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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, after 10 years spent chained to the ministerial Bench, I cannot remember ever uttering an original comment in this House, and I am therefore not likely to do so on this subject, particularly after almost 90 speeches which have covered every conceivable part of the document. It is a work of genius, I think, for the three main parties to be in favour of reform and for the Government to produce a document which seems to have attracted the wholehearted and complete support of fewer than five out of the 90 noble Lords who have spoken. Of course, we all await the Minister's ability to redress the balance, and we look forward to that contribution with great joy.
As reformers, we should rejoice in the fact that the Government are committed to this degree of reform. I would remind those in my own party who have reservations about reform that it took us 40 years, more than a generation, to improve on the 1911 Act with regard to the relationship between the two Houses and then almost 50 years before we moved on again with regard to hereditary Peers. It is not as if this country or even my party moves at breakneck speed when it comes to constitutional reform, so I hope that on all sides there will be some degree of constructive response to this initiative. But I am all too well aware of the fact that the criticisms that have been expressed of the Bill have been not just on the detail but on crucial aspects of principle.
Let me express an obvious point. I have enjoyed my period in this House and I have particularly enjoyed the quality of the contributions to our debates. It is very rare that we do not present words of great worth to the nation, however ill reported they may prove to be. But part of that limited reporting is the very fact of the matter: we can be disregarded because we are unrepresentative. We are not a debating society. We
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Fundamental Acts of Parliament such as the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 and the Act passed with regard to the hereditaries are part of our constitution. If the Government need, and I think they obviously do, to define clearly the relationships they see developing between two Houses if they are elected, it is for the Government to make that abundantly clear before either House is asked to make a judgment about the composition of the House of Lords. That is why the biggest weakness in the document is its complete failure to identify the issues of powers. I hate to say this to my noble friend Lord Richard, but it looks as if we will need to ask the committee to go back to the drawing board on these issues, such has been the force of criticism in the debate.
I am in favour of an elected House. I do not see that an elected House could be anything other than an enhancement of our democratic position. However, I cannot recognise the concept of an elected House in this document. Election is not only a question of winning the votes to arrive at a place, but also about the accountability of the exercise of power when one is in that place. Of course, this document proposes that Members of this House would get here through election and not be accountable at all; they would enjoy 15 years as legislators, but not as representatives. The Government certainly need to address themselves to that.
Whenever the Government, in this paper, have gone into any area of detail, they seem to have fallen very short of the quality of argument we would expect. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, identified a proposal in this document that a Minister of the Crown can be appointed, can become a Member of Parliament and can be dismissed from his post by the Prime Minister, but also dismissed from Parliament by virtue of the post having been lost. That is an absolute absurdity. Where has a conscious thought gone into this White Paper if such absurd positions as that are produced? Let us be clear, however, about what this document does tackle and what the fundamental principle is that we have to address.
I have heard a great deal about the weaknesses of the document and about the Government's position and I have made it fairly clear that I intend to support my Front Bench in a great deal of the criticism of the Bill because we hope that, when the Bill emerges, it will be very different from the one envisaged in this document. What is being tackled is the problem that we all share, each and every one of us. We are here as creatures of patronage. It is not an attractive word, not a word that has featured a great deal in this debate. Though we have been full of considerable congratulation on the work that we do, on the efforts that we put in on behalf of the community-and I appreciate all that work-it is still the fact that we are here because somebody in power thought that we should be. That is no basis for the second Chamber in a democracy. That
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Lord True: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, and I shall disappoint other noble Lords by agreeing with a number of things that he said. He will have noticed that the debate opened with a striking speech by the Leader of the Opposition, in which she tore up, on behalf of the new reforming leadership of the Labour Party, the commitments made after many years of discussion involving the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who is shaking his head, to an elected House. That was in the Labour Party's manifesto and Labour pushed for it after its manifesto. The shadow Cabinet has awarded itself, as I see it, the freedom to duck and weave on this issue, while, as many of us will have noticed in this debate, not ruling out returning to election in the future, when it suits it rather more politically. I find in that position, which I must put down to Mr Miliband, very little principle and quite a lot of opportunism.
I share many of the reservations expressed about aspects of the Bill, but I am afraid that I accept many of its core arguments. I ask the House to consider whether this Government have done what this House time and again has asked Governments to do on legislation. They have put forward a Bill, however imperfect, for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is easy, when someone puts his head above the parapet, to open fire and, indeed, we have heard absolute volleys of grapeshot over the past two days-the ample body of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde offers a larger target than most. However, I hope that, in shooting at the target of this Bill, we will not block, at this perhaps closing stage of the question of the House of Lords, serious scrutiny of the idea of election, which has been in the open, as others have pointed out, since it was endorsed by the royal commission. I certainly hope that we will not rule it out, however tempting it might be, pour épater Monsieur Clegg.
I could not support a 100 per cent elected House or the effective exclusion of Cross-Benchers. Nor could I support the removal of the right reverend Prelates, for what I thought were the rather old Tory principles set out in the words of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York that were quoted to us yesterday. I would dearly love to see the return of the Supreme Court and the Law Lords here. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, pointed out, that happened in 1876 after an earlier ham-fisted reform. It might well lessen the risks of future clashes between Parliament and the judiciary.
However, I cannot rule out election of at least some political Peers with the certainty that has informed so many speeches in this debate. The case for election is
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The case for considering election is surely that from which so many people in this debate have recoiled: challenging the House of Commons to do its job better. It has generally been accepted that the Executive are too strong and that the other place is malfunctioning. I agree with all those who have said that Clause 2 of the draft Bill is nonsense. A House with a significant elected element would challenge the House of Commons and its primacy more and with more conviction. But why not? Then the other place might have to win a few more arguments rather than relying on the juggernaut of the Whip and the mantra of primacy that we keep hearing.
I do not want to reel back through the mists of time, but it is an odd fact that the last time this House brought down a Government was in 1783, which opened the way to one of the greatest of all our Prime Ministers, William Pitt. I do not fear the challenge that election would put into the system. Nor do I panic about the word "gridlock", which comes up time and again-sometimes from those who darkly hint that it would happen if they did not get their way on this matter. Do we not have too much ill thought-out legislation pumped out through our Parliament, including by the Government whom I support?
I am sorry but, if the need to avoid gridlock contributed to more forethought, more willingness to compromise and less haste to publish monster Bills, I would not lose too much sleep if election contributed to that. There are many ways to break deadlock and, in the good old days, Members of the House of Commons used to have to stand and take their hats off when Members of the House of Lords attended joint conferences.
Lord True: I suspect that that might appeal to many here. As regards the criticisms that have been made about aspects of the draft Bill, I appeal to the House not to put itself in the position of being seen as ruling out any idea of election. Let us ask the Joint Committee to try to burnish a proposal and then-I agree with what my noble friend Lord Astor said yesterday-the proposal should be put to the people in a referendum.
To conclude, there should be at least one other option in such a referendum. When Lord Gardiner put his paper on reform to the Labour Cabinet in 1968 he said that there were four options-abolition, do nothing, election or appointment. Things have not changed much since then. The prevailing mood in the House is clear: noble Lords want an all-appointed House. Most see a seductive and stealthy route to that
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The core proposition of my noble friend Lord Steel's Bill is the ending of the replacement of our hereditary colleagues in order to leave an all-appointed House. I will pass over the point that that would disproportionately disadvantage this party, which had the largest popular vote at the recent general election, and ask why, if this is so desirable-as has been so eloquently argued-the creation of this all-appointed House should be done by stealth. Why should it creep through the shadows under the name of incremental change? Why can it not proclaim itself as the full and final reform that so many of your Lordships wish? However, this is something that no party has put before the British people recently. It is featured in no programme and has been subject to no scrutiny or public debate. We have heard eloquent arguments for an all-appointed House, but if we want to settle the House of Lords question and close off election, as many noble Lords wish, we will not do so by a hole-in-the-corner measure.
The proposition for an all-appointed House, put by so many noble Lords with such conviction, should be put squarely before the British people in a referendum, alongside whatever proposition on a politically elected element may emerge from the Joint Committee and the deliberations of another place. If the British people then vote to reject the idea that they should ever have a right to vote for any Member of this House, I might be able to accept my noble friend Lord Steel's Bill. Until then, I am sorry that I cannot.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I am in the minority in the House and on the speakers list, although I am much comforted by some of the speeches that I have just heard. It is both right and just that those who have power over the lives of others and who can make and amend laws-and we in this House do have powers-should be subject to the will of those people, the electorate. Therefore, in principle I seek a democratically elected and accountable second Chamber. In this I am in accord with my party and its traditions. Noble Lords may have heard statements to the contrary today, but the Labour Party stands for a democratically elected second Chamber and I do not believe that it will change its view in future years.
There has been a lot of talk also about MPs at the other end changing their views. I do not know from my contacts whether this is the case. However, I have spent some time looking at MPs who spoke in the debates at the other end, and it seems that many of them have been around for quite some time. A fair
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I urge the House to look a bit wider than this debate has done so far-and I am very much a supporter of the House and in love with the House. We had rather a surprise three or four years ago when more people in the Commons voted for the change. People down this end did not believe that would happen. It is important that we do not misjudge the mood and the momentum. This topic is very much about momentum. It has been on the move since 1997 and there is a long way to go yet.
There is also a change of mood taking place among the public at large at a very fast pace that it ill behoves us to ignore, particularly in relation to the media, to communications, to the internet and so on. We can be caught out if we do not watch what is happening. If there was a referendum on whether the House should be 100 per cent elected, the public would throw it out completely, no matter what arguments were made.
There has been some movement in the Commons but I certainly cannot see it standing on its head and supporting the Steel Bill or 100 per cent appointments. I just do not see that happening; it is not the reality. They are not going to do that even if there was more opposition to election. We have to take note of some of those points. They will also be conscious that we are now a House of over 800 and that they are to be reduced in due course to 600. They will ask questions about the cost and sustainability of what we are doing. These are all topics that have not come up so far today but I think we should look at them.
Some people here are taking note of the need for change beyond just talking about tinkering around the edges. I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, this morning. He is a greatly respected Peer and not a man who is about disturbing the normal state of affairs-he is a man for stability and a man who knows when there is a mood and change taking place and when there is a requirement to respond to it. It is interesting that he now advocates a move towards a form of election-not direct election, true, but indirect election-but this change is starting to take place in some areas in this House. The message for those of us who listen carefully to each other is to listen very carefully to what is going on around us.
If this Bill went through, I suppose that would be my manifesto for an election next time round and I would be out on the first list in 2015-one of the
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Having said all that, I find the Bill a huge disappointment in certain respects, mainly in regard to omissions-it is what is not in there but which should be in there that I worry about. First, like the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, I am in favour of accountability and that means at least once going back to the electorate for election. In fairness, the Labour Party never had a policy which went down that road. We argued with Jack Straw and some of us hoped that we might be able to persuade the party that it should introduce some accountability because otherwise it makes a mockery of claiming that this is fully legitimate.
Secondly, I come to the infamous Clause 2 and failure of the Bill to address the issue of powers. I am an advocate of broadly maintaining the present relationship between the two Houses. Over time I have been asked about what work the Government were doing on codification of the powers and conventions between the two Houses. I am absolutely surprised that this has gone completely off the agenda and not been mentioned at all. I find this amazing. The last Government knew it had to be done and was starting to look at it but this Government have left it wide open. I hope that the Government will reflect on that carefully because there is no way you can keep the status quo. It was mentioned this morning that over 200 secondary legislation SIs came through the House last year. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, knows himself what you can do with an SI in this House: you can have a fatal vote on an SI and you can change completely a government policy-as indeed Members in this House did on the Gambling Bill when they threw out the SI. When you have elected people in the Chamber, can you leave the freedom for them to do that? In no time you will be in trouble.
My next question is linked to the Parliament Act. Do the Government have in mind using the Parliament Act on a frequent basis? More particularly, do they have in mind the possibility that, as previously when the delaying power was reduced from two years down to one, one of the ways in which they could deal with a problem between the two Houses is to change the delaying power from one year down to nine months, six months or even three months? I would be grateful if the Minister would address that point because it is fairly fundamental. It would be very difficult to put through but, if it went through, it could create an entirely different relationship between the two Houses.
My time is running out. I regret that the Government have not spent any time looking at the issue raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and others-the quality, calibre and experience of this House. How do you get such expertise through a system which requires selection and election? Many alternatives could be used instead of the present arrangements, which rest with the existing parties, and I am sorry that the Government in being radical-as they are trying to be-have not spent some time looking at that issue to see how we can get nearer to a
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Lord Paul: My Lords, this debate is both long overdue and very timely. In this day and age, it is abundantly clear that the structure of our constitution needs reform and revision. To depend on piecemeal legislation, convention, interpretations and other practices of the past will increasingly create ambiguities and imprecisions at a time when clarity and specificity are required to serve the needs of our ever more complex society. Effective reform is the best constitutional legacy we can bequeath to future generations.
As we engage in these efforts, we should broaden our approach. The structure of the constitution and issues such as the composition of this House have become our primary focus; however, I feel that it is as important to consider reform and revision of the processes, the procedures and the operating functions that underlie the constitutional structure and make it work. These are the nuts and bolts that give the structure its strength and assure its legitimacy.
In the penumbra of larger reform, we now have an excellent opportunity to make sure that these operating procedures and the ways in which this House regulates itself will conform to the highest standards of fairness and probity. In this context, four principles need to be incorporated in our working processes. Regretfully, they have not been fully adhered to in the past and this, as your Lordships are aware, has been the source of considerable controversy.
The first principle is equality in the way the rules of this House are applied. If there are any investigations or allegations regarding Members of this House, all those concerned must be treated equally; selective application of rules against some and exculpation of others is discriminatory. When it is known that many have done what only a few are castigated for, that can only be a gross transgression of British justice.
The second principle that needs to be clearly established is the undesirability of ex post facto application of rules. Rules and requirements that are in place at the time of alleged actions should be the rules that apply to any such situations. As far as I know, retrospective violations have no status and are not recognised in the courts of law. Why, then, should they be the basis of punishment for Members of this House? It may also be appropriate to consider how committees examining allegations against Members are composed-whether it is more appropriate to select committee chairpersons from among those who belonged to the House when the alleged events were supposed to have taken place.
The third principle is that of transparency. When this House or its committees conduct investigations or examine evidence, it is essential that all relevant documents be made available. Scrupulous care should be taken that nothing is omitted or withheld.
Finally, I believe it is essential that in any proceedings against a Member of this House, that Member should be allowed some legal representation, especially if he or she is to be subject to unrestrained cross-examination by legal luminaries. Simply summoning Members and denying them the right to legal representation is something that our justice system would not tolerate and nor should we.
Your Lordships will not be surprised at my interest in these matters. Experience, after all, is the parent of insight. However, my primary concern is that we govern ourselves with the same degree of propriety that we expect from the civil institutions of government. Reform will really be reform only when it reaches all levels. Widening the scope and application of reforms of this House allows us an opportunity to do this-an opportunity it would be unwise to neglect.
Lord Lyell: My Lords, in my short career as a cricketer I learnt one thing: if one is number 95 on the batting list, be quick, say your bit and perhaps get out-although I hope I shall not be declared out too early by the umpire. Two of my noble friends-one who is beside me and another who was, briefly, in his place-have between them 120 years' experience in your Lordships' House. In my case, I have learnt that the day that I took my seat, on 22 February 1961, my noble friend the Leader of the House, who alas is not in his place, was 13 months old. I cover a good period then. In the 50 years since then-I am now in my 51st year here-I have been able to learn a very great deal, both in your Lordships' House and outside. What I have learnt so far in this debate-yesterday rather than necessarily today-comes from the marvellous remarks of my noble friend Lord Dobbs. If your Lordships have a look at col. 1235 of yesterday's Official Report you will see what he said about being a fresh Member of your Lordships' House. I am that boy but it is 51 years on, so I have had some learning and experience that I hope will be of help in discussing reform of this unique institution.
One of the mottos that, as a youngster, was drummed into me above all is, "Leave the place as you wish to find it". That is my leitmotif and the main thought that I would share today. I believe that the evolution and development of your Lordships' House, this second Chamber, will happen in some way, but I am not entirely satisfied-indeed, I am not sure-that it should evolve in the way that the Bill and White Paper propose.
I am asked by young friends, and also by older ones, to try to explain, in what I call O-level terms, what I do as a parliamentarian. It is most useful that we are having this debate in the two weeks that the London suburb of Wimbledon is at its peak, because I try to describe what we do in your Lordships' House by saying that we are amateurs. Down in the other place, they are the professionals, but we play the same game. In this great game of politics, occasionally there is a break of serve and sometimes one of the top seeds gets knocked out. But I always tell my young friends that the name on the trophy is that of our friends in the other place.
I hope that our duties will remain as they are now, or that they will remain in a new institution however it evolves. I hope, first, that we will revise. Secondly, I hope that there will be no guillotine or chasing or methods of that sort. I hope that there will be no time limit, because that is one of the benefits of your Lordships' House. I also hope that the Select Committees can continue as they are.
As an individual, what have been my powers? What have I been able to do in my career in your Lordships' House? I have been able to do many things, both passively and actively. One extraordinary thing that will be of note to my noble friend sitting beside me and indeed to the Deputy Leader is that I have been able to do extraordinary jobs for an institution that is particularly well known-I think that it is beyond the Old Swan, as the Deputy Leader described it. This institution had a serious problem over recruitment and required considerable help. I said, "Did you not go to your Member of Parliament or to a Minister who is well known to be a supporter of this great institution?". They said, "We had no success at all". So it came to a Conservative Member of your Lordships' House to try to help this great institution in the city of Liverpool. I was humbled by the reception and help that I got. That is one tiny example of what we can do.
The pitfalls of what might come to be development of your Lordships' House were beautifully explained by my noble friend Lord Steel, in col. 1199 of yesterday's Official Report. He explained the three massive developments involving power going from your Lordships to the House of Commons. This is the first time when there may be a little difficulty regarding power going from the other place back to this place. His wise words are well worth reading.
Let us look at who might be the occupants of these Benches in a new and reformed House. As your Lordships know, I come from the boondocks, the rural areas of Scotland. I have found it particularly difficult explaining what one might call the democratic process, or politics, or this splendid place that in the vernacular in Scotland they call the Waste Munster-which is not necessarily anything to do with rubbish in that province of Ireland, but is the district where we work. It is an indication of the remoteness of what we are discussing in your Lordships' House in my neck of the woods. Should I survive long enough and wish to take part in any election to this new Second Chamber, I would find it rather difficult to explain exactly what one is supposed to be up to. We already have a Member of Parliament in another place; a Member of the Scottish Parliament, with different powers; and a Member of the European Parliament.
As for what any title of your Lordships' successors might be-noble Lord or senator-I do worry. As for the candidates who might take this up, I hope your Lordships will consider the wise remarks of my noble friend Lord Cormack yesterday. He asked why somebody of the age of perhaps 65 might commit himself to 15 years of his life in here. I, as an impudent lad, will also add the problems of finance. The thought of a salary for Members of your Lordships' House, or whatever it might be called, will provide, I think, succulent prey for this institution called IPSA. It has already caused
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Should I or any Member of your Lordships' House from my neck of the woods succeed in being elected to the new Chamber, to whom would they report? Would they cover all the activities of a Member of Parliament, a Member of the Scottish Parliament-you can see the toes being trampled on-or a Member of the European Parliament? I look to see what my noble friend Lord Steel has to say in his Bill, which I hope will go on.
In my 51st year in your Lordships' House, there is one motto that has stood by me. I borrow two words from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales: Eich Dyn-I serve. That goes for each and every one of us. How we do it, now or in a new Chamber, that will be something to consider. I hope that we will have constructive discussions and a constructive solution.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I propose to address most of my remarks today to those Members of your Lordships' House who were previously Members of another place or have, in the course of their careers, suffered election to obtain their advancement. It is my view that the final decision on these matters will actually be taken down the other end of the corridor; in this respect, I am much more sanguine than my noble friend Lord Brooke, as I sense already a distinct change of tide at the other end of this corridor, which relates to the sorts of people who might arrive in your Lordships' House, were membership here to be by election. They are suddenly beginning to realise that at the other end.
Before I dilate on that, I would just like to say how much I enjoyed three speeches in particular that I was able to hear in the course of the last two days. First of all there was the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Low, who produced one of the most elegant speeches that I have heard since I came to your Lordships' House, about 14 years ago. Secondly, there was the ferocity of my noble friend Lady Boothroyd. I had the pleasure of having a constituency that abutted directly on hers for nearly 27 years. Thirdly, there was the speech of the noble Marquis. I think he is the only one we have who ever speaks, but I thought that he produced a most professional contribution.
Now that your Lordships have heard that, it will therefore come as no surprise to hear that I am a fervent supporter of the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. I hope that he persists in his efforts. I hope very much, too, that my noble friend Lady Boothroyd will test the opinion of the House at the end of this evening's proceedings. She can be sure that I will be in the Lobby beside her if she chooses so to do.
I challenge one of the idées reçues of this debate, which is that if we have elected Members, the power of the Whips will be considerably enhanced. I simply do not believe that. Whips derive their power from two things: the ability to bribe and the ability to threaten. Once you have your seat here for 15 years, I cannot see that any Whip can say to anyone, "Thou shalt have that", or, "Thou shalt not have something else". As far as I can see, the Whips will be absolutely powerless over Members, once they are here.
I derive a couple of conclusions from that. First, two types of people will arrive here. There will be those who come for the money and the title. It will vary from family to family who is keener on which, the husband or the wife, the money or the title. I make no judgment. Also there will be some ambitious people arriving here who would like to be Ministers. All these ridiculous restrictions, such as that you are here for 15 years and you cannot stand again down the other end for five years, and the idea that all the present arrangements between the two Houses will persist-it is all absolute nonsense. If anybody actually believes that, I have a bridge I can sell them somewhere. I will take bets on it. You do not have to worry about that-it is going to disappear. It is absolute nonsense. Anybody coming here for the first time, once he is here, if he is not the cash and title type of creep, will be the sort of oik that wants a job, and he is going to fight for it. He will be in a position to make it very uncomfortable for the Government of the day. He will have 15 years to go on making it uncomfortable. I know what I would do. The first thing that I would say is, "Hey, what about the Parliament Act-we've had enough of that, thank you very much", or, "Hey, what about supply-can we have that, please?". "Finally", he will say, "we are going to have our share of Cabinet Ministers". There would be no stumbling block to put in the way of any Parliament not to concede those things to Members of this House who were determined to have them.
As was said in the debate earlier, this House has huge powers. The trouble is that it has not used them; it has funked the fight. But the powers of this House to obstruct are absolutely enormous, and there will be enough people who will use them once they are elected here.
I said a moment ago-I do not think that this has been said in your Lordships' House in this debate-that there was a change of attitude appearing at the other end of the corridor, and the reason is that they are discovering something. They are just beginning to realise who will be getting into this place: it will be the people who Members of the House of Commons beat to get their own seats there, and they hate each other-you had better believe it. Whether they are men or women, and however long they have been there, the people who will be after the seats here will be the so-and-sos who tried to stab them in the back and prevent them getting selected in the first place. No love will be lost at all. So I am afraid that I disagree again with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, on the likely attitude of Members down the other end of the corridor. Through all of this, that factor is changing very fast indeed.
There was this other nonsense about constituency work. Really, does anybody think that the public will not come to elected Members of this House saying, "The other fellow is no goddamned use. You sort the problem out for me; he has failed"? Anybody who has been down the other end knows that that is what will happen. Of course it is. You cannot stop it, and that will be another source of friction.
I am so glad to see the noble Lord come in. I have his name down here: the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. That was not meant to be sarcastic. I apologise to him, as he made my afternoon, and I congratulate him on what he had to say. Moreover, there were only two other Members from his party on the Benches around him when he got up to speak, but he managed to increase that number to four. That is a major achievement. One thing that I have noticed about today's debate is that although this is a coalition Bill, I have not heard many Conservative speakers get up to say how much they want it. Even more surprisingly, I have not heard any Liberal Democrat speakers get up to say that they want it. There is one following me, and I know that he will have a go. That is why I regard myself as a little unfortunate today, because I normally prefer to speak rather later than this in your Lordships' debates. We will see that that does not happen again. I am damned if I am going to have a Liberal Democrat replying to me in any future debate in your Lordships' House, particularly one with the abilities-I will not specify how I value them-of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, I promise most sincerely that I will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, in any respect. The last two days of debates have been laced with the most delicious, rich irony, which is somehow so traditional in any debate in this place when we are talking to ourselves about ourselves. I counted the number of former Members of Parliament on the list of speakers. There are 68, two-thirds of the total. The first irony is that rather too many of them seem to think that appointed politicians are somehow more reputable and reliable than elected ones, which I think reflects on their previous experience.
"Executive control over the House of Commons is stronger in Britain than in any comparable country. Though it frequently masquerades as a defence of the rights of the Commons, in reality many of the arguments against comprehensive reform"-
He hits the nail on the head. The endless defence of the supremacy of the other place amounts to an assertion that we really should have that "elective dictatorship" of which Lord Hailsham spoke in 1976. Indeed, some Members seem so anxious to avoid a House that will assert itself against the Executive,
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Surely the White Paper and draft Bill, and the central intention to ensure that this place contains an elected element by 2015, should not come as a surprise to any Member of your Lordships' House. Of the 105 speakers in this debate, 65 have been appointed since 1997, when a Government came to power determined to introduce a democratically elected element to this House. All noble Lords who have come to this House after that date must be absolutely clear that our appointment was not for life but would be temporary. That, too, is an irony.
Much has been made, especially on the opposition Benches, of the need to clarify the future relationship between the Houses if and when these reforms are fully implemented. The best analysis that I have seen concluded:
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, will recognise that quotation because he wrote it. It is a direct quotation from the Jack Straw/Philip Hunt-the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath-White Paper of 2008. Members on the other side of the House should read their own White Paper before they come to the House and pretend that all these matters are completely new.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Can the noble Lord answer the question which his colleague the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, failed to answer yesterday as to why he thinks that a House elected by first past the post should have primacy over a House elected by single transferable vote?
Lord Tyler: If the noble Lord had read his own White Paper, let alone the Government's White Paper, he would know that three tranches of elections to this House-whether it is 80 per cent or 100 per cent-mean that at no time would the membership of this House have a more up-to-date mandate than that held by Members of the other House. That is absolutely clear-and Jack Straw and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, were clear about it, too.
I am very respectful and appreciative of the wise heads in this House, but they cannot go on asserting the primacy of the other House and yet build up the impression in this House and beyond that they intend to threaten a veto on any reform Bill that the other House sends us. That is yet another irony.
Breaking a habit of a lifetime, I will concentrate for the few minutes that I have on the one area where I think there may well be a consensus in your Lordships' House. Several Members have questioned the suggestion that 300 is a sensible number for a reformed House. This matter requires very careful analysis by the Joint Committee. The commission headed by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham-who was here just now-recommended 550; the 2001 government White Paper 600;
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There are five reasons why 300 Members is too small a number. First, as I have hinted, Parliament as a whole benefits from having a proportion of Members who retain an active involvement in other walks of life, which would be very difficult to have with only 300. Secondly, given the relatively long but one-term limited service, it would be difficult to recruit candidates who were prepared to be full-time parliamentarians while they were not able to take part in other activities and go back to another career. Thirdly, your Lordships should note that 80 of the 800 Members of your Lordships' House are already involved in European scrutiny. It is already a very considerable commitment and I do not think that 300 could do the job.
Lord Higgins: In fact, the White Paper comes up with the very strange proposition that the figure should be around 300 or so because that is the average attendance in this House. However, this assumes that the average attendance covers all the same people, which is absolute rubbish. People come depending on their expertise in a particular debate. We need more than that number in order to get the coverage.
Lord Tyler: I am very grateful to my noble friend, but there is an additional reason. In fact the average is not 300; it is over 400. That figure is out of date. I accept entirely what my noble friend said and I hope that there will be support from other Members across the House when it comes to looking at this issue in the Joint Committee.
Finally, under whatever system of PR, if the number is so small it will be quite difficult to get diversity-indeed, even gender balance-in the membership of this House. If only 80 Members are elected in each tranche there will be relatively small multi-Member seats and it will be quite difficult to get the sort of diversity and gender balance that I know many Members of your Lordships' House wish to have. Many have already expressed concerns on this.
The Government's proposals are incremental and evolutionary and take advantage of the work of the royal commission led so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. They take advantage of all the thinking that went into the work on the Jack Straw White Paper
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Baroness Valentine: This is a subject I tackle hesitantly, given the weight of discussion which precedes me, but I want to make a few brief points. First, on this emotive and political subject, it is important that Cross-Benchers do not feel constrained by being seen as turkeys with a view one way or the other about Christmas. The non-partisan views of those with broad experience are vital to ensuring that what emerges from the Joint Committee is better government for the UK and not, at worst, a political fudge.
The law attributed to Parkinson says that the time spent on any agenda item will be in inverse proportion to the budgetary consequences. Major reform of the House of Lords would not be my priority at this time. Europe's recovery is bumpy and uncertain, and on its border, the Middle East is in upheaval. By giving this issue valuable consideration and debating time, we are offering fodder to those who argue that legislators are out of touch with the concerns of real people.
On the other hand, the aspiration of shrinking the House seems both deliverable and desirable. A mechanism for removing permanently or temporarily those noble Lords who are not participating could be found, as well as a presumption in favour of, say, a 15-year tenure. My greatest worry about reform is that the Lords will drift towards becoming a replica and competitor of the other place, leading to politics within and between the two Houses. Politicised decision-making would replace more reflective consideration of the longer term needs of the country.
I understand the aspiration to have a more democratically accountable House of Lords, but democracy operates poorly where the electorate feel little connection with the institution or the individuals. I would put in this category MEPs and London Assembly Members, with apologies to those present. On the other hand, people identify strongly with the London mayor as an individual and often with their local MP, and they feel a connection to the role of their local council. Without such connection, voting risks defaulting to party lines, and for me, a highly party-politicised House of Lords would be a backwards step.
Today, this House provides a wealth of different experience, expertise and perspective with academics, business people and community leaders. The role of the Lords in non-partisan expert scrutiny risks being overwhelmed by Lords with party-political priorities and scores to settle. But if we are to see an elected House of Lords, I am with many other noble Lords: we must then review the primacy of the other place.
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What might we hope to fix through reform? I have one simple proposition-a longer-term approach. The current constitution does not encourage adherence to lasting principles and the necessary steps towards them. Is it the British character to be better at make-do and mend than grands projets and grand visions? Or might our horizons lengthen; might we be more bound actually to tackling climate change rather than just signing up to long-grass targets? Might we be ready to act for higher literacy standards for the next generation of children? Must we always wait until road, rail, air or energy capacity is at breaking point before reluctantly committing to remedial investment? It is always easier to duck, turn, ignore and avoid, leaving the tough decisions to tomorrow and the next man.
My aspiration, if we are to have an elected House of Lords, is for it to be a coherent conscience of the country. In this capacity, should the Lords then challenge the primacy of the other place? In the case of long-term policy commitments I would say yes. There should be a mechanism for securing a measure of political consensus across both Houses and success would be policies capable surviving several changes of government before and during their implementation.
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, the past two days of debate have been rather different from our previous debates as we have had a draft White Paper to consider and that has made a substantial difference to the tone of the debate. However, it still saddens me that we have not been discussing what the role of a second Chamber should be before we decide on the composition. We are once again starting with the cart before we actually look at the horse.
Looking at the House now I see a Chamber orientated towards the south-east of the UK. I do not think that is healthy and it has been exacerbated by the change in the expenses system making it much more difficult for those of us who live in the south-west or the north to come and attend at the times we would like to.
When one looks at the size of the House, it is going to take about 450 Peers to fill the committees that we have now. The average attendance for 50 per cent of our sittings is 424 so the size is not far wrong for managing our current workload. However, the current workload has increased as the number of active Peers has increased. Are all the committees we have at the moment relevant? Are they the right ones? On Monday, in a debate on working practices, more committees will be recommended for us.
Indeed, the draft Bill itself requires more work for this House. According to paragraph 125 of the White Paper we will now be able to tackle financial matters again. That is probably a very good thing because if we had been able to do that we would probably have saved some of the ghastly mess we have
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The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, says that 300 Members is not workable-of course it is workable. It is only a question of what we do or what we give those people to do. A House of 300 used to be a very big vote in this House. I remember that if we got 300 it was quite something. The House then was working extremely well and extremely efficiently but we were covering fewer areas. It is a question only of what we have to cover.
When one looks at attendance, it is quite interesting-75 per cent of the elected Peers attend 50 per cent or more of the sittings but only 55 per cent of the life Peers attend those same sittings. Are we missing out on the expertise of the 300-odd life Peers who are not attending 50 per cent or more of the sittings? Is their expertise being utilised properly? Surely there is another way we could utilise that expertise and tap it without them having to be Members of your Lordships' House?
I have always said that the Achilles' heel of this House has been our working practices. There is no doubt that in the recent past those working practices have been increasingly abused. Some noble Lords will not learn, or even cannot be bothered to learn, our rules and conventions and some deliberately flout them. We have seen that already in this debate on both days. For the first time that I can remember, the Government have been unable to get some of their legislation through in a reasonable time. That was the result of a deliberate decision by some Members of this House. That worries me because once that has been done, it will be done again. I put it to your Lordships that there is a new fault line in this House that cannot be papered over. It is a matter that will have to be addressed as part of the reforms.
In the past two days, it has also been interesting to listen to the damascene-like conversion that some of your Lordships have gone through. I spent 10 years of my life explaining to right honourable and honourable friends in the other place how this House worked, that we were very sorry that yet again the Government had been defeated, and that the Secretary of State would have to change his legislation and make some concessions in order to get a Bill through. Some of those former right honourable and honourable friends are with us today, and it is nice that they now support a totally appointed House. It is, however, a little galling to find that some of them want an exit strategy for life Peers, given that, not so long ago, there was not a life Peer who was prepared to provide an exit strategy for an hereditary who had given up a lot of his life to serve in your Lordships' House.
What really concerns me is how Parliament functions. The other place, as we know, does not scrutinise legislation as it used to. Increasingly, we are under the heavy hand of an elective dictatorship. My belief is that the other place will not change. The Executive will not allow the other place to control it and, as the Executive have increasingly taken power in the other place, the role of this Chamber has become more important. We have been able to scrutinise legislation, to suggest alterations and make amendments. There is
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However, I remain convinced that this House needs major reform because it is only by having an elected House that can challenge the Executive that one will get a better balance in the parliamentary system of this country. The other place will never be allowed to do that. I want a second Chamber to hold the Executive to account and the only way that we will do that is by having an elected House. It is also right and fundamental that the peerage should be separated from the right to sit in Parliament. If someone in the other place has done extremely well, they can be offered either a right to come here, if we have an appointed House, or they can be given a peerage and they do not come here. The two should not go together.
I have a final point on the electoral system proposed in the draft Bill. We had a referendum on the alternative vote system. It would be ludicrous if we did not have a referendum on the STV system. Whatever the outcome of any legislation to alter the constitution of this country, it certainly should be put to the public to decide whether they want it.
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, the sad issue of the debate over the past two days has been that, rather than having a constructive debate that takes us forward, we have seen a joining together of Members-whether they are in favour of reform, an elected House or a non-elected House-against the proposals. The responsibility for that has to fall at the coalition's feet. The Bill is not a draft Bill for reform of the House of Lords. It spends much time talking about and providing for an elected House-whether 80 per cent or 100 per cent-and totally ignores the peripheral issues that are as important in that reform.
A number of Peers referred to the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords-the Wakeham report. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, is in his place. He was a very able chairman of that commission. In his closing remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said that the Bill builds on the Wakeham report. In many ways, the Bill does not build on that commission, of which I was a member. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, talked about the Bill being drawn up by a group of people in a committee that contained no one from the Opposition or the Cross Benches. That is absolutely true. The Wakeham commission met for 10 months. It received more than 1,700 submissions. It held 21 public meetings in addition to visits to various parts of the country-Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales-to meet parliamentarians in those areas. There was not a majority in those meetings or from the evidence that we took in favour of a directly elected House. Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, said:
The debate today has centred on the issue of election, because that is what the draft Bill concentrates on. That is not good enough for our constitution. Many Members who have taken part in the debate, including me, have been put in the position of having to reject the proposals in the Bill because, frankly, it is an Elastoplast. It does not provide for stability of parliamentary rule in a democracy and it does not cover the essential issues. We have little coverage in the Bill of the roles and responsibilities of the new House of Lords and how they would impact on the House of Commons-and, indeed, whether the role of the House of Commons also needs to change. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, referred to that, and how right he is.
Until I came to this House, I had been elected to every position that I had held in my working life. I had no doubt where my responsibility lay: it lay with the people who elected me. If you have a House of Commons that is elected and this House becomes overnight-not by evolution or incremental steps but by a full-blown decision-an 80 cent or 100 per cent elected House, I know where elected Members of this House will think that their accountability lies. Any idea that constituents will not go to you when they have voted for you to ask you to deal with issues is cloud-cuckoo-land. That will present a challenge in a short time.
I support the content of the Wakeham commission report, which dealt with an element of elected membership. This is a missed opportunity. It could have been so different. Perhaps there is some truth in the reports that we have had that these proposals were a consolation prize for the lost political ambition of the AV voting system being introduced. If there is, that is not a service to the population of this country.
The Government have said that they will listen. What proposals will they bring forward for public consultation on their initiatives, even after the Joint Committee report? Will the Government hold a referendum on the outcome of any discussions? Will the Government use the Parliament Act if this House is a barrier to the changes that they seek? Those are not frivolous questions; they are questions that have a right to be answered.
The prelude to this debate will be the Joint Committee. I wish my noble friend Lord Richard and his colleagues the best of luck in their work. I cannot think of anyone better to chair the committee. He really has a difficult task in front of him. Try as I might, I have great difficulty in seeing it being able to deliver to the Government, to this House and, most importantly, to the House of Commons a revised Bill that will satisfy what we need in this country. That said, I wish it well and I am sure that the quality of what it produces will be much better than the draft Bill that we have before us, because I cannot think that it could be any worse.
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, first do no harm. That is the guiding principle in my professional life as a surgeon. The noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, also a surgeon, will recognise the importance of that principle in undertaking any major surgical intervention. The proposed Bill, which, effectively, abolishes your Lordships' House
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The first question that we have to ask ourselves in any major intervention is: what is the indication for the intervention? Here, it is not entirely clear. The introduction to the Bill and the White Paper makes it clear that the House of Lords does its job well and that, in the future, as a replaced elected Chamber, it is to retain the same functions with the same powers, yet it appears that the purpose is to overcome some democratic deficit. That will be achieved through creating instability through having a democratically elected second Chamber, but with appointed Bishops and with the continuing ability of a Prime Minister of the day to appoint Members to the House. So we will end up in a situation where we have a kind of half-pregnancy, which is not possible; we will have a half-democratic legitimacy. That is a potential source of instability in the future.
Another potential indication for change could be to focus on the proposals that have been discussed on many occasions in the past two days and put forward in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. That is a good stepwise direction of change in terms of achieving reform of your Lordships' House that is urgently necessary.
The second important consideration is always to try to avoid complications and unintended consequences of a particular intervention. Sometimes complications can be fatal and, if they can be predicted, one should take mitigating action to try to avoid them. Over the past two days, we have heard of a number of potential unintended consequences and complications that may attend this Bill if it becomes law. The first relates to the primacy of the other place. There appears to be a consistent and consensus view that one thing that must be maintained is the primacy of the other place. I certainly agree with that. How will that be achieved? It is irresponsible to assume that the primacy will be maintained just because it is the wish of the Government and because a particular Bill says that it will happen.
We have heard that there are 61 parliaments around the world that are bicameral and have an elected second Chamber, but I wonder how many of those bicameral parliaments with an elected second Chamber have no written constitution. How many of them depend merely on convention, which, as we have heard, is a fragile constitutional settlement to ensure a relationship between the two Chambers? That is an important question that the Joint Committee might wish to consider further. Such consideration may help us to understand whether we need to move forward with some form of written constitution, codifying the responsibilities and powers of two elected Chambers, if that is the direction of travel.
Another issue that has been raised, and which I think represents a potentially serious future complication, is the voting methods used to elect Members to the other place and to a future elected senate or second Chamber. We recently had a referendum on methods of voting for the other place and the people of our country decided that first past the post was their preferred method for sending their elected representatives there. The Joint Committee might consider the
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Another area of considerable concern for unintended consequences is the potential impact on the constitutional monarchy. In our Parliament we have three elements: the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the constitutional monarchy. The Lord Great Chamberlain sits as a Member of your Lordships' House and one of the important responsibilities of that great office is to serve as a channel of communication between the monarch and the House of Lords. Noble Lords have alluded in this debate to the risk, if there are two elected Chambers at loggerheads, that the position of the constitutional monarch may become complicated and that they may be drawn into political controversy. I suggest that we need an absolute assurance that an unintended consequence of this legislation will not be that in some way the constitutional monarchy is undermined in future.
A third issue of considerable importance is the role of the Parliament Act, which has been considered principally in terms of its use to drive forward potential legislation to abolish your Lordships' House and to replace it with an elected second Chamber. The Parliament Act also contains a very important reserved responsibility for your Lordships' House, which is to ensure that the life of a Parliament is not extended beyond five years. We should be concerned about how that responsibility will be maintained in future to ensure that a tyrannical Government cannot extend the life of a Parliament because they control two elected Chambers.
Finally, it is important that we have some form of informed consent. In this regard, it is important at the outset of the process of considering the Bill that the Government commit themselves to a free vote both in your Lordships' House and in the other place. We need to be absolutely certain that any proposals that are finally considered will enjoy genuine confidence.
We have heard over the past two days that Members of your Lordships' House lack democratic legitimacy. However, every Member of the House today has important obligations and responsibilities to the people of our country, who expect us to use the opportunities and privileges of membership of your Lordships' House to serve their interests and to ensure that the laws to which they are subjected are the best possible laws. We must not take for granted the fact that we live in a wonderful country where, over the past 100 years, we have enjoyed democracy, prosperity, the development of universal health care and education, common decency and the assimilation of a variety of different cultures into our society. None of this would have been possible without a stable parliamentary system. In this regard, the relationship between the House of Lords and the House of Commons-the understanding and respect between them-has been absolutely critical. We must think carefully about the consequences of any future Bill and its implications and impact on denying the people of our country the rights, opportunities, obligations and pleasures of being citizens of the United Kingdom.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I think I should explain why I am speaking from this Bench. It is partly because I have a hereditary duty to do so. Also this is the Barons' Bench. When I first arrived in your Lordships' House I knew no one, but the book said that this was the Barons' Bench, and being a Baron, I sat here. I did not know that when the Government changed, you moved from the Barons' Bench to the other side, so I remained here for quite a long period of time until someone asked me which party I was in. I said that I was an independent unionist Peer.
This may seem complicated, but for other reasons it is not appropriate for me to speak on the same side as the Liberal Democrats. It is only for today, and I would rather not speak behind my noble friends while looking at their bald pates or flowing locks. I would rather look them in the whites of their eyes. I want to make the speech of my grandfather, although I am not sure whether you make a speech, you give a speech or you deliver a speech, but at the beginning it goes something like this. I am going back over 100 years to 1907 when a Motion was debated in the Commons:
At the time my grandfather was the MP for north-west Lanark, then for Maryhill, North Down, and lastly Croydon, and of course I had an uncle called Stafford Cripps. Here is an extract from my grandfather's speech:
"What is the real charge that is laid at the door of the Second Chamber? It is that it oppresses the people because it resists their will as expressed by their elected representatives when these representatives happen to be Liberals. In other words it is resisting what the Liberal Party believes to be the will of the people ... In short this reform of the Constitution is being proposed not for the safety of the people but confessedly nakedly, unashamedly, in order to strengthen the position of the Liberal Party".-[Official Report, Commons, 25/6/1907; cols. 1206-7.]
As I listened to the right honourable Gentleman yesterday raising his voice in lamentation over his innocents that had been slaughtered by the Lords, I expected him to conclude by paraphrasing that finest of all funeral orations, the one delivered at Gettysburg, and saying, "Let us all highly resolve that these dead will not have died in vain and that the government of the Liberals by the Liberals for the Liberals shall not perish from the earth". I have therefore decided to deliver his speech, and in the secret pigeonholes to the left of the entrance, each noble Lord will find a copy of it, as well as the links to Balfour and others. It was a fascinating debate, but it shows that even after 100 years, things still go on.
I need to look to the future, but that is more difficult. I want first to describe and define the House of Lords as I see it. It has 830 Members, some 32 of whom seem to be classified as either absent or not available. That is quite a lot of people. More than that, it has 450 members of the Administration, including some of the greatest minds of all. If you add the other people to that figure, it comes to 500. We have a responsibility not only to Members of the House of Lords but also to the Administration who have served
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I have a problem. I did something terrible this morning. I took that piece of paper and by mistake put it into the red bag that you give to the council. It has been crushed by an 18-pound weight. However, I did think it was one of the worst documents I had ever read. Some noble Lords know that one of my earliest jobs was writing reports on the House of Lords for the Labour Party. I probably submitted more wasted paper to the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and his committee than anyone else. But I actually love this place and love knowing about it. I know also that among my colleagues there are some really great minds. I also have the advantage that I was brought up to sit and listen to everything, so I have been drip-fed by geriatrics over years. Indeed, I will admit that probably 80 per cent of my knowledge has come from your Lordships' House.
Now we come to the simple matter of the future. I want to make a suggestion. If you are in Parliament, you should represent something or somebody other than yourself. I looked around and decided that the Bishops represent some 31 million people, 10,000 churches and 8,000 or more parishes. We should represent someone. I thought we might introduce some legislation called the representation of the peoples Act. I would like to represent every one of the local councillors in the land, some 80,000 of them, and possibly involving over 120,000 people. We may be able to decide who we represent.
Many things could happen. I have a great affection for the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, not only because she was on the Wakeham commission, but also because she was the chairman of the war Lords. If we are to go to war, I would rather have her on my side.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord said that we should all represent something. I suppose that I represent the long list of Lords Ministers who have dabbled in Lords reform, but without, alas, much success. We come to the end of this long but invigorating debate. I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, on his excellent maiden speech-it seems a long time ago. He said that in the few short weeks he had been in your Lordships' House he has moved from a position of supporting a wholly elected House to endorsing a mostly elected House. I wonder where the noble Lord's voyage of discovery will end. We await his next contribution to a debate on Lords reform with eager anticipation-he will have further opportunities.
There have been many reports on Lords reform, none better than the royal commission report chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, who spoke so eloquently yesterday. The noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, and other noble Lords argued at some point for indirect elections. This is, of course, not a new idea. Viscount
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Of course, this debate is rather more significant than many in recent years. We have a draft Bill, far-reaching proposals, pre-legislative scrutiny to come and a pathway towards the first elected Members setting foot in the second Chamber in 2015. How determined the Government are to meet that date is, perhaps, open to question. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the House, yesterday reaffirmed the 2015 goal, yet in his highly entertaining interview in the Financial Times this weekend he seemed to have lost a little of his reforming zeal. Perhaps he was looking for St Augustine for inspiration. "Oh, Lord", the Leader seemed to be saying, "deliver me an elected second Chamber, but not quite yet". We will all be interested to hear whether the noble Lord, Lord McNally, takes a similar view. Indeed, does he think he can take his Members of Parliament with him, to say nothing of the noble Lords behind him?
The caution that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, expressed over the weekend is, I think, entirely understandable. He must know that the Government are being disingenuous in presenting these proposals as a stand-alone measure with little consequence for our overall constitutional arrangements. He must know that, if enacted, the Bill would have a profound impact on Parliament and our democracy. I regret that, because the Government's failure to admit this risks the whole reform process. I am a reformer, I support an elected House, I have always voted for it, but I want that reform to enhance our democracy. I do not want changes which threaten a fight between this House and the other place. I do not want changes that detract from the Lords' role as a revising Chamber. Time and again it has been this House that has improved legislation, held Ministers properly to account and saved Governments from themselves-my own included. Would that the other place could say the same.
It is noticeable how many noble Lords in the past two days have commented on the performance of the Commons and their concern to strengthen Parliament as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, made a telling point about the overweening power of the Executive and of his fear that the Bill would extend that. Nowhere is that more to be seen than in paragraph 68 of the White Paper where a Prime Minister can at a whim throw a Member of the new second Chamber out of Parliament. That is the rub of it. As my noble friend Lord Whitty has said, the Government have simply not put the groundwork into the draft Bill. Yet they had plenty of time. The draft Bill was published on 17 May but the cross-party committee, chaired by Mr Clegg, has not met since 24 November. Almost six months has been wasted.
It is pretty arrogant on the part of the Deputy Prime Minister to think that he can waltz this reform through Parliament, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, reminded us, on the whim of a hunch or a best guess and to do so without so much as a genuflection
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My noble friend described that as nonsense and I think that he was being kind. That is my response to the noble Lord, Lord True, who also criticised Clause 2. But does he not recognise that Clause 2 goes to the heart of the Bill? Nowhere is that more illustrated than in the conventions which govern the relationship of this House with the Commons.
The Cunningham committee was clear that, in a formal sense, the Lords has equal status with the Commons as a House of Parliament in initiating and passing Bills, subject to Commons financial privilege and the Parliament Acts, and equal status in approving delegated legislation. In reality, as Cunningham said, the formal position has come to be moderated by conventions reflecting the primacy of the Commons. The moment that elected Members walk into this Chamber, those conventions will evaporate.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord would like to comment on how precisely that clause differs from his recommendation in his own White Paper, which I quoted to your Lordships' House earlier. It said:
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am always grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, for reminding the House of my heroic efforts on the cross-party group chaired by my right honourable friend Jack Straw, and very enjoyable it was too. I say two things to the noble Lord. First, we produced a White Paper for consultation. We did not produce a draft Bill. Secondly, I am not arguing about primacy. I am arguing about the issue of an elected House of Lords using the powers that it formally has within the context of primacy. I believe that even within the context of primacy, the clash between two elected Houses will bring profound constitutional changes.
Noble Lords could argue that we should not worry about that, which is a perfectly legitimate point to put across. But the one thing that I have learnt from my three years of dabbling in this subject is that unless a Government are explicit about the powers of an elected second Chamber, any attempt at reform will always be doomed to failure. I speak as someone who has always supported legitimate reform of your Lordships' House. When elected Members enter this House, the conventions
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The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, was eloquent yesterday in favouring a strong second Chamber to stand up to the Executive. His noble friend Lord Ashdown reminded us that there are many examples around the world of bicameral systems with two elected bodies which manage to sort out their relationships. As the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, remarked, that is because the relationship between those houses is set out in some form of written constitution that will usually provide for dispute resolution between the two houses. I acknowledge that the implications of a written constitution in the UK are profound. However, as my noble friend Lord Elder suggested, they have to be considered when introducing major constitutional change.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, I am listening carefully to the noble Lord. Since his own party proposed a fully elected Chamber in its manifesto, do we take it from his remarks that that can be done only in the context of a written constitution?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I believe it to be inevitable that if we are to have two elected Chambers there has to be a codification of the respective powers of both Chambers and there has to be a way of resolving disputes. One cannot simply rely on the Parliament Acts as legislated for.
Noble Lords have raised a number of issues. I will not go into all of them, but I will just talk about the Bishops. I acknowledge the contribution of the right reverend Prelates to your Lordships' House. I particularly welcome the speeches of the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Leicester and Chichester. If we are to have a 20 per cent appointed House, I am sympathetic to spiritual leaders having a place, although I understand where my noble friend Lord Judd is coming from. We should not underestimate the role of the established church in the life of our nation. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, took a rather different view. I am sure that right reverend Prelates will take some comfort from him that once expelled they will none the less be invited back to say daily prayers.
I turn now to the transitional arrangements. We are offered three options, but what has happened to grandfathering? My clear understanding of the term, which comes from the world of professional regulation, particularly in the health service, is that experienced professionals in an unregulated profession go forward to a new professional register on the basis of experience. The term grandfathering is in the coalition agreement, which on my reckoning would rule out both options one and three. I would be grateful for the noble Lord's response to that.
I would also like to ask the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about the Parliament Acts. My noble friend Lady Dean asked whether the Parliament Acts would be used to force legislation on Lords reform through your Lordships' House. I would caution the Government on that. In a profound speech yesterday, my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Aberavon put some very important questions to the noble Lord on the
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In the end we come back to the question of powers and to the relationship between the two Houses. Unless some Peers think this is a smokescreen for refuseniks, let me pray in aid the words of my noble friends Lord Wills, Lord Whitty, Lord Hoyle, Lord Desai, Lord Davies of Stamford, Lord Davies of Oldham, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe and Lady Quin-all passionate proponents of an elected House, but all saying that this Bill will not do and all bemused as to why the White Paper and draft Bill are so lacking in understanding and coherence on the central point of concern to your Lordships. In his opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said that the present settlement will suffice for an elected House and that if in due course that turned out not to be the case, Parliament would be able to address it at that time. The noble Lord, Lord Marks, argued yesterday that primacy of the Commons would be unaffected because of the Parliament Acts and the fact that Governments stand or fall on maintaining the confidence of the Commons. I understand that argument. But for me it is not so much about primacy. Both noble Lords underestimate the assertiveness the House will show when unfettered by conventions and with legitimacy.
The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, put it well when, based on the Scottish experience post the Scotland Act, he said that he doubted that statutes determined behaviour. He pointed to the example of how political reality and lines set in statute come into conflict and said that in the end political reality wins. We saw that in an extraordinary intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown. He suggested that an elected second Chamber could have prevented this country from going into an unwise war. I, too, am wary of such military interventions, but I am very wary indeed of giving what would be an effective veto to a second Chamber on matters of war and military engagement. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, has illustrated the likely ambition of an elected second Chamber, particularly if it claims greater legitimacy under a proportional system of election.
As for the reliance of the noble Lord, Lord Marks, on the Parliament Acts, I return to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, who reminded us of the preamble to the Parliament Act 1911. It is well known that it promised a second Chamber constituted on a popular base. What is much less remarked upon is that the preamble makes it clear that the Parliament Act was designed solely to govern relationships between an elected Chamber and an unelected Chamber. It also spelled out the need for an elected House to have its powers limited and defined. So, 100 years ago, the architects of the Parliament Act understood that the powers of an elected Chamber would have to be set out in statute.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, I had a boyhood dream that one day I would stand at a Dispatch Box as a government
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I congratulate my noble friend Lord Strasburger on his travels. He should not worry about the teasing of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that, since he entered the House, he has travelled a short distance in his opinions about its reform. Some noble Lords on that side have travelled miles and miles and miles.
The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, now claims to know what I am thinking about him even without my saying a word. I hope he will be really insulted by that thought. However, even he confessed that he had once been in favour of reform, that he had come into the House and now was no longer in favour of reform. I think the technical term for that is "the foreman's job at last" syndrome.
One thought about "Apocalypse Now" prompted me to share with you a short quote from a book that was given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, who I do not think is in his seat. His grandfather was the leader of the "last-ditchers", who tried to stop the 1911 Act. There are two quotes that are worth reading:
"And what was the final decision of the Constitutional High Court of Appeal, or rather of that proportion of its members who dared to deliver the verdict? The numbers were read out, but those who knew Willoughby and saw him as he entered the Chamber had no need to lengthen their suspense. All was settled and over. By seventeen votes the Parliament Bill had been accepted, and was now the law of the land".
"From the night of the 10th August 1911, when a great principle was sacrificed to expediency; when the right course was departed from for fear of the consequences, the Conservative Party received a shock from which it has never really recovered".
I am merely pointing out that those speeches we have heard today that predict only the most terrible consequences for radical reform can be very, very wrong indeed. As historians such as the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, continue to point out, the following century for the Conservative Party was one mainly spent in government. I also find it extraordinary to hear suggestions from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and others that the Deputy Prime Minister has been somehow high-handed in his approach to this legislation. No senior politician has given Parliament more chance to consider these measures, has shown more flexibility or offered more opportunity for genuine reflection.
I am not sure which parts of his own White Paper the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, tore up during that extraordinary speech. However, he says with pride that they never produced a draft Bill. So you never did-shame on you that you did not.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful for him raising this issue again. The purpose of producing a White Paper is to allow for debate and discussion
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Lord McNally: This again from a Minister who produced a White Paper that produced no such debate. They sat on reform for a decade. When we talk about consistency, I was on the Cook-Maclennan committee prior to the 1997 election, where my party and the Labour Party both committed themselves to a raft of constitutional reform, including reform of the House of Lords. My party has been consistent for the last 14 years on our proposals. The Labour Party has performed somersault after somersault after somersault and there is no way they can get out of it-that is the record.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I remember well the noble Lord, Lord McNally, standing as leader of his party in your Lordships' House and stating categorically that an elected second Chamber would never threaten the primacy of the House of Commons. At that point he was leader of the Liberal Democrats. How does he tie that in with the speech made by his noble friend Lord Ashdown, who said that this Chamber-if reformed in the way that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is advocating-would and should be able to challenge the Commons on issues such as going to war and finance?
Lord McNally: Is the noble Lord, Lord Cunningham, in his place? No, he is not. When I was on the Cunningham committee, there was great bemusement because I said, as I still believe, that the House of Lords has the right to say no. That is an essential part of the relationship between the two Houses. I honestly wish to God that this House had voted on the Iraq war and that Ministers had read this House's debate on the matter, but we will not go down that road, not because I do not believe it but because, even among the red herrings that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, usually streaks across this debate, I am not going to pursue that one.
Lord Grocott: I knew that in the first five minutes of his speech the Minister would be Mr Nice. He has now turned inevitably to the Mr Nasty phase. He needs to explain to the House that if the new, elected second Chamber were to have essentially the same powers and functions as the present one, as his own White Paper and draft Bill say, how on earth could this Chamber veto absolutely crucial matters that would be determined by the primary House?
Lord McNally: I never said that this Chamber should have a right of veto; I said it had a right to say no. There is a difference. Usually in this House somebody is allowed to develop an argument, and I will cover the whole question that was raised. I am not trying to be nasty to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. I am very affectionate towards him. There were a number of thoughts that passed through during the speeches. I liked the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Davies,
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Lord McNally: You have to be patient. You are behaving as you used to do in the House of Commons. That is why wind-up speeches in the House of Commons take so long. This has been a long debate. I am not going to answer every question in 100 speeches, partly because, as I have already pointed out, this is the start of a process of consideration. I think many of the questions that were raised quite rightly should be addressed by the committee to be chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and I will make further points on that. However, I must remind this House-this unelected House-that all three parties fought the last election advocating direct elections as part of their plan for reform of the House of Lords. Those policies presumably went through a decision-making process in all three parties. I wonder how many of the speeches made from the Labour Benches would go down at a Labour Party conference, or how some of the speeches made from my own Benches would go down at a Liberal Democrat conference.
My party leader and my party took a great deal of criticism when they appeared to go back on a manifesto commitment concerning tuition fees. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, made great hay of that during his contribution. However, this is a threefold commitment that the government proposals reflect. As far as I am aware, no one has put proposals to continue with an unelected House before a party conference or put them into an election manifesto. As the noble Lord, Lord True, suggested-
Lord Cormack: I am most grateful to my noble friend, but what does he say to the statement made earlier today that no party won the general election and that the one that came closest to doing so-the Conservatives-had the most lukewarm sentence in its manifesto?
Lord McNally: All three parties had it in. I have to say that that is a kind of car salesman's excuse. Let me make it clear that I am not anticipating changing many minds during this speech. However, I am also very well aware-more than this House seems to be aware-that this is not a perfect reflection of opinion in the country. That should be the warning to this House.
"Our conclusions apply only to present circumstances. If the Lords acquired an electoral mandate, then in our view their role as the revising chamber, and their relationship with the Commons, would inevitably be called in to question, codified or not. Given the weight of evidence on this point, should any firm proposals come forward to change the composition of the House of Lords, the conventions between the Houses would have to be examined again. What would, could or should be done about this is outside our remit".
As a member of the Cunningham committee, I was happy to sign that paragraph. The conventions between the two Houses were examined on a regular basis throughout the 20th century and to say that they will be re-examined is no more than a statement of the obvious. What is equally obvious is that how they should be examined and with what outcome was outside the remit of the Cunningham committee. The idea that the Cunningham committee is somehow holy writ and that the conventions and relations between the two Houses would fall like a portcullis at the time of the passing of the Bill is simply absurd.
What is clear is that the relationship between the two Houses has always evolved and will continue to evolve in the future, particularly over the transitional period. The fact remains that the relationship between the Houses is underpinned by the Parliament Acts and the conventions. The House of Commons remains the primary Chamber; nothing in this draft Bill changes that. Nor are we suggesting any short, sharp shock in these proposals; rather, there is what old Fabians will recognise as "the inevitability of gradualness".
I am interested in the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Wills, Lord Davies, Lord Brooke, Lord Kakkar, and others, about whether codification is necessary. I hope that the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will look at that issue and take evidence. But there will be a lengthy transitional period of two Parliaments, which will allow transfer of knowledge. Noble Lords would not be prevented from standing for election or being considered for appointment to the reformed House.
Lord Wills: As the noble Lord mentioned my name, I would be grateful if I could intervene. I want to be clear on this point on codification. Am I right in thinking that the Government are not ruling out such codification?
Lord McNally: We are sending the matter to a committee that will take wide evidence. I hear my noble friend saying that we are ruling it out, which is not an entirely helpful intervention at this stage of the evening, but I do not think that you can set up a commission under a chairman of the independence and distinction of the noble Lord, Lord Richard-and I am delighted that he was willing to take this chairmanship-and then tell him in advance what he can look at. I will go no further. I am sorry. I see the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, who always tries to give a spurious kind of veneer of intellectual credibility to-
Lord McNally: Is there anybody I have not insulted yet? Please form an orderly queue. In among the insults, there are some facts. One fact is that it was at times a bit like sitting in the North Korean Parliament. I have often wondered what that was like. Speaker after speaker even had to make the kind of praise that Kim Il-sung had every so often-in this case, it was of the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd.
Baroness Boothroyd: I wonder whether the Deputy Leader would allow me to bring some semblance of order into this very interesting debate. Perhaps he would answer a serious question which I put yesterday. I am still waiting for an answer and I am sure that we would all be interested in it. In what way would the nation benefit and parliamentary proceedings be enhanced by the abolition of this House of experts and experience, and its replacement by a senate of paid politicians? I am sure that if we came back to answering questions which were being put in the debate, we would all be much happier.
Lord McNally: Of course we would. First, there are no proposals to abolish this House. Secondly, the difference between what I am putting before the House for debate and consideration is that this has gone before the electorate in manifestos, while what my noble friend Lord Steel is proposing is an escape hatch. It would mean that we would go to the electorate next time and say, "By the way, that elected House that we promised you is not going to be delivered. We have fixed it so that we are now going to have a wholly appointed House for as long as anybody can see". I do not think that is a particularly democratic way and that is the difference between what you are proposing and what I am proposing.
Lord McNally: A most unusual intervention from a Cross-Bencher-you are lucky that we do not have a Speaker. I did at one stage support the Steel Bill. I wanted it because it was the best on offer after the Straw-Hunt proposals were put on ice. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, knows full well that she could have had the Steel Bill in its entirety in the previous Parliament and that we constantly promised her our votes for it. Yet again, we are dealing with things where the Labour Party, with 13 years to do something about them, did precisely nothing.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I will skip to my own defence because ultimately, while I agree that it was too late and regret that we did not take it earlier, we did take up most elements of the Steel Bill in the CRaG Bill. In the wash-up, however, those were taken out by the Conservative Opposition of the time.
Lord McNally: More mea culpas. The fact is, as well, that one of the benefits for those who like some aspects of the Steel Bill is that the proposals of that Bill are all now in the draft Bill before the House: a statutory Appointments Commission; ending by-elections for hereditary Peers; permanent leave of absence and dealing with those convicted of serious criminal offences.
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However, the proposals in the Bill of my noble friend Lord Steel are in the context of a wholly appointed House, whereas the Government are committed to a wholly or mainly elected second Chamber as set out in the draft Bill. It is unrealistic to believe that any proposal for incremental reform of this House, such as the provisions in my noble friend's Bill, could be sped through this House without controversy, even with the support of the Government. Moreover, it would be completely unnecessary to do this when the Government have published detailed, comprehensive proposals for full reform.
I turn to the Joint Committee. As I have said before, I have tremendous respect for its chairman. I hope that he will keep an open agenda in terms of the evidence that he takes. The committee that the Deputy Prime Minister chaired tried to bring forward proposals and had a certain degree of consensus. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, will agree that we worked on and looked at the case for reform based on our manifesto commitments and that the case for reform should be by election. We are setting up the Joint Committee with 13 Members from this House, including a Bishop and a Cross-Bencher. The House agreed a Motion on 7 June that the Joint Committee should report by the end of February 2012.
Giving a target date to a Joint Committee is normal practice. If the committee needs more time, Motions can be put to both Houses to extend the date; but it should not be seen-as some Members, with nods and winks, have suggested-that the committee will have a licence to promote open-ended delay. Reform of this House is an issue that will be debated long and hard both inside and outside the Joint Committee over the coming months. The Government look forward to those discussions. We will listen to the arguments and adapt our proposals. However, we intend to introduce a Bill so that the first elections to this House can take place in 2015.
I end on a personal note. I have given way to no one in my affection and respect for this House-what it does and what it stands for. I greatly regret not grasping the opportunity for reform offered by the Wakeham committee, on which point the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, was absolutely right. If we had, we would be further down the road to a lasting reform than we are today. If we miss the opportunity presented by this Bill and procedure, a House that has won much respect-not least in its willingness to defend civil liberties and human rights and to stand up to the over-mighty power of the Executive-will lose respect as it looks increasingly out of kilter with the spirit of the age.
The proposals that we have made give this House and the other place the opportunity to carry through a reform as significant as the one passed by the Liberal Government a century ago. This is no time for noble Lords to join the last ditchers. There are those who say
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On accountability, I am interested in the suggestion that it might be two terms of perhaps seven years. I do not know. Again, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Richard, to look at that. The 15-year term has some weaknesses in democratic accountability that have been pointed out. However, it takes the breath away when speaker after speaker, all of whom have been sent here for life, start lecturing us about the dangers of somebody being sent here for a limited 15-year term. As the Prime Minister made clear in the other place, the Government's actions to date in producing this draft Bill have been based on trying to work for consensus. The Government are ready to listen; we are prepared to adapt; but we are also determined to act. The Bill, when introduced, like any other piece of government legislation, will be scrutinised, carried through, debated, discussed and passed in the same way.
I have been asked about the Parliament Act. I do not think that you start a piece of legislation by brandishing the Parliament Act, but, especially after some of the passionate debates in favour of the supremacy-the primacy-of the other place, I ask Members of this House, "If the clear and settled view of the other place is for reform, are you going to veto it?". I think that we should be told.
Other noble Lords raised a number of detailed questions. The Government have set out their views on these issues in the draft Bill and the White Paper. I am sure that the Joint Committee will consider all these issues in very careful detail. My suggestion is that Hansard for the two days of this debate, the Wakeham report, the Cunningham report, the Jack Straw White Paper and the White Paper accompanying this Bill be the Joint Committee's summer reading. We should now all wish it well and let it get on with that work.
That, notwithstanding the Government's proposals for the House of Lords set out in Cm 8077, which amount to the abolition of the House of Lords, this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to bring forward proposals for incremental urgent reforms that would improve the functioning of the existing House of Lords.
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