Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Lord Temple-Morris (LR 27)

  Many thanks indeed for your letter of 21 November 2001 and I am delighted that your Committee is undertaking this report. I spoke in both the major debates on phase 1 and then phase 2 reform of the Lords during the last Parliament and my views are therefore on the record. However, I would like to make the following points for the consideration of your Committee:

  1.  Virtually everyone has a different view or emphasis on the House of Lords Reform. The Commons debate on phase 2 reform was extraordinary in the sense that I do not think any single speaker, from whichever side of the House he came, totally agreed with any other speaker!

  2.  Unless the major Parties manage to agree on the reform of the Lords I think it would be almost a waste of time to embark on it. I do not believe the Government would wish to have its programme grossly interfered with by this particular measure and it is certainly the case that if the proposed reform is against the will of the House of Lords there is no easier institution to bring to a virtual halt!

  3.  I do not think either the Wakeham Report, or for that matter the Government White Paper, does the job of providing a basis upon which people can broadly agree. We are quite likely to get ourselves in such a muddle that we may lose this opportunity for reform.

  4.  Specific points:

    (i)  A system of indirect election. I really do not think we have given this sufficient consideration. Under our system and traditions the Commons should be and remain paramount. A part appointed and part indirectly elected House would not only provide a worthy Chamber but would also see to this. Precise percentages are negotiable but the appointed part could be part independent and part nominated by the political parties. Contrary to my views when in the Commons I think the Bishops and the Law Lords do add something and can if you so decided remain. The indirectly elected part of the House could be done through "colleges of interest" broadly along the lines of the Irish Senate who are nominated by Panels. However, the weakness of the Irish Senate is not in the system but in its electorate which is political and comprised of members of the Irish Dail and local authorities. To my mind lawyers should elect their own lawyers, doctors and so on. Similarly national parliaments and assemblies, not to mention the English Regions could elect their own representatives which need not be members of those particular bodies. These members can be re-elected at each general election by their respective colleges whose interest they will of course represent in the Upper House.

    (ii)  Proportion elected. The concept of having some 40 per cent of the members of the House of Lords appointed by the political parties and another 20 per cent regionally elected finds little public support. The main point here is that some 60 per cent of the Upper House will basically be there by party patronage. If a regional PR system of election is used then the place on the list given by the party is everything. There is little difference between that and direct appointment. The constituency links of such a regional system of PR are fairly tenuous and would not put people off. It follows from this that if party political patronage is to be used to put people in the Upper House it would come to the same thing if the vast majority were elected on a regional list, which would in practice be subject to party patronage, and a small percentage could be directly appointed by the parties. I do not particularly advocate this system but just make the point that there is no point in being criticised for all these party nominations and such a small directly elected percentage when the same result could be achieved with a very much larger directly elected percentage.

    (iii)  Independence. The main problem with party nominations and patronage, whether for election or appointment, is of dependence upon the whips for re-nomination. As for appointments I would prefer them to be for life with a retirement age. Elected members are more difficult but I think a long term in office is a possible solution. Say three parliaments with one third going at each General Election.

    (iv)  Rights of Audience. A reformed House would be a good opportunity to devise a procedure whereby MEPs, members of national parliaments and Assemblies within the UK and perhaps others could participate in proceedings of the Upper House as deemed appropriate.

    (v)  The disassociation of the peerage with the House of Lords. I would agree with this in principle and I would prefer it to be called the Senate bearing in mind that those that are in it eventually are not peers and the peerage continues outside. However, the important point here is that once the attractions of a peerage are taken away from those prepared to serve in the Upper House there will be a number of people who will no longer be interested! At all cost we must avoid the Upper House becoming some sort of third division home for failed parliamentarians, assemblymen and councillors. This would be quite dreadful and would also act as a considerable deterrent upon Independents of quality being prepared to serve in such a gathering.

Peter Temple-Morris

November 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 25 February 2002