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It is important to narrow down as widely as possibleif that is not too complicated a phrasethe number of options. I am very sensitive and sympathetic to the suggestion that in this country we should have a senate. I think that the examples in other parts of the world are not to be taken as gospel in this matter. We certainly do not have to follow anyone because, in any case, there are so many different versions. A senate gives the impression, which is important, that we are an integral part of the decision-making in Parliament. We will not be just a debating chamber at the other end of the building that occasionally becomes difficult and stroppy and has a different view. We will be an integral part of the legislature of this country. The word senate would give the Chamber that status. I say with all humility, as a recently joined Member, that there will be Members of the other place who will think that they should be consulted on this matter too.
The Earl of Caithness: I support the thrust of the noble Baronesss amendment. I suggest to her that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde is an ideal person to sit on the committee. He made a very interesting speech which made me think how much we still miss the late Earl Russell. He would have been an excellent person to have on the committee. Indeed, I think his comments on this Bill would have been quite interesting too and perhaps different from those of the rest of his party in many ways.
What the noble Baroness sets out, I think, is right. Thought needs to be given to this. I came forward with the idea of a senate but, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, rightly reminds us, of course the Senate in Canada is appointed. Having been to Canada and America, it is interesting to see the difference with which the Senates are regarded in both countries as a result of that, including the powers given to a second chamber.
On the powers, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, Do not for one moment believe that when we have a 100 per cent elected Chamber that there will be primacy of the House of Commons. Can you imagine the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, in his former incarnation as the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, going to his constituents in Stratford and then to Newport, saying, Please elect me, there is actually nothing I can do for you; you might want me to oppose the Government but Im not going to because I am not allowed to. No one will get any votes on that basis. The only way you will get votes is to canvass and say, The reason I want to be elected is because I want to stand up to those people in the other place.
The Earl of Caithness: The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said to the Minister that he would not believe anything that the Minister said, even if he did not say it. I am certain that the noble Earl will agree with me that the House of Commons will not want for one moment to think that its primacy could be challenged. However, it will have to be, and it is right that it should be.
I like the idea of some form of committee but fear that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, is right. There is no way in which the other place will not put its sticky mitts on to this in some shape or form. It is more than likely that it will want to dictate to us what our name should be. That is why I think the idea of us starting at this end of the corridor is a very good one, so that we have the initiative. I am grateful to the noble Baroness.
Lord Trefgarne: The real problem with the noble Baronesss amendmentthis is a serious and not frivolous criticismis that it takes from Parliament a decision on the name of what will become the second Chamber. She says in her amendment that the report should be laid before both Houses of Parliament but not approved by them, by which she means the decision should be made by the committee which she proposes. This place will have difficulty with that concept and so would the other place. Other serious detailed difficulties have been referred to, such as exactly what the independent experts would be expert in and why there are no representatives from the other place. There are a lot of difficulties with the noble Baronesss amendment and I think it would be better if she did not press it.
Lord Dubs: I have found this debate most interesting; there has been not a moment of boredom in it, and one cannot always say that. We are not here to entertain ourselves but it has been a fascinating afternoon. I have a later amendment, and I fought shy of incorporating the concept of a senate into it because I was not sure that there would be enough agreement. The combination of my noble friends
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It would be dangerous to say that we are all agreed on the proposal because many would say that we are not. However, one thing that has come out of the debate so far is that the terms senate and senator are strongly in contention. Having said that, I understand what my noble friend is seeking to do in her amendment. I do not agree with the thrust of it, but she has probably achieved her aim in airing the issue. I suggest that if we are going to have any change to the name of ourselves as individuals or to the name of the House, then senate would be the odds-on favourite, provided that the change of name occurs when there is a change in the composition of the House. If we do it without changing the structure of the Houseand this is not the amendment on which to debate thatit will be silly. When we come to changing the way in which the House moves to stage 2 or stage 3, I think the title senate will be a good one.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: This has been an interesting debate and my noble friend has done a great service to the House. This is not the first time that your Lordships have debated the title of this House. I recall an amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in 1999 on the question of the name of the reformed House. He made a number of suggestions and I think his amendment proposed that it should be the House of Peers and Peeresses. That was anticipated by Gilbert and Sullivan many years before in the alternative title to Iolanthe: The Peer and the Peri. The definition of peri is those who are descended from fallen angels who have been denied paradise until they have done penance. We are indeed doing penance today.
Earl Ferrers: I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord but I am deeply flattered that he should remember what I said long after I had forgotten. I am sure he will agree that anything I have said has always been correct.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The noble Earl will recall that I was the government Whip on the Bill and that I was allowed to deal with only one amendment, which happened to be his. That is why I remember it but, alas, the Government were unable to accept it.
The name of the reformed Chamber is a very important matter. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that we want a good debate on this and that Parliament should decide, although it would be quite proper for a committee of this House, the other House or both Houses jointly to consider these matters and give advice to Parliament as a whole. Indeed, that is a very useful suggestion.
I urge one point of caution. There seems to be an emerging consensus that senate may be the appropriate term, and I understand that. It is a very grandindeed, comfortingtitle, but it is very important that the name reflects the status and responsibilities of a reformed Chamber. Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, I believe that it is perfectly possible to have an elected second
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Lord Strathclyde: I expected a bucketload of cold water to be showered on the name senate, but can the noble Lord tell ushe must have given this a great deal of thoughtwhat name he would like a reformed House to be given? He has a choice of perhaps three and, if he likes, he can phone a friend or even ask the opinion of the House.
One of the simplest ways to reduce the potential market value of peerages would be to separate the honour and the title from the seat in the legislature. The Government has already indicated it supports this.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The principle is supported by the Government, as we have said, but we would prefer to see it within the overall reform proposals that we would bring forward through a White Paper. As I understand it, the Select Committee argues that the matter could be dealt with in an interim Bill. I do not think that I should comment any further than that because the Government owe it to Parliament as a whole to give careful consideration to the recommendations, and we shall do so in due course.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: He jolly well ought to be and perhaps one day he will be. Alas, I confess that I have not given as much time as perhaps I should have done to thinking about the title of a reformed second Chamber. I shall go away and give it earnest consideration. I do not seek to pour cold water on the word senate; I simply ask the House to exercise some caution and to choose a title that reflects the responsibilities that the revising Chamber will have in the future.
I wish to pose a question to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Does the historical tour de force that he treated us to earlier have any implications for the Commons? In a sense, I suppose that it could be argued that the House of Commons defined itself as a House of Commons as against the House of Lords. That is why I say to my noble friend that, whether she pushes this matter at this or a later stage, the representation of Members of the House of Commons will be very important.
Lord Norton of Louth: I rise to speak briefly on behalf of the sponsors of the Bill. I recall that when my noble friend Lord Waldegrave was sitting in the
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I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that the value of this debate is that the noble Baroness has given the topic an airing. That is quite justifiable. We are quite sensitive and amenable to the point underlying her amendment. The problem that we would have is twofoldI shall be brief because those points have already been drawn out in debate. One is about composition. The other is about process; whether it is appropriate to be embodied in legislation. The point about composition has already been well rehearsed. Speaking for myself, I have no problem with experts being drawn on for such a purpose, but I take the point about the membership of this House being exclusive for parliamentarians.
There is a much broader issue, to which we shall return in later amendments, not least relating to the composition of the Appointments Commission. I know that some Members would like to confine that to Members of this House. That is entirely inappropriate. We should not be too precious about the method used for membership of this House. Others should be involved in that process. We should not try to keep it within ourselves. I accept that, if we are going to discuss the name, it is quite appropriate that others should be involved.
However, as has been identified, the danger is in doing it too prescriptively through the form of an amendment to the Bill. It is most unusual for committees of this sort to be set up by statute; it is normally done by another method. That allows flexibility to have discussions to meet the very points that have been raised. So I revert to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs: it has been very valuable rehearsing the case. I am quite sympathetic to the noble Baroness's point. There is a case for looking at the name. I am one of those who would be wary about calling it a senate, so I think that there is a case for having considered reflection on that, not rushing into it, which is why I was opposed to the earlier amendments, but I am sympathetic to the core of the point made by the noble Baroness.
Baroness Whitaker: I intended to stimulate debate and I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have entertained and enlightened us by joining in the debate. I agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Hunt said in response. I should just like to clarify that the amendment was not intended to pre-empt the White Paper. Therefore, the composition of this House would have been settled before we debated the name.
I had originally intended that we should choose our name, but I take very well the points made by several noble Lords that another place has a right and expectation to be involved with choosing the title. When I take my amendment back, I shall take that into account. Consulting the people is also an extremely interesting idea. Noble Lords will have
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Lord Elton: Surely one cannot let that pass uncommented on. Many of us think that the right reverend Prelates add a dimension to our debates without which they would be vastly impoverished. It is wrong to ignore that aspect when deciding how to compose the committee.
Baroness Whitaker: I could not agree more with the noble Lord about the valuable contribution made by individual Members on the Bench of Prelates. However, it seems to me not appropriatealthough this is an initial point in the debatethat they should take part in choosing the name. That is what I meant.
Earl Ferrers: The noble Baroness must agree that she is being highly discriminatory, because this place is the House of Lords Temporal and Lords Spiritual. They ought to be just as well represented as anyone else.
Baroness Whitaker: I am putting a point of view at the beginning of a debate, which I think is worth considering. However, it is not the end of the debate and I hope that the noble Earl will accept it in that spirit. I am flattered by the offer of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to help me draft an amendment. It may well come to that. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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