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Secondly, as we have said, the Government have no mandate. They rest their authority not on a programme presented to the electors, but on something called a coalition agreement. The Liberal Democrats manifesto spoke of moderate financial cuts on Keynesian lines, not increasing VAT and making PR an essential precondition of Government. The Liberal Democrats also declared against an increase in tuition fees, on which, as we know, candidates made a pledge. The coalition agreement has imposed immediate swingeing cuts in public expenditure and the welfare state, raised VAT, offered an electoral proposal on AV-a policy of neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats-and raised tuition fees while cutting university spending by 80 per cent. That does not add to the credibility or the honour of the political process in this country or to the honour of the Mother of Parliaments.

Thirdly, I will refer to two other points that I do not think have been mentioned. The Ministers that Parliament confronts are not Ministers chosen by the Prime Minister and are not part of a familiar team who campaign in the country but the product of private manoeuvres between two sets of party managers. Ministers are chosen not necessarily for their experience or their suitability for office but because of the demands of the managers of the coalition. That is the kind of thing that has led to the disapprobation of Parliament in countries such as Italy.

Finally, it seems to me that civil servants now have a different kind of role. They serve not only the Cabinet but a coalition committee or committees that are designed not to govern the country but to maintain proper relationships between two parties with significantly different outlooks. One might also say that, within the two parties, there are different outlooks, given that the Liberal Democrats have, on the one hand, right-wing Liberal Democrats such as David Laws and Danny Alexander who are of the type that contributed to The Orange Book and, on the other, more traditional social democrats whose affinity is with the Labour Party.

The coalition has created great difficulties for Parliament. It has been harmful to democracy, it has no popular will behind its formation, and it has no obvious doctrine of collective responsibility to keep it together. The strange pattern that is being offered to the electorate is very similar to that of 1918-22, when there was no amalgamation of the parties at the grass roots and the Liberals and Conservatives who supported the coalition were, in a sense, in partnership and in rivalry at the same time, with very different rival interpretations of what might happen at the next general election. The coalition is a monument not to parliamentary sovereignty or popular sovereignty but to the connections of an ingrained political class. I

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once wrote of Gladstone as "the people's William"; I would now say to the people's Benjamin, "Come back, all is forgiven".

2.08 pm

Lord Owen: My Lords, the circumstances in which this Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition came into existence need to be recalled. It was against a very serious financial crisis, a large structural fiscal deficit and a feeling in the country that, as a result of the negotiations, we had to have a Government which would, first, carry conviction in international markets-their first challenge, which they met very successfully-and, secondly, start to deal with the structural fiscal deficit. They have started on that and I hope the jury is out, certainly among economists, as to whether they have moved too swiftly and too harshly or whether they have judged the situation correctly and that it will be proven in the next year or two.

So I think we can be generous to the coalition for its primary task, which was responding to the financial challenge facing the country. Where it seems to me that the coalition went wrong was in its private negotiations, and it is about the crux issues which we are facing. The House is now considering two Bills in this Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. One deals with changing the voting system and the other deals with changing the constituencies. Both are highly sensitive in politics, and we should recognise that because it is at the root of who wins the next general election. The other constitutional Bill, the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill, is crucial to it. It has not yet been debated in this House, but we need to understand that five years allows for the changes to the constituencies, and that is the essence of why five years has been chosen. Four years would have been running it very tight.

It is helpful and pleasing that the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in this House are here today. We all know that we are now into negotiations. I welcome those negotiations, and I must say that I am not shocked. I did not participate-I am too old to participate in all-night sittings-but I am a veteran of all-night sittings in the other place, and we all know perfectly well that it is when you go through the Lobbies at three or four o'clock in the morning that you start to question why you are there. We also know that it has often been the case that-as a result of using the power of delay, the strongest power in a democracy-negotiations are forced and common sense comes about. So I wake up each morning to wonder whether your Lordships are all sitting, and I was not sure that this debate would even take place. I am therefore not at all shocked by it, and I hope that wiser heads will prevail.

May I offer a few possible solutions? The previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is not often given enough credit for some of the things he has done. In the negotiations, he offered the Liberal Democrats a solution to their real problem, which is their aim to change the voting system. He offered them a three-option referendum: first past the post, the alternative vote-which his party at that time was keen on-and proportional representation. Effectively, as I understand it, if they

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had waited long enough to hear the detail of the negotiation, they could have chosen the system. They would presumably have made a choice between AV-plus-the recommendation of the Jenkins commission-and STV, which most of them preferred, but they may well have thought they had less chance of getting that through. It was a perfectly rational offer.

The other negotiation was over AV and first past the post. The mistake was to offer a referendum on this basis, because that is taking a party-political fix into a referendum. That is not legitimate. If you wish to have this issue resolved by referendum-which I personally think is good and right, as I do not think it should be forced by a party fix-then the people must be given a proper choice, and a proper choice should include the third option of proportional representation. It is a democratic disgrace that we in this House, it seems, are incapable of bringing this about. We already have had an amendment discussed. At the moment, the indications are there is no chance of getting this through this House, and I cannot understand why.

The best solution would be if the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister came to their senses and offered a proper referendum choice-a three-part choice. That is the democratic solution. If they do not do this, this House will then face another question: should we do what was done in 1978 and put in a threshold of legitimacy?

I looked up that famous debate when the House of Commons decided that there had to be a 40 per cent threshold for Scottish devolution. I am glad to say that I did not vote, so there is no embarrassment; however, there is no doubt that it was premature. I supported Scottish devolution-I am a long-standing supporter-but in 1979 it did not have the wholehearted consent of the British people, and certainly not in Scotland. In retrospect that extra 21 years after which there was the wholehearted consent of the Scottish people on the referendum was time well spent. We need to be very careful. It seems quite wrong to have a referendum limited to AV and first past the post and run the very distinct possibility of an extremely low poll because it has been forced through.

I then come to the second compromise area. Why are we forcing it through? There is going to be a five-year fixed-term and the Liberal Democrats in my view have made a historic misjudgment. They had the opportunity to demonstrate the coalition's worth to the people of this country. If they had only been careful and waited, say, three years, during which time they might have seen an economic recovery for which they would deservedly get benefit and three years of a successful coalition, and I think they would have won the referendum, even if just confined to AV. However, by insisting that it coincides with the May elections it is very likely to coincide with a period of massive unpopularity. The compromise will not change this, but the compromise would be to fix the date of the referendum by regulation in the legislation. Again, this is practical common sense. Who wants to fix a date for a referendum-which they want to win-effectively a year in advance, without any knowledge of what public opinion was likely to be? That was the fundamental mistake. I suspect the Conservative Party

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and the present Prime Minister gave the Deputy Prime Minister what he wanted and let him choose-it is his issue and the Prime Minister does not agree with it anyhow. This is the nub of the issue, although you may, in negotiations, deal with lots of other issues, and there comes the question for the future.

There is no doubt that pre-legislative committees have proved themselves. They ought to be mandatory on constitutional questions and I think the sooner we make that change the better. If we choose to use referendums-and to be honest, we choose to use them usually when it is a big issue and the parties are divided among themselves-it would be a very good thing to give the Electoral Commission a locus on the legitimacy of the question, not just on the wording. It is illegitimate to have a referendum that is not a fair choice of options for the British people.

Then we come to the whole question of how we handle the other various issues. We had three successive contributions from constitutionalists and historians, if I can put that way. The noble Lord, Lord Plant, very accurately said that the manifesto has become a quasi-contract. The noble Lord, Lord Norton, expressed his belief in the value of pre-legislative committees and the value of negotiations, which, all together, are crucial. We also heard from the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, about the history of the way coalitions work. We have a lot to learn about coalitions and need to pace ourselves. A coalition Government coming about in the circumstances of the present time need a little more modesty.

I end by asking if anyone thinks that the Health and Social Care Bill-two volumes, double the size of the Bill that brought in the National Health Service-is not, in the words of the head of the NHS Confederation, a revolution; or, in the words of the Conservative MP for Totnes, herself a GP, that the Government have not tossed a hand grenade into PCT-land. This, in my view, is a Bill that has no mandate and no possible area of support from the parties that are now forming a coalition. They should think about that as well.

2.19 pm

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, the coalition was formed of two parties, neither of which won the confidence of the people at the general election. The manifesto of neither party was endorsed. The coalition agreement is an important document, but it does not have the status of a manifesto and is not holy writ in that sense. In these political conditions, we would expect humility, even diffidence, on the part of the Government. Of course the country needs decisive and effective government-it always does-but it is reasonable to expect, as the people of this country do, that the approach of a coalition Government should be consultative and consensual.

I acknowledge that the country welcomed the coalition. There has been a great dislike of adversarial politics in the country and many people were delighted to see what they took to be an outbreak of courtesy and a new spirit of co-operation between political parties. The problem has been that that courtesy and co-operation have not been extended to the parties not in government.

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The magnanimity of the coalition parties appears to have been exhausted in five days of negotiation last May.

Of course, our constitutional tradition leads to an expectation that the Opposition in Parliament will challenge, interrogate and hold the Government to account. I am not arguing that in a hung Parliament there should be parliamentary ecumenism. However, given the vast powers that our system of the Executive in Parliament provides, there is also always a constitutional expectation that Governments will act with some self-restraint. Where there has been no electoral endorsement of a Government, it would be all the more proper for the coalition to act with restraint. It has a duty to govern, but it has no entitlement to implement a radical programme. As always, but more so, a coalition Government without an electoral mandate have a duty to consult and to proceed as far as possible by agreement.

So far from that, however, this coalition has the bit between its teeth and is driving a radical legislative programme through Parliament in a raging hurry. The coalition did not win, but it is taking all. It is immoderate. It is insisting on enacting policies that were not only not endorsed at the election but were not even exhibited to electors at the general election. Some policies, such as reform of the National Health Service, about which the noble Lord, Lord Owen, spoke, are doctrinaire and reckless. I agree with him that that policy is not legitimate. It is certainly not legitimate for the coalition to pursue this legislative programme given the background of the conditions in which it came into office. The reform was not even in the coalition agreement, the so-called Coalition Agreement for Stability and Reform. Where do we see the coalition's concern for stability?

It is interesting to contrast the approach of the coalition with the approach of the Obama Administration. The policies of President Obama were presented at length to voters across the United States during the presidential campaign and led to massive electoral endorsement. However, President Obama in office has proceeded consultatively; he has sought to build consensus; he has always been willing to compromise; and he has always been reasonable. In his remarkable speech in Tucson, he reproached the intransigents in modern politics. That is a speech that not only the Leader of the House but the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister would do well to read and reflect on.

Here, by contrast, the coalition received no electoral endorsement, but has it proceeded to build consensus or been willing to compromise? Where have been the Green Papers? What preliminary debate has it inaugurated before moving to implement policy? Where has been the pre-legislative consultation about which my noble friend Lord Hart of Chilton and a number of other noble Lords have spoken? For example, we are seeing the coalition exploit the constitution in their extreme and reckless approach to reducing the fiscal deficit. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, was overgenerous to the coalition on that score. To take public sector demand out of the economy on a substantial scale when one in five young people is unemployed and to remove the Future Jobs Fund, the policy intended to mitigate that disaster, is hardly likely to lead to appreciation of our

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parliamentary system or loyalty to the constitution among this generation of young people. No one disputes that the deficit needs to be reduced, but we are not seeing pragmatic policy on the economy within an intellectual consensus; we are seeing an ideological crusade against the state, dressed up in a spurious rationale of crisis and masquerading as fiscal responsibility.

The coalition is set to exploit its exceptional dominance of both Houses of Parliament to marginalise elective local government. Britain's excessively centralised government is to be made more centralist still. In the drive to see more free schools and academies created, elective local education authorities are to be swept aside, exacerbating a baleful tendency over recent decades to reduce the role of local government. The Localism Bill has very worrying implications for local democracy, that important part of our constitution. In higher education, we have seen the coalition take it upon itself to triple student fees, which of course has led to a stirring of national resentment, to extra-parliamentary resistance and to much damage to trust in politics and our constitutional processes.

We are seeing an abuse of the constitution. The doctrines of winner takes all and the omnicompetence of Parliament have always seemed to me to be dubious, but not only is what we are seeing improper constitutionally, but it is also foolish. Bold propositions on the part of the Government are fine, but crude imposition of policy is wrong and alienates the consent on which our system of parliamentary government is predicated. The coalition would be wiser to allow full public debate. In the process of that, it would be able to discern what is special pleading, what is merely defence of vested interests, what is timid orthodoxy and, on the other hand, where the genuine dangers lie. It would allow assent to grow where its propositions proved genuinely persuasive. But that is not the character of this coalition.

The implications of coalition parliamentary government in our time may be disastrous. We are seeing a torrent of constitutional legislation, unheralded, unauthorised by the people at the election and timetabled so that scrutiny in the House of Commons is cursory and scrutiny in the House of Lords is under severe threat. The constitution is not a toy to be played with by the Liberal Democrats while the Conservatives gratify themselves in other policy areas.

The problem is being seen particularly vividly, as many noble Lords have noted, in your Lordships' House at the moment. The struggle over the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill is a struggle over the future of your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber. Our present difficulty derives not only from the lack of trust between the coalition parties, as my noble friend Lord Wills suggested, but also from the arrival of the coalition with an effective majority of the coalition parties over the Labour opposition party in this House. What has differentiated the House of Lords from the House of Commons in the past, until the arrival of the coalition, is that, since no one party had a majority over the others in this House, the Government have always had to win the argument. But now the Government fancy that they can bulldoze this House as they can bulldoze the other place. This

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House will not willingly be crushed. The House of Commons, as the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, suggested, emasculated itself some years ago in agreeing to timetable all legislation. But when this House, too, can be browbeaten by the Executive, nothing stands in the way of the narcissism and shallowness of Ministers. They feel no need to respond to reasoned argument and to the knowledge and the experience of Members of your Lordships' House. They will not negotiate; they will not agree that their legislation should be amended. I hope that the Leader of the House will heed the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, about negotiation.

Referendums are a threat to parliamentary government. Why are we having a referendum on the alternative vote? I personally believe that it is right that major constitutional issues should be put to the people in a referendum because it is their constitution, but we are having this referendum to prop up the coalition. The Liberal Democrats wanted electoral reform; the Conservatives did not. The coalition's solution is to have a referendum. There will be no accountability of Ministers to Parliament in this situation. The legislative decision will be made directly by the people. So, as the price of coalition, populism replaces parliamentary sovereignty.

With the falling away of support for the two main parties, we are led to expect that we shall see more coalitions. Therefore, there will be more pressures from minority parties to be bought and appeased. Shall we in the future, for example, see referendums to satisfy UKIP or the Greens as potential coalition parties? Coalition in modern conditions risks being the death knell of parliamentary government in any worthwhile sense.

2.30 pm

Lord Clinton-Davis: I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Symons for making a masterful contribution to this significant debate. The noble Lord, Lord Morgan, treated the House to a relevant review of the past, demonstrating how that departed from the present and illustrating how the two parties in the present coalition Government behaved in the recent general election. In so doing he has demonstrated how relevant that proposition was.

So far, this coalition Government have made a deliberate attempt to truncate debate, a tactic which-

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Clinton-Davis: Why do you laugh? It is absolutely true. I submit that their tactic has brought this House into disrepute, and I hope it will fail. The situation is not helped by the belligerent attitude of some Conservative and some Liberal Democrat Peers. We were shown today by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, whom I normally hold in high repute, how intolerant he could be. I do not think that he has served the House well.

The Opposition in this House have a very clear duty and I hope that they will not be deflected from it. Their duty is to scrutinise carefully all legislative proposals. No such proposals have ever been incapable of

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improvement, and that requires constructive dialogue. It takes two to do it but there are too many in this coalition Government who seek to prevent any constructive dialogue taking place.

I had some experience as a Minister and a European Commissioner, but never did I consider that it was my job to ride roughshod over my opposite number or over those who disliked the Commission. Indeed, I sought, not always successfully, to co-operate with them and to improve the consensus, an ambition which we often shared. That is no longer so.

Ill-tempered lectures from the Deputy Prime Minister serve no useful purpose; indeed, he should be trying to bring people together rather than dividing them. That is what he should have attempted to do instead of sowing dissension. The same is true of tuition fees, of the so-called reform of the National Health Service and of the Bills that affect the stability of this House. There are other examples, but as far as concerns those three things, we should be especially careful. My noble friend Lady Symons cited in her remarkable speech several examples that should be followed. This Conservative-led coalition closes its ears because it chooses to do so. It prefers to throw ideas into the air and hope that they will survive. There is no attempt, even when major constitutional proposals are broached, to reach any agreement with the opposition Front Bench.

Of course there is time to change course, and to advance a reasonable exchange of ideas rather than continuing on the disastrous course of imposing Bills that reflect only one point of view, especially when there has been no pre-legislative scrutiny. We should remember that millions of our people, young and old alike, will be affected. My noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport referred to the plight of young people. An increasing number of them will not put up with what they are subjected to at present. They must be heard. I fear that their anger will spill over, leading to further protests and agitation, and threatening the security, stability and cohesion of our nation. Of course change has to take place-it is not too late-but this approach demands an exchange of views and a willingness to hear as well as to speak.

2.37 pm

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for her truly outstanding speech at the beginning of this debate, and for initiating and launching a debate on this crucial subject at this stage. It is helping the House to think ahead and, I hope, to come to rational conclusions. She and I have been colleagues in the European-Atlantic Group for some time, and it has been a pleasure to see how other countries have conducted their own constitutional relationships, and to take the good examples from some while avoiding the bad examples from others.

This is a difficult time, as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davies, said. It is a time when this House should come together. However, I appreciate that that sounds pompous from someone who has been here only since 2004. One needs to be here a long time to understand the amazing subtleties of the House of

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Lords, which are much more considerable and tangible-occasionally you can get hold of them-than those of the House of Commons, where I was 27 years. I was sad to be defeated at the 1997 election and subsequently changed parties, as small numbers of people in our system have done, with justification. I did not feel that I had changed my basic ideas about the political priorities of our programme formations, in the old days and perhaps in the future, because I had a set of beliefs.

The cruelties and barbarities of the House of Commons affected all of us Members over a long period. Although the times were interesting and amusing, and provided a great political game and an excitement that is unforgettable, it was a tremendous relief and honour to come to this place and find the rational parliamentary Chamber par excellence-the kind of thing that, surprisingly, one still finds in the lower House equivalents in other countries, where they have regular coalition politics and regard it as a good rather than a bad thing. That is why I was very excited when the new coalition started. I thought that it was a great opportunity for this country to have, as Nick Clegg said, new politics. I am afraid that, having said that, he slipped rather rapidly back into the old politics when he and others immediately criticised the Labour Government for having left an economic and financial mess.

Leaving some of the detail at the margin outside that argument, my impression was that the Gordon Brown Government had been praised by the famous international institutions governing these matters for having dealt with the financial and economic crisis-the world crisis, not the British crisis-very successfully. I do not think that one loses any political power by saying that if you are a member and representative of another party. That is what I think the public prefer in this country. They still do not like the old yah-boo politics and the artificial adversarial struggle. Therefore, I believe that the public, too, in this country were very excited about the formation of the new coalition.

One can understand that inevitably mistakes will arise, and I make no criticism at all of colleagues in my own party and those in the Conservative Party who were involved in these very difficult processes, which were all done at great speed, as they apparently had to be under our system. However, I am not sure that I agree with that. I rather like the idea of careful coalition formations-giving information not only before an election but also afterwards if complicated and difficult negotiations are needed on certain problematical high-profile and leading areas of policy formation. Therefore, it was a great opportunity for this country to get away from the old yah-boo politics-the stuff that made visitors to the House of Commons go tense when they heard the shouting. By the way, they still do that at Prime Minister's Question Time. It is a great spectacle but it is also very depressing for all observers, including politicians.

When mistakes were made, they were natural mistakes made by new colleagues forming the coalition Government. They did so with great excitement, and I can understand that too. I can understand Cameron being literally quite desperate to be in power after

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spending so many years rescuing a party which a few years ago was regarded as totally written off. The change came remarkably quickly under his skilful leadership. Equally, I can understand Nick Clegg being absolutely desperate-I use that word in praise, not in criticism-to become Deputy Prime Minister and to bring his party into government for the first time after so many years that, due to senescence and the passing of the years, many Liberals and Liberal Democrats cannot remember the last time. It was therefore a great opportunity and there was a lot to be done.

The difficulty arose in putting the coalition agreement into such a complicated and extensive framework, with far too much detail and too many offerings of what was going to be presented by way of legislation, first in the Commons and then here, with one or two Bills starting here and then going to the Commons. This being a rational, sensible and pragmatic Chamber, where tolerance of other people's views is much higher than in the House of Commons, means that we have to pay attention to the details of these matters. The ironical mistake that has come out of this accidentally-it was no one's fault; it has just happened because it was all new territory and no one knew how it was going to work out-is that the provocative nature of some of the contents of some Bills has now inevitably meant that, once again, the new politics have been replaced by the old. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, mentioned the Health and Social Care Bill, which is now being promulgated, and it is certainly a Bill that we will have to look at very carefully.

Voltaire, when talking about political action and political legislation in any country, always made a distinction between superstition, as he called it, and philosophy-or perhaps we would say superstition and wisdom. When Bills are based on superstition and ideology, you may be heading for trouble if you have a guaranteed majority and can ride roughshod over everyone else because of the numbers game involved in a coalition. Incidentally, on our side we need to remember that there is no weakness in that. Labour had 29 per cent of the vote, whereas we had 23 per cent. There is no harm in remembering that and bearing in mind that the party which was recently in government and is now in opposition also has some ideas about what this country needs to do to get out of its difficulties. Youth unemployment is probably one of the most serious ones, and on that, I am sure, we need consensus.

Therefore, superstition in Bills needs to be replaced by wisdom in other Bills, but that will come from realising the mistakes that have been made unwittingly by the people who form the coalition Government. Therefore, I believe that it is right to carry on supporting this coalition and I do so very strongly. I think that I have voted with it on all occasions with the possible exception of one vote on student fees. Incidentally, that, too, is a matter that needs very sober reflection. If a Government-even a single-party Government, let alone a coalition one-have civic disorder and rioting several months after their formation, they have to pause for thought about the background to that civil disorder and the riots and so on. You cannot just brush it aside and say, "There are troublemakers in society. We will go on with what we are planning".

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You have to think again. That happened with Mrs Thatcher on the poll tax as well, when my friends in Paris phoned me up in amazement and said, "You must be making this up. The British papers are talking about the poll tax-the capitation-which is one of the 10 things that caused the French Revolution". Look what happened in those days too.

We need to return now to the new politics that we promised-David Cameron used a similar phrase; the involvement of civic society in these processes is also of crucial importance-and produce absolutely first-class legislation from now on. The main opportunity, unfortunately, will take some time to come, because it will be from the next Queen's Speech onwards, which I assume will be in October or November 2012. That is the chance for the coalition Government-who, as we discussed, will continue the distance, because they have a guaranteed majority effective in both Houses. The Government must then produce a list of measures to restore the confidence of the public. There is a lot of work to be done in the mean time, including, I hope, winning the AV referendum.

The old politics must go. There are too many Bills whenever a new Government come into power, but there is not enough thought about them, with the Whips saying that passage is automatic. There is the testosterone that comes out of the mostly male leaders saying, "We will make no concessions or changes at all to this wonderful Bill. It is written down so you cannot change it at all". There needs to be much more pre-legislative scrutiny with careful examination. The committees of this House are excellent in that field and need to be used more and more. Life is too complicated, so bring out the simplicity in Bills. Do not make them long just because it makes them look more impressive. I have great concerns that if that attitude does not change and if we do not make sure that we genuinely embrace the new politics, there will be continuous trouble-indeed, even disorder-in our society.

2.47 pm

Lord Desai: My Lords, at the outset I thank my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean for introducing this very timely debate. Our difficulties are partly systemic and partly contingent. We are in danger of raising the contingent difficulties to be systemic, while the systemic ones we may just ignore. Let me explain. We have a coalition-yes, there were coalitions in the past, but this one seems to be rather a novel experience-and because our constitution, at least at Westminster level, is majoritarian, there is an assumption by an incoming Government who command a majority, whether that Government are of one party or two, that they get their legislation through, as the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said. That is an assumption on which the system is based.

In the devolved constitutions, we have overcome the majoritarian bias and deliberately encouraged what are called consociational arrangements, whereby parties co-operate and work out a compromise. However, in Westminster we have that majoritarian bias in the constitution. It is not true, as many of my noble friends have said, that this is the first experience of a

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built-in majority in your Lordships' House. I arrived here in 1991. At that time, there was a built-in Conservative majority no matter who was in power, which is how we got the Salisbury/Addison convention. After 1999, when an arrangement was made whereby no single party would have a majority, the Salisbury convention should have been given its day off. Since then, it has not been relevant.

A related difficulty with the Salisbury convention also arises from the majoritarian nature of the constitution: that, as my noble friend Lord Plant said, manifestos have acquired the sacred status of an implicit contract. If we have a coalition Government who do not have a manifesto, we begin to question whether the Salisbury convention can be applied even after 1999. One of the contingent difficulties of this coalition is that the coalition agreement is much more rigid than a party's manifesto. I did not go to many Labour Party conferences, but every Labour Party conference was a discussion about how the Government in power had betrayed the manifesto. Now the coalition has decided that this is the coalition agreement and that it will not be deviated from by an inch. The present difficulty that we face in your Lordships' House about this Parliament et cetera Bill is that the Government have no room for compromise. In their coalition agreement, they left no room for manoeuvre. Having left no room for manoeuvre, no matter how long the minority may talk its head off, the Government will not concede. That is our dilemma.

I agree the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that there is a minority rampant in power. If only. The minority has no weapon in our system other than time and delay. In the Indian Parliament, there is also a coalition, and the Opposition have been so frustrated by not getting their way that they have stopped the Parliament working at all. Every day, it is disrupted. In the entire winter Session of Parliament, not a day's business was done. It was the only way in which the Opposition could prove their power. If the Parliament met, the government majority would defeat any proposition by the Opposition. We are not in that bad a situation, but one has to recognise that here is a coalition agreement, not a manifesto that a party has some control over, that is like a prenuptial agreement, and people are afraid of deviating from it.

In all the time I have been in your Lordships' House, and before that, we have relied on an implicit code of conduct and rules that are written down but very seldom invoked. In this House, we have had, at least since 1997, and even more since 2010, a big influx of people who have not really absorbed the behaviour and rules of your Lordships' House because you do not learn what they are until you have been here observing them for five or six years. No one actually tells you, and reading the Companion is like reading anything else; it does not tell you how to do things. We currently have the contingent difficulty of a Government who, on principle, have to be inflexible, an Opposition who are very frustrated that they are not being allowed to follow the ordinary procedures of negotiation, and a third of or half the membership of this place who have not, in terms of age in the House of Lords, even reached their teens. We therefore have this problem.



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One of the things we will have to do is re-examine our Companion. I had the privilege of twice being on your Lordships' House's committee on the speakership, and throughout those negotiations, when we installed an elected Speaker the greatest care was taken not to give any power to the Lord Speaker and not to deviate at all from the convention that your Lordships' House is a self-governing entity. That is what we are about to lose, because if this sort of stalemate continues-and this Bill is just a beginning as there are three more constitutional Bills to come, and a health Bill-we will face the problem of the Government having a radical, revolutionary Maoist tendency and being in a great hurry, and I do not blame them. They consist of a party that has been out of power for 13 years and another that has been out of power for 50 or 60 years, so they are in a great hurry. They may not last, so they want to get a lot done.

If those Bills come through, the strain on the Companion will be great. We should have a commission on the constitution, to which my noble friend Lord Wills referred, or a meeting of the men and women in grey suits, or whatever they are called, to discuss how in the next two or three years we will manage your Lordships' House and get good work done.

I know why we are behaving how we are. I also know that noble Lords opposite do not like the way in which we are behaving because they think that it is unreasonable, but we are in new times. A number of new things are happening. We need to understand our mutual problems. Away from the Floor of the House, there should be talk about how we can do better business on the Floor of your Lordships' House. If we do not do that, we will be in a stalemate day after day. Even the newspapers will get tired of taking photographs of your Lordships half asleep at 3 am.

This may be a coalition Government, but who knows whether there will be more? Imagine how much worse the situation would have been if there had been a grand coalition, German style, of Labour and Conservative Members. What would the situation of the Liberal Democrats have been? What would they have done? They would have had to go on hunger strike on the Floor of the House to get their voice heard. We have to be prepared for those things. To use a cliché, we must think outside the box. We still have a lot of good will in your Lordships' House on which we should capitalise to make things better than they are.

2.57 pm

Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this fascinating subject. There was a time when she and I were sparring partners in other capacities. I was Cabinet Secretary and she was general secretary of the First Division Association, and I had responsibility for recording the conventions and rules, political and constitutional. My responsibility was for recording them, not for framing them.

It is not the job of the Cabinet Secretary to make rules, except perhaps for the Civil Service. Rules are made either by Parliament through statute-for example, the statutes governing the length of a Parliament or the number of paid Ministers-or by the Government

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themselves, as in the Ministerial Code. Rules that the Government make for themselves, the Government or a successor can change.

As others have noted, the present Cabinet Secretary has brought together the rules and conventions by which the Executive operates in the draft Cabinet manual. This seems to be a really useful exercise, which, in my view, has been well done. I have some suggestions to make about its content to which I will return. But we should be clear; it is not the creation of the coalition which has made it necessary to produce the manual. The two events are coincidental, although usefully so. The Cabinet manual was in preparation anyway, based on a similar document produced in New Zealand.

I want to say something on three aspects of the political and constitutional implications of the coalition; that is, the implications for the operations of government, the implications for the Civil Service and the implications for the Salisbury/Addison convention in the House of Lords. As regards the operations of government, there is a lot of evidence, not least from the Prime Minister's speech on public services earlier this week, that announcements of government policies are now preceded by serious discussions and debate in the Cabinet. As a believer, like my noble friend Lord Hennessey, in the idea that well informed debate produces better policy decisions, I welcome that. A coalition was not essential for restoring Cabinet government but if, as it seems, it has had that result, long may it continue.

As regards the Civil Service, it has been suggested-the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, was saying this-that there are difficulties for an apolitical Civil Service in serving a Government composed of two political parties. I do not agree with that. The role of the Civil Service is to serve the government of the day. As the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, said, all Governments are coalitions of people with different shades of opinion-often quite widely differing shades of opinion, even when they are drawn from the same party. The Civil Service is used to reconciling loyalty to their departmental Minister with loyalty to the Government as a whole. An apolitical Civil Service can be seen as the cement which helps to hold the Queen's Government together. That is why I have always taken the view that a single Civil Service should serve the Government as a whole and the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

In that context, like other Members of your Lordships' House, I will say a word on the position we have got into on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. The implications for Parliament, and for your Lordships' House in particular, have been said to be that since the coalition Government agreement was not in front of the electorate at the time of the general election, it is not covered by the Salisbury/Addison convention. That is strictly correct. Like the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, however, I doubt whether that has much practical effect. The Salisbury/Addison convention says that a "manifesto Bill" should be accorded a Second Reading in your Lordships' House, should not be subject to "wrecking amendments" and should be passed and sent, or returned, to the Commons so that they have an opportunity to consider the Bill and any Lords amendments. As the noble

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Lord, Lord Wakeham, said, that is not so different from what your Lordships' House would do to any Bill presented by the Executive. It is always right for this House to give weight to the perceived wishes of the elected House.

It seems to me that your Lordships should carry out a similar exercise of judgment in relation to the contents of the coalition agreement. In that context, like many other Members of your Lordships' House, I greatly regret the war of attrition that has been going on in the House of Lords this week. I strongly support the role of the Lords as a revising Chamber, in causing the Government to think again, particularly about constitutional Bills and particularly about provisions that may have been forced through the House of Commons without proper debate. However, that should not extend to preventing the Government from passing their legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, referred-I think I quote him correctly-to a "torrent" of constitutional legislation. There was a pretty good torrent of constitutional legislation in the first year of the new Labour Government in 1997. Indeed, it would be a useful antidote to some of the things that have been said today if your Lordships were to read some of the records of the first year of that Government.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, that this is a time for reasonable behaviour rather than pointing fingers. I confine myself to saying that, like the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, is correct in attributing the present situation to the fact of the coalition. Although the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, about the nature of the politics of the coalition have obvious weight, a similar situation could have arisen if the Conservatives had introduced the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill as a single-party Government. I do not think that this is attributable wholly to the fact of the coalition.

I return to the Cabinet manual. My noble friend Lord Hennessy suggested that two items that might be added to the manual are an up-to-date formulation of the Salisbury/Addison convention and an up-to-date statement of the convention of what constitutes a money Bill. It is not often that I disagree with my noble friend but I rather question these; they are two matters on which Parliament should take the initiative, rather than the Executive. The manual could properly record what Parliament has decided, but it is not for the Executive to take the decision.

What I would like to see added to the manual, however-this is another matter that some noble Lords have referred to-is some rules that the Executive might impose on themselves to improve the quality of the legislation that they present to Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, made this point powerfully. The Government might commit themselves to a clear statement of the policy intentions of legislation introduced and why legislation is necessary to achieve those intentions, as well as adequate time for public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny wherever possible. That is a theme that has run through many contributions to the debate. Such a statement could include an estimate of the costs of implementing legislation, including a

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regulatory impact assessment and an indication of targets and performance measures against which the effectiveness of legislation can be measured in post-legislative scrutiny. In my evidence to the Constitution Committee of this House, I shall be making representations that the coalition should adopt such standards and include them in the Cabinet manual.

Lord Howarth of Newport: Before the noble Lord sits down, if the House will allow me, he referred to a torrent of constitutional legislation in the early years of the Labour Government. Will he accept that there were two very important differences between the circumstances then and those now? First, that Labour Government had offered in their manifesto the constitutional policies that they were proposing to the people. Secondly, that Government did not have a majority in your Lordships' House.

As for later constitutional legislation by that Government-the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in particular-I myself was very critical on the Floor of the House that the Government were loading more and more items of constitutional reform into that one Bill. Does the noble Lord agree that bad practice then does not justify bad practice now?

Lord Butler of Brockwell: I agree with the first point that the noble Lord made, but I point out to him that the House then accepted the convention that the Executive ought to get their legislation. Even in this new situation, that convention should still apply.

With regard to that Government not having a majority in this House, the Government do not have an overall majority in this House now. It is important that that should continue to be the situation. I remind the noble Lord that since the general election there have been eight or nine times when the Government have been defeated by votes in your Lordships' House.

3.08 pm

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, for introducing this interesting and measured discussion of very important issues. We have had the usual mixture in your Lordships' House of expert practitioners, expert academics and journeymen working Peers like myself, which has produced far more consensus around the Chamber than many of us thought would happen before this debate started.

There has been a slight obsession with the Liberal Democrats, perhaps understandably. There is only one that I really want to pick up on. I hesitate to quibble historically with a distinguished historian such as the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, who went back a long time, though only in this country, to tell us of the past history of coalitions and the disastrous effects that they had on the Liberal Party. The point is that each of the ones he cited followed a significant and catastrophic split within the Liberal Party. That is not the case now and it is not going to be the case. We are in this for five years and so all of us have to make it work in the mean time.



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If this is a new type of coalition, as the noble Baroness suggested, then it is a completely new governmental and parliamentary situation. It started off when the coalition was being negotiated, when nobody in the political parties had thought it through properly beforehand. It had to be made up as they went along. It is still being made up, week by week, month by month. The position is still evolving. The noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, a great deal of whose speech I agreed with, said that the coalition had had a major effect on the process of formation and the resulting policy. Another effect is on the ongoing processes of government, which, as I said, are still evolving.

My noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood, pointed out in an intervention that the coalition was put together in five days. One of the important lessons must be that in future coalition-building in this country after an election really ought to take place at a slightly more measured pace, and to take the normal 10 or 14 days which everybody else in the world expects as a minimum. The five days led to two defects. First, the coalition agreement was not comprehensive and missed great chunks out. What was in was often too detailed, not always properly thought out and in some cases the political implications of what was agreed as a quick fix had not been thought through at all, notably and most importantly on tuition fees, which have proved so harmful to my party.

Secondly, there was no time during that period to think seriously about the processes of government, the changes that were forced on the Government and Parliament by the fact of coalition, and those which were not forced but were perhaps thought to be desirable. The result was the attempt we have seen to fit a two-party Government into a one-party mould. A great deal of the problems that have arisen with the coalition since then have resulted from the application of procedures, customs and practices which have been designed for a single-party Government when we now have two parties in government together. It started off with all the new Ministers getting a memo from the Civil Service-I presume it was the one that would have been sent out anyway-which was inappropriate for a two-party Government. One of the first coalition documents sets out what is really little different from what had gone before in terms of the way the Government were going to work and ministerial responsibility. It was basically what had gone before. Since then processes have evolved and are still evolving. As members of a coalition party who are not members of the Government, we are involved in some of those processes but they have not gone far enough. The processes still do not really accept that what we have are two parties from different traditions with different philosophies-a centre-left liberal party and a centre-right conservative party. I use a small "l" and a small "c" for the words "liberal" and "conservative", although they are obviously the party names as well.

Like my noble friend Lord Maclennan of Rogart, I believe that the internal processes of government must be more open and transparent. Both parties will benefit if their positions are better understood in the country and if the inevitable compromises and trade-offs which are taking place day by day, week by week and month

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by month are much clearer to people who are interested. There is a need to explain the discussions that are going on and the results of those discussions. It is foolish to pretend that detailed agreement exists between the two parties on every issue. It is foolish to see Liberals going on programmes such as "Newsnight", defending Tory policies in detail that we all know they do not really agree with, and vice versa: it is foolish to see Tories trying to defend things they do not agree with which they have had to accept because they are in coalition with us. As my noble friend said, the foreword to the coalition agreement states that,

It is time that it started at the top.

People will say that it is very difficult because we live in a media environment which is one of the worst in the democratic world. The media observe policy differences and call it a split; they observe policy discussions and call it a row; they observe compromises and call it a betrayal; they observe trade-offs and call it broken promises; they observe a refusal to agree with consultation responses and call it ideological stubbornness; they observe changes as a result of consultation and call it a U-turn; and if they do not see any of these things they invent them. However, that is the media we have to deal with and the difficulties that we have with the British media should not get in the way of what should be done.

For the whole of my political lifetime over 50 years, people have said of the Liberal Democrats, "You are never in power. You can say what you like but it is a waste of time voting for you". Now they are saying, "You have thrown away your principles for ministerial seats". They are both points of view, but when they come from the same people very rapidly it is, at the least, a little annoying.

The real problem is that in all these things the Opposition-I do not blame the Labour Party specifically for this because Oppositions take their opportunities within the adversarial system that we have-cannot resist joining in; they cannot resist chasing the cheap headline to feed off the prejudices and the way in which the press works. I am not suggesting that we would not do the same in opposition, but they cannot resist pandering to pressure groups who thought they would get a particular policy through but now find that things have changed. Those kinds of attacks on the coalition undermine a sensible coalition environment.

I say to the Labour Party, "You may be in coalition the next time or the time after that. Think about it. If there is a new political environment, perhaps the debate needs to change". There has been enough material put forward by this Government which can be rationally and constructively criticised, for heaven's sake. I shall do so myself as a Back-Bencher. There is plenty of that to do without descending to silly, childish abuse.

Many noble Lords have referred to the implications for this House. It is absolutely vital that legislation receives detailed and sufficient scrutiny, revision and improvement as a result of constructive and tolerant interchange. That is what this House is all about, and this group is totally committed to continuing that under the coalition environment. As other Lords have pointed out in different words, this House works because

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there is an atmosphere of agreement and tolerance between the different sides of the House.

The Government's side of the deal is to listen, discuss, negotiate and accept some changes, even if they are not completely thrilled about them. The amendment about the Isle of Wight that was discussed yesterday is a case in point. That amendment does not undermine the foundations of the Bill; it does not cause the whole thing to come tumbling down; it is a detail. The detail on the Scottish islands has already been accepted and, if the Government are prepared to accept the amendment on the Isle of Wight, it will be an indication that at least they are beginning to become a little flexible.

The deal on the Opposition is that, in return, they do not abuse the procedures; they do not destroy the ability of the House to scrutinise, revise and improve; and, in particular, they have a duty not to make self-regulation impossible. That is the deal, but it has broken down on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. We can argue about who is right, who is wrong and who is most to blame. I say the Opposition are to blame-but I would accept the Mandy Rice-Davies caveat that I would say that anyway. Nevertheless, it does not matter who is to blame; it has broken down and both sides of the House have got to repair it. If we do not, it will become impossible for this House to carry out its duties on all kinds of new Bills.

We have a pivotal role-I shall finish with this-in that we possess loyalty and support for the coalition. We are not going to undermine its fundamentals-we are in it for five years-so do not think anything different. However, we are still an autonomous group within the coalition with a distinctive perspective on politics. We are also committed to the proper role of this House. Those three matters cause us great difficulties at times because they conflict in all kinds of ways. We are committed to the coalition and will try to make it succeed. I hope other parts of the House will understand what we are trying to do and help us to do it because it will help the Opposition if we are able to play that role.

3.20 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we are now near the end of what has been a serious and very searching debate-a debate which, I am glad to say after this rather torrid week, has been both temperate and timely. Some people, especially in some parts of the media, have seen the events in your Lordships' House this week as supporting their negative view of this place. However, I hope that they will look as hard at today's debate as they have at those of the past few days. Today's debate has, like so many others, shown this House at its best. It has been serious; we have discussed the issues. It has been searching and we have not held back from criticism where we believe that it has been due.

I welcome the fact that the noble Lord the Leader of the House has judged this debate to be of sufficient weight to answer it himself. I am very grateful to him for doing so, especially after this week. I am confident that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will seek to counter the arguments on the issues involved in the

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constitutional and parliamentary effect of the coalition, which have been put up today by all sides of the House. However, he has quite a job to do.

In her extraordinary and comprehensive opening speech at the outset of the debate, my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean ranged widely from points about the history of coalitions to their nature and characteristics, and the effect of this coalition. It being such a detailed speech, I shrink slightly from picking out a particular issue to put to the Minister, but its main point was absolutely clear: the legitimacy of this coalition Government, in particular in respect of seeking to change both the constitution and Parliament. As my noble friend Lord Morgan said, this coalition was the product of private negotiation. No single elector in this country voted for the coalition or approved its programme for government. We fully recognise the constitutional legitimacy of being asked by Her Majesty to form a Government. However, without the legitimacy conferred by election-without the validation of a mandate provided by the electorate-any coalition Government should tread warily when they address certain issues, of which constitutional and parliamentary reform, especially reform of the key central institutions of our democracy, are paramount.

Do the Leader of the House and his Government accept that, in the light of the circumstances of the formation of the coalition, the Government should be both extremely cautious and extremely careful in proceeding with constitutional and parliamentary reform; and that where it does, it should do so only after the widest possible consultation? Also, I am sure the noble Lord will agree with so many in this House today who have suggested that for Bills of such constitutional importance, pre-legislative scrutiny is particularly important. Does the Leader of the House accept, as we believe he must, that without a democratic mandate-without the direct and specific approval of the electorate for either the coalition or its programme-there can be no mandate for Bills; and that without a mandate for a Bill there can be no protection provided by the Salisbury/Addison convention?

Many speakers in this afternoon's debate addressed the issue of the democratic gap at the heart of the coalition. My noble friend Lord Plant of Highfield said that the manifestos were, in effect, quasi-contracts with the electorate. My noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport said that not only had the policies of the coalition not been endorsed by the electorate, they had not even been exhibited to them. I was delighted that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells, in a careful and thoughtful contribution, related today's debate to the concerns of the people out there-the citizens whose views we all seek to voice. He said that it was important that the Executive did not bring forward proposals that were not in line with the will of the people. That is a terribly important point.

The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, appeared to suggest that my noble friend Lady Symons had questioned the right of a Government to bring forward legislation that was not in the relevant manifestos of the component parts of the coalition. However, I do not believe that she did any such thing. My noble

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friend went out of her way to say that a Government who have the confidence of another place should have commensurate authority. What my noble friend questioned was the Government bringing forward, without public consultation or pre-legislative scrutiny, constitutional legislation not specified in manifestos, which was then made subject to a closure Motion when this House was exercising its right and duty to scrutinise legislation.

Many noble Lords addressed the issue of the Salisbury convention. I rather like the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Hennessey of Nympsfield, that a new convention should be introduced to replace the Salisbury/Addison convention with one entitled the Strathclyde/Royall/McNally convention, named after our three party leaders in your Lordships' House. While such a place in parliamentary history would probably be thrilling, I suspect that we might do better to stick to the convention we have, albeit one that is under great strain. Perhaps this is a matter that we should discuss further.

My noble friend Lord Wills took a slightly different approach to consideration of new machinery on conventions by urging the Government to revive or bring forward in a new form the working group on the constitution set up by my party when we were in government. With the establishment of the coalition, there is even greater urgency to look at these issues, because our system is evolving rather quickly. I would certainly welcome the views of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on this issue. I hope that he will take away the idea from my noble friend and perhaps pursue it within government.

The noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, drew both points together. He underlined that the important constitutional position before this House is indeed the Salisbury convention and suggested that the Government should build on the work of the Constitution Committee of your Lordships' House. I would be very much in favour of that, but perhaps the issue is of such wide importance that an independent body should also be looking at it.

My noble friend Lord Hart of Chilton, who is a member of the Constitution Committee of this House, skilfully drew together a wide range of recommendations of the committee and stressed the need for rigorous scrutiny, including pre-legislative scrutiny, which I, like my noble friend and others, think should be axiomatic.

The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, who said he did not wish to comment on this week's events, but did so very skilfully, was wise in many of his comments. I agree with him that the decline in standards, as it were, started in the other place with timetabling Motions and so on. However, I would say firmly to him and to the House, that on these Benches we are completely against the use of timetabling Motions. The noble Lord suggested that perhaps in Opposition we might be in favour of them, but that is absolutely not the case. We recognise that if timetabling Motions were to be introduced, and I am not suggesting that they will be, they would profoundly change the nature of this House as a revising Chamber, which is something that we all cherish.



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The noble Lord and others also raised the issue of whether or not the Government are entitled to get their business. Yes, the Government are entitled to get their business. There is the matter of a sort of self-imposed timetable on Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, but the Government must get their business.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, suggested that the difficulties we have at present would have arisen if the Conservatives had been governing alone. That is not the case. The problem arose from very fact that there is a coalition Government and the Bill, which is in effect two Bills, acts as glue for the coalition. I disagree with the noble Lord that this situation would have arisen if there had been a Conservative-only Government.

I put one thing on the record about what has been happening during the past two weeks. It arises from the interventions by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and others. The clear will of the House, as expressed yesterday by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill, the noble Lord, Lord Low, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, is that we must find a negotiated solution. All around the House, we believe that that is what we must do.

The rumour mill around the House is that discussions are taking place but they have not been productive to date. I am sure that they can be successful; I know that the whole House is willing that to be the case; and I very much hope that that will be so. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, urged the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to come to their senses over the referendum. I certainly agree with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, went further than anyone else in this House by saying that he believed that we were in a serious constitutional crisis. The noble Lord, Lord Norton, suggested that we could step back from the brink. As I said, I believe that we can step do so. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that issues of such seriousness had arisen from the Bill that they might have to be addressed in future legislation-legislation that might have to be passed using the Parliament Acts. What is the view of the noble Lord the Leader of the House on that issue and is that Government policy?

We acknowledge that there are valuable aspects of coalition Governments. In times of crises, war or financial disaster staring our country on the face, there can be real value in coalition Government with real support in the country for political parties joining together in the national interest. There is no doubt that, at the start of their period in office, this coalition Government attracted such support. I believe that there is a decline in that support, as witnessed by the polls, but it is also clear that there is considered and considerable criticism of what the coalition have been doing to the constitution and to Parliament-criticism in this House, as well as in the country. That is the conclusion of our debate today. There are many questions to be answered. There is cumulative criticism, which I believe that the Government and the Leader of the House have to answer, and I look forward to his answer to today's welcome debate.



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3.32 pm

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, it is no surprise to me that this debate has been most interesting, given the number of speakers and the quality of noble Lords who have played their part. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, on securing the debate-and for her timing, which was excellent. I do not agree with most of what she said; I do not suppose that that will surprise her. In instances, it was almost a speech of someone who believes that the Labour Party will never again be in government. I shall develop this theme: saying one thing in government and another in opposition-behaving one way in government and another in opposition.

I very much welcome the contribution of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells. I am one of those who very much appreciates the fact that the right reverend Prelates are prepared to give up a great deal of time to play their part in this House. It is appreciated by the whole House. I also very much welcome the speeches by the noble Lords, Lord Butler of Brockwell and Lord Hennessey, and my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. It may surprise the noble Baroness, but I also very much enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. He raised some extremely important issues to which I shall try to return.

I could not help but smile at the great sincerity with which the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, demands humility from this Government. He was a supporter for so long of a Government who left behind one of the greatest financial messes that this country has ever seen-who brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy with this massive deficit. The noble Lord, Lord Plant, was interesting because he talked about the relationship between government and the people under the previous Government. The previous Government taxed their people, overspent, overborrowed and beggared the people. Worst of all, they wasted the people's money on their own schemes. That is why the next few years are going to be so difficult in this country. An apology might have been appreciated early on in this new Parliament.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler, reminded us of the constitutional hunger of Mr Blair's Government. I wrote down, from memory, a few of them: the Bank of England, Scotland and Wales, regional governments, London governments, and, of course, House of Lords reform-all without thought, without plan, and without conclusion still. Mr Blair said the House of Lords was an affront to democracy. If it was that then, what is it now after 13 years of their Government-the abolition of the Lord Chancellor, the creation of a new Supreme Court, locking people up without charge? Again, there is no apology, not even for the disgrace of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. Noble Lords opposite talking about humility really should take great care to ever take part in a constitutional Bill again. And I mock those noble Lords who voted happily for that Bill in the House of Commons and then in the House of Lords pontificate and lecture us about constitutional Bills. I mock them.



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What else? Ah, the conventions in this House. Let me turn to the Hunt report. The Hunt of the Hunt report is not my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral, but the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. He suggested-this is Labour Party policy-that it is wrong that a Bill can potentially be in jeopardy because some Peers within the rules of the House can threaten to spend endless time debating a particular Bill. What on earth have noble Lords opposite been doing over the last few weeks? I will return to that.

We are seeing a genuine parliamentary tragedy unfolding before our eyes in this House; a wholesale breaking of the conventions, including those on secondary legislation. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, mentioned that and sought a justification for breaking a convention that has withstood the test of time, and several Oppositions, for the last 35 years-broken last month only to be broken again on Monday. These are important conventions that have governed the relationship between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party; no warning, no criteria, just broken.

It has been a calm debate and it is important that it should be. I very much welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Hennessey, said about new conventions. It does not really matter what they are called. It may be too late for that. We may have gone beyond the time for conventions, because conventions require self-discipline. They require people who give their agreement to behave in a particular way. Once that behaviour has been broken, it is very difficult to put the conventions back together again.

The other theme is the question of the mandate, mentioned by the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Baroness, Lady Symons and one or two others. It is always good to have this coupled with the call that we should consult the people more and find out what is going on. The coalition, it is said, has no mandate and no legitimacy for its constitutional reforms. No one voted for it. We are proposing to give the public a say on 5 May on the voting system for elections to the House of Commons. It is noble Lords on the Benches opposite who are standing in the way of that. What mandate do noble Lords on the Benches opposite have for the stance that they have chosen? Do they really believe that the public will thank them for denying them the opportunity to have their say? While we are on the case of mandates-this wonderful new constitutional convention-what mandate did Mr Gordon Brown have as Prime Minister? Who voted for any of the things he did according to noble Lords opposite? My view of a mandate is that people elect Members of the House of Commons and whoever commands the confidence of the House of Commons governs. That is the mandate that I understand.

Coalition Governments, national Governments, and minority Governments are more common than usually thought. In the 20th century, five elections produced a hung Parliament, albeit only one of them post-war, that of February 1974. Both James Callaghan and John Major saw their parliamentary majorities eroded over the course of a Parliament. In the case of the former, that led to the Lib-Lab pact and, of course,

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there were coalition Governments: the national Government of 1931 to 1940 and the two wartime Governments.

Since the Second World War, we have witnessed the rise of a strong third party in the Liberal Democrats and their predecessors and the emergence of strong nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales. In addition, in Northern Ireland, there are a number of parties that are represented at Westminster. Indeed, the experience in the devolved Administrations has given further experience of the workings of coalitions, particularly in Scotland, where we initially had the experience of a formal coalition commanding a majority in the Scottish Parliament and have more recently had single-party minority rule. So this coalition Government is not unprecedented, and the challenges that have been posed to our constitution and to Parliament have, I believe, been met successfully.

There are two areas I wish to address where the effects of a coalition Government would have been expected to have been felt: on the operation of the Executive and on the operation of Parliament. I believe that the strength and resilience of our constitution and the parliamentary system have been evident. The constitution has not had to change to accommodate coalition government. Our institutions were well prepared to address the situation and to respond appropriately, effectively and pragmatically. In the first area, looking at the Executive, there has had to be some adjustment and accommodation. However, in the second area, that of Parliament, there has been minimal need for change.

There are many benefits of having a flexible, uncodified constitution that can evolve over time. However, it is also important that there is a shared understanding of the constitutional rules and conventions that apply. That is why, in February 2010, the Cabinet Office published a draft chapter of the Cabinet manual on elections and government formation. The chapter set out the key principles that would apply following a hung Parliament, including the role of the Sovereign, the Prime Minister, the political parties and the Civil Service. In particular, it stated that it was for the political parties to determine the shape of the Government and that the Sovereign would not expect to be involved in such discussions; that the incumbent Prime Minister was expected to remain in post until there was a clear alternative; and that the Civil Service, with the authorisation of the Prime Minister, could offer support for any negotiations between the political parties. That offer of support was taken up by a number of parties in the negotiations that followed the election in May 2010.

My noble friend Lord Greaves suggested that in future we should take longer to form a Government. Given public expectations, media interest and economic pressures, those involved in the process this year were very aware that a swift resolution was needed and that there was a real risk that the markets would react if negotiations went on for a longer period. I recognise that the length of time it took to form a Government in May was much quicker than elsewhere in Europe and, indeed, it is possible that in future the negotiation period might be longer, but, as the noble Lord, Lord

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Owen, said, it was right to stabilise the markets. He said that that was a success. I know he does not agree with everything else the coalition has done and that he regrets the fact that proper proportional representation is not an option in the referendum, but there is a reason for that, which is that there is no majority for PR in the House of Commons or, I suspect, in this House.

3.45 pm

Setting out the key principles in advance of the election in the draft Cabinet manual helped to reduce uncertainty for those involved in the process of government formation. It also made the rules and conventions more transparent and helped to inform the media and members of the public. The chapter "Elections and government formation" has since been amended. The principles set out in the February draft still hold true, but the text has been developed following consideration of the recommendations made by the House of Commons Justice Committee and to reflect the experience of the most recent election. We have also given parliamentarians and other experts a further opportunity to lend their experience and knowledge in developing the final Cabinet manual. A draft of the full Cabinet manual was published on 14 December, which allows three months for comment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth and others asked for a debate on the manual, but there is no reason why we should debate it. As I said, the draft manual is published for public consultation and the Government would very much welcome views on the draft manual from either House and anybody with an interest, as the consultation ends on 8 March 2011. The noble Baroness also asked about its status. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, thinks that it is probably the first draft of a written constitution, although I may have misunderstood him. He is shaking his head vigorously. I am very glad that I misheard him, because the Government have no plans to codify the constitutional conventions in operation in the UK or to bring forward proposals for the adoption of a codified constitution in the UK. Anyone who reads the document will see that it is an overview of the rules and conventions that relate to the work of the Cabinet.

The principle of collective agreement binds the members of the Government in the usual way. However, there are some areas in the coalition agreement where that is explicitly set aside, not least in relation to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill that is currently before the House, where the principle will not apply in relation to the positions that the two political parties may take during the referendum campaign. We are one Government, but we respect that the coalition contains two political parties that will take different positions on certain issues. These arrangements and the different parts of the Cabinet system are working together effectively to promote collective government, to manage government business and priorities and to protect the principles set out in the coalition agreement.

A concern was expressed by a number of noble Lords about whether and how the coalition Government may affect the more fundamental constitutional

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conventions governing this place, especially the Salisbury/Addison convention. Let me be clear that I do not believe that any of the conventions governing the relationship between the two Houses has been called into question by the coalition itself. Many people-not least the most recent Joint Committee on Conventions-have considered the possibility that one day there might be a coalition Government. They have not concluded that this would presage a constitutional crisis. Instead, they have tended to consider maturely and reach the conclusion that our current constitutional conventions are well thought-out and easily robust enough to withstand the entirely predictable possibility that government might consist of not one party but two or, perhaps in the future, even more parties.

The present Government are the first coalition Government since the Salisbury convention was formulated in its classic form. Inevitably, there are some stresses within the system. The Salisbury convention applies to manifesto Bills, but this Government did not contest the election as a single party under a single manifesto. However, the Government, like all others, were formed and are sustained on the basis of the confidence of the House of Commons. This confidence has been secured on the basis of a programme set out in the coalition agreement. Like any Government, we have brought forward some measures that were in the manifesto and some that were not.

So the Salisbury convention continues to apply, although perhaps it is not as often relevant as when a single party wins a majority. It is difficult now to determine what precisely constitutes a manifesto Bill but, then again, it was ever thus. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, who said that he did not think that the Salisbury convention had much meaning any more. I disagree with him and incline more towards the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hennessey, and my noble friend Lord Norton.

The Salisbury convention was only ever one manifestation of the relationship between the two Houses, which is based, as we all know, on the primacy of the other place. We in this House do not routinely oppose government legislation, whether or not it derives from a manifesto. That much was made clear by the Joint Committee in 2006, so it is not special pleading by a coalition Government. So many noble Lords on all sides of the House cling dearly to the idea that we are a revising House-a House of scrutiny, not of opposition-although you would be hard-pressed to believe that when looking at the antics in the House in the past few days. All of us on this side of the House are fond of reminding those opposite what the last Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, said in 2006. He said that,

the House of Lords. That was the previous Government's understanding of the constitutional convention regarding coalitions.

The noble Lord, Lord Wills, asked about the working group on the constitution. I must say that I had no idea about this great body, but I have made inquiries and I understand that the previous Government

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announced that they would set up such a body to look at law and the relationships between the state and citizen as well as what principles should be deemed constitutional. I also understand that the group was never in fact convened and did not publish any reports or any other documents, so I suspect that it still languishes in the bottom drawer of somebody's desk. We have no plans at this stage to resurrect it.

Another curious theme, which I think explains an awful lot about the attitude of the Labour Party that has developed over the past few months, was the idea that the coalition has a majority in this House. That is a fundamental misunderstanding between the two sides of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, got it right. I shall not explain it now, but if any noble Lord would like a lesson in mathematics we can look at the numbers and go through them to see whether the coalition has any more of a majority than the Labour Party had. It is a great mistake to ignore the Cross Benches, and I do not know why noble Lords opposite do that. The example of the coalition losing a Division yesterday is a case in point. As well as the Cross Benches, there are Members of the DUP, the UUP and even UKIP. It would be very unwise to discount that when considering the arithmetic of this House.

You have only to look at the progress of the Public Bodies Bill-let us leave aside the controversy of the AV Bill. My noble friend said that that was the right way to do things, and he is correct. An agreement was struck on the timing, and there was no problem there; that is the way in which we behave, and quite rightly.

The noble Baroness said that there should be a referendum on the future of Lords reform. That is the first time that we have heard of that. In Labour's last manifesto, it took an awful long time to get there.

My noble friend Lord Norton said that there should be a debate in the House on how consideration of Bills of constitutional significance should take place. I think that we should have debates from time to time on these issues, and we should also have debates with the House of Commons about how constitutional Bills are taken through. I hope that my noble friend will write to his and my noble friend Lord Goodlad, who is looking at the working practices of this House. Again, that is a very timely review of how we are doing things, when the House has broken with so many of its conventions.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Having heard the very interesting contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Owen, on the issue of questions in the referendum, I recognise that the Liberal Democrats-one element in the coalition-have historically been very strongly committed to proportional representation, but why was it that, when decisions on the referendum question were being taken, proportional representation was not included in the question? That might have invited the House of Commons to knock out the provision if it did not want to proceed down that route, and that could have been done on a free vote. It may well be that the decision taken by the House of Commons would have been different from the one that Ministers took.



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Lord Strathclyde: That could have been the case, and no doubt an amendment could have been proposed in another place, but the agreement struck by the coalition was for AV, which is a method that was in the Labour Party's manifesto. It is entirely right that we should scrutinise and stick to that.

However, in the Bill that we are dealing with, things have happened that neither I-in the 25 years that I have been here-nor any of my predecessors as Leaders and Chief Whips has ever seen before: I refer to the wholesale breakdown and refusal of the usual channels to engage. The noble Lord said that we should negotiate, but we negotiate on every Bill. This is the first time ever that the usual channels have said, "We refuse. We refuse to tell you how many days we want in Committee".

When they asked for more days, we gave them more. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, who said that we are rushing the Bill through the House. He and his friends in the Labour Party are the only people in the universe who believe that the Bill is being rushed through this House. In 22 hours on Monday, only six amendments were considered. This is unprecedented. The idea that this is scrutiny is farcical. Noble Lords opposite who cherish the reputation of this House have no idea how damaging this is to the reputation of this House. It is not scrutiny but verbosity. It may be too late.

Lord Howarth of Newport: I am very grateful to the noble Lord-he must be nearing the end of his remarks. The House always looks to the Leader of the House to unify us, to reach across the political divide and to bring us together as one House of Lords. This, as he noted, has been a very difficult week for the House. So far, the noble Lord has told the House that he mocks noble Lords on this side. Does he also have anything to say, as my noble friend the shadow Leader of the House did, in a spirit of reconciliation, to help us bind up the wounds of this week?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, before the noble Lord twists my words, I mocked those who did one thing in another place and then come here and complain about the very behaviour in another place-it was quite specific. On reconciliation, yesterday the coalition Government were defeated on an amendment. On subsequent amendments, my noble friends and I offered meetings and reconciliation-the normal way of doing things. How were we rewarded? There was no agreement on finishing the Committee. I would love there to be a reconciliation. The noble Baroness and I, who are personally on very good terms, are very keen to find a way through this, but very soon, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said last night, the Bill will not be passed and there will not be a referendum on 5 May. That will be because the House of Lords has dragged its heels and we should think very carefully before we take that final step.

I shall finish, because I have gone over time, by thanking all noble Lords who have taken part and the many noble Lords who have come in to listen during the day. It is a debate, no doubt, that we shall come back to again and again and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean.



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3.59 pm

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I had some concerns that the events of the past few days might dominate the debate today, so I am grateful that almost all the speakers managed to lift their eyes, for the majority of the contributions, from the narrow focus of the past few days and address the very important long-term issues inherent in any coalition in this country, and those that have arisen specifically in relation to this Government.

The debate was conducted with courtesy almost all the time and, mostly, with good will. There were important and thoughtful speeches from our constitutional experts on all sides of the House-I, too, thank the right reverend Prelate for his contribution-and contributions from our own Constitution Committee.

I especially thank the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, for his wise words. I hope that he might take the noble Lord the Leader of the House aside for a bit of a pep talk. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Owen, for cheering me up a great deal with his observations about the timing of the AV referendum.

I thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for answering the debate, which was a courtesy. I am sorry about his repeated remarks mocking Members of the House that he leads; I thought that they were inappropriate for a debate such as this. However, I thank him for the opportunity to say how much I look forward to a Labour Government-he need have no worries on that score.

The noble Lord said that he was attracted by the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, but I do not believe that the majority of the House is attracted by them; nor, I believe, if I may be a little presumptuous, are the majority of his Benches. I look forward to a debate on the Cabinet Office manual-I will pop along to see the noble Lord and we will do our arithmetic together.

I thank my noble friend Lady Royall for summing up on our side of House in such a measured, sensible and comprehensive way that looked towards the healing process of the future. I thank everyone who has participated, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion withdrawn.

Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2011

Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001

Motion to Approve

4.03 pm

Moved By Baroness Neville-Jones

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): My Lords, the terrorist threat to the UK and its interests abroad remains severe and sustained. The Government are determined to do all that they can to minimise that threat. Proscription of terrorist organisations

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is an important part of the Government's strategy to tackle terrorist activities. We would therefore like to add the organisation Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the TTP, to the list of 46 international terrorist organisations that are listed under Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary firmly believes that the TTP meets the statutory and discretionary tests for proscription. This is the ninth proscription order amending Schedule 2 to that Act.

Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides a power for the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation if she believes that it is concerned in terrorism. The Act specifies that an organisation is concerned in terrorism if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism; prepares for terrorism; promotes or encourages terrorism, including the unlawful glorification of terrorism; or is otherwise concerned in terrorism.

The Home Secretary may proscribe an organisation only if she believes that it is concerned in terrorism. If the test is met, she may then exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation. In considering whether to exercise that discretion, she takes into account a number of factors, which were announced to Parliament during the passage of the Terrorism Act in 2000. The factors considered are the nature and scale of an organisation's activities; the specific threat that it poses to the United Kingdom; the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas; the organisation's presence in the United Kingdom; and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism.

Proscription is a tough but necessary power. Its effect is that the proscribed organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the UK. Proscription means that it is a criminal offence for a person to belong to, or invite support for, a proscribed organisation. It is also a criminal offence to arrange a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation or to wear clothing or to carry articles in public which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.

Given the wide-ranging impact of proscription, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe an organisation only after thoroughly reviewing all the available relevant information on the organisation. This includes open-source material as well as intelligence material, legal advice and advice reflecting consultation across government, including with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Decisions on proscription are taken with great care by the Home Secretary, and it is also right that both Houses must approve the order proscribing a new organisation.

Having carefully considered all the advice, the Home Secretary firmly believes that the TTP is currently concerned in terrorism. Although, as noble Lords will appreciate, I am unable to go into much detail on the evidence, I am able to summarise. The TTP's stated objectives are: the enforcement of Sharia, resistance to the Pakistani army and the removal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. The group is a prolific terrorist organisation which has frequently perpetrated attacks in Pakistan. For example, an attack in July last year on a meeting of tribal elders in a marketplace in the Mohmand Agency killed 104 people and injured 120.

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Two recent suicide attacks on army vehicles in Lahore killed 57 people in March last year. Although the majority of attacks have been against military and governmental targets, the TTP is known also to target crowded areas and places of worship; for example, an attack on the two Ahmadi mosques in May 2010 which killed more than 80 civilians.

The group is also known to target and claim responsibility for attacks on western targets; for example, in June 2010, an attack on a NATO convoy just outside Islamabad killed seven people and destroyed 50 vehicles and, in April 2010, an attack on the US consulate in Peshawar killed at least six. The TTP has also threatened attacks in the West and was implicated in the failed Times Square car bomb in New York last May.

The proscription of the TTP will contribute to making the UK a hostile environment for terrorists and their supporters, and will signal our condemnation of the terrorist attacks that the group continues to carry out in Pakistan. Proscription will also support the emerging international consensus against the organisation. The TTP is already designated by the United States and Pakistan, and I understand that proscription is being considered by a number of other countries.

Proscribing the TTP will enable the police to carry out disruptive action against any supporters in the UK. It will also send a strong message that the UK is not willing to tolerate terrorism either here or anywhere else. Proscription is not targeted at any particular faith or social grouping, but it is based on evidence that the organisation is concerned in terrorism. It is clear that the TTP is not representative of Pakistani or Muslim communities in the UK. The organisation has carried out a large number of attacks in Pakistan resulting in mass casualties. I know that the vast majority of British Muslims joined us all in condemning those abhorrent acts of violence.

Finally, I have already said that the Government recognise that proscription is a tough power that can have a wide-ranging impact. Because of that, there is an appeal mechanism in the legislation, and any organisation that is proscribed or any that is affected by the proscription of an organisation can apply to the Home Secretary for the organisation to be de-proscribed. If the application is refused, the applicant also has a right to appeal through the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, which is a special tribunal that is able to consider the sensitive material that often underpins proscription decisions. A special advocate can also be appointed to represent the interests of the applicant in closed sessions of the commission. This is a fair process.

There is ample evidence to suggest that the TTP is concerned in terrorism, and I believe it is right that we add it to the list of proscribed organisations under Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. I commend the order to the House.

Lord Scott of Foscote: My Lords, I have no doubt whatever that the House should support this order, and I rise simply to ask why it has taken so long for the order to be sought. It appears from the contents of the

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letter that the Minister sent to the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, the chairman of the Merits Committee, in anticipation of the meeting that the committee had to peruse this document, that information has been in the hands of the authorities indicating that since 2007 the TTP has carried out mass-casualty attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that it was implicated in an attempted Times Square car bomb attack in May 2010, and that there were other atrocities in the first half of 2010, as referred to by the noble Baroness. Although I thoroughly support the making of the order, I wonder why it has taken so long for it to be made.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: My Lords, first, I apologise to the Minister as I was slightly late in coming into the Chamber for her opening speech. However, I welcome the order and I also welcome the fact that time has been taken over it. Noble Lords may be aware that when the now Prime Minister was asking us to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, I said that it is absolutely essential that, when we take action to proscribe or ban, we have sufficient evidence to make sure that, however great our revulsion at what these people are doing, that action is taken under the letter of the UK law and that we have sufficient evidence of that law being breached; otherwise, when these people appealed, it would be a propaganda coup for them if we were to take action that failed. Therefore, I thank the Minister for her Statement today. I understand how difficult it often is to get concrete evidence to carry such measures forward, but I am sure that, even at this stage, we will all be relieved that the action has been taken, because these are very dangerous people.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I also support the order, but I have one or two questions about the process. It is a very difficult process and I would be grateful for guidance from the noble Baroness as to how it operates. The reference to Hizb ut-Tahrir that we have just heard from my noble friend Lord Reid is important. I know that, when he was leader of the Opposition, there was a desire by the now Prime Minister for that organisation to be proscribed forthwith and that did not happen. Therefore, I should be interested in knowing a little more about the decision-making process that has gone on in this case and the extent to which that provides us with lessons about the Hizb ut-Tahrir case. For example, was there a specific request from the Government of Pakistan or perhaps the Government of the United States in support of such a ban? What consideration has been given to whether a ban makes it easier or less easy to disrupt the activities of this group? It seems to me that banning a group under a particular name may simply mean that it re-emerges with a different name or in a different guise or simply disappears off the radar altogether. I would be interested in what considerations are given to such points.

Finally, it would be helpful if the Minister could give us an indication of the extent to which the guiding factor was this group being a threat in the UK or to British nationals overseas or whether other factors were the final motivation in taking this decision. However, I do not doubt that the Home Secretary has made the right decision in this case.



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4.15 pm

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I support the Motion. I am sure that, now the Minister is in government, she realises how unbelievably difficult these decisions are. The TTP was around when I was Minister for Security. It was extremely difficult to pull together enough information to make certain that one needed to do this because, as the Minister pointed out, this is quite a step to take. One has to weigh up not just what it does to stop it being able to do the dreadful things it wished to do, but how much it might garner support within certain ill-informed parts of our community and abroad. That is very difficult to do.

My noble friend Lord Reid mentioned HuT. While I was in government, we were continually lambasted about it, but it was very difficult to highlight and pin down specifics to enable us to do this within our law. We must not step forward quickly and do these things. To do that quickly and wrongly is a terrible mistake. My noble friend Lord Reid mentioned that. We have to be very measured and careful. Each time, we have to think about what the effects are within our communities in this country and overseas. Partly in answer to my noble friend Lord Harris, I think that the judgment has to be that if the threat is to our people abroad, not just our civilians but also our servicemen who are out there doing things for our nation, that is just as great an issue as things happening within this country, and all of those issues are an important balance. I support this Motion. These are very difficult issues. They are not at all party political, but are very important for the nation. We have to be very careful, and we need to scrutinise each decision.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I broadly concur with what other noble Lords have said in support of this order. I wonder whether the House is aware that over the past decade 60,000 to 70,000 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, yet not a single successful prosecution has been brought in the Pakistani courts. While proscribing an organisation is indeed an extremely grave and serious matter, one has to live with the reality that if a country that has less than ideal procedures for taking people through due process is unable to take control of these elements of its population, it rests on the rest of us to ensure that our populations are secure and safe.

I am a little disappointed that it has taken this long to proscribe this organisation, as I know from a great deal of openly available evidence in the Pakistani communities that it has left its signature against some of the most heinous crimes committed in recent years. It has a rather innocent sounding name "the community of the learned students of Pakistan" and sounds entirely inoffensive, but in fact it is armed to the teeth, it has some of the nastiest propaganda at its disposal and it particularly selects people who support human rights to target. The Minister told us of its attacks on the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, a peaceful, law-abiding, extremely well educated community that provides professionals, such as doctors and others in the most difficult professions, who work across the country to alleviate poverty and hardship. They specifically target this community because they have a warped view of what their religion comprises. In the past two years,

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they have also taken to targeting journalists and lawyers. I personally know of people in Pakistan who have been sent anonymous letters, whose fax numbers have been obtained and who have been told by this group, "We are watching you, we are going to come and get you". I would have thought there was sufficient evidence to have proscribed them some time ago.

The Government's statement talks about the possibility of de-proscription and my noble friend mentioned that 46 organisations have been proscribed under these powers. Can she tell us how many have applied for successful deproscription because as a liberal at heart I am very conscious of free expression? It worries me that organisations, once proscribed, would find themselves in that situation and unable to be deproscribed. I wonder if she could tell us how many applications there have been and how many have been successfully de-proscribed. We must recall that freedom's struggles in other parts of the world involve organisations that-due to the exegesis of their operating circumstances-might have been somewhat implicated in some kinds of violence. Yet when they revert to the path of peace, it is also right that we reconsider their standing at that time.

I hope it is not too wide of this particular order to ask the Minister what steps the Government are taking to train up judges, police officers, forensics teams and so on, so that Pakistan is better equipped to bring people to trial itself rather than waiting for them to be unable to travel to other countries.

Finally, on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, a lot of these organisations are known, the minute they are proscribed, to sail under a new flag. In other words, they find another innocent-sounding name but their aims continue as before and many of the same individuals are involved in the same heinous activities.

Several noble Lords have made reference to the Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is established perfectly legally in the United Kingdom. I would not therefore draw that analogy as it is an entirely different ball game, but can my noble friend tell us, since it is not clear to me, whether this organisation is established in any sense openly in this country?

Lord Rosser: My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for setting out the background to and the Government's reasons for this order, which is intended to help protect our national security and which we support. I will make a number of points and ask a number of questions, some of which I recognise the Minister may not feel in a position to answer in any detail. Some of the points that I wish to raise have already been made in one form or another by other noble Lords.

The TTP-the organisation we are discussing today-was set up some three or four years ago, and about a year after that was proscribed by the Pakistani authorities. Last year, the United States took similar action. Are other countries considering similar action and are we pressing other countries to take similar action in respect of this organisation? Proscription-which is based on clear evidence that an organisation is involved in terrorism-means that an organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the United Kingdom, with it being a criminal offence to be involved in the activities of the proscribed organisation.



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The TTP has been very active in Pakistan since its formation. Among the factors that the Home Secretary takes into account is the specific threat that an organisation poses to British nationals overseas and the need to support other members of the international community in the fight against terrorism. The Minister said that the TTP had been implicated in attacks in the West, such as the attempted Times Square car bomb attack in May 2010. In very general terms, are there also concerns that the TTP has been, or is likely to be, active in this country? Also in general terms, can the Minister assure the House that there is evidence that previous proscription orders have proved effective in their objective of tackling terrorist activities through disrupting and preventing the organisations concerned achieving their aims?

There are 46 international terrorist organisations listed under Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. As the Minister said, this is the ninth proscription order amending that schedule. The criteria for deciding whether to proscribe an organisation were determined some 10 years ago. Do the Government intend to stick with the current criteria; or do they intend to review or amend them? A proscribed organisation can appeal to an independent committee, and proscribed organisations are currently reviewed annually. Do the Government intend to keep the present arrangements; or are they considering more or less frequent reviews or changes in the appeal mechanism?

The Minister said that the Home Secretary has exercised her power to proscribe the TTP only after carefully examining all the evidence and information available from a number of sources. I do not doubt that. Bearing in mind that the Prime Minister, when he was leader of the Opposition, gave a commitment to ban another organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir-when presumably he had not been able to examine carefully all the evidence and information available-can the Minister give an assurance that if the activities of that other organisation or under review, the Home Secretary will make any decision, as she has in the case before us today, only on the basis of the relevant information and evidence available? I repeat: we support the order.

4.27 pm

Baroness Neville-Jones: I am extremely grateful to noble Lords who have spoken for the support that they have given to the action that the Government propose to take. I believe, and I hope I am right, that it represents the broad opinion of the House.

I have been asked a number of questions, to which I shall attempt to respond. In reply to the last question, we will certainly proscribe only on the basis of relevant criteria. I was asked a number of questions about our intentions for proscription in future. If I may, I will leave that largely to next week's Statement. We will continue to conduct a regime that is rigorous in its demand in the circumstances in which an organisation is liable to proscription-that it is related to terrorism. We believe that that is an important line that should be drawn when proscribing organisations.

The question was asked: why not sooner? Some noble Lords felt that we had taken too long to do this; others felt that we need to take our time when doing

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something so serious. Of course, the possibility of proscribing the TTP was available to the Government before this Government came into office. I take the view that proscription is a serious action to undertake. I agree with those who said that it is a propaganda coup for the other side if an appeal against governmental action of this kind succeeds and that one needs to be absolutely certain of one's ground. As noble Lords are aware, the grounds are broad terrorism grounds and not others, but it does not just affect the UK, although that is obviously relevant. It also has an affect abroad and on our allies.

4.30 pm

In the end, one cannot seriously distinguish between the effect of terrorist activities abroad and the security of the United Kingdom, as if somehow they represent a threat to this country or to our allies only if they are active in this country. One has to take a view that makes it clear that terrorism is a global phenomenon and that it is extremely interactive in its character.

I was asked about representations being made to us. Government is a large place and I cannot guarantee that no Government have said anything to United Kingdom Ministers about the TTP. I am not aware of any representations having been made. The decisions of which I am aware were taken on the basis of views within Whitehall and consultation with all relevant departments.

If an organisation adopts the-perhaps I might say-trick, which has happened, of changing its name and adopting an alias, although it is the same organisation we will do as our predecessors have done, which will be to ban it. The law provides specifically for that and it is right to do so. My noble friend Lady Falkner also asked a number of questions about our experience with this legislation. She is right to say that dealing effectively with terrorism and proscription are not at all the same thing, although I hope and trust that they help each other. Simply banning without acting is by no means the full answer. However, we take the view that outlawing that kind of activity is a powerful political act and that there are circumstances in which that is exactly what we need to do.

The People's Mujaheddin, an Iranian-related organisation, has been deproscribed. I have to say that it was done under our predecessor Government, but they were not very happy about deproscription and we shared their unhappiness. There was a difference of view between the Government and the independent tribunal that took the view. The difference of opinion probably persists, but it is an example of the fact that the process can be reversed. As I have said, it is illustrative of the importance of being on solid ground before you take the action. I will have to write to the noble Baroness about the extent to which we are engaged in helping to train judges in Pakistan. My belief is that we are active in that area, but I do not have the detail here.

I believe that other countries are taking action. We, having taken a decision to proscribe, would normally report this to our EU partners, for instance. We will probably take action with other Commonwealth countries

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and make known our action. Other countries will often factor that sort of mechanism into their own decision-making. We are part of a broader trend.

Previous orders have been effective. Clearly, one of the things that can happen as a result of proscription-this is a legitimate charge-is driving the organisation further underground. My view is that organisations that get proscribed are not exactly open; their activities are already well concealed and they are not in the public interest. I do not believe that the downside of proscription is damaging. It tells young men-it is usually young men-that they should not go near the organisation. That is important; it sends a broad message. It is just one instrument-but an important one-in our armoury.



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I turn finally to HuT. This organisation was referred to quite properly by a number of noble Lords. We are continuing to watch it. However, as I said, the criterion for proscription is involvement in terrorism, and one has to be very clear if one is going to proscribe an organisation that one is applying the legal criteria correctly. We remain concerned about HuT, and we continue to watch it and to follow its activities closely. The organisation not only operates in this country but has extensive international activities. It is a global organisation, but an important part of it is in the UK.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 4.37 pm.


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