Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Lord Rix CBE (LR 13)

  It so happens that last week I submitted my "evidence" to the Lord Chancellor's Office, to the Government Chief Whip, Lord Carter and to our Cross-Bench Convenor, Lord Craig. I have great pleasure, therefore, in submitting it to you and your committee. I believe it makes some kind of sense out of a somewhat convoluted White Paper. I hope so, anyway!

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE WHITE PAPER "THE HOUSE OF LORDS—COMPLETING THE REFORM", BY LORD RIX

STEP 1. AROUND 2003—WHEN THE ACT IS PASSED

  When the remaining 92 hereditary peers no longer have the right to sit or vote in the House of Lords the make up of the House will be as follows.

Conservative
173
Labour
196
Liberal Democrat
61
Crossbench
120 (with 8 new appointments)*
Law Lords
28
Other (inc UUP, Green etc)
16
Bishops
16
Total
610
*possibly hereditary peers converted to life peers


  This would bring the numbers down to 610 and establish a small (23 member) lead for the Labour party over the main opposition party, the Conservatives, whilst giving no one party an overall majority in the house.

STEP 2. AROUND 2005—GENERAL ELECTION

  120 Members of the Lords will be elected for one parliamentary term at the same time as the General Election.

Remaining peers
610
Elected members
120
Total
730


  If the Labour party win the next General Election, the house will automatically reflect this as there will be more Labour members elected to the Lords than from the other parties.

  If the Conservatives win, they will need to elect at least 24 more than the Labour party to ensure that they are the party with the most members in the House. If there are not 24 more Conservative members elected the Appointments Commission will have to appoint members to redress the balance.

STEP 3. FROM 2005-2015

    —  The aim over the 10 years from 2005-15 would be for the number of non-elected Conservative and Labour members to fall to a permanent figure of 120 members each, meaning a loss of 53 Conservative members and 76 Labour members from 2003. Eventually this group would be appointed for two terms.

    —  The number of independent non-elected members would remain at 120. Eventually this group would also all be appointed, again for two terms.

    —  There would be 120 elected members, elected for one parliament.

    —  The non-elected Liberal Democrat element would rise to 70 by 2015 and there would be 50 others, including Bishops, Law Lords and some "others".

  The formula outlined above is a tidier formula than that proposed at present. There would be four blocks of 120 and a slightly more "untidy" remainer of 120 (non-elected Liberal Democrats and Others). Within this remainder there could be some fluctuations, for example as others decline, more Liberal Democrats will need to be appointed.

  Each election would automatically ensure that the party which won the election would have the most members in the Lords, thereby taking the task of balancing the chamber out of the hands of the Appointments Commission and putting it into the hands of the people.

  The Appointments Commission would appoint the remainder of the 430 non-elected members (120 Labour, Conservative and Independent and 70 Liberal Democrats) and would accept nominations from the party leaders for this. When the present member of the Lords have retired or passed away, the Appointments Commission would appoint all 430.

The figures in 2015 would be

Non-elected Labour
120
Non-elected Conservatives
120
Non-elected Lib Dems
70
Bishops/Law Lords/Others
50
Independent
120
Elected members
120
Total
600


  In 2015 the balance of the House should be revisited and if, for example, the Liberal Democrats have consistently gained in their share of the vote then they should be allocated more appointed members and the other parties have their appointed members reduced accordingly.

Other suggestions:

    —  Only to have a state opening of Parliament and a Queen's Speech at the beginning of each Parliament. At the beginning of the other sessions, the Prime Minister would set out the legislative programme for the year in a statement to the Commons, which would be repeated in the Lords, followed by the usual debates.

    —  Retirement should be encouraged, but with sufficient recompense.

    —  Hereditary peers should be allowed to be appointed and/or to stand for election to the House of Lords.

November 2001



 
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