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Mrs. Beckett: We have the Nolan principles.

Mr. Letwin: We know that; there are all sorts of Nolan principles, which could apply also to the selection of peers--why not? They cannot because the right hon. Lady and her colleagues admit implicitly that there is a problem at least of appearance and perhaps in reality.

The Government believe that we need an Appointments Commission. Why not therefore move one stage further, at least, and hand the selection of that commission to the Speaker--as all hon. Members have confidence in that source? Alternatively, why not allow the registered political parties to make, without a veto, political appointments to the Appointments Commission? We offer either alternative, or both, with or without the Labour party manifesto's own proportionality rules. We offer a complete menu of possibilities.

Today, it falls to the Government to show the Committee that they really mean not to increase--as, unfortunately, we suspect that they do mean to increase--patronage by adopting at least one of our proposals, given that they are, alas, unlikely to adopt the far more radical proposals of the hon. and learned Member for Medway or my hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills and for Chichester.

Mr. Tipping: This has been a wide-ranging debate. Some hon. Members may think that it has ranged too widely. Although the debate has sometimes been emotive, we can be proud of its vigour, and of the light that it has shed in the Chamber. I intend to stick to the narrow parameters of amendment No. 13, and shall perhaps be the only hon. Member to do so.

As we know, the Bill is a simple one, and will remove hereditary peers from the other place. It is fascinating that, although the Bill focuses on hereditary peers, for the past two and a half or three hours the debate has focused on life peers.

Mr. Shepherd: I am slightly puzzled. It sounds as though the Minister is winding up, and I am not sure why he should be. Other hon. Members seem to want to speak to the amendments in Committee.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. That is a matter for the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Tipping: I am sure that the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who has much more

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experience in these matters than I do, will know that it is a matter for the Chairman. I look forward to hearing your decision, Mr. Lord.

The focus has been on life peers and how they should be selected in the interim stage. The other main subject of the debate has been the powers of patronage. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) made a strong speech on the subject, describing his amendments as short but perfectly formed. I thought for a moment that he was applying the description to himself. However, the deficiencies in his amendments became clear when he was challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) and by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. If my hon. and learned Friend's amendments were passed, Labour Ministers would not be able to appoint to the interim House, but Conservatives would.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): If amendment No.13 and new clause 17 were both passed, would it not be possible for the prerogative to be exercised by the Appointments Commission? That would not result in the interim House dwindling away as the Minister suggests.

Mr. Tipping: I listened carefully to the interesting and scholarly speech of the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie). We are talking about trying to balance the numbers of Labour and Tory peers, but his new clause would result in Tory peers keeping control of the House. He has not done his sums. When we challenged him on how long it would take to achieve equity in the upper House, he did not have the answer. It would take a long time. One of the themes of the debate is that, when the Conservatives are faced with losing influence and power in the upper House, they switch to arguments about how peers should be found for the interim Chamber.

Mr. Tyrie: It is a shame that the Minister is suggesting that my new clause was an attempt at a party political fix. It was nothing of the sort, despite the mutterings of the Leader of the House. I made it clear that I am sympathetic towards other proposals, which would not necessarily sit with this group of amendments, that would result in roughly equal numbers of Labour and Conservative Members in the upper House. I referred to the possible introduction of a retirement age of 75. I have done my sums on that idea, which would leave Labour with six more Members than the Conservatives. It is a travesty to suggest that I have been engaged in a party political fix.

Mr. Tipping: The hon. Gentleman may confuse his intention with the effect of his new clause, which would be negligible change. I would have more sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's point had he not made so much play of what he called the Prime Minister's abuse of power. I know that he has consulted the record carefully, but he has not told the full story. Conservative Prime Ministers have used their powers of patronage to a similar extent to the present Prime Minister.

Mr. Lansley rose--

Mr. Tipping: I shall not give way any more. I have been generous with my time. I have listened to a great many speeches from Conservative Members.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley pointed out deficiencies in the amendment. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills had to table a new amendment to make up for those deficiencies. My hon. and learned Friend would say that he was not worried about the technicalities or the drafting, but that he was interested in the big picture--the vision thing. However, the vision thing about which he tried to tell us--as is often his way--was the abuse of patronage by the Prime Minister.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) was simply wrong to say that the Opposition could appoint by recommendation to the House. Does my hon. Friend the Minister accept that?

Mr. Tipping: If my hon. and learned Friend consults the record tomorrow, he will see that he acknowledged the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley. We are aware of the dangers inherent in prime ministerial control of access to the fount of honour. We have suffered from that in the past, and that is why the current Prime Minister--unprecedentedly--has taken steps to reduce his sole powers of patronage.

Let me remind the Committee of those steps. First, we have committed ourselves not to seek more than broad parity of numbers with the main Opposition party, and to allow proportionate creations for the Liberal Democrats and other parties, including Cross Benchers. That is a smaller share of the overall strength of the House than we proposed in the manifesto, and we will still be in a 2:1 minority in the House.

Secondly, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has promised that we will not interfere in the details of nominations from the other party leaders or from the Appointments Commission. That is the first time that such a public commitment has been given. Conservative Members may complain, but their record on constitutional change during their 18 years in power can be described only as a black hole.

Finally, we have undertaken to set up an independent Appointments Commission to make recommendations for Cross-Bench peers. I will not go into the detail of the arrangement now, but there is one issue to which I wish to draw attention. The new body will take over the functions of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee in relation to all peerages. That means vetting them for propriety. The standards of propriety in question will be those recommended by Lord Neill in his report on the funding of political parties. The arrangements for ascertaining whether a peerage has in any way been bought will be strengthened. That will apply to all peerages, including those recommended by the party leaders.

The hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) who spoke--or, perhaps, wound up--for the Opposition, spoke at length of the deficiencies in the amendment tabled by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway, although he was, in principle, sympathetic. He felt that it would not be acceptable to the Government--or, perhaps, to himself--for reasons that he spelled out. At a very late stage, the hon. Gentleman mentioned for the first time new clauses 3, 4 and 5.

The hon. Member for West Dorset described, quite rightly, new clause 3 as the minimalist position, builton--in a step-ladder approach--by new clauses 4 and 5.

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He tried to persuade us that the appointments body that he would ask the Speaker to set up would be better than the Appointments Commission that we recommend. He said that our Appointments Commission would be set up under the Nolan rules. I remind him that those Nolan rules were introduced by the previous Conservative Government and were strengthened by this Government.

Mr. Letwin: If the Nolan rules are good enough for the appointment of that commission--and if there is no problem with something appointed by the Prime Minister under the Nolan rules--why not use the Nolan rules to appoint Members of the other place?


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