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.