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Lord Henley: My noble friend Lord Onslow has long argued logically that this House, which arose as a place where the great interests of the country--the Church and the land--were represented, should continue in its revised form to be a House of interests. There is some force in that argument, although I also agree with the line put forward by my noble friend Lord Cranborne that it is somewhat misplaced. But there is some force in that argument, not least because it would mean that the inevitable representation in the House of forces outside the political parties, something which most observers of the House have always seen as one of its great strengths, would continue.
The word "modern" is still there on the front cover of the evidence of the Labour Party to the Royal Commission. How could it not be on a document from this Government? But when I saw the gleam in the eye of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, earlier as he said he said he was going to clutch onto his title of "Lord"--I am not whether he did: perhaps the noble Lord said that he was quite keen to give that up-- I thought that it would be very interesting to know how long "modern" will be with us.
The word "Independent" is still with us on the front cover. However, after the earlier debate (in which the Government were unable to offer more comfort than they offered about the early creation of an independent appointments commission), one wonders how strong is the commitment to independence. There is room for legitimate scepticism and inquiry about the meaning of the word "representative". The Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission gives the following suggestions for what "representative" might mean. It suggests possible representation from newly devolved bodies and the English regions. But in our consideration of an earlier amendment, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said that the Government were not attracted to a fixed degree of representation from Scotland. Perhaps I may therefore ask the Government directly this question--and I do of course expect a reply to it. If the noble Lord rules out what he described as a quota of Scottish Peers, how can there be representation in this House from devolved bodies? That can only be done by sending a specific number of representatives from Scotland and other devolved bodies.
I turn to other interests that might be represented, according to the evidence from the Labour Party. We find reference to age, gender and ethnic composition. That is obedience to political correctness and is only to be expected. But as yet we have seen no firm proposals except the proposition to expel the likes of myself and other hereditary Peers, from whom most of our younger Members are drawn.
Finally, coming closest to the kind of interests that my noble friend Lord Onslow perhaps has in mind, we find reference in paragraph 5.5 of the Labour Party's evidence to a list of interests that might be represented. They are business, labour, education, science and the arts. Those are some fairly broad classes. I should be grateful if the Minister could clarify what that means. By "business" does he mean the CBI or some other
It would be helpful if, when the Minister replies, the Government follow the thinking of my noble friend and give the Committee more information about the kind of interests they would consider important in the House and how they feel they might be included.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I am extremely happy to follow the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in the arguments he put forward in his generally eloquent way. He did not specifically address Amendment No. 90 but I assume he is concerned that we should reply to Amendments Nos. 89 and 90. I do not intend to respond to the points made just now by the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip. They are yet again comments on the second stage of reform; comments on a document designed to facilitate the second stage of reform; and comments about the long-term future of this House. Tonight we are considering the Bill before us and the amendment of the noble Earl to which I shall now try to respond.
We applaud the general points made by the noble Earl about the representative nature of this House. It is precisely that reason--I believe the noble Earl agrees with us on this point--which leads us to one of the basic positions that we take about the abolition of the automatic right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote.
We are not convinced that the approach proposed in either of the amendments is the correct one. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, spoke of being seduced by the arguments. Perhaps I may say to the noble Viscount and to the noble Earl that the only other time I have been relatively seduced by the arguments put forward in both amendments in the context of what I think is colloquially known as "functional constituencies" has been at the fringe meetings of various conferences I have attended which have been sponsored by the Charter 88 group. That is not a group I would necessarily have associated with support from the noble Earl.
However, moving away from the provenance of these ideas on functional constituencies, perhaps I may examine briefly the details of Amendment No. 89. The first issue is that of drawing up a sufficiently definitive list of the interests which should be represented. If the noble Earl has followed the discussion about functional constituencies with the attention I am sure he has, I expect he is aware that such lists tend to fall into economic categories. That obviously leaves out certain clear-cut bodies of opinion and bodies of interest who would not fall into specific economic pigeon holes.
I am interested in the proposal in Amendment No. 89 given the length of our discussions on objective and transparent methods of appointment. The proposal leaves the choice entirely to the Prime Minister with no
However, there are other more general dangers in an attempt to make the House a collection of representatives of specific interests. It is self-evident that there is a difference between a representative body and a body of representatives. Everyone in your Lordships' House is expected to consider and debate on the basis of his or her own opinion and expertise. However, I am sure I can say without any fear of it being in dispute that noble Lords are not delegates. Even the right reverend Prelates do not regard themselves as delegates. I believe that such a scheme, if included in the Bill, could well risk setting up a system of delegates where the interests of the body or the industry, for example, being representative of the constituency of interests, might take precedence over the general personal interests of individual Peers.
I have to point out to the noble Earl that we might get into the situation where Peers could be mandated to speak or to vote in a way which was a representation of the group that they were supposed to be representing. To me, that would smack, surprisingly, of extreme Left-wing organisations and concerns that I would not normally associate with the noble Earl.
I turn briefly to Amendment No. 90, which takes the concept of representation even further by developing it through ex officio membership. Here again, we have the particular problems of looking at organisations which may or may not have the capacity to release individuals for ex officio representation here. I believe that many of the offices which might appear superficially attractive for inclusion in this amendment are actually only held for relatively short periods of time; indeed, they may even rotate annually. So the amendment could lead to the rather odd anomaly that there would be large numbers of life Peers who were former Members of this House floating about because their term of office had come to an end. I give way to the noble Lord.
Lord Elton: Does the noble Baroness exempt from her strictures the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain who, I understand, have been proposed as ex officio Members of this House?
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