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I move on to Part 3 relating to the alternative vote. I certainly do not have time to enter into the expert argument about AV compared to other systems. I enjoyed very much the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, but was a little worried by what it is that he lives for. I hope that there are other things in his life that give him as much pleasure as winning by two votes. His expertise obviously shines through in any discussion on this. There can be no reason at all why there should not be a referendum and, obviously, that is what we propose in the Bill. We, too, would very much like it to become law.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: Would the noble Lord, Lord Bach, not agree that, in the light of what has been said-not least by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker-there is a strong case to be made for having more than two options on the referendum paper? Having just two options would seem to close us in in a way that several speakers have said would be undesirable.

Lord Bach: I would like to agree with the right reverend Prelate, but for me, at least, and, I should have thought for many Members of another place and many noble Lords, the idea that there should not be one Member of Parliament for one constituency makes the issue very difficult indeed. That is absolutely the primary reason. Having multi-constituency MPs would indeed be of great concern to the Government. It is an important principle.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: Does the Minister not recognise that the proposal of the Jenkins commission accepted the argument for having single-Member constituencies? That is why it proposed AV+, which would involve additional Members to ensure proportionality.

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Lord Bach: I think that it is the issue of additional Members that caused the Government some problem with that. All those who serve in the House of Commons should represent a particular constituency. I do not want to get into this argument tonight. I know that there are strong feelings on all sides.

Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I do not quite understand the argument. The Minister seems to be saying that there should be a referendum and that people should be asked about AV because the Government approve of it but that they cannot be asked about other systems because the Government do not approve of them.

Lord Bach: Most Members of Parliament, even on the noble Lord's side, would agree that we break with great difficulty the principle of one Member in one constituency.

On the House of Lords, the issue is pretty stark. I was most impressed by the noble Lords elected as hereditary Peers, two of them on the Cross Benches, who seemed to see the sense in what we propose in getting rid of the hereditary by-elections. I know that there are strong views on the other side, but we think strongly that the time has come to end the farce of these elections. Noble Lords may remember a few years ago when we had a vote on our side for a hereditary Peer. There were 11 candidates-surprisingly few by the standards of all those who could have stood. The electorate numbered three. Do I really need to say more about what frankly now looks an absurd system?

The other parts of the Bill on the House of Lords seemed to get fairly general support. On whether there should be an ability to retire rather than resign, we are concerned about what the difference would be between the two. I suspect that, if both words were used, a resignation would be looked at in a slightly different light. No doubt we can discuss that issue in another context, too.

Noble Lords asked whether the measures in the CRAG Bill are designed to allow-

Lord Denham: Before the noble Lord leaves Part 5, I believed that the whole package offered by the Government to hereditary Peers would be honoured until the final and definitive stage of reform had taken place. Where did I go wrong?

Lord Bach: Undoubtedly, the noble Lord and others feel strongly about this matter. We are now 10 years down the line. For 10 years, these by-elections have taken place.

Lord Denham: The whole point is that this was a promise given by the Government that caused me to vote for getting the Bill through quickly, which I would not otherwise have done. The Government are reneging on that promise. I cannot understand how they can do that.

Lord Bach: The answer that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, gave to this question a bit earlier-

Lord Denham: I am not interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said. I would like an answer from the Government.

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Lord Bach: You are about to get one if you will be patient. The answer is the same as that given by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. The changes to be made to the House of Lords, some of them in this Bill, represent a change from the position as it was after the Act was passed in 1999. I am amazed that the Conservatives are going to go into the general election on the basis that hereditary by-elections should be part of their manifesto.

The Earl of Onslow: Constitutional anomalies such as me, one of the few elected Peers in this House, are here to remind people of our idiocy so that they will go for an elected House rather than an all-appointed House. That is the point of us. I will vote for an elected House and not for an all-appointed House.

Lord Bach: The noble Earl has reminded me yet again tonight why he is here-I will not use his phrase. That is why we will have in our manifesto a commitment to an elected House of Lords as quickly as possible.

I must move on. I should say something about the tax status of MPs and Members of the House of Lords. That subject has hardly been mentioned at all during the debate, which I presume means that the measures have pretty wide support. Again, it is an example of cross-party support for the Bill that somehow has not come out enough during the discussions.

I know that there are issues concerning public order. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, as always, made a powerful speech, and it was a subject on which the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, concentrated. He said that it is wrong that the specification of the requirements that must be met in relation to access to and from Parliament should be left to secondary legislation. The power for the Secretary of State is strictly limited; it relates only to specifying requirements for access to and from Parliament. Secondary legislation here allows those requirements to be set out clearly and flexibly-for example, regarding what would happen if an entrance were closed for repair. The draft order is, in fact, in the Library. The Delegated Powers Committee has recommended enhancing scrutiny and making the order affirmative. The Government are happy to accept that recommendation, which I hope goes some way towards meeting the noble Lord's point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, argued that the area around Parliament is too large. Directions within this area are limited. They relate only to the requirement to maintain access to and from Parliament. The 300-metre area is required mostly to secure vehicular access. We consulted the House authorities and the police on the size of the area. The provisions in the Bill are different from those in the SOCPA. They do not require prior consent for protests.

Other matters in the Bill were discussed, not least the Dacre report. Various comments were made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The speech of my noble friend Lord Berkeley concerned one aspect of the review. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked why the change was being phased in gradually and wondered why it could not be done straight away. She asked whether we were covering our backs. The Dacre review recommended a phased approach to a reduction in the 30-year rule.

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Current estimates suggest that in central government alone departments hold at least 2 million files between 20 and 30 years old. I was asked about consultation on the transitional order. We will be working closely with central government and the wider archive sector to ensure that the transition to the new rule can be achieved in a fair and transparent manner.

The issue concerning the Royal Family was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. This matter relates to the monarch herself and the next two in line to the throne. Just as it is a sovereign's right and duty to counsel, encourage and warn her Government, it is also the right and duty of the heir to the throne to be instructed in the business of government to prepare him for the time when he will be king. Both these sets of rights and duties rely on well established conventions of confidentiality that were never meant to be superseded by the Freedom of Information Act. Therefore, we think that we have approached this part of the Dacre review in the right manner.

I return briefly to the Constitution Committee. Its criticisms were stark and have been mentioned by many in the House this evening. I remind members of that committee and other noble Lords that this draft Bill was subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. Not all of it was subject to such scrutiny because some of it has been added since, not least at the invitation of the opposition parties. The draft Bill was included in the draft legislative programme, which is a public consultation programme, and it was preceded, as I said earlier, by 18 publications and consultation. I think that the fact that the Bill enjoys a lot of cross-party support is important. Many aspects of it have been endorsed by Select Committees. It should be noted that the Bill was amended by the Government but also by the Opposition and Back-Benchers in another place.

The other place did not have a vote at Second Reading or at Third Reading. Anyone who knows anything about the other place knows that that normally happens on a Bill that is fairly consensual. I know it does not take away from the need to scrutinise a Bill of this kind-indeed, of any kind-carefully. That is an important role of this House. I accept that, but to pretend that this Bill has just come from nowhere and has suddenly been plumped in front of the Constitution Committee and the House is not reality. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, made that point in his speech.

I hope that large parts of the Bill can become law, because they are cross-party and are agreed by many people to be essential-

Lord Norton of Louth: The Minister has not addressed the point about why it took a year for the Government to respond to the Joint Committee and introduce the Bill.

Lord Bach: Let me be frank with the noble Lord. He has more knowledge of government than I will ever have, and he will know better than most that sometimes within government it takes time to come to an agreement about what should or should not be in a Bill. Various departments have different views about it.

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Lord Norton of Louth: There was a draft Bill so the Government already knew what was in the Bill. Why did it take a year?

Lord Bach: The noble Lord should know that a draft Bill is not always the Bill that is finally produced. The workings of government are such that sometimes these things take longer than they should. I concede that, but for the noble Lord to get too high and mighty about that happening seems very strange, given his great knowledge of how our system works.

Lord Norton of Louth: It took a year and, as a result, this House is being denied the opportunity to subject the Bill to proper scrutiny.

Lord Bach: I think I have got the noble Lord's point. I am coming up to 30 minutes. The House has been very patient with me. I hope that large parts of the Bill will become law because I think that they are not contentious but will add value in a number of areas of our life. I ask all noble Lords to consider carefully when deciding what in the Bill they want to see become law. Nothing could be worse than the Bill and all the hard work that has been done, for example, on the Civil Service or on the ratification of treaties, disappearing because of what is undoubtedly thought to be justified criticism of the process of this Bill.

10.07 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood: I have a couple of minutes to reply on my amendment. The whole House should be indebted to the Minister for the patient way in which he sat through the whole of this afternoon and evening and responded generously to all the points that have been made.

I shall first deal with the part of Part 5 that deals with retirement. I was a bit concerned by the wind-up speech from the opposition Front Bench. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, made a slip of the tongue when she declared that Part 5 has no part in the Bill because, as the Minister said, that is totally contrary to what Mr Dominic Grieve said in the House of Commons on behalf of the Conservative Party, which appeared to be backed up by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, when he spoke at the beginning. I did not mention this in my opening speech, but I remind the House that in the Commons an amendment was tabled that provided that the retirement provision should include a reference to a five-year delay before any Member retiring from the Lords could stand for election to the Commons. That was one of the many amendments that were not reached; however, it was spoken to by Dominic Grieve and implicitly endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and my noble friend Lord Goodhart. I hope that the Government will accept that amendment so that the Conservative Party will feel able to support the retirement provision.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, for whom I have enormous respect, that it really does not do to go back to the years when it was a largely hereditary House of 900 people who came in when they felt like it. The House has changed completely

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since then. We have all accepted appointments as life Peers. Under the Bill, we will be able to retire if we do not want to come any more, but basically we are expected to do a job of work. We expect to have some reasonable facilities in the Lords and to receive all the papers. All of that will continue for people who may want to retire and it is only right that that provision should be made.

Secondly, on the question of hereditary by-elections, I have come to the conclusion that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, and I are both right. I am correct that the by-election provision was not in the Bill when the undertaking was given, but he may well be right that it was implicit in what was going to happen when the legislation went through. I do not know-I was not party to those discussions-but I do remember that at the time when the hereditary Peers were being retained there was a thought that they might all be given life peerages. If that had happened, of course, there would have been no by-elections. The Government are not removing the hereditary Peers but, as the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, and other hereditary Peers have said, we have now moved way beyond the time when it was considered necessary to keep the by-elections going. They are now in their 10th or 11th year and they really are not sustainable. For that reason, it is right that they should go.

My last point is on the statutory Appointments Commission. The Minister gave me exactly the reply that I anticipated, word for word. The noble Lord, Lord Lea, was right to ask when we are going to see an elected Chamber; with the best will in the world, it will

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not be for many years. I noticed that every Member who spoke on the subject of the statutory commission supported it. We have had 100 per cent support for this provision and it is a great pity that it is not in the Bill.

I now come to the question of whether we should have a vote on this. My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury keeps passing me notes saying that if we press it to a vote we will win. I should point out to him, rather rudely, that just because he has not been here for four years there is no reason why I should provide him with exercise. To be realistic, the section on the Appointments Commission as drafted in the Bill presented by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, and me, contained nine clauses. If this was a normal Bill going through to a normal Committee stage, I would be tempted to press the amendment to a Division. However, it will be in the wash-up-and we cannot seriously expect nine new clauses to be entered into the Bill in the course of wash-up. It would be pointless.

We have made our point. The Government have heard what the House has said. It is quite clear that we wish to have a statutory Appointments Commission. I hope that in the next Parliament we will get one. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the Motion withdrawn.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at 10.14 pm.

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