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8.31 pm

Lord Geddes: My Lords, it is comparatively unusual, in recent times, for me to take part in debates in your Lordships' House. This is because I have a marked aversion to wasting the House's time by repetition, which is why I did not take part in last week's debate on the abolition-and I use the word advisedly-of this House, despite having strong views on the subject. Had I spoken, I would have strongly supported the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd. I have equally strong views on a number of recommendations in the report that is being debated, and this time I will risk repetition.

I have had the very real privilege of being a Member of your Lordships' House for 36 years, for 11 of which I have been a Deputy Speaker. I have also sat on nine committees, chairing one of them for three years. I

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hope, therefore, that I can claim to have some knowledge of how this House has worked and is working, and have views on how it should or should not work.

First, I believe most strongly that we should continue to be a self-regulating House, and I therefore disagree equally strongly-and here I use chapter 6 for reference purposes-with recommendation 1: the increased powers of the Lord Speaker at Question Time. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, got it absolutely right: if we can just get clarity on how the system should work, then-dare I use an old-fashioned word-manners should be able to allow us to cope with that problem. Like my noble friend Lord Reay, I regard that recommendation as the start of a very slippery slope, and I do not like it.

In the interests of brevity, I shall only instance other recommendations with which I disagree. It can be assumed, therefore, that I am either neutral or in favour of such recommendations that I do not specifically mention. Like the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, I do not care for recommendation 5 on reading out questions. It seems to me to be counterproductive. Nor do I like recommendation 12, for the same reason that I do not like recommendation 1, on the Lord Speaker's role during Oral Statements. Nor do I like recommendation 40: the change of appellations. I declare right now that if that should be agreed, I shall continue to use those currently in practice. As far as I am concerned, a right reverend Prelate shall ever be a right reverend Prelate.

I disagree with recommendation 20: all government Bills to be considered in Grand Committee. I have been in the Chair of countless Grand Committees, which are, to put it rather bluntly, no more and no less than talk shops that serve to push our normal procedure one down the line, so to speak, with Report becoming Committee, and Third Reading becoming Report.

Even less do I agree with recommendation 22: Grand Committees to sit at 10.30 am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Like other noble Lords, Thursdays I can accept. In the latest House of Lords Committee bulletin, I note that two European sub-committees, the Science and Technology Committee and the HIV/AIDS committee currently meet on Tuesday mornings. A further two European sub-committees, the Constitution Committee, the Delegated Powers Committee and the Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill currently meet on Wednesday mornings. Presumably, all those would have to change their days and times. Ministers, clerks, Hansard writers and, dare I say it, chairmen would be required for such Grand Committee morning meetings. As other noble Lords have said, we are a part-time House with many Members able to pursue their non-parliamentary business only in the mornings. Like other noble Lords, I do not like recommendation 55: that the House should sit at 2 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Like the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, I particularly would not like sitting at 2 pm on Wednesdays when three Back-Bench group meetings are at that time.

Finally, I strongly disagree with recommendation 48: the election of the Chairman and the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees. In 2006, the House decided

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on an election for the Lord Speaker, with which I have no quarrel, but, from experience, I submit that the skills required from the Chairman, and perhaps even more from the Deputy Chairman of Committees, must complement each other and the Lord Speaker. It is much more likely that the individuals chosen by the usual channels, and then approved by the whole House, will be of the right calibre to serve the House, rather than those chosen in the somewhat random shot of a secret ballot.

8.36 pm

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, and his working group for the comprehensive, very perceptive and occasionally downright ingenious report. I have no problem with 50 of the 55 recommendations. Fifty-five recommendations in a main report of 62 pages tests one's mental digestive system, but it remains a very good and challenging report. This leaves me with five recommendations against which I have either questions or exclamation marks, thus indicating a need for clarification, caution or rejection. But to a few of those of which I approve, I say a very loud hallelujah indeed, particularly the proposal for a legislative standards committee, for pre-legislative scrutiny and for the establishment of a Back-Bench business committee and two additional sessional Select Committees.

Let me focus on the five recommendations about which I have some questions. Recommendations 1 and 12 ask us to consider conferring the Leader of the House's role at Questions and Oral Statements on the Lord Speaker. Some object to this on the grounds that this is a slippery slope leading to a Commons-style Speakership. I have never signed up to the slippery slope argument because a properly self-regulating House does not have to go anywhere it does not want to go. It simply says, "So far but no further".

My concern is over any reduction in the responsibilities of the Leader of the House. He or she is the Leader of the whole House and needs to be seen as such as much as possible. I would hazard a guess that if and when, God forbid, this Chamber is abolished and replaced with an all or partly elected Senate, the powers and duties of the Speaker of that Chamber will be very different from those enjoyed by the Lord Speaker in this Chamber. I suspect that this recommendation will be adopted for a trial period, which is quite right, but I hope that the effect on the role and standing of the Leader will be as carefully assessed as the effect on the conduct of Questions and Oral Statements.

In recommendation 5, Members are asked to read out the text of their Oral Questions with a 40-word limit on them. That is not a bad idea, but why is this proposed under the heading "Saving Time"? The present formula is only 17 words long-some time saver. While we are talking of time saving, to have the House sit at 2 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays strikes me as very ill-advised, to put it politely. I share the view of the noble Lords, Lord Maclennan of Rogart and Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, that the benefits of creating up to two additional hours of business per week are far outweighed by the inconvenience caused to those who have jobs outside and have far to travel. For many of them the 2.30 pm start provides

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valuable time to prepare for any afternoon's business in which they may be involved. By the way, have the originators of this proposal never heard of Parkinson's Law?

Recommendation 48 raises the most doubts in my mind. The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, has already addressed this. The preceding recommendation-recommendation 47-which would charge our Select Committees with electing their own Chairmen, seems eminently sensible, although it raises, as elsewhere, the question of party balance. I come to that in the context of recommendation 48, which recommends that the Chairman of Committees and the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees be elected by a secret ballot of the whole House. I declare an interest, having occupied the Principal Deputy Chairman's office from 2002 to 2008. In paragraph 247 of the report, the working group acknowledges,

On the face of it, this is a circle that cannot be squared. If the objective, which I am convinced is right, is to elect to these three offices the persons judged most capable of discharging them to the standards that we have a right to expect, something has to give. Either we abandon the concept of party balance or we trust to luck that the elections will come as close as possible to finding the right people for the offices with the appropriate party labels. I doubt that the abandonment of party balance will prove acceptable to this House, however beneficial it could be to its functioning.

We are therefore left with the alternative, which is to come as close to balance as possible under a secret ballot system-but how do we do that? My first recommendation is to hold the election of the Chairman of Committees by a secret ballot of the whole House ahead of the election of the Principal Deputy Chairman. If the party already holding the office of Lord Speaker exercises restraint, as I am sure it would, and discourages the candidacy of its members for the office of Chairman of Committees, we will, following that election, know which of the three parties has so far missed out on gaining an office. There would follow an election for the office of Principal Deputy Chairman.

There is of course no guarantee that the party that has so far missed out will have a successful candidate; nor should it have such a guarantee. That third office also carries the chairmanship of the European Union Select Committee. Nine years after my selection by the usual channels, I can speak with some objectivity on this. For as long as the EU Committee post is linked to the office of Principal Deputy Chairman, which makes few demands on the holder but carries a salary that reflects the full-time work of chairing the EU Committee, election to these twin posts is not best determined by a ballot of the whole House. If Select Committees should, according to the report, elect their own chairman, why should the EU Select Committee not do so?

I go further; I should like to see the EU chairmanship voted on in a secret ballot not only by the Select Committee members but by the membership of the Select Committee and its seven sub-committees. That would mean an electorate of around 85 Members of your Lordships' House, all of whom would know what

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was expected of the chairman. Maybe 90 per cent of the chairman's working hours will be spent on managing the committee and participating in its varied work, with 10 per cent being spent on the limited functions of the Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees. Moreover, I believe that the party that missed out in the elections for both Lord Speaker and the Chairman of Committees would be perfectly capable of fielding experienced candidates for the EU Committee's chairmanship from among the membership of the Select Committee and its sub-committees.

Once again, I congratulate the working group and its chairman on giving us such rich food for thought. I am sure your Lordships will find many of these proposals fit for early implementation, which will in turn contribute greatly to the incremental reform-rather than the abolition-of this House. However, I offer a word of caution; instant implementation is a popular cry, but let us be sure that there are no unintended consequences. There are 55 separate recommendations. Most, but not all, will be implemented, but we must be sure that those that are fit together in a comfortable, coherent and mutually reinforcing whole.

8.44 pm

Lord Tyler: My Lords, half of today's speakers participated in last week's two-day debate, yet the mood and tone are totally different. I confess that my wife, having witnessed last week's debate, wondered why I was spending this evening here, rather than celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary with her.

In passing, I must say that we should be careful about how we present our arguments. I have heard noble Lords suggest that truncating our lunch hour is what the move to starting at 2 pm would mean. That is not a serious issue. I recall that I used to advise-not as a Member of either House-environmental groups about lobbying Members of either House that any MP or Peer who had time for lunch was probably not worth talking to. I am still of that opinion, so we should be careful about how we present that argument.

Not only the Committee, led by my noble friend Lord Goodlad, but the Leader of the House deserve all our thanks for moving smartly on these issues and bringing forward these particular concerns. I particularly take on board my noble friend the Leader of the House's point that there is clearly an urgent need for incremental reform. Some might see that as a contradiction; I do not. I think this is very much the mood of the House now, as has been apparent from all the contributions. Self-regulation, which is of course the key to a lot of the discussion we have had today and to a lot of the discussion in the report, is to my mind something of an illusion if we do not understand precisely what it may mean in practical terms.

I used to be part of the usual channels in another place, in a very minor role-I suppose I was the usual gutter. Of course, we need something there, but we should recognise that a great deal of what happens in your Lordships' House is not self-regulation at all. It is by careful discussion between the parties-it used to be very binary; it is rather less so now, I am glad to say-and the Cross Benches, but it is not self-regulation. A theme of the discussion today has been moving

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responsibility-on occasion very tactfully when it looks as though the House wants to hear from a particular Peer-from the Front Bench to the Woolsack at Questions or at Statements. That is not the end of self-regulation; it is the fulfilment of self-regulation. That is what we elected a Lord Speaker to do and I think it absurd that the chief representative of the usual channels, the government Chief Whip-she is not here, I am glad to say; I hope that she does not read what I say, because I am a great fan of hers-the disciplinarian responsible for getting the Government's business through, should be put in the invidious position of deciding who should be questioning the Government and scrutinising the Government's actions.

That would be a very sensible move, on a trial basis-I entirely endorse what has been said on many sides of the House. I notice that people who have great experience in the House, far longer than me, and who have had great responsibility in the House, think that there are both practical and political reasons for such a move. That is the theme of the Leader's Group. It is practical, it is pragmatic; it is not doctrinal and dogmatic. That is why its recommendations have had such a very warm welcome from all sides of the House today.

It is also significant that the initiative for this process, which stemmed from the process in the Commons led by Dr Tony Wright, started with a seminar that brought people from outside as well as from all sides of your Lordships' House under the aegis of the Lord Speaker. It did not result from any party initiative, let alone a government initiative. While I give full credit to my noble friend the Leader of the House for taking this a step further, we owe a debt of gratitude not just to the Committee of the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, but to the Lord Speaker herself, to the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, who has spoken today, and to the noble Lords, Lord Butler and Lord Filkin, who led some very careful analysis of different aspects of the work of your Lordships' House.

I am very sympathetic to the general trend of the recommendations. I cannot think of any that I completely object to. I understand, of course, that there is a need to work them through, but they are a package; the approach is holistic and it would be a pity, therefore, if we were to unscramble them, to take them all to bits again. I hope that in looking at them in the various committees, there will be a feeling that this is a coherent and cohesive approach to the work of our House and that it can certainly improve our game. The people who have been involved in this, if I may spare their blushes, are scarcely revolutionaries. The noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, cannot really be described as a hot-headed radical. I hope I am paying him a compliment.

Last week I felt that there were rather too many people in your Lordships' House who were adopting the early attitude of St Augustine: "Make me virtuous, but not yet". This evening the mood, the tone, has been quite different-more positive, more forward-looking-and I welcome that.

8.49 pm

Viscount Eccles: My Lords, I am not sure that I can quite follow my noble friend in describing the excellent report as holistic. It seems to me that it has many different facets which do not all tie together.



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At this time in the debate, one throws one's speech away and tries to cull some comments from what has already been said. Some people have concentrated on relatively minor matters-such as whether we should start at two o'clock-but others have taken a much more in-depth approach. I take as my theme what the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, said, which was that the standard of legislation had already deteriorated-not that it was in danger of doing so. In pursuing that theme, I introduce a note of caution. We have to be careful about what we can achieve and what it might be going a step too far to think that we could. The thrust of this debate, if I may be so bold, has been-along the lines of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell-about pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny, about the legislative standards committee and a slice about secondary legislation. I am sure that we will hear a bit more about the latter shortly.

This House does not command any of those things. Chapter 2 of the report of my noble friend Lord Goodlad is entitled "Keeping the Executive to account"-or something closely approaching that. I submit that the only time that the Executive is called to account in any meaningful way is at a general election. For the rest of it, we cannot really look at the accounts. Accounts, such as the European Union's accounts, are supposed to be an accurate record of what has happened. Accounts are not about what will happen next. That is much more difficult. You cannot measure it; you have to wait to see what actually happens. Except with pounds and pennies, the measurement of what has happened is extremely difficult to achieve.

What was said about pre and post-legislative scrutiny, about standards and about secondary legislation is absolutely admirable, but I introduce a note of caution: can we deliver that in this House, or are we really looking for something that is different? I suggest that we are. First, we want half about as much legislation as is routinely put forward by Secretaries of State. It seems to be a badge of honour that you must have a Bill enacted. If we look at the number of criminal justice Acts, to take but one example, we are clearly submerged in the flood of legislation. Not only that, a lot of it is in secondary legislation. That is no doubt as advised by Permanent Secretaries-with the greatest of respect, again, to the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who knows about Permanent Secretaries. They will say, "Well, Minister, I think that I would put that into secondary legislation if I were you. If we have a framework Bill, an enabling Bill, you can retain the flexibility. You can either do this or not; you can do it in various different ways. Of course, their Lordships will never throw it out and, down the other end of the Corridor, they will not even consider it for more than about two minutes".

My note of caution is that I think the issues are much more complicated and lie at a much greater depth in our public life than has been illustrated, if I may be forgiven for saying so, by the debate or even the excellent report.

8.54 pm

Lord Laming: My Lords, as has been mentioned several times this evening, last week your Lordships spent two long days discussing the future of this

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House, as outlined in a document in which, to be frank, I could find little merit. In stark contrast, we have today before us a document which I believe is of great value and, at the outset, like other noble Lords, I offer my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, and the other members of the group. I believe we are indebted to them for producing such a helpful document. The report has the merit of being very well researched; it is clearly expressed and is both practical and timely. I mean it as a tribute to its authors when I say that it is a good read because it is very persuasive.

My Lords, this House has a long record of change and development. Those who doubt that will be confounded if they study the evidence in this report. But the report goes further by setting out a number of reasons why more change is necessary and, helpfully, providing guidance on the best way of achieving those changes. The report puts before us a range of very practical measures to secure greater efficiency and effectiveness in the way we conduct the business of the House. Many of the recommendations could be implemented very quickly, and I urge the House that we do just that.

Clearly, the main objective of our work is to hold the Executive to account-despite what Viscount Eccles just said-to scrutinise legislation and promote debate on key issues that confront our society. I have always been hugely impressed by the vast range of expertise and experience throughout the whole of your Lordships' House so, without any hint of complacency, I believe that we are well placed to fulfil these functions. But the report sets out a numbers of ways in which we could do a great deal better and we have to take that seriously.

For example, I understand the frustration that is often expressed regarding Oral Questions, but in addition to the recommendations in the report we must also address aspects of our own behaviour, as has already been touched on this evening. The remedy to some of this frustration is in our own hands. Self-regulation depends to a large degree on self-discipline. It would be of enormous benefit both if it could be generally accepted that the opportunity to ask a Question is actually to put the Question rather than to introduce a mini debate and if Ministers would recognise that their sole task is to answer the Question rather than to outline the general policy of the Government. If that were to happen, our time would be put to much better use.

I do not tweet on Twitter, but I am attracted to the suggestions in the report about limiting the number of words because I am told that important matters can be conveyed in few words by means of Twitter. The frustration caused by long questions or tedious replies can sometimes provoke what might be called, by the standards of this House, unseemly behaviour. I hope that, in addressing these issues, we will attach considerable importance to retaining the courtesy which is a tradition in this House and which sometimes has been allowed to slip.

Regarding the scrutiny of legislation, it is clear that too often legislation comes to the House, not well considered in another place. It demands the time and energy of this House to address those matters more

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carefully and more thoroughly. At times it may be irksome to the Government, but it would be extremely helpful if we could follow the Companion more closely and ensure that Second Reading speeches are confined to Second Reading and do not follow through into every other aspect of Lords business.

It is important that we take these matters seriously and move forward in a positive way with the help of this document, and that we recognise that the contribution of Members of your Lordships' House is not to be measured by column inches in Hansard. Everybody in this House is fairly bright-perhaps not me, but even I can generally follow the thrust of most of the points raised in your Lordships' House.

I agree with the report very much indeed. I hope that it can be taken seriously and speedily implemented.

9 pm

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I must be the 40th speaker to say that this is an excellent report but perhaps the second to say that it was very fairly introduced by my noble friend on the Front Bench. I am glad that it will clearly receive the proper consideration that it deserves.

I have three particular favourites: voting on delegated legislation is one. It is time that we took a step in that direction. We may have to turn the screw a little tighter and start to involve some delay in that. It is a question of what it takes for us to be taken seriously by the Government. At what point do they start to listen to what we are saying, rather than reversing it in the Commons in two minutes and expecting us to behave? I am very glad that we are doing post-legislative scrutiny. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Strathclyde that there should be ad hoc committees, and I like the little recommendation 42. It is important that key letters coming from the Government to people who have taken part in Committee or debate are recorded in Hansard both in the bound version and, perhaps more importantly, online, to provide a full picture of what is going on for people outside this House.

I have some grouses, the principal of which is the proposals for Grand Committee-particularly putting all Committee stages in Grand Committee. This House is about its Committee work. I know that we all enjoy the other aspects of it, but how much effect do all those other theatrics have? How many Starred Questions have resulted in the Government being held to account effectively? I can remember one in 1992 but I am hard put to think of a second one. How many debates have resulted in changes to government policy? I can remember a few. On how many occasions have we dealt with a Statement that resulted in changes to government policy? I cannot think of any. However, it is extremely hard to think of a Committee stage that has not had an effect on a Bill being debated. That is the principal point of our effectiveness in this House.

There were 50 speakers at Second Reading on the Education Bill. How will we fit all of them into the Moses Room? The answer is that we will exclude most of them. They will not feel like coming. They will think that they have had their say at Second Reading and go away. The Chamber is the theatre in which we ought to be handling Committee stage. It is open to

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everybody and has lots of room. There are plenty of chances for people to drop in to listen to the points they are interested in and plenty of chance for Members to form an opinion about points that are being pushed in Committee. If one looks at the Bills taken currently in the Moses Room, Report stage rarely results in real turnovers for the Government because the House has had no chance to develop an opinion and Report stage is far too formalistic for that. If we want a House that is really effective we have to have an open Committee. Taking that away from this Chamber will be a great mistake.

I also think that morning sittings are a great mistake. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. Sittings of Committee stages are entirely unpredictable. I have a life to live and want to be able to plan when I am meeting people, going up to the midlands, or whatever I want to do. If that might get hit by a change of date in a Committee stage, that renders my whole participation in Bills in this place extremely difficult.

My noble friend raised the question of cost control and implied that some of the recommendations in the report were expensive, so to keep the budget balanced, spending more money would mean spending less elsewhere. The noble Lord, Lord Martin of Springburn, drew careful attention to what that might mean in practice. I have a simple solution for my noble friend-reduce the numbers in this House. Take out 100 Peers and save £1 million. That is about the measure of it.

I come back to the suggestion I made in the previous debate of offering 100 hereditary peerages. There were two people 400 years ago who earned the peerages that I have and they are remembered by me. Is it not a great prize to offer someone? You will be remembered 400 years hence by at least one person. It costs nothing. I hope my noble friend was listening when the noble Baroness, Lady O'Loan, made her suggestions. She should be co-opted immediately on to his cost control committees. On the idea that we should impose a measure on the Written Questions we ask and whether they are they really worth while, perhaps sharing the savings with the departments could produce an income.

Automatically recognising our presence in this Chamber and quicker methods of voting as ways of saving money and time would cause problems only when there were identical twins involved. Lord Thurlow used to share his seat with his brother, but I am not aware of any present Peers doing so.

I was very attracted by what my noble friend Lord Kirkwood said about technology. There are things we can do to reach out to the grass roots. We think the idea of aping the Commons and getting people into a bit of pre-leg is high-tech. No, it is not. We can reach out much further than that. We can really involve people out there in having a say on what is going on in a Bill. We can condense it and control it through modern technology. We really ought to explore that because it is not expensive.

The last thing I want to press upon my noble friend is the need to look at this report to see if we can find more ways of generating Back-Bench influence. With 870 Peers in this place, no central organisation can know what we are all capable of and interested in. The

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creation of a Back-Bencher committee is all very well, but it will not really be any better informed than anybody else in the House, even if we have elected the members. We have to find ways of flowing information into the committee. On the question of debates, how is it to know which debates we all want? We have to find a way of indicating that to it with a sheet we can sign up on or whatever.

When it comes to the membership of committees, earlier today, we approved a committee on privacy and related matters. How does anybody in the usual channels know where the expertise and interest is in this House? They will know a few of the obvious suspects, but there are far too many of us for the usual channels to have a proper influence on that. There must be some way of us registering that interest and knowledge when an opportunity comes up. I am not suggesting that we should have the selection, but there should be a way making these things known so that the usual channels or the Back-Bencher committee can take sensible decisions. I think that is a great idea.

I very much hope that the Back-Bench committee expands its influence but, echoing something that my noble friend said, I would hate to lose the randomness of balloted debates. Otherwise we will merely get the consensus debates, the ones that everybody likes and the off-centre-something that is really important that none of us understands or knows about-will never come before us, and that would be a great shame.

9.08 pm

Lord Filkin: My Lords, it has been a real pleasure to hear the debate and to get the sense that there is a broad measure of support across the House and across party for some of the most important recommendations. That was how we worked as a group. We were superbly and subtly led by our chairman. It is not the first time that he has heard that. All the members of the committee worked together, and we were extremely well guided by Christopher Johnson and Susannah Street in the way that they supported us. They were a delight.

In part, that helped us to bring in a consensual report on difficult issues on which we all had strong opinions. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, referred to one of the origins of this report, which was that it was very much the Lord Speaker's initiative to have a proper, discrete reflection, in the wake of the destruction of this House's reputation, about whether we could do our job for the public better. That has been a central question before the committee. It has not simply been about whether we like to start at 2 pm or 2.30 pm, but about how do we do our job for the public for whom we are charged with scrutinising legislation, holding the Government to account and being a proper forum for debate. Those questions are the leitmotif that we have tried to bring throughout the report.

For many of us, the central clutch of recommendations is about trying to scrutinise legislation better. Again, it has been an enormous pleasure to hear almost universal support for pre-legislative scrutiny, a legislative standards committee, post-legislative scrutiny and for the subtle change in delegated legislation for which the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, so clearly and

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cogently expressed the rationale. I thank her for that because it is easy to think that this is the end of the world.

The only voice against was of great concern to me, that of my good former colleague, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. I think he was arguing that we should not overreach our hand or overview our power and influence. Of course, he is right. We should always have a sense of modesty-perhaps not always the House's best skill. However, the argument that we cannot make it perfect is not an argument for not trying to make it better. The test of those changes in terms of legislation is: is it more likely that chipping away, challenging, questioning, having proper processes will mean that legislation will be better done? I believe it will be.

Of course, legislation should sit on a proper bedrock of good policy and reflection and public consultation on that policy. Often it is; too often it is not. The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, put it beautifully: many of us are sad creatures who are really interested in public policy but we have to exercise that secret sin elsewhere because there are so few opportunities to do it here. The noble Lord, Lord Bichard, no doubt will say something on that. It is a phenomenal waste of this House's talent that it does not address major cross-cutting issues of public policy. It is unbelievable to the thoughtful general public that we do not do that. Therefore, after very careful consideration, we recommended two additional Select Committees-because one sounded trivial but we should not be silly and go too far because things do have a cost. I very much hope that the House will treat this seriously and the authorities and powers-that-be will put it into practice because we have the strength and resources in this House to add a lot of value and benefit to the public if we scrutinise unscrutinised areas of public policy.

For many of us, the dog that has not barked in this debate is: what happens next? We know in theory what happens next: the usual channels will refer some things to various committees and eventually they will bring back recommendations and the House will decide. That is what we will be told and it is true. Of course, what the House will decide will partly depend on what is served up to it, and what is served up to it can colour the form of debate and the form of decision-making, because that is the way in which we work. Some of us have great concerns about ensuring that we look at these issues.

I give the greatest thanks and respect to the Leader of the House. He has continued to surprise me on this agenda by being more open-minded in process than perhaps his good soul naturally feels and allowing us to play and to have a good chairman and bring in some pretty thoughtful but at times radical recommendations. I hope that he will continue with that stance because he is earning our respect and admiration for doing so.

What worries me is "cost neutrality". With the greatest humility, I suggest a slight emendation: "cost neutrality in time". It is an Augustinian concept. I say this for about four reasons. The first is that these costs are trivial. They are trivial in our costs: they are 1 per cent of this House's costs. I will not make the cheap joke about the number of Peers; you know what I

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mean. Secondly, they are utterly microscopic in public expenditure terms. Scrutinising a Bill better or challenging a piece of government policy-again I will not mention some pieces of public policy; I do not wish to be contentious-would help the Government and force them to think better. The yield on that expenditure would be phenomenal and we must have the confidence that we have the skills and ability to do so.

The third reason why cost neutrality is an insidious argument is that it massively favours the status quo. It basically says that the existing cost base of this organisation is sacrosanct and that any bit of additional expenditure has to make the case for change. If we are going to make the case for change, it should be on all expenditure being scrutinised, not just on the new expenditure at the margin. We will not review everything, so we should not fetter these recommendations with the shackles of saying they have to have cost neutrality immediately. I am sure it was not so intended but that phrase is at risk of killing the report.

I look forward massively to seeing where we go next. Of course, the biggest way in which we could reduce the cost of these recommendations is to have a proper discussion with the other place-the House of Commons, as my noble friend Lord Grocott would encourage me to say-because if we could do some of these processes jointly the cost would suddenly reduce substantially, at least to this House. I look forward enormously to hearing how the Leader of the House is going to lead us forward to the promised land that we hope we will move towards.

9.16 pm

Lord Bichard: My Lords, as the evening has unfolded I have become increasingly pleased to be able to say that I, too, was a member of the working group so ably led by the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad. I would like to think, in the terms of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, that I was the hot young radical but there may be others who will lay claim to that. I can see them looking at me now.

Early in the debate the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said that this report and this debate were an opportunity for us to take control of our future. This evening the House has seized that opportunity. We know that there are many observers outside the House who are looking at us to see whether we are so transfixed by the debate on the future of the House, its form and its membership that we have lost the appetite to reform our own procedures, and maybe even lost the appetite to stimulate and influence debates of national importance. This evening's debate has provided a resounding answer to those sceptics. Like many others, I feel much more optimistic than I did this time last week.

The report has tried to answer two very important questions: first, can we be more effective at scrutinising and revising legislation; and, secondly, can we be more successful in stimulating those national debates? It reaches the conclusion that we can be more effective in both respects but only-I stress only-if we make better use of the talent, experience and expertise that exists in this Chamber. I found it interesting that during the course of the working group's existence several

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recent entrants to the House approached me-perhaps because I was the newest member on the working group-to say how quickly they had become committed to the work of the House, but also how frustrated they sometimes felt at not being able to contribute in a really meaningful way, particularly those who continue to have important responsibilities outside the House.

We now have a number of new Members who can make a contribution and the capacity that they bring with them can help us to do three important things: first, to set up the two additional Select Committees; secondly, to set up a legislative standards committee; and, thirdly, to set up a post-legislative scrutiny committee. These will exploit the talent better and they are urgently needed. Properly managed and effectively deployed, Select Committees of this House can and already do make a major contribution to the national debate. Yet, as has been said by a number of Members today, very few are in the field of domestic policy, notwithstanding the fact that so many Members of the House and the House itself have so much to offer. We need these two new Select Committees. They do not need to clash with what is going on in the House of Commons, because, as has already been said, the Select Committees in the other place are there to shadow individual departments. This House has long acknowledged that the problems and issues in the real world do not organise themselves satisfactorily around Whitehall bureaucracies. We have long been theme-based and the new Select Committees, too, should be theme-based.

I was initially sceptical about the need for a legislative standards committee. I thought that perhaps there were some other ways in which we could achieve that within our existing arrangements. With some regret, however, I have to say that every hour that I have spent on these Benches has convinced me that we need something to raise the standards of draft legislation. In the recent past, some Bills, frankly, have not been fit for purpose, with little pre-legislative scrutiny and some pretty embarrassingly poor drafting. That does not allow the House to use its ability and resources effectively and that needs to be addressed. A legislative standards committee could do that.

Finally, it is surely time for our parliamentary system to give more systematic attention to post-legislative scrutiny. After all, we spend days in this place considering legislation. Should we not spend some time considering whether it is effective or whether, as another noble Lord said earlier, it is having some unwelcome side effects? Select Committees in the other place have not been able to give that a priority. We could break new ground by setting up a post-legislative scrutiny committee. With great respect, I must say that this is an area where I do not agree with the Leader. This should not be left to ad hoc committees to achieve. We need a committee that can give it focus, build expertise, be effective and develop a coherent strategy for post-legislative scrutiny in this House.

I hope that the overwhelmingly positive response tonight can now be reflected in action-considered action certainly, but urgent action too. I rather hope that we can find some way, maybe by reporting back to this House on occasions, of following how the 55 recommendations have fared rather than only looking at them individually from this point on.



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9.21 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, this has been an excellent and enjoyable debate. Just last week, we debated for two days the role, function, powers and composition of your Lordships' House: what we do and why we do it. Today, we have debated the working practices of this House: how we do it. Both are important and we need to get them both right.

Working practices are challenging, but they are not an impossible subject. In the other place, the issues looked daunting, but thanks to the work led by Dr Tony Wright, the Commons has brought in a significant series of reforms to help make the Chamber work better. What is before us today is broadly the equivalent for this House-a set of reforms to improve our working practices. One of my Back-Bench colleagues, who has long championed such changes, said that they were beyond what could conceivably have been hoped for when the discussions that have led to today's report first began.

Of course, there are reasons for how far and how fast these issues have moved-the decline of trust in politics and politicians, disengagement with traditional politics and perhaps especially with parliamentary politics, the burgeoning numbers of Members in this House-all these and more have led to pressure for change, for reform of the way that Parliament works.

I, too, pay tribute to those whose hard work and application has brought us this far-to the Lord Speaker, to those who chaired and served on the Lord Speaker's discussion groups, to those who served on the Leader's Group whose report we have before us today, to the Clerk and especially to the excellent chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, and to those among us who have pressed for this kind of reform to your Lordships' House for many years.

We have before us separately the proposals from the coalition Government on further large-scale reform of your Lordships' House, which have now been referred to a Joint Committee for scrutiny. We do not know what that Joint Committee will produce but we believe that whatever happens to the Government's wider proposals we should proceed with the broad programme of reform set out in the report before us today from the Leader's Group.

We on these Benches welcome the report from the Leader's Group. It is a very good report and makes sensible and constructive proposals that offer a clear way forward for this House. I am delighted that there has been such a positive response this evening, but clearly not all Members of your Lordships' House are as enthusiastic about or as comfortable with some of the reforms proposed. Indeed, on these Benches, we do not necessarily agree as individuals with each and every recommendation contained in the report. I was of course pleased to hear that the ears and door of the Leader were open. This should, as one noble Lord said, be a process, not an event.

So many proposals have been raised today, including the new one from the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and my noble friend Lord Parekh in relation to responses which come from the Government after a debate. I very much welcome that specific proposal. The Leader of the House is right to take the report forward

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through the range of means and mechanisms available to us including both through the Procedure Committee and the Liaison Committee and he is also right that this should be done promptly.

I would like to touch on a few of the recommendations which seem to me to be of especial merit. There are many, of course-for example, the role of the Lord Speaker in relation to the role currently carried out by the Leader of the House or the recommendations on delegated legislation or the recommendations on Private Notice Questions. I would like to mention three issues in particular, all of which have been well discussed this evening already.

First, I agree with all noble Lords who believe that the proposal for a legislative standards committee is a very welcome development. Regardless of whichever party is in power, all too often in this House and in the other place we see legislation being brought before us which, at times, is barely finished and requires extensive amendments, not by the Opposition but by Government, who have on occasion introduced legislation before it is in fact ready to be introduced. Those who have been in government know why and how this happens. The pressure of events sometimes makes it inevitable but it happens too often for what should be a proper and considered legislative process.

The establishment of a legislative standards committee, as recommended by this report, in setting agreed criteria against which government legislation would be measured in terms of technical and procedural compliance rather than policy, would be a considerable step forward for the standards of government legislation, for the legislative process itself and for public regard of the work that we, as politicians, do. We believe that the House should move as quickly as possible to establish such a committee and we commend the recommendation to the House. While agreement on the committee with the other place would of course be preferable, in relation to Bills starting in this House we believe there is a strong case for this House proceeding with this reform alone if necessary, as the report proposes. Allied to that, we very much welcome the group's recommendations for extending pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny, but I do so with one reservation, to which I will return.

Secondly, we very much welcome the proposal for new sessional committees. My noble friend Lord Adonis has argued cogently that the House of Lords' committee structure does not provide for proper scrutiny of whole areas of government policy and that new committees should be set up to fill this gap, especially dealing with a range of cross-cutting issues on areas such as infrastructure, welfare, or public services. We have had that argument put very strongly this evening. We are glad that the Goodlad group has taken up this idea and is recommending its adoption in the form of two new sessional committees. We believe that the House should again move as quickly as possible to establish these committees to harness the knowledge, experience and ability of Members from all sides of the House to scrutinise what otherwise can very often be overlooked areas of government activity.

The report does not specifically recommend a review of our current system of committees, though my reading of the report suggests to me that the group

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thinks it has done so. However, the intention of the Leader's Group is clear from the report and we would strongly support such a review. At the same time, I hope that the Liaison Committee will look at innovative ways of working to ensure that the recommendations for the various new committees can be met.

Thirdly, the Leader's Group report makes a strong case for a Back-Bench business committee to take on the responsibility for debating days currently assigned to non-party Back-Bench business-that is, the one Thursday each month currently allocated to balloted debates. I hear what noble Lords have said but I believe that making the case for what it calls "intelligent selection", the Leader's Group points to the establishment in the other place of such a committee. This has been a successful innovation in the other place and we on these Benches believe it would prove equally successful in your Lordships' House.

Good though it is, the Goodlad report does not dispose of all the issues about reform of our working practices and some difficult issues still remain. For example, many Members on my Benches who are not in their places this evening have drawn my colleagues' attention to the Leader's Group's proposals for the increased use of Grand Committee and in particular to recommendation 20, as detailed in paragraph 122 of the report. That proposes that all government Bills introduced in the Commons should be considered in Grand Committee, apart from Bills in three specified categories: major constitutional Bills, emergency legislation and what is termed "other exceptionally controversial Bills". We have concerns about what constitutes such concepts and how they would be defined and deployed. Given that much government legislation by any political party in office is often inherently controversial, any threshold of controversy would have to be sufficiently high so as to ensure that this Chamber was able to consider such legislation.

We also have concerns about proposals on the timing of Grand Committee sessions, especially among Members across the House who work outside it, as they are entitled to do. As has been pointed out this evening, there would be conflicts with committee work. One suggestion might be for Grand Committee sessions to be in the evenings rather than the mornings. While we value both the opportunity to take legislation to Grand Committee and the work done there, we believe that fuller and further consideration needs to be given to this proposal and to the exceptions-and definitions of the exceptions-that are proposed. We believe that the issues involved need to be considered with care before any move is made in this area. Indeed, if there were more Committees taken in Grand Committee, consideration should perhaps also be given to more amendments at Third Reading.

I mentioned earlier our approval for increased pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, mentioned the committee which considered the draft Bill on human fertilisation and embryology. I did not sit on that Committee but, as one of the Ministers who steered the Bill through this House, I benefited enormously from the pre-legislative scrutiny process. Yet I also have a reservation. The recommendation that all Bills embodying important

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changes of policy, particularly constitutional legislation, should be the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny is a good one and we support it. I acknowledge that the coalition Government have introduced pre-legislative scrutiny for many Bills, but still not enough-and not for the important constitutional legislation that we have had before us. The way that this Government have introduced important constitutional legislation has been, to use as neutral as possible a word, deficient in many ways. Any process which would help to prevent any repetition is indeed to be welcomed.

There is a question about the mandate that this coalition has for many of the actions it has taken, but we recognise that a Government who have been voted in by the electorate want to get on and put into place legislation that they believe people have voted for. We did that in 1997 with our own programme of constitutional reform so, while we wish to have pre-legislative scrutiny for each and every Bill, we understand the reservation that the proposal on this issue from the Leader's Group might place restrictions on a new Government that might not sit appropriately with the swift discharge of their electoral mandate. Again, this proposal perhaps needs fuller and further consideration on that point. I also wonder whether the noble Lord might consider the current problem of pre-legislative implementation in which enormous changes are introduced, for example to the health service or in abolishing RDAs, before legislation has completed its parliamentary process.

On current working practices, we particularly welcome the report's reaffirming not just that there should be changes for the future but that some of the House's current practices should be fully reinstated and properly adhered to. In particular, it stressed that the minimum intervals between stages of a Bill should be properly respected, that the House should have reasonable time to consider government business and that the firm convention that the House rises by 10 pm should be respected.

This is a good programme for reform. It needs working through and some of it needs further and fuller consideration but it is a very good way forward. We must all now work to try to ensure as high a degree of consensus as possible on the direction in which this report points. Our principal focus should be on giving full consideration through the appropriate committees to all the issues involved in working towards implementation as soon as possible. We on these Benches look forward to working to make that happen.

9.34 pm

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition for her speech. As I made clear at the outset, my intention in leading this debate was to provide an opportunity for noble Lords of all sides of the House to comment on the recommendations that the Leader's Group has made. Forty-three speakers have taken that opportunity. It is now my job to try and respond to them. There have been a lot of speeches and a lot of points made in each speech, so this may not be as neat a wind-up as noble Lords might like. Because I do not mention a recommendation, it does not mean that I am either against it or for it. However, there needs to be a process for moving them on from here.



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The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, said that there was a broad measure of support for these recommendations, and I agree with him. It is a testament to the committee that that is the case. My noble friend Lord Tyler said that the report was pragmatic and not doctrinal. He was right about that; it crosses party lines. Even in this debate, different Members have taken different views on some of the details, but the broad thrust has been basically supportive.

Even the Leader's Group recognised at paragraph 9 of its report that only a subset of its recommendations could be implemented with immediate effect but, as I made clear, I believe that a good number of the group's recommendations fall into that category. That is why I intend to ensure that the House has the chance to approve or reject proposals for implementing a range of the group's recommendations on the basis of reports from the relevant committees of the House at the earliest available opportunity.

There are of course other recommendations from the Leader's Group that could not be put into practice without further detailed consideration being given to their practical ramifications, including costs and possible unintended consequences. The noble Baroness herself just mentioned one or two of those. While I am on the question of costs, I was impressed by what my noble friend Lord Lucas and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Loan, said about that issue. That is what I mean: around the House, the clerks, the House Committee and the other committees can look at our priorities. If we want two new Select Committees, we should look at how we can shave some costs elsewhere. It may be only 1 per cent off the total cost of the House but that does not mean that we should not search for efficiencies. I would not want cost to stand in the way of doing some of the very good things that have come out of the report and which the House clearly wants.

I was amused by my noble friend Lord Lucas's suggestions on hereditary Peers. However, I am thrilled that as from today my noble friend will be able to write to the Clerk of the Parliaments, taking permanent retirement. That would save us some money, and he would be leading by example. Others may be following in his footsteps, although he would not know that when he wrote his letter.

It is only right that the House should not be invited to take a definitive view of all the recommendations in one go until they can each be presented in their full context. That is not about delay; it is about practicality.

What has changed in the House? There has been change over a long period of time. I do not think that anything immediate has happened, apart from some things that are obvious-the general election, for instance, and Labour going into opposition. I think that some 75 per cent of the Labour Party in the House of Lords had never known opposition in this House, so inevitably that is a bit strange. Coalition has thrust up a whole bunch of challenges, such as how we deal with Questions. In fact the greatest benefactors of that have been members of the Labour Party; they get between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of Questions at Question Time. I do not mind that because one of the features of good scrutiny is that the main party of opposition should be in the vanguard of that scrutiny.



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There are many more former Members of Parliament who are now Members of this House. What I have found about former Members of Parliament is that they are so used to the firm smack of discipline from the Speaker that they find it quite odd coming here-but more of that in a moment.

There has been a substantial increase in the number of Peers, more than 100 in the past 12 months. There have been issues of assimilation. There is a great deal of expertise. A lot of people have high expectations when they come into this House and there are a lot of high expectations of them among outside groups, but of course when they get here it is all a lot more difficult. We have also had a more substantial and far more active Cross-Bench group. These are all good things, and of course Peers want to justify why they come here so they want more activity. One of the best things that has come out of the report is that we are going to give Peers more opportunities to get involved, to speak in committees and to take part in pre-legislative scrutiny and post-legislative scrutiny and a whole bunch of other things. That is one of the reasons why I think that we have to change.

The noble Baroness the Convenor of the Cross Benches said something good at the start of her speech: if only half the recommendations were implemented, that would transform the House. I am sure that we will do far better than half, but that is a sign of what can be achieved.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked about statistics. My understanding is that the really wonderful annual report of the House of Lords, which has clearly not been required reading by the noble Lord, has an enormous amount of statistics on all the kinds of questions that he asked.

I was surprised that the issue of the Leader's Question Time did not come up more often. I think the House knows how much I enjoy being at the Dispatch Box. It is only because I do not want to hog it selfishly that I am not here far more often.

The noble Lord, Lord Martin of Springburn, raised a question about redundancy. I am glad to be able to tell him that no member of the House of Lords staff has been made redundant due to savings cuts. However, those are not really matters for the Leader. They are quite properly matters for the Chairman of Committees-

Lord Martin of Springburn: I was referring to the whole Palace of Westminster, and my understanding is that there is a 60:40 split. There are staff in this Palace who have been made redundant, but I am glad that, so far, no one in the House of Lords has been made redundant.

Lord Strathclyde: I hope they will not be, but it would be for the Chairman of Committees to answer those kinds of questions. I am not sure that I would answer in terms of my own responsibilities, as business management is done by the Chief Whips, but that is another idea that could be looked at.

Some noble Lords have welcomed the idea of getting rid of the second Statement and putting it into a Moses Room. There is some merit in that.



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On the question of Grand Committees, morning sittings have not found a great deal of favour-they are quite controversial. The noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, made the suggestion of having them at night. I think that is a rather good idea. If we are going to have Grand Committees, there is no reason why they should not sit until 9 or 10 pm. The Procedure Committee can look at that suggestion, which is something that is very good that has come out of the debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said that I had been opposed to Grand Committees when they were much extended by my very eminent predecessor, Lord Williams of Mostyn. He was right about that, but I conceded the point when we introduced the 10 pm cut-off because I realised that you could not have both: you could not have no Grand Committees and a 10 pm cut-off-the one forces the other. Prior to that change, we regularly sat in Committee at midnight or 1 am, and Lord Williams of Mostyn rightly made the point that we should not make legislation at that time, as 10 pm is late enough. I agree that, if we are going to have the 10 pm cut-off, then we have to have business off the Floor of the House. As more Peers wish to play a part in the business of the House, it means more Bills have to go off the Floor of the House. The House of Lords cannot pride itself on revision and then not actually get enough done to maintain its very excellent reputation.

The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, highlighted the issue-I wrote "Shameless!" on my piece of paper-of the 10 pm closing time. Having been a government Chief Whip, which is a very eminent post in this House, he knows as well as I do that the Opposition decide the times of Bills. There is a recommendation in the report that the government Chief Whip should stand up at the beginning of business to explain why we are going to sit beyond 10 pm, but it should, of course, be the opposition Chief Whip who should stand up at 10 pm to explain to the House why they have spent so much time on an amendment. However, we shall fight that one out on the Procedure Committee.

Lord Grocott: On the word "Shameless", the reason why the House sits longer than it needs to is because of the size of the Government's legislative programme. No one could sensibly suggest that in one short year you should, for example, have two major constitutional Bills and one huge constitutional proposal without having any effect on the capacity of the House to legislate. What the Leader needs to do-let us have a private conversation about this-is occasionally to suggest to his Cabinet colleagues that maybe one or two of them could possibly postpone one of their Bills until the next Session, and then we would not need to have all these late night sittings.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I very much look forward to that private conversation. I can assure the noble Lord that, as a Government, we are not moving any faster than previous Governments have done.

There are so many aspects to the issue of self-regulation, but I was very much impressed by what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said. He observed that self-discipline is the corollary of self-regulation, which is at the heart of everything that we

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try to do. We have too many lengthy speeches, too many interventions, too many amendments at Third Reading and too many speeches on Bill do now pass. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, had it right that we break the rules far more than we stick to them. Part of that is lack of knowledge; part of it is that people think that they can get away with it-but that was mentioned by so many noble Lords.

My noble friends Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market and Lord Jenkin, the noble Baronesses, Lady Prashar, Lady Hamwee, Lady Murphy, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and so many others talked about pre and post-legislative scrutiny. We all want it. This Government's record so far has been good, given that we are into only the second year of office-I mentioned that when I opened the debate. I am very keen on post-legislative scrutiny, partly because, after 13 years of Labour Government, there seem to be so many opportunities to go back and have a look at what was done in our name and whether it was right.

I was very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, said about an expert committee on post-legislative scrutiny as opposed to an ad hoc committee. I have leant towards an ad hoc committee because I want experts to be involved-for example, charities to look at the Charities Act or experts on gambling, I suppose, to look at the Gambling Act. The noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and others have taken a slightly different view, which needs further consideration.

Another big issue in the debate was the legislative standards committee. It was mentioned by, among others, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, my noble friend Lord Maclennan and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. I think that I know what the fundamental problem is here. It was my noble friend Lady Tyler of Enfield who said that we should have less and better drafted legislation. I agree with her; I have thought that for a long time. I have not quite got to the bottom of why that does not happen, because people want it and it makes perfectly good sense. The previous Government wanted to do it and failed. We, too, want to do it and I accept that we have not got it quite as right as we would have liked. I have been ambitious in this and it has not quite worked.

A legislative standards committee needs further investigation. I do not give the idea full marks, although I give its underlying intention full marks. Why is that? Well, I listened with interest to what noble Lords said about it. There is a tension between the House's role as a revising Chamber, which many noble Lords have stressed today, and the idea that one of its committees, composed of a small group of Members, should have the right to "block"-the term of my noble friend Lord Maclennan-the progress of a government Bill. The idea that the Government need to present a business case for their legislation calls into question the basic constitutional principle that a Government with a majority in the House of Commons can expect to have their programme considered by Parliament. It would be a bit odd to have a group in the House of Lords which said, "Well, actually, we don't like the way this has been drafted". Presumably, it is not about policy; it is about how it all hangs together and whether a Bill is a skeleton Bill.



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Lord Filkin: All that the report says is that in principle we should apply to primary legislation what already happens to secondary legislation. In the case of secondary legislation, a set of standards for good legislation is defined by the Cabinet Office and a check is then made as to whether they have been complied with. The Butler report is clear; most people say that those are good standards. All the House would do is say whether they had been complied with. It would not look at policy; that would not be its job. Nor would it have the power to say no. It is a decision for the House-it is most unlikely that it would use it-to deny a Second Reading.

Lord Strathclyde: Denying a government Bill that had already passed the House of Commons a Second Reading would be an extraordinary thing. There would be another problem. For Bills that started in the House of Lords, if this were not a Joint Committee-I think that there is much more merit it being a Joint Committee than a House of Lords Committee, which I know was the recommendation of the committee-the business managers would seek to avoid starting Bills in the House of Lords. As Leader of the Lords, I think that would be a very bad thing. There are issues here that need to be explored further. There are downsides too, but the basic aim is a good one.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: Before my noble friend leaves that point, would he perhaps give us some indication of who is best placed to give consideration to this core recommendation of the report and the sort of timeframe that he would have in mind for that consideration?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, first, I think that we should invite the clerks to come forward with a proposal. The proposal should be put to the Procedure Committee and of course within this we need to decide whether it should be a Joint Committee or a House Committee. If it is a Joint Committee, there need to be discussions with another place and we would have to find out about how it felt about such things. I have no idea about a timescale, but we could get an initial view relatively quickly, and I think that that is what we should do.

The role of the usual channels got a bit of a battering; I think the usual channels and how it operates needs clarifying. Perhaps the most interesting part of the debate concerned the role of the Lord Speaker. The report has trod carefully between self-regulation, Leader's powers and Speaker's powers, and has come to the conclusion of an experimental period, simply to shift the Leader's power to the chair. I am not entirely convinced that that is a solution to the problem. What has happened is that more and more people try to get in at Question Time. It is an immensely important part of the day. The House is full. The leaders, Chief Whips, Convenor-everybody is here. The Lord Speaker is in the chair. It is a focal point for the start of our day. It is Peers wanting to get in and ask their question that creates the problem.

I increasingly think that we do have to make a choice on this, and I think we ought to have an early vote and make a decision. Part of that is that you cannot have both a firm chair and self-regulation. We

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have to choose between one and the other. Noble Lords have said, "Well, you can have a little bit of direction from the chair and that doesn't affect self regulation", but I think that it does. I do not think that that is a bad thing. One noble Lord said that this House is the only legislative Chamber that does not have a firm chair. It may be that that era of self-regulation-of politeness and giving way-has moved on, for a whole variety of reasons. It is that the nature of the House and the nature of the way we do legislation have simply changed. That is the decision that I think will face us. If we move the Leader's powers to the chair we will very quickly get into names being called. Some noble Lords are concerned about behaviour in this House. I always remind people to go a couple of hundred yards down the corridor and see a House where there is very firm authority from the chair and to really take a view. Is there better behaviour in another place? It is worth doing.

Lord Campbell-Savours: The noble Lord is not offering an alternative solution.

Lord Strathclyde: That is why the House has to decide, and I am not sure that there is an alternative solution. You either push power to the chair or you do not. Perhaps more assertiveness from me and the government Dispatch Box may help and encourage. Noble Lords might like a firm smack of authority from the Dispatch Box. I accept that there is a difficulty and a problem. When I first came to the House, Members would regularly give way.

Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, I wonder whether it might be helpful to have clarification as to the way in which at Question Time the right to ask supplementary questions moves around the House. Is the order Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Cross-Bench, or Conservative, Labour, Cross-Bench et cetera? That would be helpful to the House.

Lord Strathclyde: The noble Baroness is right; it is an art and not a science. Since I have been doing it, it looks a lot easier from the other side of the House than it does from here. It slightly depends on who is speaking. When I first came here, Peers would give way to Peers who they believed were more senior to them or had more authority or more knowledge. There is much less of that now and a certain order is quite hard to impose.

With the coalition, there has been broad agreement that we do not have a Conservative Peer followed by a Liberal Democrat Peer. Whoever is next-the Cross-Benches or the Labour Party-rather depends on the question. It all goes wrong when a right reverend Prelate speaks but that is not what I meant. It really all goes wrong when another Peer, such as a UKIP Peer, speaks, which upsets the smooth flow. I am not offering any solutions. There is tougher authority either from the Dispatch Box or from the Woolsack. You cannot have both.

On the usual channels, I felt that there was again a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of this House. That might be borne of the fact that many Members come here from another place, where the

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Executive are powerful and have a majority. The Executive in this House have no majority. Therefore, the usual channels, in my long experience as being a part of them, work very much in the interests of the Back-Benchers. They try to put the Back-Benchers' interests first because the usual channels know that at any stage something can be rolled over by the Back-Benchers. That is how it works.

I believe that there needs to be more clarity about how the usual channels operate. Huge advantages and privileges are given to Her Majesty's loyal Opposition, and I understand why that should be. I will discuss with the noble Baroness ways in which we should clarify how the usual channels work, what part the Convenor, the Liberal Democrats and the Back-Benchers and so on play, and what role the Private Secretary to the Leader and the government Chief Whip play in managing the business. It is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, but once you understand how it all interlocks it is much simpler than many people believe. I am going to ask the clerks for a list of new Peers who have not been on an induction course and who therefore do not understand how the House works, yet have very strong views on how the House should be reviewed. I shall write to them to encourage them to go to an induction course.

I have completely lost my place in my speech as a result of all that, so I will move on swiftly by saying that this has been a wide-ranging and timely debate. I

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have probably given the impression that I am less keen on some of these proposals than I gave at the beginning. I have picked out some of the more difficult ones. This has been an immensely useful exercise, in part because my noble friend Lord Goodlad has found the kitchen sink of procedure and process in the House of Lords. He has put it all out and there is something for everyone. I thank noble Lords for their different strands of opinion. There is now a great deal of work for the Procedure Committee, the Liaison Committee and the other committees to do, but it is right that we should do it. I hope that we will have an early opportunity to have a report back with a substantial number of these recommendations on which the House can take a view and therefore see that real progress has been made. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Charities Bill [HL]

Recommitted to Committee

The Bill was reported from the Joint Committee with amendments and recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House; it was ordered that the Bill be printed as amended.

House adjourned at 10 pm.


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