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After about a month of this exchange, they said to him, What is this word mañana that you keep using? Well, he explained to them, it means tomorrow, maybe, at some time, in due coursethat sort of thing. They nodded. He said What is the Gaelic word for mañana? He got the reply, There is no word in the Gaelic language to convey such a sense of urgency. There is no word in the English language to convey the sense of urgency that impels the two Front Benches on this issue. They ask us to sit back and do nothing: to wait for a big bang whose explosive composition and date are totally unknown.
At this point, I was going to inject a party-political note and say that at least we on these Benches have a printed blueprint for an elected House of Lords, but that invites the response, So you should; you have been at it for 99 years. It may be that the other parties will start a 99-year course. In the mean time, to be perfectly serious, the House has an opportunity to vote for what the Administration Committee in the Commons called running repairs. We are proud of the institution of this House. We are proud of the way that it is regarded by the public. We have suffered from bad publicity in recent years and recent weeks. That can be put aside because it is possible to drag this House into the 21st century before the next election if the House votes so to do today.
Lord Selsdon: This morning, I suddenly saw a range of manuscript amendments and I thought that there was dirty work afoot or that something dastardly was in the air. I recalled, back in my family history, Glencoe, when we were invited to dinner by the wicked Campbells, who henceforth had to have a yellow stripe in their tartan. I wondered why the Liberals had chosen yellow. Last week I wore a yellow tie, and I wonder why the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, has suddenly seemed to have switched sides and moved to the yellow. I have gone blue with a yellow anchor.
I would now like again to correct the noble Lord, Lord Steel, because at his Second Reading debate, he turned to me with a sort of evil look in his eye and called me an enemy because I had not voted for his Bill. He had forgotten that one of the traditions of this
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What worries me is this yellow business. There is yellow-belly and yellow also denotes jealousyof which the Liberals have a multitudeor it can mean cowardly, but it is not. It means someone who wishes to change something. They wish to change the Government and good luck to them. I have supported them on many things, and in many aspects of this Bill I would support them again.
It is always an important day. Last week we had the ides of March and today is the feast of San Giuseppe, which is the feast of St Joseph where the Pope speaks in the Vatican areas of the role of the worker in societyman effectively lives to work and does not work to live, but it is actually the other way round. Here we are trying to determine the future of a great institution but without an awful lot of knowledge. I disclose my interest here: I was part of the team paid by the Labour Party in 1968 to look at the reform of the Lords. As your Lordships may know, over a period of time, I have produced paper after paper and analysis after analysis and I really supported a wholly elected House when I first came here. I, too, have perhaps been contaminated a bit by changebut more, I think, influenced by your Lordships. As I research, I suddenly find that there is a breadth of knowledge and experience that could be directed towards the outside world rather than towards some elements of internecine strife.
In our recent debates, opinions have shifted and changed. I have moved my amendment because there is a certain misrepresentation of what you call an elected hereditary Peer. Under the 1999 Act, for which I did not vote, we were exempted, I was not sure what that was, but I thought that we were exempted, then we were excepted, and then some of us were elected. To be honest, I did not expect to be elected. In general, in any of these strange elections, if you have 10 people who all agree to put each other in the top 10, William Hill advise me that no matter how many there are in the race, you will automatically get in. So it was a put-up job, or a dastardly deed.
Now that we have moved on, I must accept that my excepted and elected colleagues have done a pretty good job over time. However, they are permanently assaulted from outside by people saying that they are hereditary. They are hereditary Peerswho were elected. Parties opposite have often tried to remove the word elected. It was not a perfect election; it was totally imperfect. But it exists.
I tabled this amendment and Amendment 40 because one should recognise that these new manuscript amendments are a little insulting. Under the 1999 Act there is a register of people who can stand for elections should one come. I suggest in Amendment 40, to which I will not speak now, that all 175 on the register should be placed before the Appointments Commission. You cannot exclude them totally just because they are
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I would not wish your Lordships to feel that I was interfering, but over the past weeks and in the coming months, I have put in hand a complete analysis, an assembly, of all your Lordships contributions to this House since each noble Lord arrived. The preliminary research shows that it is a remarkable collection of ideas and differences of opinion. It also shows that your Lordships, individually and collectively, have shown an ability to change opinion by almost 180 degrees, and then 180 degrees back. I am slightly doubtful, although I still believe that there is an election role here, and I would like to move my amendment and see what the opinion of the House is.
Lord Strathclyde: I say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, who has more experience in more Houses of Parliament than I, that I am rather regretful of the way in which he simply spurned my rather straightforward questions, as if I were operating some kind of device to get him to say something that he did not want to say. I have no idea what his analogy was about catching a fly. I have no desire to catch a fly. I would actually quite like to know what he thinks. I am rather depressed at the moment, because I am not sure whether I misled the House at Second Reading or not.
I think that the noble Lord is in favour of an appointed House. I think that he was once in favour of an elected House and has changed his mind. It would be more open of him if he were to stand up and admit that, rather than playing this Liberal game of saying one thing in one place and another in another, assuming that nobody will ever put the two ends of the conversation together and decide that they are perhaps more confused than the rest of us.
I congratulate my noble friend Lord Selsdon on moving very smartly this morning when he saw the manuscript amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and tabling his own. In doing so, I should make clear, if noble Lords have not yet had notice of this, that I wish to degroup my Amendments A1B and 32ZA. So quickly did my noble friend move that he got in front of me in the queue. Perhaps he realised that, although on this occasion I cannot support the specifics of his amendment, I support the principle of tabling it as that allows us to have a debate on an appointed House, which I know many of your Lordships keenly support.
I listened very carefully to what my noble friend had to say, and, as I understand it, his amendment lays before the House, honestly and openly, the known and intended effect of the Bill put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, which is to create an all-appointed House. I shall not repeat the remarks that I made before we came into Committee on the declared belief of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, but it would have helped if he had been franker about that. After all, the second signatory to this amendment is my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon, who has
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Lord Gordon of Strathblane: I wonder whether the noble Lord could help noble Lords given his vast experience on the committeethe cabal with Mr Straw and others. Does he think there is a consensus in both Houses of Parliament in favour of an all-appointed House? Although I personally favour an all-appointed House, I rather suspect that there is not, and for that reason it is precisely the sort of thing that we do not want to put on the agenda now because it will simply lead to no reform whatever. Surely the purpose of this Bill is to achieve a small improvement in the way the House works.
Lord Strathclyde: That is extremely seductive but I think that the hidden purpose of the Bill is to provide for an all-appointed House. That is why I asked the noble Lord, Lord Steel, whether that was his intention. I do not see the great standard bearers of democracy rushing forward to support this Bill. In a moment I will lay out a timetable to provide for an elected House soon after the next election. I hope that the Government will accept my meagre offering, and take it forward if they win the next general election.
Lord Strathclyde: At Second Reading, I laid out what I thought the priorities of a Cameron Government would be. Indeed, my right honourable friend David Cameron has said that this might not be a priority. But he is not witness to the intensity of the debates that now take place very regularly on a Thursday afternoon in your Lordships House. He has not understood the passion that is roused by this subject, or the frustration that is felt by so many noble Lords that nothing is going to be done. That is why I said to the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, that in a moment I am going to describe the kind of timetable that would bring what so many noble Lords desirea finality to this debate, and that would be a directly elected senate.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I intend to intervene later, but as the noble Lord has now referred to me twice, I say to him quite clearly, in order that he does not, as I would say, spend a great deal of time speculating about my position, that indeed I am in favour of election. That is why I regard the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, Amendment A1A, as being wrecking to the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, because it precisely does not forward the purposes as they are agreed in his amendment.
Lord Strathclyde: I am delighted to hear it. I was hoping that the noble Baroness would say exactly that, because if it comes to a Division on my noble friends amendment, she and I will find ourselvesnot for the first time, but it happens fairly rarelyin the same Lobby. Like her, I am not in favour of an appointed House. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, on the other hand, will have to consider his position rather more carefully as to whether he supports my noble friend Lord Selsdon. Then we will be able to see whether he is in favour of an appointed House. There we have it. The noble Baroness still says that she is in favour of a more democratic House; I could not help feeling that in her Second Reading speech, she was drifting away from that.
What really worries me about the original amendmentthe purpose clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steelis that the purpose seems to me to be defending a House that was created in the 20th century, coming forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, has said, with a piecemeal reform to an appointed House. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, will not be offended by this, but it reminds me of those Peers who, nearly 100 years ago in 1911, led by Lord Rosebery and Lord Lansdowne, tabled so very belatedly their incremental proposals for reform of the hereditary House, which were in effect to defend the 19th century House. Therefore, the House of Lords always finds itself a century out of date. I see the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who caught my eye. He is on the side of the angels with meI assume that he will also vote against my noble friend Lord Selsdon, because he, like me, is in favour of an elected House.
Lord McNally: The noble Lord is quite right. On Lords reform, he and I will march shoulder to shoulder towards an elected House. I do not understand why the Conservatives say that it is a second- or third-term issue. I remind the noble Lord that Sir Winston Churchill managed to lead a Government who brought in the Beveridge report and the Education Act 1944 while fighting a world war. When came this doctrine that a Government can do only one thing at a time?
Lord Strathclyde: I feel suitably chastised by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. As I tried to point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, my right honourable friend Mr Cameron is not aware of the sense of frustration that exists in this House. As a result of these debates, I shall make it my business to draw even the noble Lords remarks to his attention, and to try to get him to bring forward his timetable, so that, if the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, were to accept my timetable, it could well be after the next general election that we could have a House of Lords reform Bill or an elected senate Bill in the very first Session of Parliament.
I do not want to digress from the amendment too much. The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, said that he wanted to tidy up the question of the 92 elected hereditary Peers. What is so interesting is that those Peers are not appointed, which again leads me to believe that the noble Lord is really after a wholly appointed House. He is not willing to strike in the daylight and throw elected hereditary Peers out but he is prepared to squeeze them out in the dark. Some might call that clever.
The noble Lord raised the commitment given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, which again goes to the heart of the commitment that was made. I have no idea of the veracity of the private conversations between the noble Lord and the noble and learned Lord, but it strikes meand I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, would agreethat, if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, had said in 1999 that he would have been quite happy with this sort of Bill as a stage two, it might have been rather more difficult to get the 1999 Bill agreed. The noble Baroness was of course Leader of the House and, if she does not mind my saying so, she was the first person to be stunned to hear of the agreement struck between the Prime Minister, Mr Blair, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg. Many of those who were there will hear the echo of the noble and learned Lord talking about the agreement being binding in honour on all those who took part in it. Those are solemn words and should not be struck down by what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said. So I will have no part in this; otherwise, it would be a trick played on former parliamentarians whom the noble Lord, Lord Steel, always seeks to defend. It would be a calculated slight to those former colleagues on all sides who left this place with many regrets but who, crucial to the leadership of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, offered no disruption in 1999. Therefore, I cannot possibly agree with that part of the noble Lords purpose clause.
Under this Bill, only those who have caught the eye of the great and the good will, in time, remain. They will be the men of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson or Lord Jay. I hope that we are going to see even more of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, now that he has been discharged from his duty running the Appointments Commission. In fact, he will be able to see how his appointments have fared. Now they will be the men of the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, and will no doubt be subtle and estimable additions to our Parliament. However, there will not be a single elected Peer. Nowhere in the House will there be an elected Peer, and that is what the Bill is about. That, in essence, is its purpose. My noble friend Lord Selsdon, even if I disagree with him and will be obliged to vote against him, is absolutely right to point that out.
No one who honestly believes in an appointed House could oppose my noble friends amendment. How could they vote against what they believe in? The result, if he presses it to a Division, will be a most important test of the views of this House. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, said, there is some confusion as to what we should do next, voting against my noble friend and ensuring that his amendment is not carried would mean that the House was not in favour of an
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Your Lordships have had barely more notice of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, than they have had of the amendment of my noble friend. If a Division on this amendment is not a fair test of the opinion of the House as it is today, then neither is any Division that may follow on any other amendment. The amendment says,
Lord Higgins: It is absolutely clear, as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, has made apparent, that this Bill has nothing to do with whether we have an elected House or an appointed House. To suggest that one was voting on this amendment to indicate that is absurd. It is absolutely clear that this Bill is not concerned with that issue and a vote on this amendment would not indicate in any way how one stands on the wider issue of an elected or appointed House.
Lord Strathclyde: I do not follow my noble friend at all on that argument. We are not being given a choice between an elected and an appointed House. We are being given an opportunity to vote on whether or not there should be an appointed House.
Lord Norton of Louth: I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend but that is clearly not the point. We are not being given a choice on whether to vote for an appointed House or an elected House. The amendment has to do with the purpose of the Bill before us. The amendment is to add a purpose clause and we will vote on the purpose of the Bill not on whether we should have an appointed or an elected House. That is a debate for another day completely.
Lord Strathclyde: My noble friend should not worry. We will be returning to that debate many times in the months and years ahead. I hope that my noble friend recognises that, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Steel, I am very happy to answer the questions and queries that are put to me not just from the Back Benches but from all around the Chamber. It may not suit my noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Steel, or other promoters of their purpose clause to follow the route of my noble friend Lord Selsdon. I was happy to see his amendment because it gives me an opportunity to vote against an all-appointed House. I cannot be clearer than that. It strikes me as being a simple proposition.
Lord Grocott: The noble Lord has been tempting us to rise, which I have tried to resist, but I have now found that impossible. I do not want him to rush to a conclusion but as he has been so keen on complete frankness from everyone else, can we have clarity from
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The noble Lord has reminded me that I gave a commitment to the noble Baroness and one or two others that I would respond to the question on a timetable. Let me begin by saying that the time has come for this House and another place to debate the White Paper which was published more than a year ago. The important aspect of that White Paper is that it was published with the broad agreement of all the political parties. Although the Convenor of the Cross Benches and perhaps the Bishop would not have agreed with every aspect of it, they were part of the process that created it, so we should have an early opportunity to debate it.
Lord Strathclyde: For the past two weeks, and on many occasions, I have come to the House to debate its future. I have not, until today, proposed any amendments, I have not proposed any debate and I have not proposed any new legislation. All I have done is react to suggestions by other people. It must be our absolute right in a great debating Chamber to discuss these issues. All I have just said is that, given that the Government proposed that there should be a consensual discussion leading to a White Paper, Parliament should debate it.
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