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As for the differentials in life expectancy, the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, touched on the current position. In 2010, male expectation of life at 65 is estimated to be 21.8 years, while women’s expectation of life at 65 is estimated at 24.6 years. When pension ages are equalised at 2020, that would be 22.9 years for a male and 25.7 for a female.

The underlying proposition has not changed since the PPI research was published. Annuity rates for men and women may not be the same, but in our view they are none the less fair and equitable. I hope the noble Baroness understands our reasons for objecting to the amendment. I understand that it is a probing amendment, and I know that she will continue to campaign on the issue.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I am most grateful to noble Lords who have supported my attempt to have the whole issue looked at once again and even more thoroughly. I am particularly grateful to the Minister for his comments.

I was somewhat surprised by the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale. I was trying to say that with all the additional sacrifices that women will be making by giving up those extra years and joining in an equal retirement age, compared with very few extra years for men, application of the law on sex discrimination and equal pay would be justifiable at that time. Of course I would much rather that it started operating now. There is no law governing the various districts around the country, but there is a law governing equal treatment and sex discrimination. So it seems perfectly logical to continue arguing this point.

I had hoped for a slightly more encouraging reply, but I understand the point from which the Minister is coming. I very much bear in mind that, as a group, women are among the poorest of retirees. They are also among those who have played a major part in saving the state money by heading up carers in every form. This is just one other area where, by equalising the situation between men and women, one would hope to take a small step in women’s favour and in the favour of equal treatment in every other respect.

I cannot promise not to return to the matter. I think the Minister realises that I may very well return to it—I have a slightly different amendment up my sleeve for Report. I will think about it. But regardless of whether I return to the issue then or at a later opportunity, with a different Bill, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Tunnicliffe: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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House of Lords: Reform

3.52 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor on House of Lords reform, on which he is today publishing a White Paper. The Statement is as follows:

“In my Statement to the House on 19 July last year, I said that I would continue to lead cross-party talks on reform of the House of Lords. Those talks have included Front-Bench representatives of the main parties from both Houses, as well as of the Cross-Bench Peers and the Bishops. The talks have made good progress. I am most grateful to all those who have served on the group. I pay tribute for their constructive contributions and readiness to consider alternative proposals. Our discussions have been much informed by the work of others, including the Public Administration Select Committee, informal cross-party groups, the Cunningham report and above all the report of the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham.

“The basis for our talks was the outcome of the votes in the House of Commons in March 2007. This House voted then for a wholly elected, and for a mainly elected second Chamber and rejected all other alternatives by a large margin. The Lords took a different view. It voted for a fully appointed second Chamber. However, as I said in my Statement on 19 July last year, reflecting the remarks of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 3 July last, work taking forward House of Lords reform had to be based on the will of the House of Commons, which is the primary chamber in our legislature.

“The proposals we make today are consistent with the 2005 manifesto commitments of the three main parties. The White Paper sets out how a wholly or mainly elected second Chamber might be created within a bicameral legislature in which the House of Commons retains primacy. The White Paper reflects the considerable consensus reached in the cross-party talks. Inevitably, we did not reach agreement on all issues. In some instances, those taking part asked that the White Paper record their difference of view, which it does.

“As I indicated to the House in my Statement on 19 July last, our intention is that the product of the cross-party talks would be the basis of a,

“It has never been the intention to legislate in this Parliament. The White Paper represents a significant step on the road to reform and is intended to generate further debate and consideration rather than being a final blueprint for reform.

“The White Paper sets out how Members could be elected to a reformed second Chamber from the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. It was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission of

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the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and has since enjoyed strong consensus, including within the cross-party group, that Members should serve a single, non-renewable term of three electoral cycles—that is, of 12 to 15 years. This reflects proposals in the February 2007 White Paper. Elections would be held at the same time as those for Members of this House, so as to minimise disruption to the business of Parliament.

“The current House of Lords has over 700 Members. The Government intend that the reformed second Chamber should be significantly smaller, of not more than 400 to 450 Members and maybe less, and that costs should be similar or reduced. We envisage all Members of a reformed second Chamber making a full contribution to its work and would welcome views on its size. Single, non-renewable terms would help provide a membership for the second Chamber which continued to be distinct from that of this House and hence which could bring an added dimension to the work of Parliament. It is proposed that this be reinforced by the use of large constituencies for elections to the second Chamber.

“I referred earlier to the primacy of this House. Analysis of other countries’ arrangements and our own history shows that primacy does not depend on the fact that this House is elected while the Lords is not. It is rooted in the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, and the conventions which govern relations between the two Houses. With the introduction of elected Members into the second Chamber, however, we have to ensure that the mandate of this House and the government it sustains continues to hold sway. The Membership of a reformed second Chamber should be such that it could not challenge that mandate. This is why we saw considerable merit in staggered elections to a reformed second Chamber, with a third of Members returned at each election. In this way, the electoral basis of the reformed second Chamber could never, as a whole, be more recent than that of this House.

“The cross-party group considered at some length possible voting systems. The White Paper presents detailed modelling on the possible effects of each of four electoral systems for elections to a second Chamber. The systems are first past the post; alternative vote; single transferable vote; and open or semi-open list systems. The Government would welcome views on the choice of system.

“The cross-party group considered the powers of a reformed second Chamber. We took the view that it would be wrong to pre-suppose conflict between this House and a reformed second Chamber. The working relationship between the two Houses currently functions well, and we could see no reason why it should not continue to do so. Creative tension between the Houses can lead to better government, not an undermining of this House’s primacy. If conflict arose in future, it would, as now, be for both Houses to devise a way through that conflict. We identified no persuasive case for reducing, in advance of that, the powers of a wholly or mainly elected second Chamber.

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“Given that the Commons voted last March for both, the White Paper does not take a view between the options of either a 100 per cent or an 80 per cent elected second Chamber. However, it includes detail on a possible 20 per cent appointed element, should the latter option be chosen. There would be a statutory Appointments Commission and published criteria for appointments. Any appointed Members would serve for three electoral cycles in the same way as elected Members.

“If the second Chamber became fully elected, there could be no seats appointed or reserved, including for Church of England bishops. But in recognition of the wide and important role played by the Lords Spiritual in the life of the nation and the special constitutional position of the church, we propose that their representation should continue in a mainly elected House. In that instance, their numbers would not contribute to the 20 per cent appointed element.

“The White Paper includes proposals on eligibility and on disqualification. Because of the long, non-renewable terms for which they would serve, we were attracted to the system discussed in the White Paper of recall ballots for elected Members of the second Chamber, with analogous arrangements for any appointed Members. This would apply only after the first of three parliamentary terms which Members would serve. The Government welcome views on this. Members of a reformed second Chamber should receive salaries, with the Senior Salaries Review Body asked to advise.

“The transition to a reformed second Chamber raises a number of important issues, not least about the future arrangements for existing Members of the Lords. Those Members, collectively, enable the Chamber effectively to fulfil its key roles of scrutinising legislation, conducting investigations and holding the Government to account. This Government, and I know the whole House, greatly value the work of the Lords and the contributions of individual Members to it.

“However, it was made clear in 1999 that the rights of hereditary Peers to sit and vote would be removed as part of the next phase of Lords reform. The Government propose that, following legislation and during the transition to a reformed second Chamber, there should be no further by-elections to fill vacancies for hereditary Peers.

“The February 2007 White Paper included a proposal from me that a reformed House should be 50 per cent elected and 50 per cent appointed. One of the many merits I saw of that proposal was that it would have enabled existing life Peers to remain for life, if they had wished to. However, that 50/50 proposal was comprehensively rejected by both Houses. The votes in this House for a wholly or 80 per cent elected House mean that the context for the transition to a reformed second Chamber has changed. There may not be an appointed element in a reformed second Chamber. If there is, it may comprise 90 or fewer Members. A discussion is therefore now required to determine how far the rights of life Peers to sit

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and vote during any transition to a reformed second Chamber should continue. The White Paper sets out three options for managing the transition to a second Chamber: first, for all existing life Peers to leave in tranches allied to the three electoral cycles; secondly, for all to leave on the third cycle; and, thirdly, to remain as now for life. The Government welcome views on these options”.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I think I know where your Lordships stand on this.

“Mr Speaker, the cross-party group faithfully and assiduously followed the mandate set for it by the Commons last March. We are now keen for there to be a wide-ranging and thorough debate, but I think all Members of the cross-party group share my view that to have got this far on such an important but highly complex issue is a considerable achievement.

“As I said in my Statement on 19 July last, our intention now is to continue developing consensus round a comprehensive package for reform of the House of Lords. Any final package would have to be put to the electorate as a manifesto commitment at the next general election. I hope that we will be able to build on the considerable consensus established already in the cross-party group, to the extent that other parties include similar commitments in their manifestos.

“An effective second Chamber plays an invaluable role in holding the Government to account and in scrutinising legislation. Our belief is that the proposals in the White Paper, and of the group, will lead to a more legitimate and strengthened second Chamber. I commend this Statement and the White Paper to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.04 pm

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, that the Statement is being presented to Parliament on 14 July, when the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille, demonstrates that someone in the Ministry of Justice has a sense of humour, if not a sense of history. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for repeating the Statement made in another place, and for giving me an advance opportunity to read the White Paper. It is the third White Paper on this House from this Government, and there have been even more major statements on its role, Members and powers over the years.

Of course, many proposals have preceded it since the curbing of this House’s powers in 1911, when both Houses resolved that in due time the House should be constituted on a popular basis. We had the Bryce commission of 1918, the talks of Lord Longford and my noble friend Lord Carrington in 1968, the Home report, the Plant commission, and the royal commission chaired by my noble friend Lord Wakeham. One has only to read a few of the names to realise how long the debate about the future of our House has continued. For all the Lord Chancellor’s ingenuity, the problem

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has been neither newly identified nor finally resolved in the White Paper; there is much work to be done before a Bill could be presented.

This House is no stranger to reform. The Conservative Life Peerages Act 1958 was a revolutionary experiment in composition, enacted some 80 years after the controversy over life peerages first raged in the Wensleydale case. The Conservative Party enabled women who inherited peerages to enter this place in 1963, and in 1968 the House voted for substantial further reforms only to see those plans scuppered in another place. In 1999, half this House departed in the face of the House of Lords Act. Much as they disliked it, they accepted that as their duty in view of the binding undertakings given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, to provide for a comprehensive stage 2 reform. In 2005, further legislation reversed the first life peerages provisions in relation to the judiciary and provided for Law Lords to be excluded. So let it not be said that this House is not prepared to entertain change, accept it or adapt to it when it occurs.

I thank the Lord Chancellor, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who joined the cross-party talks referred to in the Statement actively when she became Leader of the House, for the care with which they conducted them. They did so with responsibility and a clear understanding of the role, authority and importance of this House in our bicameral constitution, something not always seen from every member of this Government.

Equally, I know that the cross-party talks have created resentment in this House, although cross-party talks are of course normal in a functioning democracy. Many of your Lordships felt excluded, which was unnecessary and avoidable. For my own part, I would have had no difficulty with publishing the papers or the records of the talks, and I always thought that it would be wise to have a parallel process made up of Back-Benchers examining the implications of the votes of this House on reform. There is a majority in this place for a fully appointed House, an idea that in itself presents substantial practical issues. However, the Government chose to proceed on the basis of votes in the House of Commons for an 80 or 100 per cent elected House, which made known—for this Parliament at least—the will of another place.

Of course, the Government could not and should not have ignored the votes of another place and—I must say, bluntly—neither should we as a House. If we do not engage with another place, it can impose its will on us; we cannot just sit this one out. That is why the Front Benches in this Parliament, the noble Baroness the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, and the right reverend Prelates accepted the Lord Chancellor’s invitation to participate actively and constructively in wrestling with the issues arising from the votes in the other place; I make no apology for that. After all, the unilateral proposals for change put forward by this Government since 1999 have not exactly had a rapturous welcome.

We started the talks with the aim of working out what the House that another place voted for might look like and setting out for both Houses to consider a potential design for such a House. The paper published

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today is a step towards this, but let me make it clear that it is a government White Paper, not a cross-party paper, although, as the Statement says, we found wide areas of agreement. That is hardly surprising, given the commitments of the main parties to seek consensus for a partially elected reform. However, it is equally unsurprising that we also found major areas of disagreement and it is inevitable that this White Paper will be the basis of a long and heated debate which I hope will take place in this House some time after we return from the Summer Recess. Without pre-empting that debate, I shall sketch briefly some areas of agreement and disagreement.

If there is an elected House, we must keep, so far as possible, the strengths of this House while increasing its will to use its powers. We agreed that that means no reduction in the powers of this House. We agreed that it means long non-renewable terms for Members, so that they are free of coercion and as independent as possible from threats and rewards by party Whips. We agreed that it means retaining the right reverend Prelates. It also means, in my view, “no” to a 100 per cent-elected House, because that would exclude the Cross Benchers who put a particular stamp on this House and whose expertise is so valuable to Parliament.

Any reformed House must pass these and other key tests. It must complement the other place, not compete with it; it must not be a House of opposition, but nor should it be servile; it should be no less capable of performing the key roles of the current House and it should be a House to which the people of this country can genuinely relate.

That takes me to an area of major disagreement—how an elected House should be chosen. It may surprise noble Lords to hear that the Liberal Democrats shocked us in the working party by calling for proportional representation. We prefer smaller constituencies based on our historic cities and counties, with Members chosen directly by “first past the post”. The Government sat on the fence. That is not a good basis for legislation.

Many grey areas also remain for which the White Paper has not provided adequate answers for public scrutiny. There are the difficult questions of the transition from one House another, the pay and pension arrangements for the new House and outgoing Members of the present one and, indeed, the overall costs of a reformed House. These issues cannot be fudged in a Bill.

There has been perhaps a little fudging, which is why this is not really a White Paper at all. It is a Green Paper. The Government’s mind is unclear on so much that you have to wonder why they are publishing it in the first place. Even the name of a reformed House is a mystery. Leaks a few weeks ago suggested that it would be called a senate, but even that seems to be too radical a step for this Government, and the name disappeared in the final draft. What will the House be called? The Minister and the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will have to make the Government’s position far clearer in the months ahead.

There is a great deal yet to do. There should now be a pause while both Houses, the wider public and, in due time, the next Parliament work to resolve the many questions raised by this process. That should be

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no excuse for suspending further work. The Executive are too strong and Parliament, for all the efforts of your Lordships over the past 10 years, is too weak to restrain them properly. We have too many laws in this country and too many lawmakers who lack the capacity or authority to prevent or improve them. We must not set our faces against change that might help Parliament to do its vital job more confidently.

As I am sure all noble Lords will agree, this is a great House, a House of ceremony and dignity, a place to which all of us feel privileged to belong. The 20th century was not the happiest for our House, but in some ways in this new century, against all expectations, we have begun to feel our way back to the heart of national affairs. The White Paper does not impede that movement, but it leaves us far from agreed legislation. The next reform of the House will be a democratic one—I am sure of that and I expect that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will agree with me—but when will it happen? Of that, I am far, far less certain.

4.15 pm

Lord Tyler: My Lords, we on these Benches warmly welcome the Statement and the White Paper. The approach fulfils the objectives that my honourable friends at the other end of the Corridor—the Liberal Democrat MPs—voted for absolutely unanimously in March 2007, and which my noble friends in this House voted for at the same time by a majority.

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