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Lord McNally: These are matters of political judgment. The twin objectives of the coalition are to bring greater fairness to our electoral system and equality of weight to each vote. At the same time, we would wish to go
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Lord Rennard: My Lords, does the Minister accept that special provision for island communities would need to be made in the guidelines given to the Boundary Commissions? Does he further accept that without special provisions, it would, for example, be very difficult for a single Member of Parliament to represent, say, a part of the Isle of Wight and a part of the mainland, or for a single Member of Parliament to represent the 20 populated islands in the Orkney and Shetland constituency, and the large geographic constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross?
Lord McNally: That is a fair point. The integrity of the Boundary Commissions and the way in which they go about their work have never been in doubt, thank goodness. Because this is constitutional legislation, it will be taken on the Floor of the House in the other place and we will have in this place experts such as the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, my noble friend and others who have great experience and will put their input into the deliberations as this legislation goes through.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, two weeks ago, when I asked a similar Question, the Minister was good enough to acknowledge that the Answer provided by his civil servants was wholly inadequate. He was also rather disappointed that the answer with which he attempted to improve the efforts of his civil servants was not that good either. Now that he has had a fortnight to think about how long he estimates the Boundary Commission will take bearing in mind that the last review took six years, and now that the finest brains of the civil servants in his department have been focused on this for the past couple of weeks, can he give any improvement on the wholly inadequate Answer that he gave me last time?
Lord McNally: I very much regret that the noble Lord has raised that. I was severely reprimanded by the department and it was a couple of days before any of the civil servants talked to me. As I said in answering this question, Ministers are taking advice on the detailed proposals and will bring forward legislation and a timetable as soon as possible.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, we are aware that there are a range of views on this subject. While the Government do not propose to change current summer time arrangements, we continue to listen to representations we receive and consider any evidence presented to us.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: I thank the Minister for that not terribly helpful reply. Repeating facts that have been known for many years, is she aware of research done at the University of Cambridge which suggests that moving forward one hour from GMT would be equivalent to taking 200,000 vehicles off the road? That cannot be something that can just be overlooked in a brief reply.
Baroness Wilcox: I am aware of the campaign and in particular the Elizabeth Garnsey report, to which my noble friend has referred. It is important to stress that evidence on this issue has not always pointed in the same direction. In particular, it is suggested that the change would save a significant amount of CO2 emissions. However, work undertaken in 2005 by the Building Research Establishment for Defra indicated that putting the clocks forward an additional hour in winter and summer would lead to a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions corresponding to around 1 per cent of total UK emissions.
Lord Rogan: Does the Minister agree that British business, especially manufacturing, would greatly benefit from the introduction of this time change by affording us at least two if not three extra hours in a trading day to communicate with our mainline European customers and suppliers?
Baroness Wilcox: I have been in this House a few years now and I have heard the arguments for and against doing this. Always we come back to the same thing: certain parts of the country would benefit while other parts certainly would not because the time zone would not be helpful to them. There would be an impact on the City, for example. As we are at the moment, the time works very well for us. We are there when Asia is online and we are still there when the United States starts trading. I am not sure that the arguments for and against are as clear as we would like them to be.
Baroness Wilcox: Yes. Evidence from the Department for Transport suggests that road casualties would be reduced, with a reduction in road deaths by around 80 per year and serious injuries by 212 per year out of a total of 3,000 and 28,000 respectively. Those are not enormous benefits, but benefits none the less.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: Does my noble friend recognise that the central European time zone extends very widely from Berlin to Madrid; that the People's Republic of China has one time zone that stretches from east to west in its entirety; that the people of Wales and Haverfordwest can live in a time zone stretching from Greenwich to Haverfordwest; and that it should not be impossible for us all to live in a time zone stretching from Greenwich to Oban?
Baroness Wilcox: That is very interesting and goes back to my original Answer, which I am afraid that I still have to give. While we do not propose to change our summer time arrangements at the moment, we continue to listen to representations and will consider any evidence presented to us, including what has just been said.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the answers she is giving are as disappointing as those which used to be given by Ministers in the previous Administration? The problem we had then was that this Question was being answered not by the Department for Transport, which has a concern for saving life, but by another government department. Could those two departments talk to each other and look at the evidence? The noble Baroness has referred to the lives that would be saved. I cannot believe, and surely she must accept this, that the saving of lives is not more important than any other consideration. The evidence is overwhelming in this area.
Baroness Wilcox: That is why we continue to look at these matters and consider the evidence that we have rather than the feelings that we have. The two departments talk to each other; they both briefed me today.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, following the point so well made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, does the Minister accept that it would protect jobs for Britain as a whole if we were in the same time zone as 374 million people in west and central Europe, who are our main trading partners, and not 15 million in Ireland and Portugal?
Baroness Wilcox: I am afraid we do not have evidence that agrees with that completely. If we did, we would act on it immediately and change the time zones. People have been trying to get this right for a very long time and we will continue to do so.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I declare an interest as deputy president of RoSPA. I congratulate the Minister on her brilliant start to handling a difficult departmental brief. She inherited this issue from her predecessor, who we knew under several titles, including Last of the Time Lords. Does she accept that there is now a feeling that the campaign for lighter evenings-the Lighter Later campaign-would cut energy costs, save lives, cut emissions and should now be carefully considered?
Baroness Wilcox: That is exactly what we are going to do. I have referred to the Lighter Later campaign and said that it has made a persuasive case for change on environmental, safety and well-being grounds, and we will consider all the evidence. I thank my noble friend for his kind remarks.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, the purpose of the report is to seek the agreement of the House to expediting the introduction of new Peers between now and the summer Recess. I hope the report, which was unanimously agreed by the committee, is self-explanatory. If agreed by the House, it will mean that from next Monday until the Recess up to three new Peers will be introduced on each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. This will be in addition to the introduction of up two new Peers on Wednesdays. On days when there are three introductions scheduled, the House will sit 15 minutes earlier than usual- that is to say, 2.15 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays and 10.45 am on Thursdays.
That, in the opinion of this House, the resolution of the House of 30 July 2002 (Financial Assistance to Opposition Parties) should have effect, in relation to the giving of financial assistance, with effect from 12 May 2010, as if-
Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, this is an important resolution. It is cloaked in technical terms and it affects the way in which opposition parties are funded in this House to help them perform their parliamentary duties. Sadly, no one would know that without recourse to Hansard and to the resolution of 2002 that the Government seek to amend. I regret that. Where public funds and parliamentary accountability are involved, the Government need to be more transparent.
I believe that the Motion before us is more than a tidying-up operation. Rightly, it recognises the changed fortunes of the Liberal Democrats; wrongly-unless I am corrected-it implies a severe cut in the distribution of Cranborne money to the opposition parties in this House by no less than 30 per cent. At the same time, it does less than justice to Cross-Benchers, whose independence will always disbar them from office and who operate on a shoestring.
The Cross-Benchers came late to the party when Cranborne money was distributed for the first time in 1997. They had to wait two years. By that time, the cake had been cut and they were handed the smallest slice-a meagre slice, some would say. Cross-Benchers received £10,000 out of a total allocation of £291,000. Our relative position has improved slightly, but it remains at a subsistence level. I am really quite shocked at the disproportionate way in which Cranborne money has been divided during the past 13 years. To some, the Cross-Bench share was almost a joke.
Last year, the Cross-Bench Convenor, the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, received the princely sum of £61,003-a substantial percentage increase, you might say, but that was only because the starting point was so low. Cross-Benchers had trailed so far behind they were almost out of sight.
The £60,000 a year allows our Convenor to employ one full-time and one part-time assistant to administer her office and respond to the needs of the 187 Cross-Bench Peers. She also represents us in consultations with the Government and other parties. She sits on some nine House committees. I pay tribute to her fortitude, but it is wrong that she should have to bear so heavy a burden without adequate support.
In contrast, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats last year shared the rest of the Cranborne money on a 2:1 ratio. In 12 months, they received £770,000. If that is not lop-sided, I do not know what is. Sinn Fein received more than the Cross-Benchers for its non-performance in the Commons. Despite the refusal of five Sinn Fein Members to take the oath of allegiance, Sinn Fein netted £96,000 to finance what the previous Government described as "representative
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Sadly, unless the Leader of the House enlightens us otherwise, this Motion makes matters worse. In the absence of further information, the Government appear intent on returning to the Treasury the funds previously allocated to the Liberal Democrats. If that is right, the total amount of Cranborne money available to the Opposition will be reduced by nearly a third, all without reference or explanation to this House.
A clever lawyer might argue that the Cross-Benchers are entitled to all the Cranborne money that went to the Liberal Democrats-not that I would think such thoughts, of course. But the pecking order set out in the resolution of 2002 is clear. Then, the Cross-Benchers were in third place; now, they are in second place. It is a position that the Government choose to ignore to save money and-who knows?-perhaps to reassure their junior partner that its entitlement to Cranborne money is secure if the coalition fails. I do not challenge Labour's entitlement to the £475,000 which the Conservatives received as the Official Opposition last year-that is, of course, on top of the salaries paid to their Leader and their Chief Whip. Nor do I begrudge Ministers the command of resources needed to formulate their policies, run their departments and present their case as persuasively as possible. I do, however, believe in fair play and hope that the Government do too.
As the House knows, we on these Benches belong to no party. We have no common platform or agreed policies, and no leader. We speak and vote according to judgment and conscience, without the discipline of Whips to guide us through the Lobbies, and we may be swept away if this House is replaced by an elected Chamber. However, while we are here Cross-Benchers will, I know, do their duty to Parliament and to the country. They need adequate resources to do so. We are not partisans but share the same principles and, I believe, perform a useful role.
These Benches do not need the hundreds of thousands of pounds that routinely go to opposition parties. Your Lordships may be surprised to know that during Labour's period of office, the Conservatives received over £4 million in Cranborne money, the Liberal Democrats £2 million and the Cross-Benchers £400,000. I was a Whip in Harold Wilson's Government when the first public funds were allocated to opposition parties in the Commons. The aim was to improve the parliamentary effectiveness of parties and groups not in government. I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will agree that the need to do so has not changed. He is long experienced in the travails of opposition, and I hope that he will review the allocation of Cranborne money in the light of my unashamed appeal for a better deal for these Benches. I do not seek generosity; I seek fairness. Fairness will do for me.
Viscount Tenby: My Lords, I support the powerful and persuasive words of my noble friend Lady Boothroyd. I promise not to detain the House for long. I have had
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My guess is that the reluctance to put us on a footing with other political groups is that to do so would somehow disturb the delicate framework of our independence and make us more like the other political parties. Yet to anyone who has studied the pattern of voting in recent years, as I have, those fears can be allayed. In over 25 years, I cannot recall an occasion when Cross-Benchers have voted as one and-believe me-a 50:50 breakdown, or near those figures, is all too common. This appears to be an open season for reviews. I suggest to the noble Lord the Leader of the House that, with his customary generosity of spirit and instinct for doing the right thing, he might set up such a review-it may be in conjunction with the usual channels-to look into this whole matter so that it can be addressed and so that we can look forward to a fairer deal.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, when I was charged with putting together the Northern Ireland Assembly I came to the other place and consulted with the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, who was extremely helpful and generous in her guidance. I also drew on the experience of Clerks, Attendants and the Members and procedures of your Lordships' House-particularly the respectful way in which Members treat with each other, because that seemed to me a very important aspect of parliamentary life.
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