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After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

MEMBERSHIP OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS (NO. 2)

(".--(1) From the day on which this Act comes into force, the members of the House of Lords who shall be entitled to sit and vote in that House shall be--
(a) the Lords Spiritual;
(b) any holder of a peerage under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876;
(c) not more than 700 peers who are elected in accordance with subsections (2) and (3); and
(d) any person who became a member of the House of Lords in the Session preceding the Session in which this Act is passed.
(2) The members of the House under subsection (1)(c) shall be comprised of not more than--
(a) 240 Cross Bench peers elected by Cross Bench peers;
(b) 200 Labour peers elected by Labour peers;
(c) 200 Conservative peers elected by Conservative peers; and
(d) 60 Liberal Democrat peers elected by Liberal Democrat peers.
(3) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(c) and (2) shall be members of the House of Lords at the date on which the election is held who--
(a) have attended at least 6 sitting days in each of the 2 Sessions preceding the Session in which this Act is passed, or
(b) if they have become a member of the House in either of the 2 Sessions preceding the Session in which this Act is passed, have attended at least one third of sitting days since the day on which they were introduced.
(4) The Clerk of the Parliaments shall certify--
(a) the number of days of attendance of each member, and
(b) the total number of days on which the House sat,
referred to in subsection (3).
(5) Standing Orders of the House of Lords shall make provision relating to the holding and conduct of elections under this section, and that such elections shall be held at intervals of 7 years.
(6) In each of the two Sessions preceding an election under subsection (5), all peers who would have been entitled to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords but for the passing of this Act shall be entitled to sit, but not to vote, in that House.
(7) Subject to subsection (9), the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument amend any number specified in subsection (2), but only to give effect to a resolution of the House of Lords.
(8) An order under subsection (7) shall be laid in draft before, and shall be subject to the affirmative resolution of, each House of Parliament.

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(9) The two political parties with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons shall be entitled to equal representation in the House of Lords.
(10) Any question whether a person is elected under this section shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments.
(11) Any person under subsection (6) shall be entitled to continue to exercise the same rights of access to, and use of, the House of Lords and any premises occupied by that House to which he would have been entitled but for the passing of this Act.")

The noble Lord said: I suppose that this amendment is somewhat more radical than any which have been proposed so far because it removes all of the appointed Peers, of which I am one, as well as the hereditary Peers, and subjects us all to election by our fellow Peers. Even so, I hope that the Committee will find it worthy of serious consideration. Its origins lie in what I said on Second Reading on 30th March at cols. 256 to 259 of the Official Report. Its main purpose is to ask the Committee to stand well back from our separate interests in the detail of the present Bill and to consider how we might in the interests of the nation achieve the best possible interim Chamber--that is, as has been often said, the House which will exist until some or all of the Royal Commission's recommendations are accepted, if indeed they are.

I appreciate that the Committee may disagree as to exactly what the interests of the nation are nowadays. Therefore, it behoves me in all humility to say what I think the nation's most important interest is in any future House of Lords or second Chamber. This is quite simply that it should be able to act as an independent brake on the executive in the House of Commons and on the bureaucracies in Whitehall and in Brussels. That duty is, of course, especially important when one party holds a large majority in the other place, as the Labour Party does today. This is no criticism of the Labour Party and refers equally to the recent times when the Conservatives held a large majority in the other place. However, your Lordships' House as presently constituted has proved itself capable over the years of standing up to the executive. For instance, your Lordships' House defeated the government of my noble friend Lady Thatcher no fewer than 157 times in 12 years, and no doubt made her change her mind--no mean feat--on other occasions too, rather than face what the Whips advised was likely to be defeat at your Lordships' hands. So I imagine we all agree that any future Chamber must at least be as independent as the one we are leaving behind.

In that respect, I have been very impressed by the Labour Party's submission to the Royal Commission. It is perhaps a little shaky about this Chamber's future duties towards statutory instruments, the pervasive use of which has become a real threat to our democracy, but on the whole it is a refreshingly sensible document.

In an ideal world I have to suggest that an upper House composed entirely of genuinely independent people, or entirely of non-party Peers, would be the best solution in the interests of the British people. Consider what a pleasant prospect that would be. There would for instance be no party Whips at all. For a small fee, government and opposition spokesmen could easily be found in such a Chamber who would not necessarily believe very passionately in what they had to say from

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the Dispatch Box. However, I imagine that that is a situation with which many noble Lords who have stood at the Dispatch Box must be familiar in any case. Consider the even more pleasant prospect of the restraint that such a Chamber might put on the vast quantity of unnecessary and interfering legislation which at present gushes forth from our over-zealous bureaucracies and power-hungry executive, for whom the people rightly show such increasing frustration and disdain.

But, of course, I have to admit reluctantly that such a sane and useful second Chamber is unlikely to be conceded by any of the main political parties today, and still less welcomed by the bureaucracy, much of which would soon become redundant. So it must remain a pipedream, even if it is a concept which most people in this country would probably support were it to be offered as a realistic prospect.

However, I submit that this amendment is indeed achievable if the Committee were to support it. It would give a large measure of the independence which is so important for our second Chamber in future. I suggest that it also has some clear advantages over Amendment No. 31, which has become known as the "Weatherill amendment", to which the Committee agreed last Tuesday. For instance, this amendment would remove the Conservative preponderance in your Lordships' House, which is really the only thing that most of us agree is wrong with its present composition. Weatherill, on the other hand, grants a minimum of 42 out of the 92 hereditary Peers who are to remain to the Conservatives while giving only 28 to the Cross Benches, three to the Liberals and a mere two to the Labour Party, thus prolonging the Conservative preponderance.

This amendment has another clear advantage over Weatherill in that it would prevent any political party having more Peers than any other political party, leaving much more of the balance of power with the Cross Benches, which must be healthy.

I submit that this amendment is more in tune with the spirit of the Government's manifesto than is Weatherill. I appreciate that this amendment would allow some hereditary Peers to stay on in the interim Chamber, which goes against the Government's manifesto, but so does Weatherill, which the Government supported in the Division Lobby. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was good enough to place on the record last Tuesday the fact that the Government are not standing by this particular manifesto commitment for the duration of the interim House. In agreeing that 92 hereditary Peers can stay on, the Government have therefore conceded an important principle. The amendment probes the detail and the degree of that concession in order to achieve the best possible interim House.

No one seems to know how the Weatherill figure of 92 was reached. It appears that someone just came up with the idea that to retain 10 per cent of hereditaries would be a reasonable compromise, plus another 15 for the Woolsack. There does not seem to have been any careful analysis as to whether the resulting House of around 600 Peers would be big enough, or suitably

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composed, to do its job properly. I understand that we are to have a detailed debate about requisite numbers next week on recommitment and so I will say no more about that now. I would claim, however, that the House created by the amendment would be able to fulfil all its present functions and take on perhaps an increased scrutiny role.

I remember--as I am sure we all do--the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor's admonition at Second Reading that the Government's concession on the 92 hereditary Peers was made on a "Take it or leave it and do not mess around with it" basis. With respect, I query that attitude. It can scarcely be justified in the national interest, especially after the Government have conceded the principle that some hereditary Peers should stay on; nor have I forgotten that the Government have a large majority in the other place. But if we can accommodate as much of the manifesto as the Government themselves intend to do, and still produce the best possible interim Chamber, then surely that should be acceptable to everyone.

Before leaving the matter of the Labour Party manifesto at the last general election, the Government appear to be placing a reliance on it which, for an issue of such constitutional importance, is not even vaguely justified by the facts. The Labour manifesto was supported by only 31 per cent of the British electorate at the previous election; 40 per cent voted for another party and therefore, in effect, against it; and 29 per cent did not bother to vote at all. Further, according to a Written Answer recently given to me by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the commitment to abolish the hereditary Peers was only one of no fewer than 177 manifesto commitments, which of course had to be supported en bloc by that 31 per cent of the electorate which did vote Labour. It is therefore scarcely surprising that in a respectable opinion poll taken before the Bill reached your Lordships' House, only 2 per cent of those polled were aware of the commitment to remove the hereditary Peers. I hope that puts that particular manifesto commitment into perspective. It can scarcely be held to represent the settled will of the British people, and I very much hope that the Government will not go on pretending that it does.

I said at the start that the amendment aims to offer a radical and objective solution for the interim House. That is why it stands down not only the hereditary Peers but also all appointed Peers. It removes all Peers who have sat in the House for a year and makes us all submit ourselves to election by our fellow Peers. The reason for this radical approach is quite simply the acknowledged fact that the best of the hereditary Peers give better service to the nation than do quite a number of appointed Peers. If the Government do not agree with that statement, perhaps when he or she comes to reply, the noble Lord the Minister or the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will say so. If, in the interests of the nation, we want the best interim House, we should elect the best of all Peers and not just a handful of hereditaries. Weatherill will exclude many of our best hereditaries, from all sides of the House, and leave many of our least useful appointed Peers in place.

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I know that regular attendance does not necessarily denote excellence in your Lordships' House and that some of the most valuable contributions are made by Peers who seldom come here. Even so, I have been surprised by an analysis of the poor attendance record of many appointed Peers. For instance, in the 1997 Session some 40 per cent of appointed Peers attended less than one-third of the sitting days; 30 per cent attended less than one-fifth of the time; and 20 per cent attended less than one-tenth of the days available. The attendance record of many hereditary Peers, on the other hand, is very much better than that.

Attendance would not matter under the amendment. All that would matter would be the judgment of those of our fellow Peers who had attended at least six sitting days in each of the two Sessions preceding the election in question. The idea is to have as knowledgeable an electorate as possible, which would have some idea of the likely performance of those being elected. All Peers would be free to stand, however little they had attended.

As drafted, all Cross-Benchers who met the attendance criteria could elect 240 out of their present number of 334 Peers, be they hereditary or appointed. As far as concerns new Cross-Bench Peers, I was impressed by Amendment No. 86 in the name of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for an independent appointments commission for new Cross-Bench Peers, which we debated last Thursday (at col. 1352 of the Official Report).

As to the Labour Party, it would in theory be able to elect up to 200 rather than its present suggested number of 176. In fact it might keep all its Peers at the first election because a number of them would not have served for one year and I understand that it has at least 24 new Peers in the pipeline.

I concede that the drafting may require some refinement, but whatever number the Government decide the Labour Party should have, the same number should be offered to the Conservatives. That would give a basic House of some 700 Peers, plus the Bishops and the Law Lords. I would hope, too, that the House would wish to invite their Royal Highnesses the Prince and the Peers of the Blood Royal to stay on. But I know the sensitivity of that suggestion and I have tabled it separately under Amendment No. 138 for later debate.

Just for the record, under the amendment the Conservatives would have 200 Peers whereas Weatherill gives them 212; Labour would have 200 whereas Weatherill gives them 159; the Liberal Democrats would have 60 whereas Weatherill gives them 47; and the Cross Benches would have 240 whereas Weatherill gives them 150. The amendment does not envisage the election of 15 hereditary Peers as Deputy Speakers, because they could continue to be appointed in the normal way from the new House.

Upon reflection, I fear that subsection (1)(d) and subsection (6) of the amendment may be wrong not to differentiate between newly appointed Peers and new hereditary Peers. Those subsections limit speaking and voting, especially for new Peers. The present drafting may be in order for new hereditary Peers, who would

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have at least one year to prove themselves to their electorate before an election, but appointed Peers need the certainty of longer than that in the new House, say five years at least, if they are to accept the disruption to their lives which serious commitment to your Lordships' House requires. I apologise. The amendment could probably be much improved and simplified if all Peers were allowed to speak, but only elected Peers and those appointed Peers who had not yet been in the House for, say, five years were allowed to vote. That might mean that a newly appointed Peer could sit and vote for up to 11 years before facing an election, but the Committee may think that reasonable. New hereditary Peers would be allowed to speak but not to vote until they were elected.

It is important that the electorate, being those Members of the whole House with a reasonable attendance record, should have the opportunity to form an opinion of new Peers, and of those who had failed at a previous election, before each election. It is for that very good reason--not for any reasons of sympathy or plain decency--that the amendment envisages all Peers being allowed to enjoy the same rights of access to your Lordships' House as they do at the moment. Here again, subsection (11) of the amendment should probably be redrafted to reflect the granting of that privilege on a permanent basis and not just for two years before an election.

I emphasise that the House created by the amendment, like the House created by Weatherill, would endure only until Parliament accepts any of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Stage two may be some time in coming, however, given the uncertain nature of devolution in Scotland and Wales and the difficulties of agreeing any final outcome of the Royal Commission. We must do our best to make arrangements now which may have to last for a number of years. That is why the amendment caters for a period of more than seven years if necessary.

The main difference between the amendment and Weatherill is that the latter fixes the number of hereditary Peers who are to stay on and does so in one election. This amendment maintains the whole pool of hereditary Peers and the whole pool of appointed Peers to be available for election from time to time as the House decides. No one can predict how many hereditary Peers might therefore stay on, but it would be a number judged by the House to be justified on merit.

I know that the Government may wish to dismiss the possibility that the interim House may last for as long as seven years or longer, but that is no reason why we should not cater for such an eventuality, however remote it may be. Indeed, as I said in an earlier intervention to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I notice that the draft paper on the Weatherill amendment drawn up by the Clerk of the Parliaments for the Procedure Committee also considers the possibility that the interim House might endure for more than five years and indeed for such a length of time as to make the proposed Standing Order provision unworkable. So the suggestion that the interim House may last for quite some time is not entirely fanciful, as the noble and learned Lord the

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Lord Chancellor admitted in his response to the first group of amendments today. If the interim House may last for more than five years, then why not seven?

In conclusion, I appreciate that this amendment is unlikely to win me any friends on these Benches because it is even tougher on the Conservative Party than is Weatherill. But I hope I have explained the reasons for that.

I am aware, too, of the acute probability that I myself would fail to stay in your Lordships' House under this amendment. The Dickens' character in A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton, comes to mind here. As your Lordships will recall, Mr. Carton replaced his aristocratic friend in the tumbrel bound for the guillotine. If that happens, then at least this amendment will have proved to be a measure of the independence and objectivity which I trust your Lordships' House will bring to this hugely important Bill, in the interests of the nation as a whole. I commend the amendment to the Committee and beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

The Earl of Dundee: I support my noble friend's amendment. In considering it, two general tests should be applied. First, does it promote cross-party consensus on Lords reform? Apart from that, and secondly, can it be consistent with the terms of the present Bill?

On cross-party consensus, three main issues must be addressed and accommodated. Each was successfully so by the Labour Government's 1968 Lords reform proposals. One of the architects was the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and I am glad to see him sitting in his place. As your Lordships are aware, those proposals were forcefully backed by this House at the time. That the Bill was dropped in another place was no fault of ours. We should keep reminding ourselves of that fact and we should now seek to re-establish the level of cross-party agreement which obtained then.

The first issue is approximate voting parity between the main parties. The second is restriction of the hereditary principle so that on succession to a peerage there is no longer an automatic right to sit and vote. The third main issue is the preservation of the present high quality of the deliberative function and, within this Chamber, the continuation of the ascendancy of that function over party politics and voting.

My noble friend's amendment achieves all three of those aims. How it does so in regard to the first two may be self-evident from the subsections of the amendment. How it assists the third aim is equally clear, yet in this case the beneficial effect follows from other elements which the amendment draws together.

That effect is achieved through subsections (2), (5) and (6) of the amendment when taken together. It is proposed that an electoral college of Peers selects Members for seven years only and then reviews their appointment; and it is provided that for a number of years, although not indefinitely, existing Peers not so selected may speak but not vote. Reselection every seven years is a useful expedient. In fact, without it, a mechanism is lacking to replace Peers who since their appointment in the first place may have ceased to

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contribute to the work of the second Chamber. However, as my noble friend Lord Pearson has just reminded us, there is an obvious distinction between contribution, on the one hand, and attendance on the other. There is even a paradoxical relationship between the two; that is, since good attendance may often mean little contribution although much loyal party political voting; conversely, a great deal of contribution, and arguably that which is most useful to the House, comes from part-time attendance. The party political voting function may require Members to be here practically all the time; the deliberative function does not. That is so since it consists of questions and debates, the highly regarded Lords' European Communities Select Committee reports and the work of Lords' delegations overseas, including the Council of Europe.

Therefore, my noble friend's amendment, by enabling a sufficiency of numbers and a regular scrutiny of selection, protects the quality of the deliberative function. Otherwise, with an insufficiency of numbers and no mechanism for reselection, the quality of the deliberative function would be under threat. My noble friend's amendment provides a very good balance on this issue and thus on all three of the main issues of Lords' reform.

The other consideration is how far his amendment is consistent with the terms of the present Bill. As a result of the Weatherill amendment, on its recommitment next week the Bill will contain some new elements also present in my noble friend's amendment. For example, the recommitted Bill provides for an electoral college to appoint a number of Peers, and thereby it provides also a mechanism to achieve approximate voting parity between the two main parties. If the present Bill should stop there, then two things follow regarding the deliberative function of the second Chamber. First, part-time attendance becomes inconsistent with the new voting function expected of its Members. Secondly, part-time attendance would hardly be recognised as a backbone, which in fact it is, of the deliberative function. Instead it would be seen to breach the terms and trust of the appointment of a life Peer in the first place.

If we wish to bury our heads in the sands, we could seek to argue that we should leave everything to do with Lords reform, let alone its main issues to stage two. Yet why instead should we not now seek within the Bill to help the work of the Royal Commission and of my noble friend Lord Wakeham? We can do that now by building up cross-party agreement over the three main issues of Lords reform. Next week we can begin that process. We should incorporate within the Bill, once recommitted, my noble friend's amendments.


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