Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Lord Judd (LR 18)

  Thank you for your letter telling me of the Inquiry your Select Committee is planning to hold into the proposed system for appointments to the Lords and related issues. I would make the following comments:

  1.  The UK is a pluralist society. Our democratic institutions need to reflect that pluralism and a second chamber can make a vital contribution in that respect. This should be extended to religious representation where the number of Anglican bishops is to be reduced but where they alone will still be there as of right while other denominations and religions will be at the discretion of the Appointments Commission. The establishment of the Church of England does, of course, complicate the issue, as does the monarch's role as head of the Church; but if we are really recognising that we are a pluralist society this arrangement scarcely reflects it. I speak as an Anglican!

  2.  Power and authority should continue to lie with the Commons. The Second Chamber should be about reflection and advice. Care must be taken not to introduce, even inadvertently, a competition for power between the two houses.

  3.  I have always felt that, while a directly elected Second Chamber may sound attractive, there would be difficulties in relating it to the two points above and that it could well reinforce the trend towards a "closed" political community rather than opening up politics to those with wider experience and independence of mind and judgement. I am therefore supportive of the decision to keep a majority of appointed members, but I would like to see a larger proportion of these appointed by the Commission rather than nominated by political parties.

  4.  While reflection and advice should be a prime responsibility, the Second Chamber should also make a point of being able to initiate debates on issues of significance which have not somehow made it onto the legislative agenda of the Commons. In other words, the Second Chamber should not be merely passively responsive to what comes from the Commons.

  5.  As a layman I do not quite see how the separation of the judiciary and the executive is to be underlined if the Second Chamber is to be a working political place and active judges (and the Lord Chancellor!) are still to be there.

  6.  Hereditary peerage has no place in a Second Chamber for the future. However, it should be recognised that some of the hereditary peers who are still with us continue to make an important contribution, sometimes greater than that made by some life peers. A way of giving those that do the opportunity to become working members should be envisaged; and convincing recognition of what they have done and still do should be generous and clear.

  7.  As we move into a new chapter in our constitutional history, we should not keep the old terminology. I welcome the proposed future break between membership of the House of Lords (ML) and being a Lord, but I also feel that a genuinely new Second Chamber should not continue to be called "House of Lords". To do so, and to retain the title "Lord" and "Baroness", will inevitably smack of just another new social elite wanting to take over from the old social elite. A new name should be found. Members should be properly remunerated and resourced so that nobody is debarred from memberships by limited wealth or by the nature of his or her employment; and there should be a retirement age.

  8.  Increasingly, key social, economic and other decisions are taken in multilateral institutions. The Second Chamber should have a specific responsibility to scrutinise what goes on it those multilateral institutions and what part the representatives of the UK are playing in them. The European Committee and its Sub-Committees in our present House do a good job, but the task—the UN system, IMF, World Bank, OECD, G8, NATO etc—is far wider than Europe alone. Meanwhile Lords who are members of delegations to the Council of Europe, NATO, OSCE etc should report back regularly at least to their own parties.

  I am sorry if this is long, but I have inevitably thought a good deal about it. I look forward to reading the Committee's findings in due course.

November 2001

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