bring. Many identified the benefits of having Cross-Benchers and Bishops in a reformed House with an elected element. That is only possible in a hybrid House. Many noble Lords made the point that the conventions of this House and the manner in which it conducts its business now are signs that all Members will be treated equally in a reformed House. My noble friend Lord Giddens spoke in favour of a hybrid House.

Several noble Lords suggested that the House had always been hybrid, including the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. I was intrigued by the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, to the same argument against hybridity having been mounted in 1958, when the life Peers were introduced. Those of us who have been here with both hereditary and life Peers have not found the problem. A hybrid House could combine the best of what we have—expertise, experience, non-party membership—with the benefits of election. It allows greater diversity and to make the reforms we need if our work is to continue to be respected outside this House.

The vote for an all-elected second Chamber in the Commons was highly significant, as the noble Lords, Lord McNally, Lord Lucas and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, pointed out. It shows an appetite in the other place for significant and far-reaching reform. I have already set out the arguments in this place for having a democratic element in this House. Some of the consequences of a fully elected House of Lords have been pointed out by many noble Lords in the debate—no Bishops, no Cross Benches, a lack of expertise, more clashes with the Commons, more appetite for exercising power and for getting more power.

The noble Baroness, Lady Knight of Collingtree, was concerned that the distracting effect of constituency responsibilities on elected Members would mean that the House would not have the time to undertake its

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proper function of scrutiny. Although entertaining, she slightly overstated the case. We do not propose that elected Members undertake the sort of constituency business that she referred to, and the electoral system that we proposed was designed to minimise the temptation on them to indulge themselves in that way.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I am somewhat at a loss, given what the noble and learned Lord has said, to know why anyone would want to vote for people who would not take any part in constituency business. Are we going to knock on doors and say, “Vote for me. I’ll be very good at revising legislation, but I’m not interested in your bypass, your local hospital or any of those things. Don’t bother to write to me—I won’t reply”? How realistic is that? It is not the real world. Who will actually vote? Will this not bring the system into disrepute?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, noble Lords must form a view on whether people think it would be worth voting representatives to a House such as this that did valuable work such as we do. I think that they would be interested in electing people to a House like this.

The next step is for this House to cast its votes tomorrow. The noble Lord, Lord Cunningham of Felling, asked the Government to listen carefully and take very serious note of the views of this House. We will. Once we have the views of this House, as my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons has said, the cross-party group will be reconvened to discuss the next steps. The point has been very powerfully made by my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean and the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, that the cross-party group does not necessarily represent the views of the parties as a whole. I cannot give an answer now, but we need to consider what the noble Baroness has said, and I hope that we can give an answer fairly soon.

There has been much to provide encouragement in the past two days’ debate for those who wish to find consensus. As my noble friend Lord Whitty said, we

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must build on the work done by the Cunningham committee in setting out the conventions to see how they would apply and how they would need to be modified for a wholly or largely elected body.

There are various other issues that I do not intend to deal with, because it is getting late and I have been speaking for 26 marvellous moments. In his opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said that this was not the end of a process but the beginning. That is right. Over the coming weeks and months we will work with our colleagues in the other parties to listen to the views of both Houses, to build on the work that we have already done, to consider this important issue further and to try to establish a clear way forward on reform of this House.

The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, whose excellent report is the key reference work for much of this debate, said that the Government were right to try to seek consensus. I hope that all noble Lords will agree that, whatever the result of tomorrow’s votes, we would be right to try to continue to do so. It is for this House to make its voice heard when it votes tomorrow; but when it has done so, then taking those views together with those of the Commons expressed last week, we will have to try to take this issue forward. We will respect the views of the other place and this House in seeking to take this opportunity for reform and improvement. I believe that there is an opportunity here for progress. It is the responsibility of us all to seize it.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, if there is no consensus, will the Government legislate or will they not?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we are searching for a consensus.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill

Brought from the Commons; certified by the Speaker as a money Bill, and read a first time.

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