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Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): Why does the right hon. Gentleman resist the amendment, when it applies only to a transitional House and to new appointments made by patronage in that transitional House?

Mr. Maclennan: That is not how I read it. My understanding was that the amendment was designed to enunciate a principle that would have lasting force. I find it difficult to take exception to that principle; however, it is not part of the Bill, but part of what is to come. In that spirit, I hope that we can return to the matter and that the royal commission will take from this debate a sense that even those who are not willing to support the amendment will none the less judge the report by the extent to which it is committed to the principles enunciated by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield and by others, such as the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd).

Mrs. Dunwoody: I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he would find it difficult to deal with two classes of Members. Am I mistaken, or does his party support, for European elections, precisely the creation of two classes of Member?

Mr. Maclennan: We support one class of Member: one elected by the British people. Election may be from

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different bases, but I am defending the principle of election. That is a unitary principle that cannot and should not be watered down. Granted, not all political parties have such internally democratic systems of presenting their candidates to the public as the Liberal Democrat party--but that is perhaps to follow a red herring further than is necessary in the interests of keeping in order.

I hope that the royal commission will understand that we want a legitimate second Chamber and that legitimacy is directly proportional to election. The less the Chamber is elected, the less account will be taken of it by the country and by the Government. The arguments may be wise, sophisticated, knowledgable and independent, but, if they are not delivered by elected people, they will not carry weight. The country needs a second Chamber that carries weight, which is why the principle of election should be given much greater weight than it has been given in the discussions hitherto.

Mr. Winnick: The amendment is superficially attractive, but I believe that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) has jumped the gun and that it is inappropriate for us to decide today the composition of a second Chamber. After all, a royal commission has been appointed, so why anticipate its findings? My hon. Friend and others are at liberty to make representations to the royal commission, but when he says that patronage should be completely excluded he is saying that there is no need for a royal commission to investigate the matter, because we can make a decision tonight. I do not believe that we should do that.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: I ask my hon. Friend exactly the same question as I asked the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan). If the royal commission says that the Prime Minister's patronage should be an important and integral part of appointments to the second Chamber, will he accept that?

8 pm

Mr. Winnick: I shall certainly deal with that in the course of what I hope will be my brief remarks.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway has already admitted, the amendment has united Labour Members with differing views about the composition of the second Chamber. In one respect, if in one only, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)--I do not want a single Chamber either. I believe that that would be wrong, and am very much in favour of a second Chamber. Others argue the related case that any second Chamber must be democratically elected or it will have no legitimacy.

I witnessed a similar sort of coalition in 1969, when Labour and Conservative Members united, even though normally their views were very different. How quickly time passes: I have gained some grey hairs in the intervening 30 years, but at least I am sitting in the same corner seat as I occupied then, and I was pleased to return to it after 18 years in opposition.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway asked me a question about the second Chamber. I believe strongly that a fully elected second Chamber would be a direct challenge to this House. If that were the Government's proposal, I would not vote for it. I hope that I am as democratic as anyone else. My right hon.

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Friend the Member for Chesterfield spoke about the changes and reforms pioneered, to a large extent, by Labour Members. If I had been around at the time, I hope that I would have fully supported reforms such as votes for women, universal adult suffrage, and the abolition of the property qualification.

I do not believe, in expressing my opinion tonight, that I have ceased to be a democrat. I have believed, strongly and for many years, that a fully elected second Chamber--the essence of the amendment, and a proposal also made by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd)--is the inevitable consequence of the removal of patronage. That is why I am speaking to this amendment.

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): I have never quite understood the argument about the legitimacy of a directly elected second Chamber and the potential for confrontation with this House. Would it not be possible to set the precedence of this House in statute, and thereby resolve the problem?

Mr. Winnick: Of course. If the second Chamber were to be a fully democratically elected House, I have no doubt that, in the very nature of things, we would set down certain superior powers for this House. No one is suggesting that the two Houses would have equal powers.

Sir Patrick Cormack rose--

Mr. Winnick: What would happen in practice is that, in the event of a clash between this House and a fully elected second Chamber, that Chamber would have as much legitimacy as this House. It is bound to.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central): Of course.

Mr. Winnick: I, however, want this House to be supreme, and to be the decisive voice in law-making--

Mr. Grieve rose--

Mr. Fisher rose--

Sir Patrick Cormack rose--

Mr. Gordon Prentice rose--

Mr. Winnick: I am sorry to arouse such controversy. That was not my aim. I used to leave that to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield, but I just want to finish my point. When we were in opposition and there was a Conservative Government--and especially since we have been in government--how many times, when the House of Lords has rejected a measure, have hon. Members--Front-Bench and Back-Bench alike--dismissed that House's right to intrude in such matters? We have always claimed that we in this House decide matters, but that will not be possible with a fully elected second Chamber. We should have no illusions on that score.

Mr. McAllion: A Scottish Parliament will be a fully elected second Chamber. Why does my hon. Friend think that it will be unable to coexist with the fully elected House of Commons?

The Chairman: Order. If I may, I ask the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) to wait a moment before

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he responds. I think that we are getting involved in a debate that is too wide. The amendment is about the power of patronage to the House of Lords that will exist as a result of the passage of this Bill. It cannot be occasion for the much wider debate about an elected Chamber or a non-elected Chamber. Obviously, arguments against patronage might well refer to a preference for an elected Chamber, but only in passing: it is not the central part of the debate.

Mr. Winnick: I accept that, Sir Alan, and although I had a very good response to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), your guidance means that I am obviously not in a position to give it.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is a little quaint to talk of patronage as if it exists only in the other place? In this House, the Chief Whip is the Patronage Secretary, and there are hon. Members who are desperate for patronage and anxious for preferment.

Mr. Winnick: I see that Sir Alan is wearing a worried and anxious look. Clearly, I would be in difficulties if I were to pursue that question--although I did earlier, when I mentioned judges, Ministers and the rest. Their positions are all the result of patronage, and the notion that, in itself, patronage is absolutely evil and must never be countenanced is nonsense. It is part of life--certainly it is part of every walk of political life.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: Can we not make a distinction between patronage that puts people at the heart of the legislature, and patronage in other areas of life?

Mr. Winnick: What about Ministers? They carry a tremendous amount of authority, but are not subject to any election to become Ministers. If I were able to pursue the matter, Sir Alan, I could mention people in very senior positions, perhaps outside Parliament, whose authority is very great and who are subject to appointment in all sorts of ways. Not least among them are the most senior judges in this country.

I conclude by saying that I have strong views, which I have expressed. Obviously, those who believe in a fully elected second Chamber have equally strong views. However, the purpose of the royal commission is to examine all such questions. It is right and proper that it has been set up, and it should have as much representation as possible from people with strong views such as myself, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway, and many others. It is not our function tonight to make a decision about whether patronage should be excluded.


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