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Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I do not pretend for one moment that what I have said is any justification for perpetuating a real injustice; rather, that the inherent unfairness of life is something to be acknowledged. But unfairness is not in itself a reason for precipitating change without good grounds for believing that the alternative proposed would be better. I am not persuaded that the alternative, so far as your Lordships' House is concerned, would be better.
Let us look then at what the Opposition propose. The first phase of their proposal would result in a House comprised entirely of appointed Members. Where is the improvement in that? It has been said before that it would result in the biggest quango in the country. Like my noble friend Lady Young, I was interested yesterday to hear the noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, say that,
My noble friend the Lord Privy Seal spoke earlier today about how interim solutions have a tendency to become permanent. I agree that there is a danger of that happening in this case. But quite apart from that, what form would the second phase of the Opposition's proposed reform take? An elected second chamber, other than in a federal nation, would be a nonsense. I am glad to be able to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, on that point. I am sorry to quote Mr. Enoch Powell again, but he is a great authority on the subject. He said that:
Even if that question could be satisfactorily answered, and I have not yet seen an answer which I find convincing--even among those put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire--what would be the result?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us whether he thinks that the constitution of the United States is a nonsense from start to finish? It rests utterly on the principle that the Senate and the House of Representatives are both elected.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I made the point about any federal system. There could, of course, be different arrangements. As the noble Lord himself and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, pointed out, we do not have such a system. There is no demand for it. There are substantial problems in having two elected Houses in this Parliament, not least the unlikelihood of another place voting for it.
What would be the result? My noble friends Lord Campbell of Alloway and Lord Hindlip gave the answer. It would be a second chamber of professional politicians. Is that really what is wanted in a world where so many people already feel that public affairs are over-politicised? The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, reminded us of the dangers of simply following the practices of the House of Commons.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester observed that your Lordships set an example of right conduct and proper relationships and behaviour to one another. How unusual that is in public life, and how much it would be undermined by greater politicisation of this House.
And for how long would such a second chamber be content with the limited powers of advice and delay which your Lordships exercise? There would no longer be justification for the constraints embodied in the Parliament Acts, and I doubt that an elected second chamber would observe the self-denying ordinances of your Lordships' House. Such a chamber would be hungry for more power. Do we really wish to set up such a rival to another place? That is what the Opposition seem to want. Would they not have confidence in their majority in the House of Commons? Seemingly not.
Some noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Richard, suggested that the fundamental flaw of this House is its lack of democratic legitimacy. To them I say that our parliamentary system is firmly rooted in democratic principles. Power is concentrated in the House of Commons; an election must take place no later than five years after the last; and governments can be,
In conclusion, one striking aspect of this two-day debate is the number of questions that have been raised and the number of questions that have been unanswered. Many of those questions were posed to the party opposite. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, did his best to answer some of them. If I may say so, impertinently, he did so with a great deal of skill. But I could not help wondering while he was making his speech whether the Opposition's original, clear plan was becoming increasingly muddled. The noble Lord raised a number of new questions that remain unanswered. Before the next general election the Labour Party will have to answer them.
Our debate has shown that our living constitution is a subject which commands passion on all sides of the House. I speak from the heart when I say that it is something too precious to be tampered with lightly.
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