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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, the road to parliamentary hell is paved with good intentions translated into sloppily drafted, ill prepared, insensitive legislation. We have had a plethora of it over the past year. The White Paper and Bill do not even have the redeeming feature of good intentions. Perhaps the most scandalous revelation we have had in this debate was that by the Leader of the Opposition, when she told us how the members of the Joint Committee set up to produce the proposals were treated. They met only seven times-the last time six months before publication-and neither saw nor approved the draft White Paper or the Bill. I am amazed that they did not resign in indignation at that treatment.
I shall focus on just two points. The first is the practical constitutional one, which we have talked about, which is the balance of power between the Legislature and the Executive. Secondly, I shall suggest how to reduce the size of the House of Lords in a way that is voluntary, democratic, compassionate and cost-effective.
Although at that time the House of Lords had a massive built-in Tory majority, the constitutional conventions inhibited its use. In 1997, this situation took a serious turn for the worse. The Blair Government decided to use the guillotine routinely on all legislation so as to maximise the flow of legislation, with little regard to the consequences.
I was for 16 years in the Lobby. Indeed, I must confess that, apart from a few years as a party fonctionnaire, I cannot claim to be a proper politician at all. I was a mere observer of and commentator on the political scene, and I suppose that that is all I remain. However, I remember clearly that when there was an important Bill that was running into real difficulties, we used to speculate that the Government might be forced to introduce a guillotine. In those days, that had real political significance.
I had hoped, and indeed was confident, that one of the first things the coalition would do would be to end the automatic use of the guillotine on legislation. To my disappointment and to Mr Cameron's shame, there is no sign of that happening, so our people remain ever more reliant on the House of Lords to subject legislation to proper scrutiny untrammelled by timetables. Since the 1999 reform, this House has had growing confidence in doing so.
Who can doubt that if Mr Clegg's dreams were enacted it would not be long before that opportunity for scrutiny would be emasculated? All Governments are ruthless when they can be, and a regular guillotine would arrive with the senate. That, incidentally, is why the Opposition should never repeat the disgraceful filibuster tactics that they used here last year-although I admit that they had much provocation.
I come to the best way of keeping the size of the membership of the House within reasonable limits. I do not buy the idea that it is making the House harder to operate. An overcrowded Question Time is no bad thing. After the House of Commons was bombed, the new Chamber was designed precisely to achieve that. However, our membership is now more than 800, although the daily attendance is 450. I would set a limit of about 500. None of the alternatives in the Leader's Group report on the issue of Members leaving the House, which we will discuss in due course, seems to be acceptable. I believe the proposal for group elections put forward in the excellent speeches by my noble friends Lord Jopling and Lord Reay involves compulsion, which would have undesirable consequences.
One reason that voluntary retirement on its own would not work is the new daily tax-free allowance of £300. I most warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Strathclyde on his courage in introducing it, because it has ended once and for all the risk of further scandals on expenses-in this House, anyway.
My proposal is that on taking permanent retirement, any Peer should receive a tax-free single-sum gratuity for public service. Each Peer would receive the amount he or she asked for-provided, of course, that no one was prepared to accept a lower sum. One way of operating it would be for the Government to open it for, say, 50 retirements. Anyone could apply and the sums paid out to those who succeeded would of course be published; the unsuccessful bids would not. Bids would be accepted up to a limit of 50 seats or so or until the sum available had run out. The process could be repeated periodically until the number was down to the required total.
That may be an unusual suggestion, but I believe that once it had been thought through by the media and the public it would be seen as being transparent, truly voluntary and, most importantly, cost-effective.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I would be grateful if between now and the report from the committee scrutinising the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, could write for me what he thinks the Sunday Telegraph and the Mail editorials would be on his proposal.
Mr Cameron has a problem. In this package, he is offering Mr Clegg a sum of Danegeld that he cannot pay; his cheque will bounce. As has been made clear, there can be no question of whipping this Bill through this House. The simplest solution would be for the House of Commons, where there is, in any case, a growing number of Members opposed to Mr Clegg's best guess, to be offered a free vote at Second Reading, if ever it gets that far, and for the Conservative Whips to indicate that the Prime Minister would not be heartbroken if it were defeated. After all, it is the supremacy of the House of Commons that we are debating.
On the point about us not being representatives, many people in this House have been elected representatives for a long time, but now we are all servants of the people. That is no dishonourable title.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it may be helpful to the House if I indicate that, after we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, I propose to adjourn the debate for a short while so that we may convene for Questions. I shall make appropriate announcements at that stage.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I regret that yesterday I was unable to be present for a number of contributions from your Lordships. Therefore, I ask for the indulgence of the House if I repeat points already made by noble Lords yesterday and today.
I wish to focus my contributions on one very simple and, to my mind, fundamental issue: that neither House is perfect and that any fundamental review of the parliamentary institutions of this country should involve both Houses. That review should be much deeper and more comprehensive in nature than that delivered in the hastily prepared and superficial measure which we are now considering, and which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall-I echo my noble friend Lord Marlesford-has informed us, apparently even by-passed members of the committee of the House. I respectfully remind my noble friend the Leader of the House that the Prime Minister stated, more than once, when Leader of the Opposition, that any reform of Parliament should start in the Commons. There is clearly no prospect of a review of this nature or depth taking place at present and, therefore, we are where we are: two Houses, neither of which is perfect either in composition or functioning.
Several of your Lordships have pointed out that government in this country can be said to be, in practice, almost unicameral. Your Lordships must, at least for the time being, continue to remain subordinate to the Commons and the object, in this Parliament, must surely be to endeavour to succeed in making this House the most effective, but junior, partner in the legislative function. I am personally of the view that in the 10 years since the passing of the House of Lords Act, this House has probably been working more
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Quite a short time ago, if you were speaking in your Lordships' House after 5.30, it was customary to start by saying, "I will not detain your Lordships unduly". I also intend not to delay your Lordships unduly but for a different reason. I am speaker number 69 and 31 are still to speak. If this view is accepted, it is all the more regrettable that a Bill should be proposed to abolish this House-if anyone is in any doubt about that, the historic intervention by the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, will live in all our memories-without, apparently, taking any significant steps to reform the other place. Rather we should be building on the undoubted efficiency of this House in servicing the Commons and most particularly in the process of scrutiny and in calling the Government to account. At the same time-this is fundamental-we should not pose a challenge to what is, in practice, the supreme legislative sovereignty of the Commons.
Assuming this Bill fails, breathing a sigh of relief and doing nothing is not an option. The way forward must surely be through measured evolvement and improvement. Perhaps it is fortuitous that, at present, we have three admirable initiatives which-dare I say?-show the intention of giving effect to that process. These are, as many noble Lords have pointed out, the Bill proposed by my noble friend Lord Steel, together with the two documents prepared under the chairmanships of my noble friends Lord Hunt and Lord Goodlad. If, as is possible, the proposed Bill does not leave the Commons, the shortcomings which it embraces will fall away, not least of which is the question of powers in the Bill which have been the subject of a delicate body swerve.
Perhaps I may briefly refer to the so-called democratic deficit, or lack of democratic accountability, raised by so many noble Lords. Very briefly, I suggest to your Lordships that such accountability is one thing that this House positively does not need and that the scrutiny of legislation and business in this House is much more effectively done without such accountability. That is a circular argument because, as several noble Lords have pointed out, democratic accountability goes out of the window with a 15-year election with no re-election at the end. I invite your Lordships to consider the feeling of freedom which an elected Member will feel on day one after election to such a reformed House.
One problem which will need to be addressed in any evolvement of your Lordships' House is the question of appointments. I shall not go into the detail, already mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, but there can surely be no doubt that a strong appointments commission with statutory powers is an essential component in any way forward. It must be pro-active in looking out for suitable independent Peers and reactive in vetting political appointees. That is not me speaking-it is far too clever-but my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. The commission, in its present form, so admirably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, provides a fine example on which to build. I am very pleased to note that this is incorporated within the Bill of my noble friend Lord Steel.
This House is aware of its shortcomings and its weaknesses. They are being continually addressed in this House. This hastily and badly thought-through Bill-a theme running through this debate-will have the effect, not of reforming, but of abolishing this House. I suggest that is not the right way to go about it. If anyone, in support of the Bill, needs to give it further thought, I commend the research done by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, on the costs of this operation.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, when I think of the sheer value and quality that your Lordships bring to our legislative process, I think of a tribute paid to my noble friend Lady Warnock by a new Cross-Bench Peer, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, in a debate on disability and SEN. Referring to the struggle that her parents had to get her into a secondary school of the quality able to develop her talents to the full, she said that it was the Warnock report that had been responsible for opening the right doors for her to develop her potential. Of course, we cannot all claim to have quite the same considerable record as the noble Baronesses, Lady Warnock and Lady Grey-Thompson. Indeed, one or two of us may have slipped in under the wire-an expression used last night-but that is the kind of quality that this country would lose from the Cross Benches if we passed this draft Bill.
I became aware of those qualities when I first entered the Chamber in 2001, as one of the first tranche of people's Peers, appointed to the Cross Benches by that newly created and still not statutory Appointments Commission. Even more significantly, I came to realise the diversity and range of expertise and experience that was on hand. One change that new group of 14 or so Cross-Benchers achieved was to pilot a somewhat wider role in your Lordships' House than those on the Cross Benches had taken previously. We were told that usually Cross-Benchers took part only in those Bills and debates on issues covered by their expertise and experience. However, a number of us in that new intake decided to play a slightly wider role, being prepared to listen to all the arguments and take a very full part in proceedings. That practice is much more prevalent than it was. I suppose that I should be thankful that 20 per cent of Cross-Benchers are to be retained in the Chamber, so there would still be a small degree of expertise and experience to draw on.
My second point is obvious and has been mentioned often; none of us can claim to be here because we have been chosen by the people through any form of election. In short, there is no way that we can claim to be specially chosen. Therefore, in the jargon, we are illegitimate. However, we should not be dismayed by that analysis, for, as many others have pointed out, both today and yesterday, legitimacy comes-as the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, said-in many forms. The second Chamber has always included groups of nominees, chosen for example by the monarch or by the Prime Minister, and today by the Appointments Commission.
The draft Bill can clearly be seen to have significantly damaging effects on the future shape, style and performance of the House-so much so that it has
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I come to my first question. Why on earth is this being done and what benefit is it going to achieve? How is it going to improve the results and performance of what we need a second Chamber to do-if we need one at all? That is the alternative question: why have a second Chamber if it is not going to perform the sort of role that we have now? Under the new regime, in the brand new House, 240 Members-five out of every six-will be able to say, "We are on exactly the same terms as those in the other place, so why should we continue to regard the Commons as superior to us?". Clearly, the risk of gridlock is very serious indeed.
I come to my third and final point. Why incur the lunatic extra costs-apparently £177 million in the first year alone-of paying the salaries and expenses of the new senators' staff? What on earth will we gain? I would rather go along with the auction that was suggested; at least that would be an amusing way to pass the time as we look toward our demise. As the noble Lord, Lord Norton, said, it is quite clear from opinion polls that this so-called reform has absolutely no interest for the public-and, surprisingly, precious little for the press-yet we are facing the important and potentially very damaging prospect of losing a uniquely valuable and quite irreplaceable institution.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: This may be a convenient point to adjourn the debate until after Oral Questions and the First Reading of the Private Member's Bill in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton. I beg to move.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, we engage regularly with the authorities in Pakistan on issues of religious freedom. Most recently, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable
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Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, what does the abject failure of the authorities in Pakistan to bring to justice those who were responsible for the brutal murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, and of Shahbaz Bhatti, the courageous Minister for Minorities, say about their commitment to uphold the rule of law and to protect minorities? Is not impunity for murder, forced conversion, rape, forced marriage, the denial of civil rights and the failure to protect Ahmadis, Sufis, Shias, Christians, Hindus and others directly linked to the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan? Does it not point to the crucial importance of returning to the original vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, who insisted on upholding the rights of minorities, saying that they should have a full place in Pakistan society?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Lord has set out a grim and very telling catalogue. The events he has described are appalling, particularly the recent murders and the apparent support by some members of the public in Pakistan for those who may even have carried out these atrocities. These are very worrying matters that we raise again and again with our friends and the authorities in Pakistan. We see Pakistan as a country to which we are bound by longstanding ties, but also a country where we must put forward our values in a strong and effective way. I have to say to the noble Lord that no one can be happy about this pattern of affairs, or with the advance in extremism around the country, no doubt encouraged by apparent aspects of impunity. All these matters are constantly in our minds and constantly in the way that we are developing our relationship with Pakistan, a great nation that needs certain help and support at this difficult time.
Lord Elton: My Lords, as the minority groups in Pakistan number some 14 million people, of whom around 3 million are Christian, this is a major problem. Can the Minister confirm that 1.2 million people living in this country are of Pakistani origin, and that this form of violence has now been exported here, particularly in relation to the Ahmadi population? Perhaps it is worth mentioning what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, did not say. In his speech, Jinnah said:
Lord Howell of Guildford: My noble friend is right, as was the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to remind us of the original qualities and values which the founders of the state of Pakistan, and obviously Mr Jinnah himself, put forward. In the present situation we want to try to maintain, deepen and, in some cases, resurrect these
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Lord Ahmed: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Articles 20, 21, 22, 26 and 27 of the Pakistan constitution guarantee rights for all minorities? Does he agree that the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religion or group, should be protected? Pakistan is at war with extremists and terrorists, and since expressing its support for Operation Enduring Freedom, has lost some 34,000 citizens. Is not the right approach that of supporting Pakistan's institutions and its democratic Government, as Her Majesty's Government are already doing? It is better to support friends when they are in difficulties rather than kicking them when they are down.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord is correct. No one questions the fact that Pakistan is facing fearful challenges of all kinds, one of which is its contiguity to Afghanistan and the challenges of extremism. Taliban operations are just one example of many pressures on Pakistani society. Of course we must approach these matters in a supportive mood, but we must also uphold our values. The fact is that, for instance, the blasphemy legislation is part of the Pakistan penal code. We have raised the issue of that kind of legislation by pointing to some of the tensions and excitements it generates. We would like to see a pattern where that kind of regulation, along with the attitudes and terms it generates, is less prominent. That might lead to some reduction in the violence and the apparent readiness of some people to commit acts of terrible atrocity, particularly the two murders just mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the Prime Minister himself has made any representations to President Ali Zardari to provide adequate protection for Ahmadi Muslims, who have been subject to multiple assassinations and incessant persecution fuelled by the Khatme Nabuwat, who openly incite to murder in leaflets and public speeches? Will the Prime Minister take up with Zardari the denial of voting rights to Ahmadis by requiring them to make a sworn statement contradicting an article of their faith in order to be included on the electoral register?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was in Pakistan only a few months ago and certainly made representations on all aspects of human rights and religious persecution in Pakistan, and I think that his views were very well received. Specifically on the Ahmaddiyya, we meet regularly with representatives of the Ahmaddiyya community to listen to their concerns. Most recently Mr Burt, whom I have already mentioned, and my noble friend Lady Warsi met representatives of minority religious groups to discuss freedom in Pakistan. About
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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, Turkey's European Union membership has the full support of this Government, subject to the rigorous application of the accession criteria. We work closely with Turkey to support progress in its domestic reform programme to meet EU standards. The Cyprus problem is an immediate obstacle to progress in the accession process. We support all efforts towards a solution on Cyprus and encourage Turkey to implement the additional Ankara protocol.
Lord Sharkey: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. He will be aware that popular sentiment in Turkey is moving against EU membership just when Turkey's importance to the EU and to the region is increasing. In addition to the measures that he has outlined, will he consider devising with our EU partners a new, clear and dedicated initiative to speed up Turkey's accession?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I hear what my noble friend says, but the new Government of Mr Erdogan-his party has just been elected for an historic third time, which is a remarkable record-have made it clear through the words of Mr Davutoglu, the Foreign Minister in the last Government and I think in this one, that they wish to continue with their aim of achieving EU accession. Therefore, the policy remains. Of course it is debatable and of course parts of public opinion in Turkey take a different view about how the relationship with the European Union should be developed, but overall, as I understand it, the Government of Turkey remain committed and seek our support and alliance to achieve that aim. That is what we are working on. I have mentioned one obstacle, that of Cyprus, which is obviously very difficult. If we make progress on that and the Turks can admit Greek Cypriot ships to their ports under the protocol that I mentioned, we will definitely be moving in a positive direction, which I think would benefit both Turkey and the European Union.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government regard the opinion of the British people as a barrier to Turkish entry, not to mention the opinions of the people of Germany, France, Austria and elsewhere in Europe? Is it not also the case that
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Lord Howell of Guildford: I am not sure that the noble Lord is entirely right in his assessment of public opinion generally. Certainly it is true that in France and Germany there are strong sentiments against Turkey joining the European Union, but I have not heard the same sort of sentiment in the United Kingdom. It seems to me that we are a strong country in supporting the reform of the European Union to make it fit for purpose in the 21st century. Part of that pattern of reform may well involve the integration of this very powerful and dynamic nation that Turkey is emerging as, with its own foreign policy agenda, which so far includes a closer and constructive relationship with, and indeed involvement in, the European Union.
Lord Liddle: While many of us on this side of the House agree strongly that the EU should adopt a more welcoming approach to Turkish membership, does the noble Lord not agree that the accession of such a large country as Turkey would inevitably weaken Britain's voting strength in the European Union and have major implications for policy issues such as migration? Why is it that under the European Union Bill that we have been debating in this House, which requires referendums on 56 separate locks, the accession of Turkey would not be subject to a referendum? Does this not indicate the nonsense in the legislation that is before us?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I thought that the noble Lord might raise that matter in relation to accession. He is obviously exercised by it and has, indeed, made clear his concerns over aspects of the Bill, which we debated at enormous length. I think that the best thing I can do is to give a very brief reply and say, no, I do not agree.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister bear in mind constantly the fact that Greece's membership and Turkey's lack of it is very often a severe barrier to the settlement of the Cyprus problem, to which there is real urgency? I declare my interest as chairman of the all-party group for Northern Cyprus.
Lord Howell of Guildford: There is absolutely no doubt that the Cyprus problem is a barrier and a difficulty and it would be excellent if the parties concerned could see a way to solving their problems and this long-standing issue of the division of Cyprus. I totally agree with my noble friend on that matter. It requires changes: it requires full support for what the United Nations is seeking to do, it requires a positive tone on the part of both Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus and it requires a positive tone in Athens and Ankara as well. All these changes are required and we are working to support them as hard as we can.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: Does my noble friend agree that, in the context of the Copenhagen criteria, there are concerns about increasing authoritarianism, particularly to do with press freedom? Is he aware that
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Lord Howell of Guildford: Of course, we raise questions of human rights, freedom of the press and other things with our Turkish friends at the right opportunities. Turkey is well aware of the outside pressures and the need to maintain high standards in the fields of human rights and good governance, but these are matters for the Turkish nation to pursue and we are confident that it is pursuing these matters on the right lines.
The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister is aware that in the recent general election in Turkey the first Christian deputy was elected to the Turkish Parliament. Does he agree that this might provide an opportunity to put more pressure on the Turkish Government in respect of their treatment of religious minorities? I have in mind the Syriac Orthodox population in the south-east of the country, particularly in the Tur Abdin region.
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Government are, of course, very new. These are matters that we have certainly raised in the past with the Turkish Government and will continue to raise. They have to be seen in a broader context, which is simply that Turkey is becoming a pivotal nation in the Middle East/north Africa pattern of events, in economic terms, in its dealings with its neighbours in turmoil, such as Syria, and generally in playing a crucial part in the global pattern of achieving stability and peace. In this broad context, the point that the right reverend Prelate has raised is very important. We will continue to have that part of our dialogue, but there are many other issues that we certainly want to discuss with increasing frequency with Turkey.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the outcome of the consultation, which concluded on 5 May, concerning the abolition of the regulations relating to the hallmarking of items made from precious metals.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, as I have already explained in my reply to the noble Lord's Question in this House on 4 May, there was no such consultation, nor was there a proposal to abolish hallmarking. The retail sector, of which hallmarking is a part, was the first sector to be considered as part of the red tape challenge review of some 21,000 individual regulations. The outcome of the retail sector review will be announced over the course of the summer.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is she aware that, rightly or wrongly, there is a widely held view that the Government are indeed about to abolish hallmarking, egged on by
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Baroness Wilcox: My noble friend has long experience of being a Minister standing at this Dispatch Box and he will know that I cannot do anything about anything to do with the retail survey which is going on at the moment. However, I can assure him that one of the oldest forms of consumer protection in this country, dating back some 700 years, is going to take some moving.
Baroness Crawley: Thank you. Is the Minister aware of the serious lack of confidence that the UK's assay offices have in this rather strange and opaque process that the Government have put in place to deal with this review? Will the noble Baroness guarantee that the essential hallmarking work of the assay offices is not damaged by this process?
Baroness Wilcox: I am very happy to reassure the noble Baroness that nothing we are going to do will worry or upset the assay offices and certainly not the Birmingham office, which, after all, is the biggest office in this country doing assay work. The noble Baroness is also president of the Trading Standards Institute, so she knows this subject very well. We are worrying unnecessarily and noble Lords need to look no further than the response to the red tape challenge. We have received more than 6,000 letters of endorsement for the assay office. There is nothing to worry about at this stage.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I welcome the assurances from my noble friend the Minister but it would be very good to have further assurances, as much as she is able. Does she agree that whatever decision is made on whatever red tape procedures that are going forward-whether that be on consultation or red tape-it will not lower the prestige and skills of silversmiths, goldsmiths and jewellers in this country, of whom we are most proud, and the values either now or in the future for our antiques industry? Will she confirm that it is beneficial in the eyes of the Government to know who made an object, and when and where it was made?
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I agree with absolutely everything that my noble friend has said. We will do everything that we can to uphold such a marvellous protection for consumers in this country. Nothing about that is likely to change.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the British Art Market Federation. Is my noble friend aware that Chinese entrepreneurs are making small balls out of apple wood, giving them a thin skin of silver, sending
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Baroness Wilcox: I am sure that our assay offices know exactly what they are doing and they are well monitored by us. If my noble friend would like to send me a letter about these Chinese wooden objects coming into our airports, I am sure that I could respond. But I think he is worrying unnecessarily.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, while the Chester Assay Office had to close in the early 1950s, when the Minister is next in Chester will she take the opportunity to visit the wonderful display of silverwork with the Chester Assay mark in the Grosvenor Museum? In the mean time, will she recognise something that is very traditional and well loved by the British people? I hope that any precipitate move on behalf of the Government to abolish hallmarking will be resisted.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, if I get the opportunity, I certainly will make a visit. The assay office in Plymouth, where I come from, closed down many years ago, as have a lot of assay offices over time. The Government are looking at doing something positive in this area in order to compete with our European counterparts, particularly the Dutch. Under current UK law, UK assay officers can hallmark only in the United Kingdom. We are taking forward a legislative reform order, by April 2012 I hope, to allow UK assay offices to hallmark overseas so that we, too, can compete in Thailand and China.
To ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's interim report on the care of older people in their own homes, what plans they have to ensure appropriate care that respects dignity.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, dignity and respect are the cornerstones of good quality care. The Government have made the Care Quality Commission responsible for assuring quality of care. It is the responsibility of local authorities to specify and commission care and providers to deliver it. The Government's planned reforms for health and social care, with an emphasis on better commissioning, should increase our ability to drive up standards in services and result in improvements in quality of care.
Baroness Neuberger: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his reply. However, is he aware that a large proportion of the responses to the interim report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission have come from the care workers themselves who feel that in present circumstances they are simply unable
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Earl Howe: My noble friend makes some extremely important points and I agree with the thrust of them. As she said, these are interim findings. We all look forward to the finished report later in the year, which will no doubt contain deeper analysis than we have had access to so far. There can be no place for poor quality care in care services. We should all welcome an inquiry of this kind because it clearly will expose poor practice and will point the way towards some clear messages that we must bear in mind in the context of the Health and Social Care Bill. In that context, we are seeking to achieve much more joined-up commissioning so that we have health and social care working together towards quality outcomes.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a reprioritising of funding towards the care of people in their own homes is essential? Would he also agree that in training both commissioners and care workers a human rights approach is a very useful tool when caring for vulnerable older and disabled people in their own homes? I declare an interest as a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Earl Howe: I certainly agree with the noble Baroness that being looked after in one's own home is the preferred option for most elderly people. That is where we have to focus our attention and, over time, increasingly our resources to deliver good quality care in that context. She makes a very good point about training. Regarding the essential qualities of a good care worker, you cannot train anyone in a kind and compassionate attitude, which is probably the foremost requirement for anyone in that field. I take her point about human rights. My department is already speaking to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and has entered into a voluntary agreement with it to help us embed equality right across health and social care and to enable the commission and stakeholders to evaluate the progress we have made.
Baroness Wheeler: My Lords, I, too, welcome the work being undertaken by the EHRC on this vital issue. We know that there are substantial problems with commissioning and standards of care delivery. For example, many local agency contracts do not provide staff with travelling time between visits, which greatly adds to the pressures on them. Stories of older people even being catheterised to avoid the costs of an extra visit are not unheard of. However, as a carer, I stress that in my own locality, care agency arrangements work very well, to a high standard and as part of an integrated care package. How will the Minister ensure that future commissioning makes this experience the norm, bearing in mind that 81 per cent of publicly funded home care today is provided by the independent sector?
Earl Howe: The noble Baroness again makes some extremely good points. At the moment we have an architecture that, first, should ensure that basic standards of quality are maintained. We have that through the Care Quality Commission, whose job it is to register domiciliary care agencies and to ensure that they have systems in place to quality-assure themselves. That must be the starting point: agencies must make sure that they are delivering the service for which they have been commissioned. Secondly, it is also a matter of ensuring that we have visibility where problems arise and that service users are encouraged to believe that they can speak up for themselves, that whistleblowing is possible, and that anyone else who observes poor quality care should feel free to speak up and to know whom to tell when they see bad care happening.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, over four-fifths of local authority-funded home care is delivered by the private and voluntary sectors. In light of this, will the Government use the opportunity of the current Health and Social Care Bill to clarify that private and voluntary sector agencies providing home care services on behalf of local authorities are performing public functions under the Human Rights Act?
Earl Howe: I am sure that the noble Baroness, with her experience, can tell me a lot of what I do not know about what is built into the contracts that local authorities take out with private, independent and voluntary sector organisations. I would be surprised if the human rights obligations she refers to are not built into those contracts. It is clear that everyone has a basic human right to be treated properly wherever type of care is being delivered. The key here is to ensure that service users are aware of their rights. As I said earlier, my department is extremely keen to embed equalities and human rights in everything that it is responsible for.
Lord Framlingham: My Lords, given the time limits on speeches, it is tempting to try to speak in a staccato shorthand manner, rather like Mr Jingle in Pickwick Papers. Sadly, I lack Charles Dickens's skill with words and so I will have to say what I want to say in my own way.
I am conscious that I am one of the newest Members of your Lordships' House, but I am quite a long-standing parliamentarian and spent my last 13 years in the Commons as a Deputy Speaker. I have seen ping-pong at close quarters and know only too well how an amendment to a Bill in this House can strike dread into hearts at the other end of the Palace. As a Deputy Speaker, I spent a long time not speaking but listening and, I hope, learning. I spent much time meeting Speakers and guests from other legislatures and being by turns proud and humbled by their reverence for our parliamentary system and traditions, including your Lordships' House and the way its procedures work so well.
Before any momentous decision is taken, the key question is not how but why. If there is no satisfactory answer to why, then you never go on to how. To do so is only to waste time, effort and money, which should be spent where it could do some good. I am currently reading Adam Nicolson's book about the making of the King James Bible. The Bible, a work of genius, was produced by a committee of 47, so committees can work. One sentence which guided them in their labours and which leapt out of its page at me in the context of this debate is:
Abolition is self-evidently a bad idea. When weighing the issues, on one side of the scales are many good and treasured things; on the other side, the only thing is this increasingly debased currency of democracy. "Democracy" is a word like "community" and "stakeholder"; it had a meaning once but now it has become, sadly, debased. It has become a flag that has been pinned to too many masts; it has become tattered, bedraggled and, sadly, increasingly meaningless. Please let us call a spade a spade. This is not a reform; it is abolition.
The press renamed the allowances of Members of Parliament as expenses, to devastating effect. The community charge, whatever you think of it, became the poll tax and was killed immediately. This is abolition and the word "reform" must be corrected every time it is uttered. In all this, we must beware of relying on the media to tell a straight tale. They are no longer patriotic; they are no longer guardians of our constitution or cherishers of our traditions. We cannot rely on our newspapers or television even to be fair-minded. Their only concern nowadays is to fill their columns or their programmes with controversial or eye-catching headlines or photographs. If a serious argument goes by default to the detriment of our nation or its children and
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Others have dealt, in great detail, with the nuts and bolts of the Bill, but the truth is that it is rotten at the core. I finish by using words that Mr Jingle might use: "Elected Peers not in conflict with the Commons? Nonsense. A 15-year term? Far too long. Continuing appointments? Confirms their value. Modify? Yes. Sensible reform? Yes. Abolition and Americanisation of our House? Certainly not".
Baroness Goudie: My Lords, I am a radical. I believe in parliamentary reform-of both Houses. Scrutiny of legislation is only one example of where improvement is required, but it is illogical to focus exclusively on this House. On the contrary, it is only in the context of both Houses that one can identify the functions of this House and it is only after defining the functions of this House that one can sensibly approach the question of its composition.
I am a democrat-I believe in a fully elected House of Commons and the primacy of that House. That, of course, is what we have. To that extent, I am in favour of the status quo. No case has been made out that any weaknesses of this House will be cured by the proposed change in composition. No confidence can be maintained that the strengths of this House may not be impaired-far from it. The one certainty is that there will be uncertainty and confusion about primacy and the relationship between the two Houses. There is the potential for paralysis. It is naive to suppose that if this House were elected its Members would not consider that this elected House had at least equal legitimacy to the other elected House.
To meet this point, it is proposed that there should be different electoral systems, but that is merely digging a deeper hole. It is bizarre to be considering an alternative voting system just after it has been rejected in a referendum. More seriously, those who believe that the single transferable vote or proportional representation, or whatever, is superior to first past the post will inevitably consider that this House enjoys the greater legitimacy of the two. It is nothing short of absurd to imagine that the conventions that govern the relationship between the two Houses would remain anything like the same. These proposals are ill thought out. The hybridity will not command support in the country.
At a time of acute constraints on public expenditure, expense will be incurred. We saw the figures yesterday, while yesterday's Gallup poll highlighted the problems of well-being for low-income families. Those are the issues that we should be discussing in this House and the other House.
These proposals will monopolise parliamentary time, not only over the issue of new creations but because they envisage removing those who were, unquestionably, appointed for life. They will therefore turn an appointed House into a disappointed House, which will need to scrutinise, at the least, the transitional arrangements. I
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Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, when I read the Government's White Paper, I was struck by how extraordinarily unbalanced it was. Ninety per cent of the White Paper dealt with the method of election to an elected House, the difference to the Bill if there were not appointed Peers and the period of the transition. There were two sentences only on the role and functions of the House and on its relationship to the other place. These sentences said that the Government see no reason why an elected House should alter or have different functions from the present House, or why its role and relationship should alter. It is on these aspects that noble Lords in this debate have rightly, in my view, cast such scepticism. Indeed, if I may say this with great respect to the Leader of the House, he has not been consistent on this matter. Yesterday, defending himself against the charge that this proposed legislation amounted to abolition of the House of Lords, he concentrated on the fact that the role and relationship would not change; yet previously he had said that he expected that the role would evolve and the relationship would change. I hope that the noble Lord who is summing up the debate tonight will make it clear which of these aspects the Government really believe. When the noble Lord says that the House will evolve but is not being abolished, I remind him that that is what evolution is all about. Evolution does result in extinction. He is just bringing it about rather more quickly than has happened in the past.
When I struggled with these matters on the Wakeham commission, we started with the question: why should we have a second Chamber at all? Surely that is the question from which we ought to start. When we went around the country taking evidence from the public, those members of the public who were sufficiently interested to want to come and give evidence-I accept that that is rather a select sample-were clear about two things. First, a second Chamber is necessary to counterbalance the dominance that the Executive have exerted over the other place. Secondly, however, the elected Chamber must retain its supremacy. Surely those must be the two bases on which we consider the role of the second Chamber. The Bill and the Government's White Paper refuse to define the role and status of the second Chamber, saying that we should rely on the established conventions. However, the whole point about conventions is that they change. Surely, if the Government are launching this legislation without defining those functions and the relationship in the legislation, it is starting the British constitution on a voyage to a destination that is undefined. That seems to me not good enough. Will the Minister confirm that, despite what the Government said in the White Paper, the role of the second Chamber and its relationship to the other place will be within the purview of the Joint Committee?
I finish by making two other observations. First, the White Paper and the draft Bill talk about a normal term of 15 years, or three terms, non-renewable. However,
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My second observation is on the size of the House. The White Paper and the Bill propose that the House should have 300 Members. In support of that, they say that this House, now amounting to more than 800 Members, has an average attendance of 388 and therefore 300 Members should be sufficient to carry out the normal roles of the House, particularly if they are full-time politicians. It seems to me highly implausible that a House of 300 would be sufficient to carry out the work of this House, particularly when terms are non-renewable so that Members do not have to account to their constituencies and there is no financial advantage in attending particular sessions. It seems very likely that people in that position, or at least some of them, will take their stipend and very rarely be seen here. So the size of the House seems much too small.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, having been a Member of your Lordships' House for 26 years, I have had almost equal experience of the House when it consisted of mixed hereditary and life Peers as of the current composition of appointed life Peers with a small and select band of elected hereditaries. As far as I am concerned, the post-1999 House of Lords is no better, no more democratic and no more able to defeat the Government or ask the House of Commons to think again and does not have a greater breadth of expertise. It is certainly less independent, more partisan and more expensive. I therefore again wish to put on record my regret that the historic and traditional element of our ancient Parliament, which was represented by hereditary Peers, should have been lost apart from the small group who remain and continue to do sterling work. The brilliant speech by my noble friend Lord Elton earlier is a witness to that.
I welcome the proposals before us to the extent that they at least show that the Government are prepared to follow through on the so-called reform Act of 1999. For those of us who were here in 1997 and 1998 when the then Government spoke of their mandate from the public and how urgent and important their proposals were, there was an assumption that the Bill was but the first stage of reform and the dawn of a new era. In fact, all it amounted to was a Bill to abolish the right of hereditary Peers to sit in the House of Lords or, as the then Leader put it, to get rid of hereditary Peers.
I am a natural conservative, in that I do not like change for the sake of change. If changes have to be made, it has to be shown that they are changes for the better. The 1999 reform Act did not achieve that; a wholly appointed House is not an improvement, although I can understand that those who have become Members
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Baroness Boothroyd: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, but I am not in favour of the status quo. I am in favour of reform, but it must be incremental reform, as laid out in the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. I want reform, but I want sound and good reform when it does come.
Baroness Hooper: I thank the noble Baroness for her intervention. I was about to congratulate her on the style and bravura of her speech yesterday. I must say that, if she supports the Steel Bill, in my opinion that is a long way in the direction of preserving the status quo. However, we are where we are-facing the current proposals.
There are so many ways in which the working of the House of Lords could be improved, and there have been many excellent and some very novel suggestions in the course of this debate. Like others, I have always believed that in considering further reforms we should be looking at the whole of Parliament-that is, at both Houses, also taking into account the powers and functions of the devolved Parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which considerably change the constitutional map.
I have also always believed that we should move towards a fully elected second Chamber, since I do not consider that the present wholly appointed House has democratic legitimacy. However, my idea of a fully elected second Chamber would be via the medium of indirect elections, based on a system of electoral colleges to ensure that the breadth of expertise, which most people agree already exists and must remain if the role of the second Chamber is to be mainly that of scrutinising and revising legislation, should be guaranteed. The electoral college system would allow doctors, lawyers, academics, the voluntary sector, the regions and other groups to be defined to elect their representatives for a period of time. It would be on much the same lines as the hereditary Peers do today so, far from wanting the hereditary Peers to wither away, as has been suggested would be the result of the Steel Bill, I want them to remain and to be reinforced because of the historic continuity that their presence gives to this House.
I cannot therefore find anything to recommend in the Government's proposals for direct elections or the system that they suggest. Perhaps the only thing I can agree with in these proposals is the decision not to change the name of the House of Lords, at least not in the short term. It would indeed be ridiculous to have a House of Commons without a House of Lords. It is perfectly feasible to have Members of the House of Lords without having to create them all as Peers of the realm, which has indeed become something of a charade. Yet the idea of a senate has no appeal at all.
I started out by trying to find something to welcome in these government proposals. The more that I have listened to the debate and its many brilliant and
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Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, coming in to bat at number 75 it is tempting to have a bit of a slog but I shall be my usual restrained and cautious self. We can surely all agree that our democracy needs safeguarding and strengthening, that government-policy-making, legislation and administration-needs to be done better, that the performance of Parliament needs to be improved and that the House of Lords needs to be reformed. As we pursue political and constitutional reform, our lodestar should of course be democratic legitimacy-the principle that elections determine who should form the Government, that elected Members of Parliament and the Government themselves should be accountable to the people and that the people should, from time to time, have the opportunity to renew them or to replace them. But we have such democratic legitimacy through the ways in which the House of Commons works, as it is now constituted.
That the House of Lords is appointed does not invalidate or weaken our British democracy. So long as the primacy of the House of Commons is accepted, as it now is, the democratic imperative is satisfied. As we have it now, the House of Lords is no more than an advisory Chamber. Its role is revision and scrutiny, which is what the Government want it to be. Of course there are, from time to time, impassioned and prolonged debates between the two Houses. We in the Lords offer our amendments. Sometimes we reiterate that offer. Occasionally, rarely, we exercise our delaying power but ultimately the appointed House of Lords always defers to the democratic authority of the elected House of Commons. Although the textbooks may not quite put it like this, since the Parliament Acts we have, in effect, unicameral government: an elected House of Commons with an advisory House of Lords beside it. The noble Lord, Lord Norton, who always educates me in these matters, described our arrangements as asymmetrical bicameralism.
Mr Clegg's quest to introduce democratic legitimacy into the second Chamber is the pursuit of a red herring. The people who make the laws are already elected and are accountable to the people. The House of Lords advises the real legislators. If we were to have an elected second Chamber, the clear accountability of Parliament to the people would be muddied.
Elections are not the only source of legitimacy. Judges, academics and faith leaders have legitimacy. The legitimacy of the House of Lords derives from the quality of the advice that it offers through debates, amendments, the work of Select Committees and so forth. The quality of that advice derives from the expert knowledge and experience of the Members of the House-Cross-Benchers and Members of political parties alike. Good scrutiny makes for good government. That is the justification of what we should do.
Our democracy needs reform. The debate about the Bill is not a contest between those who are in favour of reform and those who are against it. The House of Commons needs to pursue the agenda offered by the Wright Committee to strengthen the Back Benches
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If the House of Lords were to be abolished and replaced by an elected second Chamber, as the Government propose, how would relations between the two Houses be affected? There could be an attempt to nip this new element of democracy in the bud-to emasculate its democratic potency-restricting its powers to those conventionally exercised by the present mainly appointed House, which is what the White Paper proposes. Who of first rate ability or serious experience in the world would want to stand for election to a Chamber with such limited powers? In principle, an elected second Chamber could be embraced as a vigorous and spirited House of Parliament flexing its democratic muscles. However, in that case, the House of Commons would have to accept a rebalancing of the respective powers of the two Houses. Members of Parliament would have to accept that Members elected to the second Chamber would have the same rights to represent and relate to the citizens of this country as they do. When the United States federal Senate became directly elected, its Members serving longer terms-though not 15-years terms-than Members of the House of Representatives, the Senate became the senior House. The Unites States legislature is characterised by permanent conflict and impasse, with the Executive unable to secure their preferred legislation.
The compromise proposal of an 80 per cent elected and 20 per cent appointed House would not work; I cannot imagine how such a hybrid Chamber could be successful. Of course, the appointed Members would be 20 per cent of a much smaller House. The Government propose that they should be full-time Members. They would be no match for the Cross-Benchers, who at present make such an invaluable contribution to your Lordships' House. The decisive argument against the compromise proposal is that the unelected 20 per cent would again and again decide the outcome of votes in the mainly elected House, which would be unacceptable.
If we have abolition and replacement, it seems to me likely that the House of Commons would attempt to constrain the powers of the elected second Chamber; but the elected second Chamber would gradually and tenaciously aggrandise its powers, just as we have seen the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the London mayoralty and the European Parliament do. Do noble Lords remember the categorical assurances that we were given before the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979 that its powers would remain
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Either way, whether we have a weak or a powerful elected second Chamber, the key question to be asked is: how would it improve the performance of Parliament? Again and again, I have asked the proponents of elections that question and I have never had an answer. I hope that when he comes to wind up this evening, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, will be able to give us an answer, but I fear that the price for the extra democratic legitimacy that is not needed would be a less effective Parliament.
It would be much better to concentrate our energies on reform of the second Chamber where we can agree, and on improving what we have. The proposals set forth by the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, in his Bill are more or less contained within the White Paper and the draft Bill: a reduction of our membership; arrangements for retirement; the phased departure of the remaining hereditary Peers; powers to expel Peers found guilty of grave offences; and a statutory Appointments Commission. The statutory Appointments Commission's task would be to ensure that the quality, expertise, range and representativeness, in the sense of the term used by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, were such as to provide an institution that would give the best of service to the country.
If the Government set aside, at least as their immediate purpose, elections, which are massively contentious inside Parliament, little debated or desired outside Parliament and irrelevant to the urgent needs of the country, it would not be difficult to achieve wide agreement on measures of incremental reform. Incrementalism is the British way of constitutional reform. Changes that often seem modest-for example, the introduction of life peerages-turn out over time to have profound, far-reaching and beneficial consequences. Mr Clegg, if he would moderate his ambition, could yet be a great parliamentary reformer.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, it is a complete pain to be speaking after the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. He said so much that I wanted to say that I shall have to prune my speech as I go along. I suppose I can summarise my attitude to this Bill by saying, "I agree with Nick, but not much". I agree much more with the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. I am a thoroughgoing supporter of an elected House of Lords, but rather in the mould of my noble friend Lord Waddington. I want to see a more balanced bicameral system. I want to see the Executive having less power. As the Executive have so much power in the Commons, a stronger, elected House of Lords would be a useful change to the British constitution, but that is not what we are talking about now.
What we are talking about now is a completely botched reform, concocted in dark rooms by a party that is meant to believe in openness, without even involving the Front Bench of the Labour Party or taking any account of all the expertise around this House about how it might have got further in achieving its aims. As my noble friend Lord Lang pointed out,
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We are offering people coming into this House 15 years with the wages of a moderately senior teacher, no prospects of promotion, no afterlife and no influence. How are people like that going to be respected by the House of Commons? It is the respect that the House of Commons has for the people here, for us, that makes the whole thing function. A lot of people here were senior Ministers, have played a part in Government and have the same qualities as the people in another place, except that they have been through it all and succeeded. Added to that, there is a collection of people who have succeeded in the courses that they have followed in life. Although we are a nuisance, get in the way of what the Government want to do and do not have to go through elections, none the less we are accorded respect, and that makes for the balance in the House.
We have a Bill and I do not see how, in the course of coalition politics and looking after the pride of the Liberal Party and its leader, we can get away from the fact that this is the Bill we will probably end up with. However, as many Peers have said, a lot in this Bill reproduces what is in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel. Therefore, we can actually build on many of the proposals in this Bill. If we cut away the bits that do not work and do not make sense we may end up with this Bill looking remarkably like the Steel Bill, perhaps with a few improvements. It is a task which I do not envy the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and his committee. I am delighted he has taken it on. I am sure he will chair it brilliantly. I have no wish at all to join him but I look forward very much to what he has to say in a year or two's time.
I have some suggestions for him. Now that we are going to have a fixed pattern of elections, it seems to me that even in an appointed House we could take a step towards election by making sure that at election times the parties expose to the public the list of those they intend to put forward for the House of Lords under the Steel Bill. If we are having the Steel Bill system with a 15-year term and a regular flow of new entrants, the major parties-Conservative and Labour-will have about 70 or 80 Peers to create in any five-year period. They can safely expose the top 30 or 40 names without any risk that anyone on that list will not get into the House of Lords. That would mean that when you were voting for a party you knew what they were going to do with the House of Lords and you knew the quality of people they were going to put in there. It would be something which was a matter at the general election. It would be an element of democratic accountability. You could even have a separate vote for the lists of Peers that parties were putting forward. This would have the advantage of dissociating the percentages in this House from the percentages that
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I would also suggest, in contrast to what my noble friend Lord Marlesford said, that when it comes to reducing this House, as needs to be done, we should not pay people, we should offer hereditary peerages. It is an attractive thing. My peerage, if I am cynical about it, is a reward for buggery and bribery but hallowed by several hundred years in between. Noble Lords have got here for entirely legitimate and honourable reasons, certainly by comparison, and they would be elegant additions to the hereditary peerage as it will then be, which is something entirely irrelevant. It will have been severed from its connection with this House and will be merely a decoration rather in the way that French titles are a decoration. It would be a pleasant badge for people in this House to be able to hand down to their successors and adequate compensation for many people who were looking for a good reason to retire. Giving money to people to retire is going back to sinecures and to bad old ways I would not like to see reproduced.
I want to see a House of Lords which is as strong as it is now and which is an attractive place for the many people who get here because of their own experience and skills. That is the right balance to try to maintain. I think we can do it while improving, in many ways, the House at the moment and I wish the noble Lord, Lord Richard, every success in that. I hope, too, that he will manage to remove IPSA from the Bill. I do not think we should wish that on ourselves.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: As a former senior police officer, noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to detain them for very long. I came into this House some 13 years ago, and one thing that I have learnt is to value the wise counsel of your Lordships. It has been said several times throughout the debate, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". I do not think that it is broke, and the House performs extremely well. Clearly, there is room for reform, and I agree entirely with the wonderful speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd. I support her Motion.
The changes that have taken place in this House since, I suppose, 1911-more than 100 years-have evolved slowly. We have heard noble Lords refer to this. It has been an evolution rather than a revolution. One thing that I should like to say is that if the House changes, it is important to look at the transitional period because noble Lords who have given selfless service should be allowed time to leave this place. I gave up a promising plan for retirement and moved down here at some economic cost. The House and certainly the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, should consider-and the Bill is silent on it-the exit strategy for those who will be dispensed with if the Bill is passed. I hope that it will not be passed and that the House stays pretty much as it is. I read of grandfather rights, a term that seems appropriate to this House. They should be looked at as well. It may well be that we can ease the burden of those who may have to leave.
When I first came into the House, regular attendance was a badge of honour. I remember in the House Magazine being mentioned as one of the top 10 attendees. I was very proud of that. Because it attracts more expenses, regular attendance now seems to be a badge of dishonour. That is a tragedy because it discourages people from attending, and the press pick up on this as though somehow we are abusing the system, when we are simply performing an important public function.
I fully support the reforms of the Steel Bill. In a strange way, in my experience over 13 years, this House often represents public opinion more than the other place. That is a strange anomaly, even though that place is elected; but, of course, that place is controlled almost totally by the party system. This place has a healthy independence and long may that continue. It will become a party animal if we have elections.
As has been said many times, the Bill is a bad Bill. There are a lot of unanswered questions. As has also been said many times, I do not envy the Joint Committee, which has a difficult task ahead of it. If the House is elected by some more proportionate means, Mr Clegg seems to think that that clearly would be a more legitimate way of electing people than first past the post. This House would eventually argue that it was more legitimate and would challenge the other place. That is fairly obvious. I conclude simply by saying that the constitution of this country should not be the political plaything of a minor player in a coalition Government who were hatched together over a few days. This country of ours deserves better.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, let me say at once that I acknowledge how complex a task it must have been to put this Bill together. Unlike some, I think that it was brave and constructive to produce it so that we can have something concrete to argue around.
I start with some clarifications. Nothing that I am about to say should be taken as a disparagement of Members in the other place. There has been an undertone of that in some of the contributions. The vast majority of them are decent, intelligent and conscientious Members of Parliament who are trying to do their best for the public realm.
Secondly, although I oppose elections to this House, I accept the need for reforms as many others have done. Many have mentioned the Steel Bill, as do I. Thirdly, we must accept that the onus is on those on my side of the argument-the non-elected side-to justify the non-elected status quo, which is almost unique in the democratic world and against the spirit of the times.
Further-I do not know whether this has been mentioned-we stand in particularly intense conflict of interest on the Bill, because the majority of us will be booted out if it goes through. We have to try extremely hard to be objective and see ourselves as others see us. At times, we can be apt to be a trifle too self-congratulatory.
I want to talk a little about a referendum. Some have mentioned it; I heard the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, praise it yesterday. Partly because of the conflict
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I also note that in the European Union Bill, which my Government are in the process of legislating, they propose referenda for 50-plus Community arrangements. One will require a referendum if there is any change to either the right of election or the right to stand in any European election. How can it conceivably be right for us to impose a referendum under those circumstances while denying a referendum under these much more direct and plangent circumstances?
I do not believe that this is our Parliament. It belongs to the public. We are not just changing this House in the course of the Bill; we are uprooting it. I cannot for the life of me see how my Government, who claim deficiency of democratic authority as the reason for the Bill, can then ignore that democratic requirement. It would surely be aping the deficiency that they level at us to push through reform without it.
I devote the remainder of my time to the potential impact on the quality and character of this House if elections go ahead. First, who will want to stand for elections to this House? Given that it will have seriously inferior powers, what ambitious man or woman wanting a full-time career in politics will make this their first choice? Furthermore, that second-rateness will be wantonly rubbed in their faces if paragraph 111 of the White Paper is followed into legislation. It states that,
The idea that someone might start here as a means of climbing to the elevated House of Commons is scotched, first, by the 15-year term and, secondly, by a ban on going straight from this place to the other place-there has to be a five-year break. It is not as if we will work less assiduously. The constituencies will consist of about 450,000 and does anyone suggest that that will not yield a massive amount of work? Of course it will. We will have less than half the number in the reformed House to deal with the plethora of legislation and policy than the other place will have. What sense is there in that? There will be less power, less pay, more work and no title. Who really believes that ambitious politicians will come to this place?
Lord Trefgarne: Will the noble Lord take a little care in denigrating the potential candidates for an elected Chamber? I am thinking of being one myself and I would have no plans to go on to the House of Commons.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I find it very easy to respond to the noble Lord's intervention because, in his case, he would certainly be the exception to my rule. I am trying to be sensible and point out some of the realities about the two places.
I end with a few comments on the 20 per cent appointed Members of this House, if that option goes forward. One of the statistics produced by the progenitors of the Bill to beat us with is that on average only 44 per cent of Cross-Benchers bother to turn up to vote. That is precisely because many of them attend debates and Bills which engage their expertise and experience; otherwise, they get on with outside jobs and perform the outside commitments which feed and furnish their virtues of experience and expertise. I do not disparage people who may come here-I am trying to be realistic-but I do not believe that a full-time, paid 20 per cent of Cross-Benchers could do what the present Cross-Benchers do, for the reasons to which I have briefly alluded.
Apart from all that, I suspect that the culture and tenor of this place will be very changed under the new aegis. Partisanship will, inevitably, be in full cry, not least because getting a candidacy under the new aegis will be via an even more narrowly partisan channel than that which applies to MPs now.
Lastly, despite the best intentions of the framers of this draft Bill, I cannot see that it will yield a Chamber as ready, let alone as qualified, to amend government legislation as we are. I have not been able to update the statistics to this moment in time, but when I wrote an article in 2002, I found that in the period since Labour gained office in 1997, there had been more than 1,000 whipped votes in the House of Commons and not a single one went against the Government. In the same period, there were roughly the same number of votes in this place and a quarter of those were lost by the Government. I do not believe that that fantastic independence of mind and voting will survive an elected House. I believe that our native genius is demonstrated in the evolution of our Parliament, in both Houses. Let us continue on that evolutionary path and eschew revolution.
Lord Stewartby: My Lords, one of the problems of speaking fairly far down the batting list is that most of what needs to be said has already been said, several times. For the convenience of the House, I shall confine myself to do no more than identify a number of areas where I am more concerned now, as a result of listening to much of the debate, than I was before. I certainly do not favour abolition, even if it is creeping abolition over several years. On the other hand, it has become increasingly important to tackle the issue of reform. Like many others, I commend my noble friend Lord Steel for his work on that and hope that we can progress it, either on its own or in conjunction with part of the draft Bill in front of us.
What bothers me most is that it appears that those who drew up the Bill had certain preconceived notions of what would and would not work, and how they wanted it to happen. However, one must consider function in broad terms and identify its requirements if one is to give it authority through our parliamentary
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We have heard a lot about the 15-year appointment period. I think that that is completely unworkable. If you are elected and for some reason do not do anything much in the parliamentary system, you can go on holiday for 15 years-which might appeal to some people.
Do we really need another elected body? We are always complaining that we have too many elections-to central government, to local government and to the devolved Administrations. Do we want to put in yet another tier?
I missed the point about Members of a reformed House being paid less than Members of Parliament. That is an extraordinary twist and I do not think that the Bill will get anywhere, even if its fundamental proposal of elected membership makes progress.
When dealing with an electoral system, it would be better to have one elected House than two so that responsibility remains clear-cut. There will undoubtedly be challenges from one House to the other-it will not always be the upper challenging the lower-and the Bill will change the relationship between the two. It will change the way in which they carry out their functions and it is a huge leap in the dark.
One can be sure that any upper House of the kind proposed would seek to extend its competence. One has only to look at the EU or Scottish Parliaments to see that the new body would desire immediately to widen its competence across the board and would demand more powers; that is so certain that one does not even have to justify it.
On a practical level, I worry that the process will effectively exclude any parliamentarians who continue to know what is going on in the outside world. For some years, the House of Commons has made it evident that outside jobs are frowned on. Here, all Peers are part-timers and get a lot of experience from what they do outside the House. If they are replaced by 300 professional politicians, how will that enable the new body to bring all the necessary experience and knowledge to bear on its parliamentary work?
The worst thing about the 15-year figure is that there will be no accountability for those involved. One will not get anything that could be described fairly as a democratic system in the full sense if there is no accountability once somebody has been elected in the first instance. That is such a gaping omission that it invalidates a lot of the concepts behind that part of the draft Bill.
The question of who would stand and what we would do about existing Peers with outside jobs and so forth are unresolved areas, but they will need a great deal more thought and attention if there is to be any prospect of them getting near legislation. I do not believe that legitimacy depends entirely on election. In our society there are many examples of people with considerable responsibilities but who are not elected to their posts. Judges are the obvious case, but they are not alone. Throughout the structure of public affairs
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I hope that this debate will focus attention on many of the most difficult and worrying areas of the process. I have said quite enough already, but I conclude by saying that those who are going to have to try to work this system deserve our thanks and admiration.
Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords, I am number 82 in the list of speakers in the debate and I agree with my predecessor who has just spoken that everything that has to be said has already been said. I should like to summarise my views by saying that I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, said yesterday and what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said today. I also agree strongly with the statement made yesterday by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon:
I am opposed to the destruction of the present House of Lords and I am opposed to the creation of a new Chamber as per the model in the White Paper and the draft Bill. I also object to the spurious urgency that is being heaped upon the committee which has been asked to look at the White Paper. It should have all the time that it could possibly want in order to carry out the job. However, it has really been given the wrong agenda because the Bill and the White Paper are, to put it rather mildly, not 100 per cent on course. What the committee should be thinking about are what incremental changes are needed and can be made without damaging the overall fabric.
I want to spend a little time on the principle that underlies the desire for having elected Members in this House. The benefit of being elected will be conferred upon 80 per cent of the Members, but there will be another 20 per cent who will not have it. Part of the scheme provides that some 20 per cent of the House will be illegitimate by the test of direct election. There are also the 12 bishops who, on the same test, would not have that benefit; and then the Ministers, however many there may be, would be specially nominated by the Prime Minister to serve in this House. So there will be a group of people who will not have been blessed by the touch of the people.
Where does this principle come from and where does one find an exposition of it that is applicable to our circumstances? We have a country in which the entire electorate has its own Member of Parliament in the form of some 60,000 people per constituency. They have a right to call upon their MP to look after their own interests or the interests of the constituency in the form of local interests, and indeed national matters if that is their concern. It is the duty of the MP to answer those concerns. The Chamber in which their MPs sit is accorded primacy under a system of conventions which have been set up, so their representatives sit in a Chamber which has the final call on what
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I do not know how well your Lordships remember the passage getting on a bit in the book where there is some discussion about the European Convention on Human Rights and the composition of the House of Lords. I shall read paragraph 428 on page 162 to your Lordships.
"The Government is not aware of any Strasbourg case-law on the composition of the second chamber of a member state of the Council of Europe. There is a variety of types of membership: in the Czech Republic all members of the Senate are directly elected; in Austria all members of the Bundesrat are indirectly elected; the Seanad in Ireland includes appointed members; the Senate in Italy includes a few appointed members and a few ex officio members; the Belgian Senate contains directly elected members, indirectly elected members, co-opted members and hereditary/ex officio members. In other words, while first chambers must be elected by the people in order to comply with the Convention, second chambers will frequently have a different form of composition, which may or may not involve direct election. If one looks beyond Council of Europe member states, all the members of the Canadian Senate are appointed".
I want to draw attention, as has been repeatedly referred to, to the extraordinary feature of the elected Members-that they get a 15-year term and they are never questioned or brought up for review at general elections as they come and go over those 15 years. The matter is taken even further by the provision in relation to payment, that their salary has to be set below that of the MPs because they,
What an incredible phrase. One might expect there to be funds for an office to be set up for this huge constituency of pushing on for half a million. One might expect special funding for that, but there is not a word about that. It is not conceived. There is a completely dead hand; once the vote has been given in their favour they are in for 15 years. There is nothing to stop them setting up an office-true enough-but there is no concept of that; it has not be dreamt of or thought of by those who make these proposals and that is an extraordinary feature.
Those who propound the democratically-elected principle must believe in it. One is amazed then that they fall short of demanding a 100 per cent elected House. Why are these other 20 per cent deliberately selected as not having the benefit of this electoral process? They nevertheless get a 15-year term, unquestioned, however they perform their duties. One is surprised at the poverty of the demand. One would expect that, if they really believed in the importance of this principle, they would be going for 100 per cent.
The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, by any criterion, in our bicameral system your Lordships' House is more representative than the other place. I am not ignoring the question about electoral mandate, but as we have heard so often, elections are both before and afterwards-the electorate has the freedom to choose an MP and to unchoose their MP next time around. That seems to be a fatal flaw against the 15-year fixed term. Certainly the ballot box is not the only way in which democratic legitimacy is acquired. There are many people who, for a variety of reasons, have no say in elections to the other place, while in this Chamber there are doughty champions of some otherwise relatively voiceless groups in our society.
Our experience of the Appointments Commission since its establishment in 2000 has been a good pilot for a wider application of that principle for getting to this place. This House is already fairly diverse but the nominations by the commission have increased that diversity. The chair of the commission, the noble Lord, Lord Jay, has pointed out that, of those nominated by the commission since 2000, 37 per cent have been women, 22 per cent from ethnic minorities and 8 per cent disabled.
While with my right reverend friends on these Benches I welcome the opportunity to consider the governance of our country in its totality, including reform of your Lordships' House, I would not want changes in any way to reduce the capacity of Parliament to speak for society as a whole. I am speaking about so-called "civil society", distinguished as it sometimes is from the formal mechanisms of the state and the commercial market. Obviously, the boundaries are somewhat fuzzy and there is considerable overlap but in a healthy and free society some distinction of that kind is necessary. In a way, I would be more comfortable with a definition of civil society that sees it as society conceived of as a whole and served by various political, commercial, military and other instruments, but which is and must remain ultimately the body from which these other instruments derive their legitimacy.
At least if their voting habits are anything to go by, large numbers of our fellow citizens are sceptical about our present electoral system and it would be profoundly unwise to replicate that scepticism in the upper House. For that reason, I simply cannot agree that a directly elected upper House, whatever the proportion, would be a reform-I would describe it as a deform. When I reflect on the point about the existing commission, I am tempted to say that you can have election or you can have diversity but you cannot have both.
I shall not comment on the inevitably greater challenge to the primacy of the House of Commons in the Government's proposals. Many noble Lords have made that point and I agree with it. However, I wonder how many places in the world have a bicameral system under which both Houses are elected and the upper House has not, in practice, acquired the upper hand. We have heard that sometimes this leads to deadlock but in countries where there is deadlock there is often a president or a political head of state to bring them together. Is that one of the unthought-through implications of what is being proposed?
I now turn to two other aspects of the proposals. The first concerns the overall size of the House. That question cannot properly be answered without a detailed reflection on the purpose of the House and its role. A smaller House could, if properly appointed, do the representative job asked of it. But 300 Members is almost certainly too small. Much thought would have to be given to the nature of the appointing body or bodies and the way in which they make their nominations. I very much warmed to what the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said, particularly about electoral colleges and perhaps an indirect election by that means.
It would, however, be important to make sure that in a rightly much more professional House, those Members whose expertise relies precisely on their lives and expertise outside Parliament are able to keep their feet firmly on the ground outside the rarefied atmosphere of Westminster. A more professional House should not exclude the contribution of some noble Lords who cannot be here every day. That has some bearing on the numbers.
My other point is about the place of bishops. It is essential to separate as far as possible the role of the bishops of the established church from issues of representation of faith communities. That faith communities should be one of the estates or constituencies of civil society from whom Members of this House are chosen is so obvious as to be, in the inelegant modern phrase, a "no-brainer". I take it absolutely for granted that however difficult it is to work out the details, we must have appropriate representation of the different faith communities in our legislature, whether they can secure election or not.
The bishops, however, are not here for any such reason. We do not represent the Church of England, Christianity or the world of faith, even though many in all these areas say how much they appreciate our presence. The bishops of the Church of England have sat in this Parliament since its inception for no reason other than their responsibility for the areas covered by their dioceses and all the people who live in them. I happen to think that the link between bishops in the Lords, the establishment and the Crown is so close that the removal of one is likely to hasten the demise of the others. I do not think that most of those who would like to get rid of the bishops in a rather cavalier-although I really mean roundhead-way have thought through all the consequences of what they are proposing.
The concern of these Benches is not in itself about ourselves. After all, we are the one group in this House for whom there is a sunset clause already written in. I could quibble about the details of the proposals, but if we did end up with a House of 300-ish, 12 places for bishops of the established Church of England would be reasonable and manageable. However, in such circumstances it would not be wise to keep automatic places for the Bishops of Canterbury, York, London, Durham and Winchester, and I would prefer to see the church free to make its own selection. However, that is a detail and I hope that we do not get to that point.
In many minds, this question is obviously linked to that of religious representation as a whole. Of course, under the present proposals there would be no place
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If I wanted to be naughty, I would say that the only good thing about this Bill is that it would increase the proportion of Members of the House sitting on these Benches. However, bishops are not supposed to be naughty.
The Marquess of Lothian: My Lords, with the greatest respect to my noble friend the Leader of the House, it could be said that the proposal on which we are asked to take note must rank among the most inappropriate political events since Nero fiddled while Rome burned. That is not to criticise the quality of this debate, which, at least until now, has been superb, although for all I know the melody played by Nero might also have been superb.
The simple fact is that this proposal is the wrong answer to the wrong question at the wrong time and, in my view, is being addressed in the wrong way. Its proponents seem to challenge the doubters, such as me, to show why it should not be adopted. That approach is perverse. Surely it is for the proponents to show why these proposals should be adopted-something that they have so far singularly failed to do. I was taught many years ago that constitutional propositions should be tested against basic criteria. I listened with great care to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester yesterday as he set out certain tests. I wish to follow him in that direction.
First, are these proposals wanted? Like many others here, in over 40 years in active politics I have never met anyone outside the refined and elitist quarters of the political class who has ever even remotely raised the question of House of Lords reform with me. Anyway, it is not for us to show that it is wanted; it is for its proponents to show that it is wanted. So far they have failed to do so, because they cannot.
Secondly, will these proposals repair something that is not working? Even the paper that we are debating accepts that your Lordships' House is currently working well and it contains no apparent proposals for making it work better. Indeed, the only proposals for that are those advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, in his Bill, which I strongly support.
Thirdly, will these proposals improve the governance of this country? Given that the role and powers of the second Chamber are to remain unchanged, even its most ardent proponents are not arguing that reform will improve the governance of this country; they are arguing only that it will be more democratically authoritative, whatever that is meant to mean in this context. I have yet to hear a remotely convincing explanation of that.
Fourthly, will this improve the scrutiny that is brought to bear on legislation? On the contrary, it will in time remove that vast well of specialist expertise that is the key to the effectiveness of this House and
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Fifthly, will it improve the lives or quality of life of the citizens of our country and, if so, how? I have yet to meet any member of the public who thinks that their lives will be improved by these proposals; indeed, I have not yet heard in this debate from the proponents of these proposals any suggestions as to how they will improve lives. Again, it is not for us to show that these proposals will not produce a benefit for people in this country; it is for the proponents to show that they will. Once again, they have not, because they cannot.
Sixthly, will the proposals, as claimed, strengthen the accountability of this House? What on earth is accountable about electing someone for 15 years, being unable to get rid of them during that period, however bad they are, and not being able to keep them after that period, however good they turn out to be? This is at a time when Parliament is looking to enable the recall of unsatisfactory MPs, who, anyway, are always changeable every five years at election time. That is a paradox of which Lewis Carroll would have been proud.
Seventhly, is reform really a legislative priority today? We are currently involved in two wars, in one of which many British lives have been lost; we are facing the gravest economic situation that this country has endured in my political lifetime; and we are trying to reform the welfare state, the National Health Service and our education service, all of which are creaking under the strain of overweening bureaucracy. The thought that we could spend months deliberating on this half-baked scheme simply beggars belief. It is not good enough to argue that the reason why we have to do this is that it has been on the constitutional agenda for 100 years. The longevity of a misguided concept does not make any less misguided.
Nor is it good enough to make great claims that such constitutional change will create greater acceptability. I warn your Lordships against taking too much notice of rhetorical claims on constitutional reforms. I still recall the confident and unqualified government claim in 1997 that Scottish devolution would kill nationalism stone dead. Tell that to Alex Salmond today.
A great deal has been said about the effect of these proposals on the balance of power between the two Chambers and there are still those who argue that an elected House of Lords would never dare to seek greater powers. There is in the west of Scotland a saying that if you give someone a Minch they will take an isle. It is even more in the nature of political institutions, particularly those that are elected, to seek constantly to extend their powers, so it is naive beyond credulity to believe that an elected second Chamber would not constantly seek to do so.
This dog's breakfast-and dog's lunch and dog's dinner-is not a serious proposition but the product of a belief by the Liberal Democrat leadership that after the failure of the AV referendum it needed another constitutional flagship within which to shelter its increasingly tattered credibility. This, then, is what these proposals are-unseaworthy, unwanted and unsafe. Many years ago, in a spirit of friendly
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Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, it is a particular pleasure for me to follow the excellent speech of my friend-and he is my friend-the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who for many years was my pair in the other place when he was a mere Earl. That is one of the intricacies of the aristocracy that I still cannot understand, even after the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, earlier today.
When we were in the other place, we used to listen to passionate speeches by Paddy Ashdown, as he was then-the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown-and we heard one yesterday. It was eloquent, powerful and passionate in favour of democracy and accountability. There was only one problem with it-the draft Bill does not deliver what he seeks. It was obvious when he intervened on the speech of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition that he did not realise that there was a draft Bill in the White Paper. As my noble friend Lord Gordon said, where is the democracy and accountability in a list drawn up by the leadership of each party? It sounds like the list that is currently drawn up for membership of this House, just replicated in another way and going through the democratic process to give it some legitimacy.
The noble Lord also mentioned the 61 legislatures where he claimed-I think, wrongly-that there was no challenge from the second Chamber to the first Chamber. That needs to be checked. I am not suggesting that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and his committee should visit all 61 parliaments, but one or two might help. If they went by boat, it would be even more appropriate.
One of the interesting things about this debate is that I do not think that anyone, perhaps with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and the Leader of the House, has supported the Bill. It is astonishing. Where are we now? I am the 85th speaker, and only two speakers have been in support, although we thought that the Leader of the House had his tongue in his cheek. I should not say anything about his cheeks but sometimes you do not notice when he and I have our tongue in our cheek. It is astonishing that we are going ahead legislating on that basis.
Let us go back to first principles, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said. Do we need a second Chamber? Other countries, such as New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries, are good democracies and manage perfectly well without one. Until recently, I was in favour of abolition of the House of Lords. Some people said that when I came here I changed my views. My views have changed, not because of my membership-or not just because of that-but particularly because of seeing the unicameral Scottish Parliament in the last few weeks. It is totally controlled by one party-no, by one man. My honourable friend Ian Davidson described it in another place, in not the most felicitous phrase, as "neo-fascism". I would say, cautiously
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The next question is what kind of second Chamber. The White Paper and the Bill, as many others have said, put the cart before the horse-they talk about composition before the purpose, functions and role of the second Chamber. I can see arguments for a nominated second Chamber, if it has a revising function, as it does at the moment, but a second Chamber improved by the proposals included in the Bill drafted by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. I do not think that David realised that he was going to have so many people supporting his Bill-and rightly so-in the course of these two days. There is also a case for an elected second Chamber. However, if that is the way forward, we have to recognise, as a number of others have said, that it will challenge and question the primacy or the supremacy of the House of Commons. Other Members have argued that far more forcefully than I can. Conventions will need to be revised or a written constitution will be needed in relation to that.
Two points have not been covered in this debate. As I said, this Bill has very few friends here; indeed, it does not have many friends anywhere. When the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, referred to the careful consideration that we undertook in relation to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, I saw my noble friend Lord McNally-and he is an old friend of mine-make a note and look in my direction. If he was thinking what I think he was thinking, he is right.
Finally, problems have arisen because for some time now constitutional change has been piecemeal. Problems have arisen. One of the most urgent-more urgent, I think, than any reform of the House of Lords-is the democratic deficit in England. English people do not have the same say over a domestic matter that we in Scotland and others in Wales and Northern Ireland do. That ought to be dealt with rather more urgently than looking at the House of Lords. It would be better to tidy this matter up rather than to carry out another constitutional change. If we go ahead with it, I predict that it will have unintended consequences far greater than any of us can now imagine.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, it is very difficult to follow a speech such as we have just heard. I say at once that I am against a wholly elected House. Apart from anything else, it would mean losing the Cross Benches, a point made very powerfully this morning by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames. I think most of us would agree that the Cross Benches are, in the immortal words of 1066 and All That,
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I am not only against a wholly elected House; I am against a wholly appointed House, for two main reasons. First, it would give too much power to the seven members of the Appointments Commission just as the present system of appointing Peers gives much too much power to the Prime Minister.
Lord Elton: Is the noble and learned Lord aware of the fascinating fact that this House was more than 50 per cent appointed in the regime of Tony Blair, when the Government suffered the greatest reverse of any time in their history since the Second World War?
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I am not sure that that answers the point that I am against appointment by the Prime Minister. I would also be against appointment by so small a body as the seven eminent men who are apparently proposed. To have seven people appoint the whole of one Chamber of a bicameral Parliament seems to me to be wrong in principle.
Secondly, it would mean that the voice of the people had not been heard in choosing any of the Members of this House. The noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, argued yesterday that the voice of people is heard, and often heard, in this Chamber. That is true and I entirely agree with her. However, it is not heard in choosing the Members of this Chamber, which is a very different thing. That was the great point made yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown. Perhaps even more relevant, it was the great point made by the royal commission under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham.
The noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, in his measured speech this morning, was not against reform but he said that we should take it slowly and even think of appointing a royal commission to take the matter forward. Surely he was forgetting that we have already had a royal commission. Its membership could hardly have been more distinguished-eight were Members of this House out of a total of 12, I believe. They took a mass of evidence, both expert and non-expert. May I say in passing that I am really surprised that so little has been said so far in any of the speeches that I have heard about the work that that royal commission undertook? I think that the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, himself was the only person who has mentioned it, and he was far too modest about the merit of the proposals in that royal commission. It reached very clear conclusions, one of which was that a significant number of Members should be elected to represent the regions-the north-east, the north-west, Scotland, Wales and so on. There are 12 regions in all. That seems a very good idea. The commission went on to consider various models of how it might be achieved; under model B, there were to be 87 elected Members to represent the regions, or 15 per cent of the total, while under model C it was
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I am in favour of a partially elected House. There are two main arguments against having any elected Members at all. First, it might lead to friction between elected and non-elected Members; secondly, it might lead to friction between this House and the other place-and perhaps even call in question the conventions that we all know. The royal commission dealt with each of those objections at considerable length and rejected them both, and so would I. Of course, a wholly elected House would challenge the primacy of the other place. That almost goes without saying. That of course is what is proposed, but it is not what the royal commission proposed and not what I favour.
Since in a debate of this kind, one should always come down and say what one does actually want, perhaps I can say what I would like to see and to have considered by the hardworking committee that will consider all these matters. I would like to see a House of 400 Members-rather more than the 300 proposed in the Bill. There is more than enough work for 400 Members to do. Of those 400, 320 would be appointed by the new Appointments Commission, of whom 100 would be Cross-Benchers. The remaining 80 would be elected by proportional representation to represent the 12 regions, as recommended by the Wakeham commission. I am easy as to the form of proportional representation, as long as independent Members are not discouraged from standing. They would serve for two terms, renewable; they would not be eligible for election thereafter to the House of Commons, so the House would not become a stepping stone for ambitious politicians. All Members, whether appointed or elected, would be paid the same salary, which would be taxable.
I accept that of course what I am in favour of is a compromise between what is proposed in the Bill, which I do not like, and the wholly appointed House favoured by very many. But a compromise may yet become necessary if we are to reach a consensus with the views held in the other place, whatever they may turn out to be. I would not expect such a compromise to be popular in either place, but then compromises are never popular until they become inevitable, and often not then.
Lord Gilbert: Perhaps the noble and learned Lord could enlighten us as to how a Prime Minister should proceed when he finds that there is no material in the other place adequate to form a Government, which has been the effect on every Prime Minister for the last 50 years, and probably many before that.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: I am not altogether clear as to the relevance of that point to what I was saying. I am not suggesting any alteration in the other place; I simply referred to what I would hope might be regarded as incremental reform of this place, to use the expression of the noble Baroness yesterday.
Lord Gilbert: If I might help the noble and learned Lord, I heard him say that he was against any appointments to this place by a Prime Minister. If a
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Lord Lloyd of Berwick: Of course the Prime Minister can choose the Government. There is an argument, which we have already had, as to whether he should be entitled to choose Ministers to sit here, but what I am against is the Prime Minister choosing, as he does, the vast majority of the Members currently present.
Viscount Eccles: My Lords, in following the noble and learned Lord I regret to say that I have no solution to what should happen, although I admire his courage in going back and putting forward one that has been considered before. It certainly is true that we are faced with compromise. I suppose that is inevitable. As the noble and learned Lord said, there is always going to have to be compromise. The trouble with this compromise-the Bill-is that it is between a school of political theory and the empiricists. It is between those whose heritage is revolution and those who believe in evolution. Indeed, I suspect that the parliamentary draftsman got two completely different sets of instructions when he set out to draft the Bill.
To take the first school, where do the political theorists come from? It has been claimed that there are none and that for 100 years, in the footsteps of Asquith and Lloyd George, all that is being done is to complete pragmatically a process which was started then. I do not think that is right. The origins of where we are go back a lot further: to the Enlightenment and to 1776 with Tom Paine, sitting in Philadelphia and about to advise, very successfully, the founding fathers. He wanted to persuade the 13 colonies that they could break free from the King and the British Parliament, so he was making the strongest argument that he could and saying that the English system was broken, to use a more recent term.
Tom Paine was committed to 100 per cent election and to written constitutions. Indeed, he wrote about the unelected that they were wholly independent from the nation, but he did not mean "independent" in the sense that it has been used in this debate. He also wrote:
Were Tom Paine to be here today, would he think differently? I think that he would still be in favour of election and of a written constitution. Would he be able to distinguish between the remaining hereditary Peers and the life Peers in this House of Lords? I would hazard a guess that he would not be able to distinguish them and that if he did not it would make no difference to his opinion. He would think that because this House was not elected, it should be abolished.
However, many empiricists, who are evolutionary, think that many of the political theorists enjoyed Tom Paine when they were young. They liked the drama of the Declaration of Independence and the fall of the Bastille, which turned them on, but most people grow up. Some take longer than others and some never achieve it but most of the theorists who write essays when they are young turn into empiricists later. Unfortunately, some never do.
This Bill is hooked on democratic legitimacy and concepts, but has been drafted by somebody who has been told that they must take care of the effects. As the French Revolution showed quite clearly, theorists are not much bothered by effects. However, empiricists are. Much reference has been made to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and you have to give him a point. If you had full-scale democratic legitimacy, as described in political theory, the second Chamber would be able to disagree with the first Chamber about going to war. If it did so, there would be a constitutional crisis. However, neither mandates nor manifestos make things happen; events do. Libya was not in anybody's manifesto. Therefore, there could be-and very likely might be-a standoff between one House and another based on a democratic theory of legitimacy that creates a crisis but the draft Bill is trying to solve this problem. The other instructions to the draft will have been to grant some form of political theoretical democratic legitimacy to it but to reduce it to a minimum. Hence, we will have a House of only 300, which is clearly too small. Hence, we will have 15-year terms. Hence, we will have all the other things about which Members have been speaking during the debates. I do not need to repeat them all.
There is a standoff within the Government between the Paineite theorists and the empiricists. The Bill both grants the democratic legitimacy that is looked for and does its best to take it back. This is why it will fall.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: Several people have said that it is very difficult at this stage in the debate to say something new. However, the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chichester did exactly that. It was rather spine-chilling to follow his logic on the Bill and the possible subplot that might lead to a president in this country who would be the arbiter between the two Houses. It was particularly chilling because the picture that came to mind was President Clegg. If I was not already opposed to the Bill beforehand, I certainly was after listening to that particular possibility.
It is late. I do not normally speak on Lords reform but it is important that the Government and the Joint Committee get a sense of the strength of feeling that exists in the House on this draft Bill. They have certainly got that today and yesterday. However, it is also incumbent on us as individuals to use our personal experience to highlight some of the practical problems that will arise from these proposals.
Like everyone else, I am tempted to comment on everything, from the Steel Bill, which I support, to the use of the Parliament Act, which I oppose, and all the other issues. Instead, I base my words on my experience
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However, when I was in the Commons, as Leader of the House or as Chief Whip, I always knew that in the Commons you had one great advantage that the Lords never had. It was the very basic, simple fact that the Commons was elected. That is not to say that this House had no influence. It is not to say that this House never got its way. It did have an influence and it did sometimes persuade the Commons to back down and accept what was being proposed, and it did, on occasion, delay legislation, but when the crunch came, the Commons was elected, and the Commons always had the edge. Therefore, I ask this House, and the other House, to think what would be the situation if this House was elected, be it 80 per cent-as someone said, four-fifths legitimate-or 100 per cent. Those discussions and negotiations would be completely different.
The Government cannot just say that the primacy of the House of Commons would be preserved because, in reality, that is just not possible. Ministers always say that the way things will be preserved is by conventions. That is always the answer when we talk about this but, as the Leader of the House said yesterday,
You bet they will, and there is only one direction, there is only one way, in which they will change. The power of this Chamber will increase and the power of the Commons will diminish. No group of people, however much or little they are paid, who are worthy of election would sit back in this Chamber and not flex their muscles once they were elected, and I think that they would do it pretty quickly. My noble friend Lord Sewel said yesterday that institutions are dynamic. If we were to have an elected House of Lords, you would soon see how dynamic it could be. I think that that issue is now dawning on people in another place.
My second point is about accountability in the proposals in the draft Bill. Like others, I question what accountability there could be. I thought of it personally. If I were to stand in the senatorial elections under this system, first, I would be there for 15 years; secondly, as the Leader of the House said yesterday, I would,
and, thirdly, I would be barred from seeking re-election. So there is one very basic question: to whom am I accountable? It is not the electorate, and it is not my party, because I will not be able to seek re-election. I reckon I would have carte blanche. As long as you do not break the rules, you are there for 15 years. As the Leader of the House said yesterday, long single terms will uphold the independence of Members. He spoke of the,
So if we have that valued independence that he praises now, as we do, why are we going through all this to elect independent but non-accountable senators? It seems a nonsense to me. Like many others here today, I was in the Commons for quite a long time. I was there for 27 years, and I fought, I think, eight elections. That is accountability, not what is proposed here. What is democracy worth if it does not include accountability? It is a very basic question and one to which we have not yet had an answer.
Finally, I accept that it is very difficult to mount a theoretical, academic defence of an unelected House, although some people have got quite close to doing quite well today. Like others, I do not think that the House of Lords is perfect. We could improve it, as many have said, and as the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, tries to do. My defence is the practical fact that this House works. No one could have designed it in the way that it is but it has evolved into a very useful Chamber. It is my very strong belief, with others, that it is absolutely impossible to elect the Lords without the most severe impact being felt on the Commons. If you are doing that, in addition to all the other changes that this Government have been proposing, you might be best to start with a blank piece of paper and write a whole new codified constitution from scratch. The alternative, and what we are seeing at the moment, is piecemeal tinkering with our constitution. There will be unintended consequences and this approach will probably create far more problems than it solves.
Lord Scott of Foscote: My Lords, there is really very little to say that has not already been said very eloquently by those who have spoken before me. That feature of the debate that has taken place yesterday and today allows me, I hope, to be brief. I wish to associate myself particularly with the coruscating speech delivered yesterday by the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, and with the speeches delivered today by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and also with the many speeches delivered to your Lordships by those who have opposed the notion that election of Members of this House would be a desirable constitutional innovation.
This House has long been the subject of reforms to its membership. The reforms have always been pragmatic ones designed to make the House better able to discharge its constitutional functions. The reforms began-so far as I know; there may have been earlier ones-in 1878 when provision was made by statute for life peerages to be awarded to eminent judges or lawyers,
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The Parliament Act 1911 was a procedural reform introduced to prevent a Tory-dominated House of Lords from defeating legislation desired by the Lloyd George Liberal Government. That too was a pragmatic response to a need for the House to be in a satisfactory state. The 1958 Act extended to anybody the possibility of the grant of a life peerage and this too was a pragmatic response to the growing criticism of the hereditary character of the then membership of the House. The 1998 Act started the process of removing hereditary Peers from membership of the House but this Act, like the 1878 and 1958 Acts, owed little, if anything, to doctrine and everything to pragmatism-what would enable the House more efficiently to fulfil its constitutional role until a final decision about membership of the House could be reached. These reforms have since 1958 enabled a constitutional balance between the Commons and this House to evolve. I know of no criticism of that balance except that the Members of this House, bar the remaining hereditaries, owe their membership to appointment and not to election. Subject to that single criticism, the House has since 1958 discharged its constitutional functions without serious criticism of its membership.
Is that criticism justified? Your Lordships have heard over the past two days all sorts of criticisms of the proposed Bill and the details contained in it. Having listened carefully to those criticisms, I should have thought that the proposed Bill was a bad Bill, but that does not dispose of the underlying question of whether an elected House of Lords should be preferred to an appointed House, either wholly or in part.
A fully or mainly elected House would undermine the balance between the two Houses that has evolved since at least 1958-perhaps earlier. It would produce constitutional complications, disputes and deadlocks, the outcome of which would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to foretell. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, it would produce a "destination undefined".
In considering the proposed reform of the House and whether an elected or an appointed House is to be preferred, there are only three relevant questions. First, what is the constitutional function of the House? Secondly, what attributes of Members of the House are needed for the discharge of those functions? The third question is whether election of Members of the House by members of the public is a necessary attribute for the discharging by Members of the House of their functions.
At present, the roles of the House are threefold. First, its reviewing and advisory role in relation to the House of Commons is applicable mainly to primary legislation but also to secondary legislation, particularly under the procedural reforms proposed in the report of my noble friend Lord Goodlad. The scrutiny of legislation is to identify whether any unintended
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The second role of the House is to provide a venue for the introduction of politically non-controversial legislation. That role can be set aside for the purposes of the present argument, because an elected House would be able to discharge that role as well as would an appointed House.
However, the third role of the House is of critical importance. It is the function of holding the Government to account. That may arise in an almost infinite number of respects-some scientific, some technical, and some that are connected with the Armed Forces, legal matters, matters of medicine or other technologies. The "degree of expertise" is a phrase disliked by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I would accept "diversity of experience" as a better use of language. That diversity is of huge importance in enabling the holding to account of Ministers to be discharged to its optimum effect. The House as presently constituted contains that diversity of experience. It is by no means confined to the Cross Benches, and is to be found in all parts of the House. It must be very rare for an issue to arise that calls for discussion or debate in the House where no one in the House has experience-expertise, if one likes-of that subject. I can certainly remember no such case since I have been in the House. That informs our debate; it enables questioning of the Minister to be effective and searching.
The next question is whether elections would produce Members of the House as well able to discharge their important constitutional function of holding the Government to account as does the House as presently constituted. The expert knowledge and experience of Members is clearly of great importance, as I have said. The independence of Members is also important. Members of political parties, as well as Cross-Benchers, are independent in the sense that, once they are here, they stay here. They are not subject to discipline by government Whips if they choose to vote or speak against party policy. That independence is important and obtainable under the House as it is constituted at the moment.
I do not believe that an elected House could match the qualities I have just mentioned. The manner in which individuals are appointed is certainly open to criticism. I entirely support the introduction of a statutory Appointments Commission-
Lord Scott of Foscote: I have exceeded my time by a minute and I apologise for that. I entirely support the introduction of a statutory Appointments Commission tasked to produce a balanced House. That is important, and consistent with an appointed House.
Baroness Berridge: My Lords, I speak in this debate with considerable reluctance, because I, too, was concerned about this House spending a considerable amount of
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I am in favour of reform, but the reforms in the draft Bill are deeply flawed and could lead to our finely balanced constitution, which operates like a beautiful clock, being tampered with one too many times and jamming altogether. In my brief time in your Lordships' House, I have come to view the relationship of this House to the other place rather like a boxer and his trainer. The other place throws a democratic punch, to be met by a mitt labelled delay, scrutiny or review. Perhaps another punch or two is thrown, but eventually, the boxer gets the prize. The trainer is there only to improve the boxer. By electing this Chamber, the trainer will become another boxer and the two will end up fighting or, worse still, they will be on the same team and there will be no fight at all, no scrutiny, review or delay.
A boxing match also needs a referee. Who will referee potential endless ping-pong between the two Chambers? Will it be a Joint Committee, a referendum, a YouGov survey or the judiciary? The draft Bill is silent. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton: the other place will lose its supremacy once public opinion and the media, in any dispute between the Chambers, are on the side of senators. The judiciary just battled Facebook and Twitter and did not do so well. I do not believe that Members of the other place will fare any better.
I have also tried to imagine the doorstep conversations in elections under the draft Bill. I would have to ask for a person's vote and explain, "No, I do not want your vote for me as your elected representative but as your elected reviewer, your elected scrutineer, your elected delayer". I think that the final comment will have been shouted through a door shut in my face, and quite rightly.
The two elected Chambers will also clash at grass-roots level. As the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, said, senators will take on case work in part of their areas. I think that I can feel a cold draught coming from the other place as chills go down their spines at the thought of theyworkforyou.com having senator and MP competitive league tables. Of course, if this would deliver a better service for constituents then it would be worth considering. The very valuable work of an elected representative dealing with constituents inquiries is rather like customer service from a big retailer, but I cannot think of any retailer that advises you to phone up twice, to speak to two people, to get two customer reference numbers and to have two people contacting the suppliers, as the likelihood of conflicting answers would increase.
On a serious note, hundreds of civil servants are at the end of hotlines from offices in this Palace doing
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Much of what I now say regarding the Lords Spiritual applies to the current Chamber as well as to any reformed House. I would like to deal with the reality which is outlined in paragraph 91 of the White Paper, a paragraph with which I agree-that although historically they are here as independents, the reality is that they are seen as representatives of the Church of England.
I am impressed by the Lords Spiritual, who bring a sense of service to their community and a spiritual, moral and ethical perspective that enhances the independent nature of debate in your Lordships' House. I believe that the work of this House is improved by each of the Benches having a blend of part-time and full-time Peers. I am deliberately avoiding using the term "working Peers" as it implies that other Peers do not work, which is not true. I believe that there would be much merit in having a blend of Bishops: some part-time with diocesan responsibilities and some full-time akin to working Peers. It would be most welcome to have Bishops more fully involved in the life of this House
Unfortunately, under the draft Bill, none of the recommendations of the royal commission is developed. Surely the churches in the other home nations should be represented and the wisdom of the leader of the largest voluntary provider of social services in the country-namely the Salvation Army-would be extremely valuable. Perhaps canon law will still deny this House the insights and immense wisdom of the Archbishop of Westminster but there are very gifted laity in the Catholic Church. What of the black-led denominations whose story often includes having to found their own denominations as many of the established ones were not the most welcoming? To my knowledge there is not a single attendee now, let alone a leader, from within those denominations in your Lordships' House, and I think that the House is poorer for that.
There are no perfect proposals, but the division of the 12 places on the basis of church attendance within the UK would be a good starting point. On the latest British social attitude surveys that would give us 3.5 Anglicans, 3.5 Catholics and five others. I know that I am expecting a lot from a Bench that believes in miracles.
In looking into the history of this House, it was most encouraging to learn that the 14th century church was rather radical and that women owned land. So in 1306 a writ of summons was sent to abbesses to attend Parliament-but alas, there is no evidence that any of these women attended. Whether by laity or working Bishops, there needs to be a clear timetable outlining and guaranteeing when the Benches of the Lords Spiritual will include a substantial number of women. Places in the nation's legislature are not on a men-only basis for any organisation.
The public want a House that functions. I would support a fully elected House, with proper recognition
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I pray in aid of my conclusion the result of a vote in a House of Lords Chamber event in 2010, when a majority of the 16 to 18 year-olds who had the privilege of debating this issue voted for a fully appointed House. I concur with the comments of many of your Lordships about the loss of wisdom and expertise to this House under the reforms. I cannot express that point better than Ed Gerlach, from Western Sixth Form College, who took part in that Chamber event. He said:
"I agree that we should have appointed Lords. They are from different fields and will know what they are on about from a variety of different backgrounds. People were saying that a lot of them are middle aged people, but they have been around longer and know better what they are on about. They are the people who we should trust. I agree that we should perhaps have a few younger people but you cannot use that as a criticism. They know what they are on about because they have been around the longest. I do not mean that in any disrespectful way".
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