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House of Lords

Tuesday, 15 September 2015.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Portsmouth.

Oaths and Affirmations

2.36 pm

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield took the oath, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.



2.37 pm

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the situation in Burma in advance of the first general election in that country since 2010, which is due to take place in November.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, although there remain unresolved issues around Burma’s constitution, which continues to need reform, the elections in November 2015 have the potential to be a milestone in the country’s transition to democracy. We continue to press the Burmese Government to ensure that the elections are credible, inclusive and transparent, and underpinned by freedom of expression and respect for human rights. The UK is funding technical advice to the election commission, voter education and monitoring.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): Does the Minister share the widely held concern that hundreds and thousands of Burma’s ethnic Rohingya have had the right to vote taken away from them and have been denied the right to stand as candidates for elections when they occur? When 25% of seats in Parliament are reserved for the army and generals predominate in the Government, where is the evidence of that promised transition from military rule that we heard so much about? In the light of these realities, do the British Government still believe that it is possible for those elections to be considered free, fair or credible in any way?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, we should recall that this is an opportunity that has not been available since 1960 for people in Burma to have a vote in a free and fair election. A lot of effort has been put in by countries such as the UK and all our partners to provide that opportunity for people to vote—after 55 years. We have made sure that we have done all we can to support correct voter registration, helping the election commission, but the noble Baroness is right to point out the serious matters that remain. We have consistently called, in public and in private, for the elections to be inclusive of all Burma’s people. That includes those who have had their white cards removed. If not now, it should be soon—not a matter of when.

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Baroness Cox (CB): While recognising the enormous significance of these elections, is the noble Baroness aware that I recently visited the Thai-Burma border and Shan state, where I met refugees from Kachin and Shan states, where fighting with the Burmese army continues, displacing tens of thousands of civilians? What measures have Her Majesty’s Government taken to ensure the success of the national ceasefire agreement and to support credible, free and fair elections in Kachin and Northern Shan states, where the fighting continues?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right: fine words from politicians need to be backed up with practical work. The UK is a leading member of the Peace Support Group. We are supporting the dialogue towards a national ceasefire agreement by funding experts who have direct experience of these matters to assist the process. We are putting our money where our mouth is: we are the largest bilateral donor to Kachin State and we announced a further £13.5 million for humanitarian work there in 2013. In addition, we have earmarked £3 million of flexible funding to support the peace process. It is practical work, but one has to have a long-term view and not give up in difficult circumstances.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, we are well aware that the British Army has close relations with the Burmese army, and is currently providing training. The Burmese army has been running the country for too long, and factions within it are clearly not prepared to give up. That is part of the problem that we face. Will the Minister tell us how we and other defence representatives in Burma are working with the Burmese army to persuade it that civilian control is what it also should observe?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Lord is right to raise that matter. Clearly, our engagement has been nothing to do with combat training. As the noble Lord is aware, we discussed these matters when I worked with him. The Burmese military remains a clear political force in Burma. It is right that we should encourage and support reforms so that there is a completely civilian Government in future. Our defence engagement with the Tatmadaw is aimed at encouraging it to support the reform process through a programme of defence education work that is limited to non-combat education courses focused on the core principles of democratic accountability, international law and human rights.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords—

Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): My Lords—

Baroness Nye (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Tebbit (Con): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, it is actually the turn of the Conservative Party.

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Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does my noble friend recollect that a couple of years ago, in this House, our noble friend Lord Lawson observed that a prerequisite of a democracy to work was that there should have been the rule of law for 100 years? Does she think that that is so, and, if so, has it been established yet in Burma?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I have just arrived here from launching the Magna Carta partnerships, which is a new FCO fund to promote the rule of law. I thank my noble friend for raising that point. I am impatient: 100 years would be too long to wait for the rule of law in Burma or elsewhere. We all, as parliamentarians, have a role to play. Our voices can ring out around the world. Let us make sure they do.

Baroness Nye: My Lords, everyone shares the Minister’s hope that the elections will be fair, credible and inclusive, but, while the military still has a veto over constitutional change as a guarantee of the 25% of parliamentary seats, is denying Aung San Suu Kyi the opportunity to stand for president, and is banning opposition parties from criticising the military or the constitution during the election campaign, is it not time for the British Government to suspend military training by the British Army until Burma stops the recruitment of child soldiers and the use of rape and sexual violence against ethnic women by the Burmese army?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, there are a lot of important points in that question, but the underlying issue is whether we should cease our training of the military. The training is education to persuade the military that constitutional reform is not only right but necessary, and necessary now. She is right to point out that the constitution as it stands prevents the ability of Aung San Suu Kyi to stand for election because she has foreign-born children. That kind of provision should be amended.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, during a visit last week to the Karen refugee camps and the Karen State, I was reminded by many Karen people of the statement by Lord Mountbatten of Burma that the Karen were our bravest and most loyal allies during the Second World War. Some 110,000 of them are in the refugee camps to this day, from a war that began in 1949. Will the Minister tell us whether we are now close to signing a permanent ceasefire and whether Her Majesty’s Government are able to help with the permanent decommissioning of weapons throughout the Karen State, the restitution of land and the resolution of the other remaining outstanding issues? Will she call for those in the camps to be given the chance to vote in the forthcoming elections?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, we have made it clear that the franchise should be an inclusive process. However, to try to answer one other question key to the points made by the noble Lord, in welcoming the continuing peace process we are under no illusion how difficult it is. We have committed £3 million in flexible funding to support that peace process. That is to address intercommunal violence through the Peace Support Fund. It is only through such practical work

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that we can lead by example. I do not expect this to be a short process but inclusivity is vital to the success of the elections.

Communications Data


2.45 pm

Asked by Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to consult and otherwise engage with stakeholders about the interception of communications data.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, the Government will bring forward legislative proposals in the autumn relating to investigatory powers. Those proposals will be subject to full consultation and scrutiny, including by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. Considerable evidence on these issues has already been heard by David Anderson QC, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the Royal United Services Institute and the committee that scrutinised the draft communications data Bill.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP): I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. David Anderson also stressed that it was very important that whistleblowers who want to blow the whistle on government or corporate misconduct should feel protected, particularly if they give that information to journalists. Have the Government given any thought to how they will offer assurances to journalists and whistleblowers that they will be protected?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, the Government take these issues seriously. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Security Minister met representatives of the National Union of Journalists in July. Also, a strengthened Acquisitions and Disclosure of CommunicationsData code of practice was approved by Parliament earlier this year. Of course, all these issues can be addressed further when the consultation takes place after the draft Bill is published and during the evidence to the Joint Committee of both Houses.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, on 2 July I was invited to attend the Internet Service Providers’ Association annual awards ceremony to present its “internet villain” award. While a number of people were nominated, the industry gave the award to the Home Secretary,

“for forging ahead with communications data legislation … without adequate consultation with industry and civil society”.

Does the Minister agree that that was an indictment of the Government’s failure to engage by those who know more about this subject than most of us?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I find it slightly difficult to agree because there have now been four reports, all of which took evidence. The Home Secretary is meeting communication services providers this week, both foreign and domestic. As I just said, there will be a Joint Committee of both Houses where these matters can be addressed, so it is not true that we have not consulted.

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Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, on these issues, will the Minister bear in mind that the proper authorities for matters of national security are the Government of the country, who are elected—and removable—by the people of the country, not internet service providers who are in this for profit?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I completely agree with the noble Lord. Nobody is suggesting that communication services providers should have executive powers. All I said in answer to the previous question was that we consulted. The Home Secretary is perfectly aware that she is accountable. I assure the House that she takes that responsibility very seriously, as did previous Home Secretaries.

Lord St John of Bletso (CB): My Lords, in light of the recent revelation that ISIS hackers were potentially able to intercept key public sector emails, how often is the public network architecture reviewed to avoid these cybersecurity threats?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, the simple answer is that I do not know, but I will find out and write to the noble Lord.

Lord Rosser (Lab): What do the Government find so difficult about supporting the recommendation by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation that warrants for interception should be judicially authorised, but where the warrant is required in the interests of a national security purpose that relates to the defence of the UK or foreign policy, the Secretary of State should have the power to so certify—with the judicial consideration being able to depart from that certificate only on the basis of the principles applicable in judicial review? That is a test for which there are already parallels in national security legislation.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, however skilfully he does it, the noble Lord will not get me to say what is in the draft Bill. It would be wrong of me to do it as a government Whip in the House of Lords and, secondly, I do not actually know.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): Given the importance that those of us on these Benches put on the security of our nation, will the Minister make sure that in the consultation that takes place the distinction between communications data and the interception of the content of communications is made absolutely clear? Could he also make it absolutely clear that people understand the consequences of a degrading of the ability of the police and other agencies to have access to communications data in a timely and effective fashion?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: The noble Lord is absolutely right. I think the Anderson report recommended that we should look at the definitions of different classifications of data and therefore the different levels of intrusiveness that are involved and the different permissions that are needed. It is critical. The definitions of different sorts of data, what should be done and who should be able

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to authorise interception are some of the key questions that will be looked at in the consultation once the draft Bill has been published.

Football: Disabled Spectators


2.51 pm

Asked by Lord Holmes of Richmond

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the provision made for disabled spectators at Premier League football stadiums.

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con): My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare my interests as set out in the register.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) (Con): My Lords, the result of the Government’s inclusive and accessible stadia survey, published yesterday, showed that despite examples of good practice, progress at some Premier League clubs towards meeting their existing legal duties under the Equality Act 2010 has been slow. Therefore I hope the whole House will welcome the statement by the Premier League yesterday that commits all Premiership clubs to achieve compliance with the accessible stadia guide by August 2017.

Lord Holmes of Richmond: My Lords, I am sure all noble Lords welcome yesterday’s statement from the Premier League. In light of that statement, will my noble friend commit her department to monitoring closely the Premier League to ensure that, be they old grounds or new grounds, come 2017 all grounds will meet minimum access requirements so that more people from more backgrounds can enjoy Premier League football?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, the progress of this initiative is incredibly important, and indeed the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, will be seeing the Premier League early in November, which will be a good opportunity to start that process.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-president of the charity Level Playing Field, which deserves immense credit for its campaign, which culminated in yesterday’s decision. It welcomes the decision by the Premier League. Will the Government do their utmost to persuade the Premier League that it find the £55 million or so that it will cost for all Football League grounds to come up to the standards that Premier League grounds will reach by August 2017? It certainly has that money and can afford it. Secondly, does the Minister agree that the rights of disabled people to attend sporting events should be enshrined in law, and therefore she will support my Private Member’s Bill?

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, the other clubs are subject to the same overall legislative duties, and I would expect them to take inspiration from the Premier League’s initiative yesterday. The Equality Act 2010 requires providers of services to the public, including all sports stadia, to make a reasonable adjustment so that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared with non-disabled people. I think the Bill has been given a Second Reading and awaits parliamentary time for its next stages.

Baroness Grey-Thompson (CB): My Lords, I congratulate the Premier League, and also the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, on the timing of his Questions, which has provided a great catalyst for the Premier League. It has two years to reach the minimum standards. Will the Minister explain what encouragement the Government can give to the Premier League to raise its standards? In 2012, the standards at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games were exceptionally high and set a positive tone around the world. Surely we should be looking at those as the future for accessible seating.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, the 2012 Games were indeed an inspiration in terms of disabled access and have helped to make this progress. I would also reference the consultation document ANew Strategy for Sport, which was issued recently. It contains three chapters—three themes—that focus on different aspects of disability, and it is extremely important that people respond to it.

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the Premier League for finally agreeing that it has a duty to respond to the minimum requirement, and congratulations too to Level Playing Field on its 14-year campaign. UEFA regulations now require disability access officers to report to their clubs. Will the Government ensure that disability access officers report not only on the physical space but also on the training of all staff involved in the provision of disability services? Will they also encourage the appointment of disability access officers in the league as well, not just in the Premier League?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, the Premier League has said that clubs will appoint disability access officers who will assist with compliance and report to a senior executive on a whole-club basis, which I very much welcome.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, in wishing well to the legislation currently before the House, may I invite the noble Baroness to join me in saluting Wrexham Football Club, whose exemplary performance in this matter has been recognised and highlighted this week? If a small club such as Wrexham, owned by its supporters, can make this sort of provision, what possible excuse can there be for Premier League clubs not to do likewise?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, the point is very well made. I congratulate Wrexham, and, indeed, Arsenal and one or two other clubs which have also been beacons for good practice. A noble Baroness talked on a previous occasion about Lord’s Cricket Ground. We

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need to celebrate success as well as to press those who are bad on disability access. That is happening as a result of the increased focus that there now is on this important issue.

Baroness Heyhoe Flint (Con): My Lords, I declare an interest in that I support Wrexham Football Club and am also a vice-president of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club—which does not absolve us in terms of having the correct facilities for our disabled supporters. May I suggest that the Minister pursue the fact that local authorities provide a licence to operate to all Football League clubs? Would that not be another route through: to suggest that a licence not be granted to a club unless it follows the lines that have been recommended to this House today?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, as always, my noble friend is full of ideas, and I will certainly have a think about that. I am always careful about being regulatory; people who know me know that. I feel that we are making progress under the existing legislation but I thank my noble friend for her comment, and of course we should also celebrate Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, the whole House will want to join in congratulating the Government and the Premier League on the work that they are doing on this. I am sure that the movement which has been observed is due largely to the pressure on these issues that has come from this House. In the papers which the Minister referred to, and also more generally, disability is often taken to be physical disability, but there is a large number of people who enjoy sport who are ambulant physically disabled people—a group which is often overlooked. Will she reassure us that this group, the blind and the deaf particularly, will be looked at too?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The noble Lord is right to remind us that disabilities raise different issues. Of course, the duties apply in the round. The disability access officer who is to be appointed by the Premier League clubs will look at the matter on a whole-club basis. Sharing best practice on hearing loops and access for the blind will be extremely important. I know that some totemic events, such as the Olympics, had very good facilities.



3 pm

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they are making to the government of Turkey, following recent attacks on political party offices and restraints on journalists, in view of the pending general election there.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, Britain has echoed Turkish political leaders’ calls for calm, following separate attacks on press outlets and

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party offices, as evidenced in the recent Statement from the Minister of State for Europe on 9 September. Britain will continue to support efforts to restore calm and hold peaceful elections.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, there should be no complacency. Is it not relevant that 128 offices of the Peoples’ Democratic Party have been attacked—some of them bombed—while 1,400 members of that party, including elected mayors, have been arrested? Is the noble Baroness aware that the army has been besieging and blockading the town of Cizre, while lawyers and members of parliament have been trying to march to its relief? In such violent circumstances, can there be free and fair elections?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the position in the south-eastern town of Cizre, and clearly there are serious circumstances there. From 4 to 12 September the Government imposed a curfew in Cizre. It is important in Turkey, as in any democracy, that elections are free and fair and pass without incident. We have made it clear that the PKK needs to stop its attacks and that the peace process must be resumed immediately. This is in everyone’s interests—it is in the interests of the Government as well as of the PKK and other groups in the wider region. We are following the election process, as we do in any EU candidate country. Monitoring by Turkish parties and civil society is even more important. The UK plans to send two British observers to join the OSCE election observation mission. Practical steps are being taken.

Lord Balfe (Con): My Lords, notwithstanding the considerable achievements of the AKP Government over the past 13 years, the holding of fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power is what defines a democracy. It is apparent to many people outside that the opposition parties in Turkey are not having their rights as rigorously defended as is necessary for a country to be regarded as a full democracy. Will the noble Baroness, through the EU political co-operation procedure and through our embassy, emphasise to the Turkish Government that her friends are looking very carefully at the way in which these elections are conducted?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I agree with every word that my noble friend said. I listened, and I will make sure that his message is amplified through our EU partners.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, Turkey is one of our key allies in the fight against ISIS across the border. As we all know, Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq have been providing some of the most vigorous and effective opposition to ISIS. I was told the other day that, of the air strikes that the Turks have so far conducted over the border in Syria and Iraq, one has been against ISIS and the rest have been against Kurdish forces. Can we also make it clear to the Turks that what happens inside Turkey—in particular, relations with their Kurdish minority—matters to all of us when considering the future stability of the Middle East?

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Lord is right and I agree with everything he said. I would simply add that we appreciate the work Turkey has carried out in giving hospitality to 2 million refugees. It has led the way in so many humanitarian areas. However, there are other areas, such as the treatment of minorities and freedom of expression in their own country, where it needs to understand that its friends wish it to take a different course—one where the rule of law holds sway better than any other. Turkey is facing great troubles, but it has great friends who will stay with it.

Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, in May 39,000 police officers and 50 water cannon vehicles were used to prevent trade unionists and others from marching on Taksim Square, the traditional location for May Day demonstrations in Turkey. We know that this Government are no friend of trade unions and the pernicious Bill making its way through Parliament is extremely harsh, but will the Minister join me in condemning the Turkish Government for their overreaction to trade union demonstrations in that country?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: This Government are a friend of hard-working people, not only in this country but around the world, and we have demonstrated that by the way in which we have used our spending capacity through DfID and the 0.7%, and through Foreign and Commonwealth Office spending. It is clear that those who are working should have a voice, and peaceful demonstrations should not be hindered. The best voice is won through a democratic society, which is where we are privileged to be able to take part.

House of Lords Reform

Motion to Take Note

3.05 pm

Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston

That this House takes note of the case for further incremental reform of the House of Lords to address the size of the House.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, I am very pleased to open today’s debate on the case for incremental reform to address the size of this House. I am also grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Pearson, Lord Steel and Lord Lea, for grouping their Motions with mine for the convenience of the House. I will come back to the size of the House; it is important, and we cannot grow indefinitely.

First, however, I will talk about our reputation, something which I know—as we saw over the summer—matters to us all. Sometimes, when an institution attempts to protect its own reputation, the process of doing so can lead to misunderstandings among those to whom we are seeking to make our case. Therefore, we will do a better job of protecting and enhancing our reputation if we place the emphasis on our purpose, making the case for why we exist, and the value of our work to the people we serve. Our core purpose is to complement the work of the House of Commons and thereby give the public confidence in the laws made by Parliament and in the way Parliament holds the

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Government to account. If we emphasise that, show what it means in practice and ourselves use that same purpose to inform our contributions—when to attend, how to contribute when we do, when to retire, and when to resign if our actions fall short of what people have a right to expect from public servants, especially when they cannot eject us via the ballot box—we will be more effective in securing the reputation of this House and its future. We will be demonstrating that we want to be accountable for why we serve as Members of this House, and that we are committed to the purpose we are here to serve.

We have taken some important steps in that direction in the past few years. On retirement, for example, more than 30 Members have retired so far, and soon 35 will have done so. I sincerely commend them for their public service. However, as an unelected House there is further for us to go to show we are serious about accountability. We are still not clear enough about what it means to be a Member of this House, which in turn can make it harder for others to understand all the different ways in which Members of this House contribute to our work.

I accept that there is no one-size-fits-all model. Members, whether Front Bench or Back Bench, a member of a party group, a Cross-Bencher or a Bishop, make valuable contributions in different ways. However, although Members take different approaches to our work, we should have the same principle at heart: that we are here to serve the public, and when we make our different contributions, as individuals or parties, we should be seeking to make a difference within the proper limits of an unelected House. Greater clarity about what being a Member of this House entails is one strand of our work; another is to examine the steps available to us to address our size.

As I said at the outset, this Government are clear that the House cannot keep growing indefinitely. However, to focus only on our headline size is to misunderstand the nature of this House. Unlike many other Chambers with which we are compared, the vast majority of our Members do not attend all the time, nor are they salaried. Many Peers balance professional lives outside the House with work within it, and their experience adds so much to our proceedings. However, we must recognise that the gap between our headline size and our average attendance adds to some of the misunderstandings about our work and gets in the way of our demonstrating to the world outside the value of what we do. As Leader I am conscious of our responsibility to examine and address the question of our size. It is a responsibility I want us to uphold and I want to work together with Members from across the House to find the right way forward. I want today’s debate to be the beginning of that process, and that is why I am glad to see that the speakers list has so many contributions from across the House.

At this stage I want to keep an open mind. It would be right for me as Leader to do so and I am sure it is what noble Lords would expect from me. However, one of the principles we should have in mind as we proceed is simplicity. The simpler and more straightforward our approach to answering the question of size, the clearer and more compelling any changes

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will be from the perspective of the people we serve. That is why some of the simpler, although sensitive, approaches such as age and term limits, which will doubtless attract commentary this afternoon—both positive and negative—deserve further consideration. At the same time, it is worth me being clear with the House that I am more cautious about approaches that introduce too much complexity into what we are trying to do, not least because the experience of recent incremental reforms shows that we have been able to make progress when we have focused on simple steps that are readily understood, including by those who may have to scrutinise them in the other place.

Many suggestions will be made today and I may not be able to cover them all when I respond; however, that is not what I believe today is about—we will not reach agreement in a single debate. Instead, now is the time to begin discussions on a cross-party basis. There is no shortage of ideas in this sphere. The lack of progress previously has not been for lack of proposals but lack of political will. That, I am glad to say, is changing. From my conversations with the leaders of the other groups, I sense that there is now a welcome and shared will to move forward, which is why I now want to convene discussions with the other leaders and the Convener to drive this process on. I will lead those discussions in the months to come and I have scheduled our first meeting in the weeks following the Conference Recess. I hope that today’s debate can provide the backdrop which will inform that process as it gets under way, because however we proceed, all Benches must play their part.

I am clear that our core purpose must drive all change and inform our approach. Addressing our size is important in that respect but it is not a silver bullet. It is not the only thing—arguably not even the most important thing—when it comes to maintaining the legitimacy of this House and the work it does. We must not try to address all matters of concern as if they relate only to size. Furthermore, we must not proceed thinking that we can make changes in one giant leap. Recent experience in this House has shown that we are more likely to move forward when we focus on taking simple, workable steps in the right direction. We are not necessarily seeking the perfect solution but looking for what we might do to set a direction of travel. That will not be the end of the journey because legitimacy is about improving our accountability, and there we have further to go. However, it is a good place to start. The public will ultimately judge our success in that endeavour. It is our duty to proceed with them in mind. I beg to move.

3.14 pm

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, I fear that some of your Lordships may find my Motion to be somewhat dramatic, and my request for 12 new UKIP Peers somewhat ambitious, but I hope I can allay such feelings. I am also aware that the strong mood of the House is that too many new Peers are joining us anyway, as was reflected in our vote, by 217 to 45 on 28 February 2013, to say that we very much hoped that restraint would be exercised in the appointment of new Members. It is regrettable that this has been entirely ignored by the Prime Minister.

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I should confirm, too, that my Motion is in no way critical of our so-called people’s Peers, all of whom have joined the Cross Benches, surely by far the most valuable element of your Lordships’ House. My Motion is aimed squarely at the Prime Minister’s use of his constitutional privilege to recommend new Peers to Her Majesty. A number of your Lordships wanted me to make the Motion quite a bit stronger by delaying the introduction of any new Lib Dem Peers until a fair number of new UKIP Peers had preceded them. But I understand that this, if carried, would have taken us into somewhat uncharted waters and could have interfered with the Queen’s Writ of Summons, because Peers cannot sit, speak or vote until they have taken the oath or affirmed—hence the milder Motion before your Lordships, with which I hope you will agree.

I have put a copy of my correspondence with the Prime Minister and the last coalition Government online, and will be happy to send it to any noble Lord who wants it. I also mentioned most of the story, at col. 1062 on 15 June this year, in a debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, inviting the Government to review the law governing elections in this country. In the interests of time, I will not repeat it all now but would like it to be taken into account.

In summary, the coalition Government said that they had a policy of appointing Peers in reflection of the votes cast at the previous general election. UKIP received 3% of the votes cast in the 2010 election, which should have given us 23 Peers under the Government’s new policy. I therefore wrote to the Prime Minister in May 2010, saying that I understood that it was not an exact science but suggested that UKIP should have had perhaps four new working Peers. The Prime Minister wrote back politely, saying that the media were vastly exaggerating the number of new Peers he could recommend to the Queen. But he said he saw the point and would keep the matter under review. I expect that your Lordships know the sort of letter.

At the time of my letter, the media were speculating that the Prime Minister would recommend the appointment of 60 new Peers, but he went on to recommend 185 during the last Parliament and another 45 now, with none for UKIP. Throughout that Parliament, I wrote several more times to the Prime Minister and asked a number of Oral Questions in your Lordships’ House. The answers were all the same. They stated that the coalition Government’s policy was indeed to recommend Peers in proportion to the votes cast in 2010 but not for UKIP. My noble friend Lord Stevens of Ludgate also tabled a Written Question on 21 May 2013, and I will leave it to him to reveal the full beauty of the Government’s reply from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire.

We come to the general election in May, which the Conservatives won. The Prime Minister has deftly turned the coalition policy of Peers being appointed to reflect the votes cast in the previous general election to their being appointed to reflect its “result”. This is not helpful to UKIP because although 3.8 million people voted for the party, or 12.6% of the votes cast, we won only one seat in the Commons. However, I understand that the result of the Conservative victory was achieved thanks only to the UKIP vote. I therefore wrote to the Prime Minister again in May and August,

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pointing this out and suggesting that UKIP should have 12 new working Peers. On 26 August, I received a “pp” reply on behalf of an assistant private secretary in No. 10, which contains the following statement, which your Lordships may find intriguing: “In line with long-standing convention … this dissolution list … provides the opportunity to recognise those who have given long-standing service to the public”.

I have nothing against any of the new Peers personally and am sure that we will all welcome them with our customary courtesy. However, it is clear from the list that they are all party appointees, only a few of whom have given long-standing service to the public, and that in their party capacity. I understand that some of them may even continue to be special advisers and so may not be able to speak or vote. But I will leave it to other noble Lords more versed in these conventions to deal with that possibility.

So where do we stand now in your Lordships’ House? With the help of the Library, I have drawn up a little chart, which I will put online or give to any noble Lord who wants a copy. This chart shows that 24% of the electorate cast 11.3 million votes for the Conservatives in May, which gave them victory, with 330 seats in the Commons and now 250 Peers here, or 48 more than they would have had under the coalition’s policy. For the Labour Party, 20% of the electorate cast 9.3 million votes, which gave them 232 seats in the Commons. They will now have 220 Peers here, or 54 more than they would have done under the coalition’s policy. UKIP came third in May, when 8% of the electorate cast 3.8 million votes for us. But that gave us just one seat in the Commons and we still have only three Peers here, or 66 fewer than we should have had under the coalition policy. Then we come to the Liberal Democrats, who came fourth, and for whom only 5% of the electorate voted, with 2.4 million votes. That gave them eight seats in the Commons. However, with their 11 new Peers, they will now have 113 Peers, or 70 more than they should have had under their very own coalition policy. So we have 66 fewer Peers than we should have had under their policy and they have 70 more. I trust your Lordships see why I singled them out for mention in this Motion. To add insult to injury, the Liberal Democrats are now to have £288,525 per annum to help them run a Front Bench in your Lordships’ House, which I do not understand at all.

What I have said about the unfairness of UKIP’s position applies also in smaller measure to the Green Party, which has one Peer here, or 19 fewer Peers than it should have had. I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, cannot speak in this afternoon’s debate but I am happy to make this point on her behalf.

As to the Government’s Motion, I suggest that the most obvious way to address the size of your Lordships’ House is for the Prime Minister to stop recommending so many Peers to the Queen. With this latest list, he will have recommended at least 230 new Peers since 2010—I am not quite sure where that stands in the record books.

Even so, I trust your Lordships will agree that UKIP should have more Peers, especially when we are about to start debating the EU Referendum Bill and the case to leave the EU is so underrepresented in your Lordships’ House.

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When I look at the statistics that I have just given, I cannot help concluding that the problem for our democracy—the elephant in the room—is not the size of your Lordships’ House but the fact that the United Kingdom is no longer a democracy. Your Lordships may be shocked by that statement, but my understanding is that a democracy is a system whereby the people elect and dismiss those who make their laws. But last May, only 11.3 million voters got the Government they wanted, while 18.75 million did not.

To the statistics I have given should be added the Scottish National Party, which does not want any seats here, but for which only 3% of the electorate voted, with 1.4 million votes in May. However, this gave it no fewer than 56 seats in the House of Commons. So the composition of the Commons under our first past the post system, which was designed when there were really only two parties, no longer reflects the wishes of the British people.

I appreciate that I have strayed a little beyond the Motion for today’s debate, but the democratic legitimacy of the House of Commons lies above what we are debating today and I wanted to take the opportunity to flag it up. I trust that we can return to it another day, because there is not much point in tinkering with your Lordships’ House when our democracy itself no longer works.

3.25 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood (LD): My Lords, I thank the Government for their courtesy in including my Motion along with this take note debate. I am not going to get involved in an argument with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, except to point out to him that the Prime Minister said in a speech in Singapore in the course of his five-day tour:

“It is important the House of Lords in some way reflects the situation in the House of Commons. At the moment it is well away from that”.

So the noble Lord should be careful what he wishes for, because UKIP on that basis is overrepresented in this House as it stands.

However, I want to stick to the Motion before us. I thank the Leader of the House for the way in which she introduced the take note debate, which was extremely helpful. Before I come to the terms of my Motion, I hope that we do not lose sight, while we talk about incremental change to this House, of the longer-term objective of looking at the role that this House should play in the constitution of our country. Things are changing in Northern Ireland, in Scotland and in Wales, and even in England, with the Prime Minister talking about English votes for English laws. So we are missing a chance by not having the constitutional convention for which many people have argued. Indeed, the noble Baroness herself said last week in replying to another Member:

“The noble Baroness knows my party’s position on a constitutional convention. We do not feel that that is a priority at this time”.—[Official Report, 7/9/15; col. 1213.]

But when will it be a priority? A constitutional commission or a convention is bound to take some time, and it is important that we do not lose sight of the vow made by the three party leaders to the people of Scotland

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during the referendum and that we look to a reformed House of Lords as being a pivotal part in a quasi-federal constitution in the future. That at least is a long-term discussion which we should have.

Let me return to this immediate debate, which is about the House as we know it today. I am grateful also to the Prime Minister for what he said in that same speech in Singapore, and I quote him:

“It is now possible for people to retire from the House of Lords, and a number of people have taken up that option under the Steel Bill, and I think we should encourage that”.

Well, I thought that was a bit rich. I see the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, smiling, because he will recall as I do the struggle that we had to get the Government to accept even a tiny part of that Bill. It would never have happened but for Dan Byles, the MP in the Commons, winning a place in the ballot and getting it on to the statute book in its limited edition. It was a struggle, and I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde—I pay tribute to him and his successor, the noble Lord, Lord Hill, both of whom were extremely helpful. But, of course, one of the big stumbling blocks was the Deputy Prime Minister, as he well knows. I still remember the press conference when he announced that they were withdrawing after the failure to get the Bill through the House of Commons. At the press conference, he was asked about the Steel Bill and he said, “I do not propose to legitimise the illegitimate”. I took personal offence at that, and I thought it was offensive to the House as a whole. What I find illegitimate is the practice of the three party leaders, copying from Lloyd George, of continuing to give peerages to people who have done nothing for the parties except sign large cheques for the party coffers. That is the most disgraceful thing about the current practice.

I propose in this Motion that there should be a cut-off, and I admit right away that this is an age cut-off under the Act which we passed. Members may now retire, and as the Leader said, 35 will have done so. But if we had an automatic cut-off with anybody over the age of 80 at the end of each Parliament departing, it would enable the House to be refreshed after each election without the numbers becoming excessive. In fact, if this had happened at the last election, 158 Members would have left. If it happens at the end of this Parliament, 260—including myself—would have to go. I think that that is probably a very good thing—I am not referring to myself, but to the generality. It would enable an incoming Government to make new creations without the numbers becoming excessive.

That was my view, and then over the Summer Recess I happened to meet up with my noble friend Lord Lee of Trafford. He said, “You might have more chance of getting this through if you allowed an exception for those people whom we would be very sad to miss”. That is why I included in my Motion the proposal that those who are retiring,

“should elect 12 of their number”,

to stay on—rather on the same analogy as the hereditary Peers. In fact, I got it quite wrong because the noble Lord, Lord Lee, was proposing that the House as a whole should choose, not just those who are retiring. My mind was on how many fish we would catch on the Tweed that day, so I did not get this quite right.

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However, I think that the age limit is not an unreasonable instrument, if rather crude, given that judges have to retire at 75 and Lord Lieutenants retire at 75. When I was a young MP a lot of Members of the House of Commons were over the age of 80, but that is no longer the case. Because of the process of parliamentary pensions, coupled with selection processes, very few Members are above that age in the Commons. It is not unreasonable to say that at a certain age people should abandon their public life.

I end with an example. I suspect that most of those over 80 are not familiar with the social media. I enjoyed the letter I read in a publication recently from one such person who said:

“I haven’t got a computer, but I was told about Facebook and Twitter and I am trying to make friends outside Facebook and Twitter while applying the same principles.

Every day, I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do for the rest of the day. I give them pictures of my wife, my daughter, my dog and me gardening and on holiday. I also listen to their conversations, tell them I ‘like’ them and give them my opinion on every subject that interests me … whether it interests them or not.

And it works. I already have four people following me; two police officers, a social worker and a psychiatrist”.

That letter typifies the problem for those of us who reach the age of 80, and it is not unreasonable—a crude instrument it may be, but it could be effective. I have included the Motion as a contribution to this general debate.

3.33 pm

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, I am also grateful to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for including my Motion on the Order Paper.

On the range of reputational issues, I suggest that the first precept should surely be the old adage: “Let the punishment fit the crime”. I am not sure that we have all that in perspective at present, but I will allude to it later.

On the formal subject of the debate, if we are to make progress on this issue, our line of travel must have two prongs. First and foremost, we need to turn the tap down on the numbers coming in, as well as encouraging Members to go out. The two must be included together. I did not hear the noble Baroness the Leader of the House say that, and I trust that my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition might acknowledge that it is a fact.

The noble Baroness appeared to imply that the numbers coming in had nothing to do with it. I may have missed it, but I do not think she acknowledged that. The necessity for this twin track, if I may make a statistical point, is pellucidly clear if one looks at the numbers, as set out in a succession of excellent Library Notes. We are very well served by the House of Lords Library on these questions. Since 2000, 472 new Peers have come in and 289 have gone out, for one reason or another. In passing, I also draw attention to the fact that it is a bit rich for the Prime Minister—who is cutting every penny in sight, in local government, social services, et cetera ad infinitum—to imagine that we can ignore the additional costs of 45 new Members. In November 2010, in response to a Question from my

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noble friend Lord Bassam, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, who was Chairman of Committees at the time, said that the average cost per Member was £156,000 a year, including a share of the overheads. Over 10 years, that is a cost of £1.56 million per Member: £15 million for 10 Members—I stand to be corrected—or £60 million for 40 Members.

Secondly, the number of Members leaving the House, far from having diminished, much less dried up, has hovered around 20 more or less every year for the past 15 years. Again, I draw on the Library Notes as the fount of all wisdom on this. I remember asking my noble friend Lord Grocott for this number when he was a Whip and he confirmed it. It was always about 20 and it is still about 20. The big change has not been the number going out but the escalation of people coming in. The announcement of 45 new Members on 27 August this year was not a record, but—despite all the talk along the lines of “It can’t go on like this”, which we have heard in this House and in the press for a long, long time—it is right at the top of the range, the outrider being 82 in 2010.

So our starting point as a matter of balanced public policy must surely be a self-denying ordinance that only about 20 Members come in each year. Of course, this could be done more readily in practice by averaging over a spread of years—the arithmetic would mean 40 over two years, 60 over three years, et cetera—if that is more convenient administratively. Before anybody says that this will never be accepted by any Prime Minister, I say, “Hang on a minute, we live in a democracy”. Surely the fatal flaw in the present system of appointments, which must change as the first priority, is that alone among western democracies we allow the Prime Minister of the day to decide unilaterally on appointing new Members, with no attempt to hide the motive, which is normally to bring changes to the party composition of this House and to spread the Danegeld uneasily between the other party leaders.

If one steps back from it, it becomes all the more self-evident that this is an absurd and indefensible system—just try defending it in public. A few months ago, I was in Maputo in Mozambique, chairing a seminar for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Labour Party’s sister parties in Africa. It was a session on good governance and, indeed, bad governance. We put words on blackboards for discussion and for question and answer sessions, based on suggestions from the floor. They were all pretty basic issues. For example, if you are the Finance Minister you do not make your brother-in-law the auditor-general. You obviously do not act like a bunch of kleptocrats, stealing money from the public purse to buy up houses in South Audley Street—although one of them said, “Why not?”. I am not sure whether that was a joke. I was keenly aware that if I had written on the board that, in an advanced democracy, not only could there be no written constitution but the Prime Minister could simply change the composition of one of the legislative Houses of Parliament to suit their political advantage, it would be laughed out of court, even—I might say particularly—in Maputo. I add that I did not have time to explain the concept of elected hereditaries.

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While I am being diplomatic about last month’s announcement, the facile rhetoric that the Government do not have a majority here, as they do in the Commons, begs every question in sight, even though it is endlessly regurgitated by lazy political journalists as though it is sensible analysis. Going back 100 years, the Labour Party lived with that lack of a majority when they had a majority in the Commons, not only more recently from 1997 to 2010—despite the big reforms in 1999—but from 1945 to 1979. The Labour Party never said that that was something it could not operate with. It is a pretty thin argument.

The additional, technical reason why this idea of a lack of a majority is a nonsense is that, apart from anything else, we have some 200 Cross-Benchers. An overall majority is patently impossible, yet we see this nonsense regurgitated. Talking of Cross-Benchers, a former Member of this House—a field-marshal who also lives in Crondall, if that helps to identify him—mentioned to me only last week that he had retired in part because the House was getting too crowded. “But”, he said, “Look what happened: those spaces were filled up almost overnight”. This is a key point: if, as I trust, we are to adhere to voluntarism in this matter, as the Life Peerages Act implies, what sort of an incentive is there if we see that that is the result?

My Motion refers to a new statutory appointments commission. I want briefly to mention its two key functions as I see them. I do not think it is game, set and match to say that Prime Ministers will not accept it. I accept that we probably need a mini constitutional convention. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, for whom I have the greatest respect: is it really a fact that we cannot have a mini constitutional convention to deal with this without waiting for an all-singing, all-dancing maxi-convention for everything in the United Kingdom?

There seem to be, inter alia, two important legs to the statutory appointments commission. One concerns agreeing the formula for the balance of new appointments between the parties, which could correspond to what I would call a three general election moving average, based on seats rather than votes, given the electoral system.

I refer in the Motion to the reputation of the House. We all know that cash for peerages is often talked about. Therefore, I also propose that the political parties lodge with the SAC their own processes and criteria for their internal party selections. However, for the avoidance of doubt, it would not be for the SAC to choose between individuals A, B and C from the party list. That would be down to the parties.

I said at the start that reform will work only if it has these two prongs. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, would not wish, I think, for his Motion to stand in isolation, since, apart from anything else, it would do nothing to curb the flow of new appointments. He is nodding; I am glad. Incidentally, he and I happen to be the same age: 77. The new leader of the Labour Party is 66. I would say that 77 is the new 66; otherwise I would, no doubt, be consigned to the knacker’s yard in three or four years. I think the noble Lord, Lord Steel, might be one of the chosen few. However, I doubt he would

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find consensus that there are only 12 distinguished and active colleagues among the 133 in this House who are more than 80 years old. The point has already been made that people’s lifespans are, on average, extending. I hope that the Front Benches will acknowledge later in this debate that the twin-track approach is therefore the sine qua non for a reform that will go the distance.

Northern Ireland: Political Developments


3.46 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scotland Office (Lord Dunlop) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the other place. The Statement is as follows.

“With permission, I would like to make a Statement about political developments in Northern Ireland. First, I welcome back the honourable Member for Gedling as shadow Secretary of State. I hope that we can continue the constructive working relationship we had when he last held this important post. With that in mind, the new Labour leader and the shadow Chancellor are on record many times as expressing their support for a united Ireland. That is an entirely legitimate view, as is the clearly held preference on these Conservative Benches that our country stays together and Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom. It would be helpful for the shadow Secretary of State to confirm when he responds today that, under his party’s new leadership, the consent principle at the heart of the Belfast agreement will remain paramount.

Last week we started a new round of cross-party talks focused on two issues: the continued presence of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland and the pressing need to implement the Stormont House agreement. The talks began on Tuesday with a meeting of all the participants, at which everyone agreed that these two issues needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency, although views differed on the sequence in which they should be considered. On Wednesday morning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland arrested three well-known members of the republican movement, including the northern chairman of Sinn Fein, in connection with their ongoing investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan. It would not be appropriate to comment on a live police investigation, save to say that all three were subsequently released unconditionally. These developments had dramatic political consequences.

On Thursday evening, Peter Robinson announced that DUP Ministers, with the exception of Finance Minister Arlene Foster, were resigning from the Northern Ireland Executive. The First Minister himself has stepped aside, with Mrs Foster taking over the functions of that office for a period of six weeks. That does not trigger an early Assembly election—that would only happen if either the First Minister or Deputy First Minister were to resign. Nor does it mean suspension of the institutions or a return to direct rule—that would require primary legislation at Westminster, which is not something that the Government believe would

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be justified in the current circumstances. It does not mean that the Assembly and the Executive cease to function, but the situation is very grave.

A number of departments are left without ministerial leadership and relationships between the parties have almost completely broken down. That leaves the devolved institutions looking increasingly dysfunctional. Over recent days, I have been maintaining close contact with the five main Northern Ireland parties and with the Irish Government, and I have kept the Prime Minister constantly updated on the situation. Yesterday, I held a series of bilateral and trilateral meetings at Stormont, aimed at establishing a basis for further intensive talks. I plan to hold further such discussions at Stormont tomorrow and in the days ahead.

The events I have outlined do not alter the fundamental issues that need to be resolved. First, the brutal murders of Gerard Davison and Kevin McGuigan have brought into sharp focus the continuing problems around the existence of paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland, and the involvement of some of their members in criminality and organised crime. The Government are clear that paramilitary organisations have no place in a democratic society. They were never justified in the past, they are not justified now and we all need to work together to find a way to bring to an end this continuing blight on Northern Ireland society. The Government are working with the parties in the Northern Ireland Executive on how to achieve that goal.

For example, serious consideration needs to be given to whether the time is right to re-establish a body along the lines of the Independent Monitoring Commission. The remit the parties might wish to give such a body is likely to be very different from the matters addressed by the original IMC, reflecting changed circumstances. But there might well be scope for such a body to play a part in providing greater community confidence and repairing working relationships within the Executive. The Government will also actively consider whether there is more that we can do to support efforts to tackle organised crime and cross-border crime in Northern Ireland. In the days to come, we will continue to listen carefully to representations made to us on the best way to ensure that all parties can engage in this process.

The second issue on the agenda is just as important as the first. Resolving the differences which have been blocking the implementation of the Stormont House agreement is crucial if the finances of the Executive are to be placed on a sustainable footing. Without welfare reform and steps to tackle in-year budget pressures, there is a real danger that the executive departments could start running out of money, becoming steadily less able to pay their bills, with the serious negative impact that could have on front-line public services. As we have seen in those parts of Europe where Governments are unable to control their debts and live within their means—some of which are supported by the new leader of the Labour party—it is the vulnerable and most disadvantaged who suffer most in such situations. We have therefore made clear that if these matters are not dealt with by the parties, as a last resort the Government would have to legislate here at Westminster—a position on which I hope we would have we would have the support of the honourable Member for Gedling.

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As things stand, every day that passes is likely to see the devolved institutions become less and less able to function effectively. We have limited time, so once again I urge all parties to engage intensively and with focus, determination and good will in the talks under way. We on these Benches, and I hope the whole House, continue to give our full support to the Belfast agreement and the institutions it created. There can be no doubt that power-sharing, inclusive government comes with its frustrations and difficulties—indeed, I hear about them every day—but as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister often reminds this House, the Northern Ireland political settlement was a huge achievement. It has transformed life in Northern Ireland for the better and it is an awe-inspiring example of what can be achieved with political leadership and vision. On so many occasions in the past 20 years, Northern Ireland’s politicians have come together to achieve the seemingly impossible. It is time to do so again, so that we can continue on the road to a brighter, more secure future for Northern Ireland. I commend this Statement to the House”.

3.54 pm

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, I open by thanking the Government for giving previous sight of the Secretary of State’s Statement. I also place on record the Official Opposition’s gratitude for the welcome given to Vernon Coaker on his return as shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. That has been echoed by many parties and individuals in Northern Ireland, who have contacted the honourable Member to welcome him back.

I also place on record the bipartisan approach of many in this House who have been involved in Northern Ireland for a long time: the noble Lords, Lord Brooke, Lord King and Lord Trimble, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, a former Member of the House. Many other people contributed to a bipartisan approach in this House, and it has always been welcome. As was made clear by Vernon Coaker in the other House, it is the intention of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, as well as the noble Lord’s intention—and, I add, mine—to pursue a bipartisan approach based on the agreement reached, in particular the principle of consent.

I have some questions for the Minister. Can he reassure all of us that the full authority of the British Government, working with the Irish Government and with Washington, will be used to help to resolve these difficulties along with the parties in Northern Ireland? The current problems of political stability revolve around continuing paramilitary activity and the implementation of the Stormont House agreement. Following the recent murders of Gerard Davison and Kevin McGuigan, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said that some Provisional IRA organisational structures still exist, but for a radically different purpose from before, although some members still engage in criminal activity. Can the Minister explain what that statement means, and can he explain the Secretary of State’s assessment of what that means for communities? Can he also update the House on the investigation by the PSNI into the two murders mentioned? Is he confident that sufficient resources exist?

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Does the Minister further agree that, with respect to paramilitary activity, we need to end ambiguity on this issue? Can he update us on the assessment of the level of paramilitary activity in all communities, the threat that it poses and what is being done to combat it? Does he agree that supporting a more comprehensive approach across all departments and agencies would be beneficial? The rule of law must be paramount; there can be no compromise on this principle. The parties in the Northern Ireland Executive are all committed to this principle, but in the light of the Secretary of State’s Statement to the House last week in respect of the Independent Monitoring Commission, can the Minister update us on the current position, as I understand that the Secretary of State is considering it? If so, what does she mean and what is her thinking?

Regarding implementation of the Stormont House agreement, the agreement was a tremendous achievement by all those involved. The Prime Minister has referred generously on more than one occasion to the achievements of Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Northern Ireland peace settlement known as the Good Friday agreement. The Stormont House agreement has clear proposals on finance and welfare, on difficult issues such as flags, identity, culture and tradition, parades and dealing with the past, as well as institutional reform. Those are many, if not all, of the hugely challenging and difficult issues arising in the context of Northern Ireland, with its different traditions, but there we got a negotiated agreement to move forward on those matters, not to leave them as being too difficult to resolve or would somehow cure themselves. There was a desire to tackle them. There was courageous political leadership, including the involvement of many in this Chamber today.

Does the Minister agree with me that the prize of successfully implementing the agreement should be another historic milestone? Does he agree that it takes forward the peace process to say that we have brought about a substantially better Northern Ireland, but now is the time to deal with many of the issues arising from the different traditions and competing narratives, as well as legacy issues around victims, mental health, economic insecurity and poverty?

On what basis will the Secretary of State propose to help to break the impasse on welfare reform? Are there other ways to support vulnerable people with targeted Treasury money to help with, for example, mental health or economic insecurity, both of which are significant legacy issues? Does the Minister further accept that, to break the deadlock, the same proposals cannot be put forward time and time again. Although we all understand that Northern Ireland should not be treated as a special case, there are in Northern Ireland special circumstances. What progress has been made with any Bill to implement the Stormont House Agreement? Is there a timescale and is there a legislative slot available? People will feel let down if bodies designed to deal with legacy issues cannot be set up.

I conclude by confirming yet again the attitude of bipartisanship on policy and strategy of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition that we have maintained all through this difficult period.

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Baroness Harris of Richmond (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating this Statement, which does not seem to take us much further down the road from the events of last week. That is a little disappointing. There have been relationship breakdowns between power-sharing parties on and off now for a number of years, and we lurch from semi-crisis to crisis all too often. The poor electors of Northern Ireland must be getting utterly disheartened by the bad behaviour of some of their leaders. Do the Government agree that there is a need to address paramilitaries of all kinds, whether unionist or nationalist, and that there must not be any relationship between democratically elected politicians and paramilitary organisations?

The Statement says that the talks are focused on two issues: paramilitarism and the implementation of the Stormont House agreement. Are the Government content that tackling these two issues will be enough to break the cycle of crises that has befallen the Northern Ireland Executive in recent years? Is there not merit in taking a wider view, including consideration of institutional structures and processes that prevent the kind of political progress that is required if public services are to be maintained?

Do the Government have a view on whether the actions of these Ministers in recent days amount to a breach of the pledge of office that all Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive are required to take? They pledge to,

“discharge in good faith all the duties of office”,

and to,

“participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North/South Ministerial Council, and the British-Irish Council”.

The structures of Northern Ireland are in grave danger of not working for much longer. That would be tragic for the people of Northern Ireland, who have rightly enjoyed the peace that was predicated on the Good Friday agreement 17 years ago. They want a stable society, and it is up to the Government, both here and there, to deliver that to them.

Last week, speaking on Northern Ireland in the previous Statement, I talked about the real problems the police in Northern Ireland face day in, day out. I was therefore very pleased to hear in the Statement that more work will be going on to support efforts to tackle organised crime and cross-border crime. That surely will mean more financial support for the police, who have lost so many officers in recent years. This past season has seen 45 police officers injured in civil disorders. If that happened here, we can imagine the sort of outcry that would ensue. Moreover, concessions should not be made to just one part of the power-sharing parties. They must be seen to be fair to all, and I urge the Government to ensure this.

The Statement says that the talks and negotiations are time-limited. On the one hand, the Statement says that time is limited, and with every day that passes, the devolved institutions are likely to be less able to function effectively. On the other hand, the Secretary of State appears to be telling the House that, rather than there being the intense, focused negotiations which she told us just last week were urgently needed, the furthest the discussions have reached thus far is a series of bilateral

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talks about talks. How do the Government believe that real urgency and momentum can be injected into the process to halt what appears to be a slide towards ever more gridlock?

On the relationship of the body along the lines of the Independent Monitoring Commission, have the Government given any consideration to the remit that such a body might have? The noble Lord mentioned that earlier. In addition to monitoring the activities of paramilitary organisations, might there be a role for that body, for example, to monitor the implementation by politicians of agreements reached between themselves, particularly those intended to address the legacy of the past? It is critical to reach the point where political agreements are not left to sit unimplemented, with all the damage that that does to public confidence in the political process.

If these vital talks are to be jointly shared by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Irish Government, can the Minister assure me that those relationships are strong and constructive? How often do meetings take place between them? If there is sufficient will to make these talks work, the problems confronting the Executive can and should be solved quickly.

Lord Dunlop: First, I thank the two noble Lords opposite for their contributions. I particularly welcome the confirmation from the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, that his party intends to continue a bipartisan approach to Northern Ireland and remains committed to the principle of consent. It is a great strength when we in this Parliament can demonstrate a bipartisan approach to Northern Ireland. Having said that, the current situation is undoubtedly grave. We remain totally committed to devolution in Northern Ireland. That is why my right honourable friend the Northern Ireland Secretary is holding intensive talks with the five parties, and why we urge all parties to engage with the talks process with focus, determination and, of course, good will.

Turning to specific issues raised by noble Lords, the first was that of full authority. I confirm that we will bring to bear the full authority of the UK Government in these talks, and will focus on implementation of the Stormont House agreement and the paramilitary activity. On the chief constable’s assessment, the Government agree with it but we would be cautious about expounding upon what is already in the public domain. On the ongoing PSNI investigation, again it would be unhelpful to speculate about that. It is not in the interests of justice. The police must be able to follow the evidence without fear or favour. On the issue of police resources, of course the PSNI needs the resources to discharge its very important responsibilities.

On the ambiguity issue that the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, raised, there is no room for it here. There is no place for paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. They are a blight on society, they are not wanted and they should disband. On cross-agency working, yes, we see the need for agencies to work together and to involve community groups so that we can find a solution to the problems Northern Ireland faces. On the IMC, I do not want to prejudice what parties might propose as part of the talks process, but

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the Government recognise that such a body could play a role and any remit that such a body had would need to reflect the changed circumstances.

I was asked about Stormont House agreement implementation and legislation. As has already been said, the Stormont House agreement was a great achievement. It is very important that the UK Government deliver on their commitments, so we continue to work on the Bill. Our aim is to present to Parliament next month the legislation as planned.

On welfare reform and the special circumstances of Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State made very clear that the Government will not fund a more generous Northern Ireland welfare system, but we have to recognise that funding already acknowledges Northern Ireland’s special circumstances. Northern Ireland’s spending per head is already 23% higher than the UK average and, of course, a key part of the Stormont House Agreement was the inclusion of £2 billion additional spending power. These talks need to be urgent, focused and intensive—talks that take weeks, not months—and we will work very closely with the Irish Government to get people round the table and find solutions to the problems Northern Ireland is facing.

4.10 pm

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, of course we want the bipartisan approach to continue, and of course we want the Good Friday Agreement and the institutions to be brought back as soon as possible, but I wonder if the Minister could clarify something. Surely there is a difference between criminality and paramilitary activity, even if the people who are alleged to have done it were former members of a paramilitary organisation. Are we not endangering Northern Ireland by suggesting that the tragic murder of Kevin McGuigan was definitely to do with paramilitary activity, when a lot of evidence suggests that it was ordinary—common or garden, very nasty—criminality?

Lord Dunlop: As I said earlier, we agree with the chief constable’s assessment that the Provisional IRA continues to exist organisationally although its purpose has radically changed. The noble Lord is absolutely right: the chief constable’s finding was individuals engaged in criminality for personal gain while the organisation itself is no longer involved in terrorism. We accept and agree with that assessment, and it is very much part of the priority for the talks process that we focus on the activity that is taking place. That will be a key priority for the talks

Lord Empey (UUP): My Lords, I begin by saying how delighted I was to hear the words of the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, because there has been some concern in Northern Ireland about the forthcoming attitude of the Labour Party. We are most grateful for what he had to say.

Is the Minister aware that the Sinn Fein leadership gave a press conference at the weekend at which the northern chairman of that organisation described the evolution of the IRA as being from a caterpillar to a butterfly? Does the Minister agree that there could be no more appalling, outrageous and false analogy of the development of that organisation? Does he also

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agree that the members and victims who suffered at the hands of that organisation, and continue to suffer, were outraged, horrified and angered by such a statement? Can he assure the House that Her Majesty’s Government will not sweep issues like this under the carpet? The fundamental lie that was being propagated at that press conference is the reason why trust has been so undermined. Until that lie is confronted and separated out and dealt with from the rest of the day-to-day problems—such as the financial mismanagement on a massive scale that exists in Belfast—I believe we will have huge difficulty. Will he undertake to ensure that his right honourable friend in the other place is aware of this issue?

Lord Dunlop: I certainly undertake to make my right honourable friend in the other place aware of my noble friend’s comments. As I have said already, paramilitary activity of any kind is a blight on society and we need to deal with it and banish it from Northern Ireland. The other point I would make is that victims must absolutely be centre stage in everything we do.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville (Con): My Lords, I share my noble friend Lord Empey’s appreciation of the position and comments of the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy. Have Her Majesty’s Government themselves reached the stage of having very different draft terms of reference for the possible substitute for the original Independent Monitoring Commission, and if so, are the Government encouraged by the reaction to them to date?

Lord Dunlop: Before replying to my noble friend’s question, I take this opportunity, on the eve of his retirement from this House, to pay tribute to the many years of public service he has given and his distinguished record as a former Northern Ireland Secretary.

Clearly, as I have said already, the IMC is very much an option for consideration. We do not want to prejudge what proposals the parties might put forward, but as I said earlier, the remit would be very different because the circumstances are very different.

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, I cannot prevent myself joining in the tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at such a difficult time and carried out the job with such distinction.

I very much welcome the tone of the Minister’s remarks today about the IMC and, indeed, the broad tone in the other place. As he rightly said, it cannot be a simple return of the IMC, and there is much discussion to be had about this. I shall put to the House the most profound reason why it is a good idea. Some months ago, Committee A of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly—on which the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and I serve, as do members of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil—presented a report in the Dáil Éireann on these issues of criminality and cross-border smuggling and their relationship to politics. There was a good debate and a couple of good newspaper follow-up stories but ultimately, after that, Committee A’s report was forgotten about. It goes right to the heart of these

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matters of criminality. The return of the IMC would, tragically, not have stopped the two deaths that we have just seen. However, as I hope the Minister will agree, an open and honest discussion of issues relating to criminality and politics in Northern Ireland, such as we have tried to have in Committee A, would provide greater clarity and carry greater clout with the media. It can only be healthy. It would not have saved these two men’s lives or solve all problems, but it would be a contribution to a clear atmosphere. Yesterday, Mr Gerry Adams very helpfully said that he wants to address the unionist community and say something reassuring, and I do not dismiss that. I am glad that he at least said that. But there is no possibility that anything that he says can have any weight. The crucial thing is to have a new independent body that will have control of the media agenda. That is the great case for the return, in a modified form, of the IMC.

Lord Dunlop: The noble Lord brings great experience of these matters to this debate and I very much take on board what he has said. I will make sure that his points are reflected to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Lord Lexden (Con): Will my noble friend clarify the role of the Government of the Republic of Ireland in the discussions that are taking place?

Lord Dunlop: Obviously the Irish Government have a strong role in supporting these talks, and we work very closely with them in that. As participants in the Belfast agreement and as a Government who have commitments under the Stormont House agreement, they will be very much involved in these talks.

Lord Kilclooney (CB): Will the Minister make perfectly clear the role of the southern Irish Government? In the Belfast agreement, there were three strands. The southern Irish Government were allowed to be involved only in strand 3. Does that continue to be the case?

Lord Dunlop: Our priority is getting the parties round the table because unless they are round the table we cannot have talks that will make progress. The priority of both Governments—and any influence that the US Government can bring to bear—is focused on getting all the parties round the table.

Lord Hay of Ballyore (DUP): My Lords, I, too, very much welcome the Minister’s Statement on the current political crisis in Northern Ireland. I also welcome the statement to the House of the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, to clarify the Labour Party’s position. In the last few days the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been meeting the five main political parties in Northern Ireland to find a way forward—in her own words, so that “intensive talks” can take place to address all the outstanding issues. Are we any closer to those talks taking place so that we can address all the issues, or are there still issues that need to be addressed by the individual parties to try to get them round the table?

Does the Minister also agree that if the institutions in Northern Ireland are to function effectively, paramilitary activity needs to be addressed once and for all? The

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island of Ireland is awash with criminality which has been going on for many years—both in the north and in the south. It is almost 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday agreement, yet we still have paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland that are still active, still killing and still involved in criminal activity.

In his Statement, the Minister talked about some sort of IMC body. I think we are in a different place and at a different time for which we need a different body. My only worry is that the ideas seem to have to come from the five main political parties—regarding the format, the powers and the terms of reference that such a body might have. Addressing that matter would be very useful because I can see it, too, turning into a political football in Northern Ireland. Would it not be better if the Minister and the Government would lead on and address those particular issues?

Lord Dunlop: I agree very much with what the noble Lord said about criminal paramilitary activity. As I have said previously, I do not think it would be helpful to provide a running commentary as talks proceed. The Secretary of State said in the other place that she will hold further talks tomorrow. We must see what transpires from those.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, the noble Baroness speaking from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench raised the question of whether some Ministers might be in breach of their oath of office. The Minister may not be able to answer today, right now, but could he at least ensure that legal advice is taken on that point?

Lord Dunlop: It is for the Ministers who have taken those actions to answer for them. We remain absolutely focused on getting the parties round the table and seeking a resolution to these difficult issues.

House of Lords Reform

Motion to Take Note (Continued)

4.23 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, there is always a slight sense of déjà-vu about debates on your Lordships’ House. The number of speakers in this debate, and the fact that there are four Motions before us—including those in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Pearson and Lord Steel, and my noble friend Lord Lea—is an indication of the interest in and concern about the ever-growing membership of your Lordships’ House. As much as your Lordships’ House has to address this issue—and there was ample information and facts behind the speeches we have heard so far—I have to tell the noble Baroness that I remain disappointed that the Government have brought forward a short debate on this issue at such short notice. It has meant shelving another important debate. We did not need to have this debate today, when another debate—also of considerable importance and urgency to your Lordships’ House—on English votes for English laws was already scheduled. So is the urgency because this is a new issue of which the Government were previously unaware? Of course not. This is an issue that has been raised by Peers across this House for some time, and the Government have chosen not only to ignore the concerns raised but also to exacerbate the problem.

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Indeed, the Leader of the House herself said recently that she did not think size mattered. She wrote in the Daily Telegraph of 31 August that,

“it’s not where any debate about the House of Lords should start”.

Although in some ways I agree with her, I fundamentally disagree with what she said in her speech—that the core purpose of your Lordships’ House was to complement the House of Commons. The core purpose of this Chamber—of your Lordships’ House—is not to complement the House of Commons. It is a revising, scrutinising Chamber which holds the Government to account and assists Governments in thinking again and reconsidering issues. However, that is not a reason or an excuse to step back from this issue. Neither can it ever be a solution to suggest that Members of your Lordships’ House should just not turn up so often. We take our responsibilities seriously.

However, the noble Baroness’s predecessors have taken much the same line. The noble Lord, Lord Hill, told the House that although,

“the House will sometimes be crowded on popular occasions … we should not overstate the problem”.—[Official Report, 12/12/13; col. 996.]

He also referred to the size of the House previously having been larger prior to the 1999 Act, which removed most hereditary Peers. This is extraordinarily complacent, particularly when others, from all corners of your Lordships’ House, have been warning of the looming problems. I find it even more extraordinary when the Government are planning to reduce significantly the number of elected representatives in the House of Commons and increase the number of Members of this House. How can that be right?

The House will know that on these Benches, the Liberal Democrat Benches and elsewhere across your Lordships’ House, we consider a constitutional convention the right way forward to resolve—among other things—the issue of the place of this House in our constitution. I am sure that today we will hear many colourful views on your Lordships’ House. However, I find it hard to disagree with the opening lines of the excellent report A Programme for Progress, produced by a number of my noble friends, including the now retired Lord Grenfell:

“The House of Lords needs urgent reform. The number of peers, growing fast, is too large. Its procedures creak. Its image is rendered antediluvian by flummery, and it falls short of what is required of an effective, modern second chamber”.

Your Lordships’ House is groaning at the seams. The current Prime Minister has appointed more Peers per year than any other Prime Minister on record. The excellent work of Professor Meg Russell at University College London illustrates not only that record number of appointments but that they have been more intensely party political. Mr Cameron has appointed a larger proportion of government Peers than any other Prime Minister, with fewer Cross-Benchers and fewer for the Opposition. Professor Russell also notes how Mr Cameron’s new and somewhat bizarre policy statement that appointments should reflect the most recent general election result will ensure that, year on year, your Lordships’ House will expand—and with a greater proportion of government Peers. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, had great fun with that nonsense of a

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policy, but this has never been what your Lordships’ House has been about. It does not reflect our functions and responsibilities, and it is ludicrous to appoint Peers to your Lordships’ House on that kind of policy basis. Does the Prime Minister so fear the independence and wisdom of this place that he seeks to contain us by appointing more government Peers, despite their already being the largest party?

The noble Baroness is quite right to be concerned about the reputation of your Lordships’ House. The excellence of this House’s reputation rests as much on its ability to ask the Commons to think again and reconsider as it does on the expertise and wisdom of your Lordships. However, this House and the Government must also recognise that the Prime Minister’s programme of appointments threatens that reputation. Indeed, the Prime Minister—as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said recently on a trip to Singapore that,

“it is important to make sure the House of Lords more accurately reflects the situation in the House of Commons”.

There is another part to that quote, which the noble Lord will recall as well. The Prime Minister went on to say that,

“that’s been the position with prime ministers for a very, very long time and for very good and fair reason”.

Has it? I do not recall any other Prime Minister—only the current Prime Minister and the previous Deputy Prime Minister—saying that that was the basis on which appointments to your Lordships’ House should be made. It has not been the position for a “very, very long time”. Therefore, can the noble Baroness confirm that it is truly the Prime Minister’s intention that, with each election, new appointments to your Lordships’ House should be made based on the result of that election? How does she feel that squares with the view she expressed in her article for the Daily Telegraph? If that is not the Prime Minister’s view, why has she not taken any opportunity to dispel the myth that this is common practice? If it were common practice or were to become so, as the Prime Minister seems to indicate he wants, it would seriously undermine the effectiveness and reputation of your Lordships’ House.

The noble Baroness the Leader of the House has said we need appointments to renew the House. That is true, but the current number of Peers is 131 more than the average post-1999 House with Labour in government. Alongside those additional numbers, we should welcome that the current House is more active than ever. The Lords Library Note of last December records that average attendance in your Lordships’ House as a proportion of membership rose from just over 50% about 10 or 15 years ago, to figures in the mid-60s today. This means the average daily attendance has risen from the high 300s to around 500.

The noble Baroness has the best access of anybody in your Lordships’ House to the Prime Minister. Has she discussed this with him? Does Mr Cameron recognise that if meaningful change is to be made, he cannot continue with the scale and number of his appointments? Did she ask him how his desire to,

“cut the cost of politics”,—[

Official Report

, Commons, 1/7/15; col. 1476.]

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squared with the record number of appointments to this House at a time when he is pushing ahead with cutting the number of elected MPs? Have they discussed the idea of a constitutional convention? I hope she is able to answer those questions today.

This is an arms race that this House cannot win. Of course there must be new Peers to replenish and renew but this level of appointment and its skewed nature diminishes this House. We stand ready, as we have put on record, to look at any potential ways forward. I have told the noble Baroness, as she mentioned in her comments, that we are happy to take part in such discussions, but I have also said that there is a caveat. The Prime Minister said, in rather a strange response, that this is a matter for the House of Lords to address, as if in some way he has no responsibility and it does not concern him. Of course it concerns him. All the facts show that he must bear responsibility for the acceleration in the growth of the size of your Lordships’ House. Because he has the authority to appoint, without being curtailed other than by the Appointments Commission on very limited criteria, he can use any changes we make here to reduce the size of this House as an invitation for more political appointments.

We want to see change. We believe the House is too large and that the evidence shows that this Prime Minister’s approach to appointments is not only providing the opportunity for external criticism but sidelining serious discussion of our true purpose and value. It is hard to believe that there is not a political agenda here. Before any meaningful discussion and serious decisions can proceed, we need an assurance from the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that the Prime Minister understands the role of this House in assisting the Government in scrutinising legislation; that he recognises that the approach to new appointments he has instigated is not sustainable; and that he will not use any measures that reduce the membership of this House as an excuse to create additional skewed government appointments.

These are important issues. We want to make progress and we will be involved in discussions to reduce the size of your Lordships’ House. However, we cannot do this in isolation, without a commitment from the Government that they have also signed up to the same agenda.

4.33 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD): My Lords, it is important when we are debating a take-note Motion that refers to “further incremental reform” to put it in context by recalling that the introductory text to the Parliament Act 1911 passed by the then Liberal Government says:

“And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation”.

I rather suspect the House would have been surprised that 104 years later it still had not been brought into operation. In the 21st century, in a modern, forward-looking, innovative country like the United Kingdom, it is simply wrong that the public have never had the opportunity to vote for Members of this House, or the ability to hold us to account for our record. I believe that anyone who makes the laws of the country should

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be accountable to those they expect to obey those laws. In a democracy, we believe that legitimate power and political authority ultimately derive from the people.

It is worth reflecting that if the coalition government Bill proposed in 2012 by Nick Clegg and passed at Second Reading in the Commons with a majority of 338 had not had its progress frustrated in the House of Commons, we would now have Members of this House who were elected by the public and we would not be having this debate today. Questions of the burgeoning size of this House would not have arisen as membership of the House would have been reduced by a third under the provisions of that Bill. To be frank, I accept that the number on these Benches would be smaller, but the House of Commons frustrated that move.

Although I do not necessarily agree with the conclusion of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, on what should be done, I can perfectly understand his frustrations. He made points that I readily recognise. His party received a larger share of the vote in the United Kingdom general election than my party, yet there is only one UKIP MP in the House of Commons and there are eight Liberal Democrats. If there was a fairer, more proportional system of election to the House of Commons, there would be more than 80 UKIP MPs and 51 Liberal Democrats. At Question Time, last week, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, suggested that 40 of my colleagues should retire. It occurred to me that it would help address the balance in both Houses if it was possible to dispatch 43 colleagues from this House to the other place, but I suspect that that would not be democratic, either.

We are addressing issues this afternoon about the size of this House, the size of individual parties within this House, the balance across the House and, in discussing retirement, whether in effect membership of this House should actually be for the whole of the rest of one’s life. These are important issues about how this House is composed, and all are symptoms of a wider problem which has not been touched on in all the discussions around reform over the course of the summer in particular: what is the House of Lords for?

If there has been a weakness in the previous efforts to legislate for reform, it has been the inability to address the fear in the House of Commons that a democratically elected second Chamber would pose a threat, or at least be a rival, to the supremacy of the Commons. That is why it is necessary to address the question of function as well as composition. To my mind, the role of the House of Lords is not dissimilar to that articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. It is: to scrutinise and revise the Government’s legislative agenda; to hold the Executive to account through questions, debates and the work of Select Committees; and, from time to time, to ask the House of Commons to think again. To be a Member of your Lordships’ House is to be in a position to fulfil this role. It is an honour and a privilege. Collectively, this House takes that role seriously. Individually, it has to be said, not every Member of the House applies themselves to this role with the same degree of dedication. Over the years, this Chamber has upped its game. It has listened to criticism and taken measures to strengthen the Code of Conduct and ensure that the Nolan principles on standards in public life are observed.

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However, there is no job description; and, crucially, most appointments are still largely reliant on patronage. As long as that is the case, this House and its Members will continue to be vulnerable to the charge, however unfair, of not working hard enough.

My noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood has suggested a compulsory retirement age. I am not personally persuaded by that; it is a somewhat blunt tool, designed simply to reduce the size of the House without asking the fundamental question of what kind of Members we need to have to effectively do the job we are asked to do. Experience and collective memory can both be useful attributes in fulfilling our revision and scrutiny roles. Not only does a fixed retirement age jar because of discrimination; it could lead to the exclusion of some who have still much of relevance to contribute. Some of my colleagues have suggested automatic retirement if a certain percentage of attendance is not reached in a Session. It is superficially attractive but attracts the old adage “Be careful what you wish for”, because it will defeat the object if it leads to Peers who seldom attend turning up more often but still not contributing, simply to keep up their membership.

Many rudimentary issues may be touched on this afternoon regarding the role of your Lordships’ House. One to which I could dedicate the entirety of this speech is how this House relates to the nations and regions of this country. In its evidence to the Kilbrandon commission in 1970, in which my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood played a part, the Scottish Liberal Party argued that,

“a second chamber could facilitate federal co-ordination if it were composed of representatives of the national parliaments elected by them in proportion to their political composition”.

In a more federal United Kingdom, with a confident Scottish Parliament, an Assembly in Wales—which is set to see its powers increase—a still-delicate devolution settlement in Northern Ireland, and the promise of a northern powerhouse, we should be considering how this House can and should relate, and be relevant, to an evolving constitutional settlement. Such a discussion should surely take place and be remitted to a constitutional convention, as has been proposed in his Private Member’s Bill by my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed. In spite of what the Government have said, I urge Ministers to give serious consideration to supporting that Bill. It would ensure a process that is fully representative of the nations and regions in this country, and there would be an important conversation about our constitutional future.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): Has my noble and learned friend noticed that the leader of the Opposition has appointed a member of the shadow Cabinet, Jon Trickett, with specific responsibility for taking forward a UK constitutional convention?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: That is very welcome. It is not just within our respective parties but in many other parts of the House that there is a view that we should do that and look at some of these fundamental issues in a proper context.

From these Benches, our quest for a better whole will not prevent us seeking improvements in the component parts where possible. That is why I will respond positively to the invitation from the noble

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Baroness the Leader of the House to engage and find ways in which the Government, the Opposition and, indeed, the Cross Benches can improve the workings of this House, albeit short of the democratic mandate that I would like.

One such measure would be to end the system of hereditary by-elections to the House. As my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood said in 2011:

“I do not see that in the 21st century we can possibly stand up and say that people become Members of the British Parliament by heredity and election by three or four people”.—[Official Report, 21/10/11; col. 474.]

As I understand it, when it was introduced, the by-election system was supposed to be a temporary measure until the then Labour Government’s “second stage” of Lords reform. But like the promise of the 1911 Act, we are still waiting.

The role of patronage in the appointment of Members could be significantly reduced, with a stronger role for the independent Appointments Commission, as has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall. A more radical change to membership, but one that would be consistent with the thinking of the 2012 Bill, would be to introduce time-limited appointments rather than membership of the House being for the rest of one’s life. This would address some of the concerns of ever-increasing membership, while ensuring that membership is refreshed.

The main premise of the Motions before the House today is that, if we reduce the size of your Lordships’ House, everything will be fine. Respectfully, I profoundly disagree. There are fundamental issues to be addressed in our ever-evolving constitution, of which the role of the House is but one. I continue to believe, and make no apology for it, that democratic reform of the House would go a long way to addressing some of the criticisms that have been levelled at us in recent weeks. But in the absence of democratic reform, I undertake to work constructively with the other Benches in your Lordships’ House to improve our composition, our processes and, I sincerely hope, our reputation. However, I urge the Leader of the House, in the haste to resolve a seating shortage, please do not lose sight of the deep-rooted challenges facing this Chamber.

4.42 pm

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster (CB): My Lords, there are many issues about the future of this House that could well be reviewed. However, today, we are addressing the question of its size.

It is a truth universally agreed that the House is too large and should be smaller; how much smaller is a matter for debate. I suggest that we should be aiming at an average of about 450 Members as our eventual goal, with not more than 500 and not fewer than 400.

Out trouble is this: the intake resulting from the creation of new Peers persistently exceeds the outflow resulting from deaths and voluntary retirements. So the size of the House has been, and is, increasing remorselessly.

I listened with great respect to the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. However, I am afraid I do not believe it realistic to think that any

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Prime Minister would be willing to accept the imposition of any restriction on the number of peerages that he or she may recommend to be created. Any restraint on the part of the present or any other Prime Minister would be very welcome but purely voluntary.

We need, therefore, to look for means of increasing the rate at which Peers leave the House. In my view, we should not try to do this by setting a fixed age of compulsory retirement—attractive though the proposition by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, is—because that would provide only temporary relief. Instead, we should look for a more rational, progressive and lasting way of dealing with the problem, and the way we deal with it should be a matter for the House of Lords itself to decide and operate.

My proposals would be as follows. The Life Peerages Act 1958 should be amended so as to provide that people shall be appointed as Peers for life but as Members of the House of Lords for fixed terms of five years. The House should have the power to renew the appointment of a Peer as a Member of the House of Lords for a further term or terms of five years. Decisions to renew should be taken on the recommendation of a reappointments committee of the House, chaired by the Lord Speaker.

That committee should be able to recommend, and the House to approve, repeat renewals without any statutory limits on age or length of service. In deciding whether to recommend a renewal, the committee would have regard to length of service, to age, to value of contribution to the work of the House, and to any other relevant considerations. No doubt the committee would be able, if it thought fit, to have regard to considerations of balance between the various party political and independent groups of Peers.

The presumption should be that at the first review of an appointment after the first five years of membership, the committee would recommend renewal for a second five-year term unless there was some positive reason, such as minimal contribution to the work of the House, to justify withholding such a recommendation. For second and subsequent renewals, the burden of proof should be reversed: the committee should look for positive reasons to recommend renewal for a further five-year term.

These provisions would apply to Peers created after the new legislation came into effect. There would need to be transitional arrangements to deal with those who are already Members of the House. My proposal here would be for the existing Members of the House to be brigaded in five groups according to length of service. Each group would be reviewed by the reappointments committee at the beginning of a parliamentary Session, and the committee would recommend which of the members of the group should be asked to take voluntary retirement under the 2014 Act not later than at the end of that Session.

Thus, those in the first group with the longest service would be reviewed in May 2016, with those recommended for voluntary retirement being asked to retire not later than April 2017. The process would then be repeated in 2017-18 for the second group,

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including those who had survived from the first review, and so on. Thus the last group would be reviewed in 2020-21.

These transitional arrangements could probably be given effect by Standing Orders if there was general agreement that they should be introduced. If the proposals were adopted, I suggest that noble Lords who are hereditary Peers be allowed to continue as Members of the House until death or retirement but should not be replaced.

I commend these proposals for the consideration of the House as offering a rational, progressive, lasting and workable means within the control of the House for reducing the size of the House of Lords to a more acceptable level.

4.48 pm

Lord Strathclyde (Con): My Lords, it has not been a great few weeks for your Lordships’ House. There has been much commentary and debate in the press and the media in general, especially discussions on the growth of numbers in this House. This has been tied in with the Prime Minister’s Dissolution list, which was inevitably longer than a mid-Parliament list would have been. We should recognise that it also marked the end of the coalition, which is why the Liberal Democrats were so recognised with an increase in their number.

This debate is premised on numbers. I have been waiting to hear a definitive case for a reduction in numbers to be made, and there have been various suggestions. The noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, has just suggested a figure—450—that we should come down to. I recognise that there is a general dissatisfaction about the numbers in our House, which is reflected outside it, but I am not convinced that the case has been made, or sure how much that reduction should be. One reason is that we hear far more about the number of Peers who come in, rather than the numbers who leave for whatever reason. I would encourage my noble friend the Leader of the House to make known every quarter, perhaps by Written Statement, how many Peers have left and whether they have died, retired or taken leave of absence. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, said that we lose about 20 a year through death, and that the Leader of the House said that about 30 retired in the last 12 months. That is 50 altogether, which puts the Prime Minister’s list into a slightly different perspective.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords—

Lord Strathclyde: I am very happy to be corrected later on, perhaps by the Leader of the House.

More importantly, I am not sure that numbers have ever counted for much in the House of Lords. In every single Parliament between 1945 and 2001, Labour were in a small minority in the House, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Yet, when in government they were always able to carry the Queen’s business—as did the Conservative Party—but perhaps more important than that, when in opposition they were extremely effective. In fact, I have always thought that the Labour Party was better in opposition in the House of Lords than in government.

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One of the reasons for that is that we all recognise the limits of our power in the House of Lords. Yet, this century we have been testing the limits of that power. While we as a House might have become more relevant, and perhaps more political, I am not sure that we have become more powerful as a House, and nor should we. The House of Lords defeats the Government from time to time, but what is much more powerful than defeat is the strength of the argument that is deployed and the influence that is brought to bear, particularly if there is a sign of a rebellion from the party in government.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I recollect that during his time as Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships’ House, he and other Opposition parties defeated the Labour Government on, I think, 33% of all the votes. Is he now recanting from that?

Lord Strathclyde: When the noble Lord reads my words, he will see that I said that far more powerful than defeating the Government was the strength of the argument. I maintain that that was the case even when we defeated the Government when I was Leader of the Opposition.

As other noble Lords have said, what also counts is that this House should do what it is asked to do: holding the Executive to account; scrutinising and revising legislation; debating the great issues of the day and informing Government and the people of our collective views; holding great committees of inquiry that take evidence; and thinking through the solutions to the difficult issues that face our country. The noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition indicated that that might not be complementing the work of the House of Commons, but that is exactly what my noble friend the Leader of the House meant when she said that we should complement the Commons. I very much welcome the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is still in post. It is a great relief to us all that she was reconfirmed.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I can inform the noble Lord that I am elected by the Labour Peers, and whoever is leader of the Labour Party, they have me.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, we are all very happy that that was the case.

I shall comment briefly on the various options of which there are only three. One is term limits, which the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, mentioned. I shall have to read what he said to understand some of his nuances. Others mentioned a term of 15 years. I wonder whether someone who was in mid-career, aged 45 or 50, would really welcome doing just 15 years in the House of Lords, or say a Conservative Peer arriving in 1996 and being flung out in 2011 just as we got into government.

Secondly, age limits sound simple and fair, but as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, realised, we might lose rather more than we gain. He has therefore invented a sort of life after death: a reverse euthanasia for Peers over 80. Yet, following me, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield will be making his valedictory

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speech. Of course we would hear a lot more of those from over-80 year olds if we adopted the noble Lord’s scheme.

The third option is a straightforward reduction—say, 20% of the House—like that of the hereditary Peers in 1999. This probably has the greatest merit, but it is not without its flaws. First, it is an immensely unpleasant process: I have been through it and can attest to that. Secondly, it creates what I may call the Pearson problem: the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is part of a smaller party, as are the Greens and the Welsh nationalists—I wish there were Scottish nationalists here as well—and I think they should be excluded from any process of reduction because there are so few of them.

I also echo what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, said: that any solution to this must recognise that we represent so many different parts of the United Kingdom and that the constitutional settlement is currently in flow. Nothing will happen unless the leaders of the parties and the Convenor of the Cross Benches can come to an agreement. I strongly urge that they work with the noble and learned Lord to see whether there is any consensus for coming forward with what I hope will be a non-legislative solution.

4.55 pm

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield (Valedictory Speech): My Lords, one of my few really painful regrets is that I have not spent more time in your Lordships’ House, not least because of all the characters that one meets along these corridors. I remember that the first time I had a sandwich lunch here, I found myself sitting between one Peer who had just made a killing in his Bond Street gallery and another who had been in trade unions all his working life. It was wonderful to hear the conversation between them. So, before addressing the debate, I want to give my thanks to the officers and staff of the House, who have been so supportive during my time in your Lordships’ House.

As noble Lords know, Bishops sit not as Peers but as Lords spiritual and our position is ex officio. When we retire from our office, we also retire from this House. My own time to withdraw will be at the end of this month, so this is likely to be my final contribution from these Benches. Like all on these Benches, I have greatly appreciated the opportunity that it has provided to take part in debates on issues of great national and international importance. I have enjoyed the tussles and I have been astounded by the courtesy of so many Ministers, who have left no stone unturned to try to find an answer to the questions that I have had or the comments that I have made.

Since King Charles II’s time, the number of Lords spiritual allowed to sit in this chamber has been capped by statute at 26. It is an arrangement that ensures that there is a steady turnover on these Benches and that, over time, each part of the nation that the Church of England serves has a voice and a presence in this House. The question of the size of the House is back at the forefront of the debate on Lords reform. This Bench has worked for so long with the principle of an upper cap; it is something that others may want to consider.

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Bishops have been Members of this House for as long as it has existed, apart from a brief period under Oliver Cromwell, and until the Reformation the majority of Lord Chancellors were also Lords spiritual. We take our modest, modern-day role seriously as part of our general vocation towards service to the nation. It is often said—indeed, it has been said already today—that, when it comes to governance and reform, our country is fonder of evolution than revolution. The same could be said for your Lordships’ House. In response to pressing need, steady and incremental changes have been made, and they have ensured that this House has kept itself equal to the task of revision and scrutiny so vital to its function.

We have in recent years been preoccupied with the size of the parties in this House, and rightly so. As a more or less neutral observer, it appears to me that this House is at its best when neither Her Majesty’s Government nor her loyal Opposition have large overall majorities. Proper, detailed, expert scrutiny, debate and discussion is what this Chamber thrives on. In that regard, it is essential that Cross-Bench and independent Peers remain a significant presence in this House to hold the balance and to ensure that all sides work together for the good of all.

Whatever the future holds for this House, it has been a great privilege to serve the people of Staffordshire, Shropshire and the Black Country, as well as being the 98th Bishop of Lichfield. I expect that the seat I vacate on these Benches towards the end of the month will be occupied by the new Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman. She will become the second female Lord spiritual to join your Lordships’ House. I wish both her and the new Bishop of Gloucester well in their roles here. As I have, I am sure that they will find the opportunity to serve in this way an enriching and rewarding experience. I give you my thanks.

5 pm

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, it is a very great pleasure and honour to follow the right reverend Prelate. I was a member of the Lichfield General Synod delegation that met in the appointments committee to recommend a new Bishop of Lichfield when the former bishop retired. We chose the right reverend Prelate to be our bishop in the diocese of Lichfield and he did not disappoint us. He quickly became known for the exercise of quiet, gentle authority. He will be much missed and fondly remembered in the diocese of Lichfield. I no longer live in that diocese—I now live in Lincoln—but I shall always treasure my connections, in particular the friendship that I enjoyed and I hope will continue to enjoy, with the right reverend Prelate. The House of Lords owes him much, and by his speech today he has demonstrated that there is a real validity and value in having a Bench of Bishops in your Lordships’ House.

I must declare an interest. As many of your Lordships know, some 13 years ago my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth and I founded the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, which only today had a well-attended meeting with more than 50 of your Lordships present. Before the events of July and before the new list, we established a sub-committee, which I have the honour

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of chairing, to look at the whole question of numbers in your Lordships’ House. This is not a problem that has just emerged; it is one of which we have been very conscious for a long time. It would be wrong for me to come out in favour of any particular solution in this debate because I would be pre-empting the discussion of our sub-group, but there are things that we are looking at and have to look at—some have already been touched on in the debate. I hope that we will be in a position to produce a degree of consensus in a report that your Lordships’ House will be able to consider, along with other reports, later this year.

I am well aware that to go for an arbitrary retirement age would be a simple but slightly crude solution. I am bound to say, along with my noble friend Lord MacGregor, the chairman of the Association of Conservative Peers—who sadly cannot be here today but he asked me to mention this—that I find some attraction in this solution. As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, has already referred to, at the end of this Parliament on 30 March 2020, by which time Dissolution has to occur, 260 of your Lordships will be aged 80 or over, of whom I will be one.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, has indicated in his Motion that his solution perhaps needs refining—maybe we should look at other things. With the help of the Library I got some figures. There are 140 Members of your Lordships’ House who spoke less than once a year in the last Parliament. Some 17 of those eligible to attend in the last Session did not come at all. In the whole of the last Parliament, 119 voted fewer than 20 times and 47 did not vote at all. These are things that we have to take into account. I believe that there are solutions. I am bound to say that, much as I admire and respect the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, I thought that his solution was a tad complicated, but we could set a limit, a cap, on the number of Members in your Lordships’ House. At our sub-committee meeting last week, there was something approaching consensus in saying that we should try to fix your Lordships’ House at a size no bigger than that of the House of Commons—in other words, 600, as it will be at the beginning of the next Parliament. Maybe we should move on beyond that.

How do we do that? One solution that could commend itself to your Lordships would be that at the beginning of each Parliament the Cross-Benchers—who should be guaranteed 20% of the places—and the various party groups should elect, or select, so many of their number. There are constitutional precedents for this. The Acts of Union 1707 gave the Scottish peerage the opportunity and the duty of selecting 16 of their number to sit at Westminster in the House of Lords. Nearly 100 years later, in 1801, the Act of Union with Ireland gave the Irish peerage 28 seats in your Lordships’ House. Maybe this is a precedent that we should look at carefully. If we had a cap on numbers and did something like this within the Cross-Bench group and the party groups, we would have some satisfaction that it would not be driven by age or any other specific factor; it would take into account the contributions made by the Peers concerned. I also think we ought not to have a situation where the Prime Minister’s patronage is extinguished—that would be completely

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wrong—but, if at the beginning of each Parliament he were given 10%, he could nominate new or reappoint old as he wished.

My final point in this necessarily brief speech is that there is some merit in saying that a peerage should be for life but membership of this House should be for a defined period. I would make it a genuinely long defined period—perhaps as long as 20 years, but certainly 15—because I do not like the power of the Whips, and if they thought they could exercise a sort of perverse patronage every five years, your Lordships’ House would not be what it is today. I believe fundamentally in a House that does not challenge the unambiguous democratic mandate of the House of Commons and that acknowledges the supremacy of the House of Commons, but that brings together talent and experience from all walks of life in a way that no other second Chamber in the world is able to do.

5.08 pm

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, I quote from a very interesting little article in the New Statesman the other week by Mr Peter Wilby, a former educational correspondent on the Guardian:

“Are the Tories secretly planning to kill off the House of Lords in its present form? It is hard to reach any other conclusion from David Cameron’s extraordinary ennoblement of failed and discredited politicians alongside obscure Tory donors and former special advisers. Now the house has more than 800 members, it has become a joke, even to those who were previously among its firmest supporters”.

In my view and in the eyes of the electorate, this House looks quite ridiculous. All the good work by very talented men and women is now sidelined in a sea of ridicule. A very small number of individuals, party donors, expenses cheats and vendors of access have undermined the credibility and reputation of this institution. It is in that climate that Mr Cameron now intends to stuff not just 50 or 35 Conservative Peers—whatever it is—into the House. This is only the first group; there will be further groups in the next 12 months.

We know he has a problem because the Government want their business to get through, but he created the problem by bringing into this House a disproportionate number of Peers in the last Parliament, many of whom were Liberal Democrats. This is not the first time that he has stuffed the House. He stuffed it with 110 Peers in the period between May and November 2010, putting so much pressure on the introductions system that, in the Procedure Committee, we had to carry two reports that year—the first and third reports—recommending an arrangement for an increase in the daily intake of Members. A Motion was put before the House to do that, and I suspect that it will have to come before the House again. We are in a position to block it if we wish to slow down the process of introduction.

I want a cap and have a partial solution for that: one death equals one new appointment, and one retiree equals one new appointment—what I call the policy of substitution. That approach, in a rather simplistic way, would immediately cap the numbers, but the problem of the disproportionality remains. In the procedures and practices debate earlier this year, I

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predicted that the Liberals would be reduced to a rump, which they were; that there would a be a huge increase in the UKIP and Green vote, which there was; and that all that would be followed by a further invasion of a large number of Liberal Democrat Peers, who in my view should not be taking their seats in this House at this stage. I recognise the immense contribution made by people like Menzies Campbell and Alan Beith over many years in the House of Commons, but I still do not believe that they should be coming in at this time on the basis of the present arrangement. They should come in on the basis of the policy of substitution which I referred to.

My long-term view has remained the same from the day I was appointed to this House. I believe in either indirect or direct elections, and everything else is a compromise. In the interim, however, how do we proceed to reduce the numbers? The document produced by the Library sets out a number of possible arrangements, such as severance and the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, for the 80-plus option. But we could consider a two-tier system of membership: voting membership and non-voting membership. How would you divide the voting membership from the non-voting membership? You could have internal elections, which I suppose could reflect proportionality, or you could have another system which is more blunt but which to some extent takes into account the system proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. You could have a system whereby those who remained in the House after the age of 80 would simply not have a vote; those under 80 would vote. That would enable those with huge experience who were still clear in their thinking to come to this House and give it the benefit of their judgments and then leave without voting. It would provide them with flexibility in their later lives and yet bring to the House the benefit of their knowledge.

5.14 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, the Leader of the House, the Lord Privy Seal, in introducing this important debate said that the House “cannot grow indefinitely”. The problem is that, at the moment, it is growing indefinitely. Therefore, unless somebody somewhere changes the way in which things are happening, it will continue to grow and at some stage its membership will be over 1,000, which clearly would be a tipping point that would indeed make us look ridiculous, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.

The Leader also said that we should concentrate on our purpose, and the leader of my party, the Liberal Democrats, my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, asked: what is the House of Lords for? I think that most of us who are here have a pretty good idea of what it is for, because it is what we do. By and large, we do it fairly well. We can argue as to what we ought to do and whether we should do more or less of it, and we can argue about the ways in which we do it, but those things are relatively marginal. We know what it is for. The problem is that, increasingly, people out there—the rest of the country and the rest of the world—do not know what we do. They do not understand it, and those journalists who do have given up trying to tell those who do not.

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The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said that we are looking ridiculous. I think that he said that we are wallowing in a sea of ridicule, or something like that. We have to understand what the tipping point was in the media that caused that to happen. It was nothing to do with the size of the House. It was not to do with the Prime Minister appointing new Peers; it was not anything to do with what we do. It was the stupid behaviour, caught by the media, of one particular senior Member of this House. In the way that the British media operate, that is the event which put the House of Lords into a sea of ridicule—if that is where we are.

After what has been a dreadful summer for this House from a publicity point of view, the first thing that we have to do is to avoid any more ridicule in the short run. People who have the ear of the Prime Minister really have to tell him in words of one syllable that there must be no more significant appointments, no more large lists—there may be individuals, but that is different—of new Peers for the foreseeable future, certainly for 12 months. Then we can see how it goes beyond that.

Of course, the Prime Minister is accused of trying to boost the government numbers in the new circumstances of a Conservative Government, but he has not actually done that. He has boosted the government numbers on a net balance between the opposition parties and the government party by seven. Why appoint 45 Peers, and get all the opprobrium for doing that, when all it does is boost the government numbers by seven? The 10 defeats of the Government before the Summer Recess were all by majorities larger than that—some by very significantly larger majorities. The idea, which some people in the Conservative Party were telling me was going to happen, that we were going to get a lot of new Conservative Peers to make sure that the Government had something like a majority in this House, is nonsense. It cannot be done without a huge number of appointments.

One thing that can be done to avoid a degree of ridicule is the immediate abolition of hereditary Peers’ by-elections, which are amusing and fun, but if anybody out there really knew about them and what was going on, they would be a matter of derision. There must be a moratorium on lists. The idea of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, of one out and one in is a good one, although it does not actually reduce the numbers. Combined with a self-denying ordinance of no more lists for the foreseeable future, numbers would start to fall.

We must remember that one of the principles underlying the halfway reform of the House of Lords in 1999, when most of the hereditaries were invited to leave, was that never again would the Government have a majority in the House of Lords. Therefore, the House of Lords would be different; it would be a body with no overall political control. That was tested to its limits in the last five years under the coalition, and it was something that a lot of us on the Liberal Democrat Benches were well aware of. To some extent, some groups—I had better be careful how I phrase this—of people on the Cross Benches stepped in and filled the gap. They were very largely responsible for those occasions

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on which the Government were defeated, and they did a very good job with that. We are clearly the pivotal group again in the House, and that is the situation that was expected after the 1999 settlement. I therefore say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours—and I agree with a lot of what he said—that he has to stop his obsession with the Liberal Democrats and the numbers we have here.

Finally, in the whole of my political life, I have been an observer of and a member of bodies, including this House until recently, where the Liberal Democrats were disgracefully underrepresented. Now, suddenly, we are overrepresented; suddenly, we find that people such as the noble Lord are new devotees of proportional representation, but only in so far as it does us down. Let us work together on these things, rather than making those kind of remarks. I believe that there are ways forward and we should look for them constructively.

5.21 pm

Lord Wakeham (Con): My Lords, getting up to speak at this stage of the debate, I find that there have been so many interesting points that different people have made that I feel like abandoning what I was going to say and trying to comment on what other people have said; but I will resist that and try to say what I originally intended.

First of all, we ought to say that in spite of what everybody says, this place still does a pretty good job in what it is supposed to do. I do not think we should run ourselves down so much that people think we are a complete shower, as some people might have implied. Secondly, I accept that there are too many Peers in the House of Lords for us to do as effective a job as we ought to; we do not need as many Peers as we have. Therefore, if we could think of some ways of dealing with that, it would be right.

I congratulate the Leader of the House on her speech; I thought it was absolutely excellent. She employed the right tone for trying to see whether we could have some sensible discussions on what are extremely difficult issues. We have had various attempts over the years; and I see a former Lord Chancellor sitting over there who was very much involved in removing the hereditary Peers from this House. We ended up then saying that we needed 100 of them here, and as a matter of fact, the 100 who remained kept the House going. They were the hardest-working Peers in the whole place. Thank God we did that, but we did not succeed on that basis in reducing the numbers of people who regularly turned up. The leadership of my noble friend the Leader of the House has brought a highlight on the retirement of Members, but there is nothing new about that. Members have been able to retire for hundreds of years: we just do not turn up; we do not come. We all could have retired long ago if we had wanted to, but putting this emphasis on it has made people start to think about the numbers, and it is to her credit that that has been done.

The new law that criminals can no longer sit in this House, while an entirely creditable thing, is not—I sincerely hope—going to change the numbers significantly in the future. I hope the House will indulge me if I go back to 15 years ago, when I produced a royal commission report that a lot of people said was very good—it was

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balanced; it was this and that and the other thing—and then they did sweet nothing about it. It is interesting to reflect on why that was the case: the reason was that we had attempted in the royal commission to find a balanced solution that gave something to everybody. Actually, however, nobody—but nobody worth while—was prepared to compromise in any way. The result was to go on as we were. The lesson there is that we must find a consensus. The Prime Minister and Government are absolutely right in not bringing forward substantial legislation to reform this House until we can achieve some form of consensus. That is what we must do, and that means everybody will not get what they absolutely want. They will get some but not all of it.

What do we do now? As I listened to the suggestions, I should have made a list. On one side would have been those that require legislation. Forget about those—they will not happen for the next few years—so what can the House do without legislation? There is a great deal more we could do to find solutions if we set about that properly. They will not be perfect solutions and they will be, in my view, only temporary. It will be five or 10 years before any reform of this House comes into effect. It will probably be 10 years from now, even if it starts in the next Parliament. However, there are a lot of things we could do to deal with the numbers. My noble friend the Leader is absolutely right. She should work together with the other leaders of the parties to see whether we can work out some practical, sensible solutions. All sorts of things to do with allowances and so on can be done.

It would not be sensible for me to suggest in detail what should be done because once you start those sorts of negotiation, as with the reform of Europe, if you announce your final objectives then everybody wants to criticise them. We should genuinely have negotiations between the parties to see whether we could find practical solutions to deal with some of the problems. I am certainly prepared to write a letter to my noble friend to set out some of my thoughts on that but it is unhelpful to start a discussion by saying what you want to achieve at the end of it. We will not achieve everything but there is no reason why this House cannot do a number of things. We must find a majority that want to do them. In the interests of Parliament and recognising that we do a good job, I say that there are too many of us here—that is my recommendation to my noble friend.

5.27 pm

Baroness Hayman (CB): My Lords, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, I cannot resist temptation. I will not go through the Hayman formula for the basis on which to reduce numbers in your Lordships’ House. We are only a third of the way through the speakers already. We have had myriad suggestions and will have a few more. We will have many repetitions of suggestions.

I have nothing particularly novel to suggest to the House. In principle, I like the idea of term appointments but I would be more radical in divorcing membership of your Lordships’ House from the honours system completely in future. It is also important that, although I understand the Leader’s call for simplicity, we do not choose an instrument that is so blunt that it leaves us

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with a House of only recent appointees and none of the corporate memory that is often of great assistance to the House in its purpose. Purpose is important.

Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I think size matters, too. The size of the House at the moment is a barrier to public understanding of what the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, just said, which is absolutely true: the House does a very good job on a range of issues on which we have a common understanding. We cannot fight through the current level of disbelief in the necessity of a House of this size. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said he had not heard a good argument for reducing the size of the House, but public perception is a good argument. We can no longer say that the play is wonderful but the audience is terrible.

I did a lot of media commentary at the end of July. It was not a happy experience, but it left me in no doubt that, although it may have been sparked by the behaviour of an individual, we are in something of a perfect storm so far as the House’s reputation is concerned. The number of appointments, the seemingly random nature of how we decide the size of the House and the continued use of the prerogative are causing great damage to the reputation of the House.

There is also another argument about the working of the House, and the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, referred to this. I do not believe that ever-increasing numbers are allowing us to do our job of scrutinising the Government—of holding them to account—better. You have only to look at the truncation of speeches in debates and the inability of people who are often world experts to get in at Question Time to see that having more and more people does not make us more and more productive. It is tremendously important that we tackle the size of the House.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that nothing will happen unless the Leader of the House is able to create the political will among the leaders of the other parties and the Convenor to take this forward. The key is not to have the detailed list of how we are going to do it, but to create the sense that action will follow the statement of principles. For the statement of principles, I would go for a cap on the size of the House before the next general election that reduces it to below the size of the House of Commons. I may not win that one—450, 550 or 602 might be a better number—but we must have a number and one that will not be exceeded in future.