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Lord Stanley of Alderley: I thank all noble Lords for their contribution. If I did not hook a shark on this occasion, perhaps I may say that it was a noble salmon. I agree with my noble friend Lord Dudley. I, too, have heard that the Bill is commonly called a sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Having listened to my noble friend Lord Ferrers on many occasions, I wonder whether he is a reincarnated Lewis Carroll because he plays the part extremely well.

Perhaps I may refer to my noble friend Lord Onslow as my noble kinsman. His comments were wrong.

Lord Elton: Can the noble Lord tell us how many noble kinsmen he has in the House?

Lord Stanley of Alderley: It depends how many are legitimate. The question of illegitimacy arises, in particular with one quite close to me at the moment!

I am not sure what side my noble kinsman Lord Henley is on. It was probably the wrong side if he was a kinsman, needless to say. His family were fortunate enough to inherit lands and wealth due to the extreme awkwardness--I could use a worse name--of a female member of my family who died not all that long ago. I think that he should be grateful and perhaps might buy me a drink on occasion.

I commiserate with the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. I understand that former members of his family were not called to this House in the 15th century. I am sorry about that, but I suppose we all have to start somewhere.

I conclude with the serious point of the amendment. The House which remains will be different from the present Chamber. It should be made quite clear that it will be different. My noble friend Lord Lucas raised the point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Davies. It is a serious point which the Government should address. I do not mind what the Members are called. I picked out Peers because it was the first name, I am sorry to say, that came into my head. But there must be a better way.

It is a valid point. We are changing. Let us not hide it. The noble Lord sought to hide behind his bushel. Let us make clear that we are changing in fact, in ceremony

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and so on. Let us make up our minds what we shall be called in future. I may return to the point. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Waddington moved Amendment No. 75:


After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

LIFE PEERAGES COMMISSION

(" .--(1) There shall be a Life Peerages Commission ("the Commission") which alone shall make recommendations to Her Majesty for the conferment of life peerages in accordance with the Life Peerages Act 1958.
(2) During the two years immediately following the passing of this Act the Commission shall recommend to Her Majesty the conferment of life peerages to the extent necessary to ensure that--
(a) no one political party commands a majority in the House of Lords,
(b) the Government has broad parity of numbers with the main opposition party, and
(c) the proportion of Cross Bench peers to the total number of life peers in the House remains as it was on the day before the passing of this Act.
(3) In each subsequent year the Commission shall recommend to Her Majesty the conferment of no more peerages than is necessary to continue to ensure as nearly as possible that--
(a) no one political party commands a majority in the House of Lords,
(b) the Government has broad parity of numbers with the main opposition party, and
(c) a significant independent Cross Bench element is maintained,
and in no circumstances shall the Commission recommend the creation of more than fifty peerages in any such year.
(4) The Commission shall consist of eight members of the Privy Council appointed by the Prime Minister.
(5) One Commissioner shall be appointed from each of the three largest parties in the House of Commons on the nomination of the Leader of each such party, and one shall be appointed from the Cross Bench peers on the nomination of the Convenor of the Cross Bench Peers.")

The noble Lord said: I can assure the Committee that we now deal with a matter of considerable substance. There is nothing Alice in Wonderland about this amendment. Many of the words in the amendment will be familiar to Members of the Committee. They are all taken from the Government's White Paper.

The Government state that they do not want one party to dominate what they call the transitional House. That is what the Government have stated at page 4 of the White Paper.

The Government say that they will ensure that no one political party commands a majority in this House. That is what the Government have stated as their intention at page 9 of the White Paper.

The Government say that they will maintain a significant independent Cross Bench element. That is the Government's stated intention at page 31 of the White Paper.

If that is what the Government say they want for the transitional House, let us put that in the Bill. Let a statutory body receive nominations from the political parties, the Prime Minister and others, and then carry out the duty of recommending peerages in numbers and

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from the various parties in accordance with what the Government say are their own intentions. What possible objection can there be to that?

Even if it were guaranteed to last for only a limited time, no harm would be done by writing the Government's intentions into the very Bill creating the transitional House. But in truth there can be no guarantee as to how long the transitional House will last. The fact that it might last quite a long time provides another reason--some might say an even stronger one--for writing appropriate provisions into the Bill creating the transitional House.

I must emphasise that to doubt whether the transitional House will last for only a short time is not to question the Government's good faith. I state the obvious. It is that no government can guarantee that another Bill providing for long-term reform will reach the statute book. On Tuesday the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said he could guarantee that stage two would come about. He said that speculation that stage two would not take place was fanciful and without foundation. If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor had been about the place in 1968 he would have learned that some matters are not always in the government's control.

I have to give exactly the same reply to the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal. She stated today that the Government are resolute in their determination to have stage two. Sometimes members of the Government seem to forget that it is Parliament and not the Government which ultimately decides whether a Bill will reach the statute book. Whether a Bill reaches the statute book depends ultimately on Parliament. I recommend to the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal what her noble friends Lord Barnett and Lord Shepherd said on Tuesday last. I commend in particular to the Committee what the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said at col. 1111 of the Official Report of 11th May. He said that there were a number of reasons why the transitional House might be with us for a long time. One is that with 600 noble Lords in the transitional House and 600 in the other place, there would be 1,200 different views as to what kind of second Chamber there should be.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, whether or not it is more likely that there will be an indeterminate interim period if a clause such as this is introduced into the Bill and will it not greatly reduce the pressure to introduce stage two?

Lord Waddington: I do not agree with that for one moment, but if the noble Lord were right it does not alter the fact that if the Government say their intentions are clearly stated in their own White Paper it is difficult to mount a powerful argument as to why they should not be put in the Bill.

I submit that what I say is plain common sense. In view of the Government's declared policy, it would not disadvantage them to write their intentions into their Bill. The argument advanced by the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal earlier today--that the time to discuss

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methods of appointment of life Peers will be when we come to stage two--is no argument when, first, there can be no guarantee of a stage two in the foreseeable future and, secondly, the Government have announced a detailed policy for appointment to the transitional House.

One thing must be made clear. The new House without most of the hereditary Peers will be a much smaller House. If the power of appointment of life Peers were left in the hands of the Prime Minister of the day, it would be much easier for him to make sufficient appointments to gain an absolute majority in this place. In no way is it an aspersion on present life Peers to say that in future a government less scrupulous than the previous one or their predecessors could appoint people who were concerned more to do the government's bidding than to protect the constitution.

It has been argued somewhat faintly by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, on more than one occasion that if the Prime Minister's power to make appointments poses a danger, it is a danger that has been with us for a long time; that nothing has gone wrong as yet, so there is no need to do anything. That is not much of an argument. The Government are making a big change to our constitutional arrangements. The Prime Minister acknowledged in his own White Paper that the present system of creating life Peers is far from ideal and needs some change. Very well, let us deal with these shortcomings in our present arrangements and, as we are legislating, let us deal with them in this legislation.

We have no right to throw away the opportunity to put things right by legislation when the opportunity is right here staring us in the face. We have no right to ignore the present rather unsatisfactory constitutional and legal position that is open to the Prime Minister and, if this Bill is not amended, to any future Prime Minister to secure for himself an absolute majority in this place and render the House completely ineffective as a check on the executive.

The wording of the amendment is clear enough. Admittedly, there might have to be a large number of new Peers to create the new balance envisaged both by the Government and by this amendment. Later, it should be possible to stick to a statutory maximum, and to have a statutory maximum is desirable as a safeguard against abuse. The amendment envisages the statutory maximum being imposed after the first two years; a statutory maximum of 50, as set out in subsection (3).

The House will also note that subsection (2) seeks to ensure that:


    "the proportion of Cross Bench peers to the total number of life peers in the House remains as it was on the day before the passing of this Act". That is an attempt to put in clearer and more felicitous language the Government's assurance at page 9 of the White Paper that they will maintain a Cross-Bench representation at around the present proportion of life Peers. Strangely, and for reasons best known to themselves, the Government used less precise language and gave a less generous undertaking at page 31 of the White Paper. The words there are:


    "We shall maintain a significant independent Cross Bench element".

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Again, we have picked up the Government's own words in order to drive home the point that we are aiming to do no more than put in statutory form the Government's own policy. If on reflection the Government regret having used two different formulations in the White Paper, I am sure that the amendment can be redrafted to the satisfaction of all.

I leave it to others to discuss the methods of the appointments commission. Surely, all we have to do today is agree in principle to there being a statutory appointments commission and then work out the best formula to ensure its complete independence. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Bach: Subsection (1) of the amendment provides that:


    "There shall be a Life Peerages Commission ... which alone shall make recommendations to Her Majesty". I followed the noble Lord's political career with some interest and I recall that he was the Chief Whip, or patronage secretary, between 1987 and 1989. I am sure that in that capacity he played some small part with the Prime Minister in deciding who should come to this place and who should not. When did he change his mind about that and why did he change his mind? Was it in spite of or because of his experiences as Chief Whip?


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