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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that I freely admitted that I had got the figure wrong; but, at the time the figure was selected, we did not anticipate that there

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would be such a long list of new political Peers. It quite took us aback. We chose a figure quite innocently but arithmetically mistakenly.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, again I find this very good fun, and we all enjoy it, but the noble Lord could have withdrawn the amendment and put another in its place. He had aeons of time to do so.

I shall read out the figures but not explain what they are: 174; 179; 51; about 130; 92; 26 and eight. They do indeed add up to 659 or thereabouts. But, as the noble Lord said, that does not allow anything at all for balancing, which the noble Lord indicated was the policy of his party. As the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, helpfully said, these figures do not allow for the important consideration of proportionality as it applies to members of this party.

In the debate last Tuesday, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, the Leader of the House, reiterated the Government's position about proportionality. She said nothing new but defined again what the White Paper said. I have not heard anything at all from the Conservative Benches about proportionality. I should be pleased to give way if the noble Lord would like to rise to tell me what his party's policy is. If he is not going to rise and tell me whether he supports the figures in paragraph 7 of Chapter 6 and paragraph 19 of Chapter 3 of the White Paper, is he prepared to tell the House whether he agrees with proportionality as defined in the White Paper?

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I listened to, and subsequently read very carefully, the speech of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House on the last occasion. As I recall, she was not prepared to go further than to talk about general parity between the Government and the Official Opposition. I am simply repeating what she said.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, that is not the case. If the noble Lord looks at Hansard, he will see that the noble Baroness referred to proportionality. The word "proportionality" was mentioned in her speech last Tuesday and it is the word which appears in the White Paper. I was asking the noble Lord whether, on behalf of his party, he would declare that it was the policy of his party to accept proportionality as well as a rough parity between the two main parties in the transitional House.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I do not want to extend that debate. If the noble Lord means proportionality in the sense that the numbers in this House should reflect the most recent numbers in a general election, my response--I say this without authority--would be emphatically "No". The whole purpose of your Lordships' House is to provide a counterpoint to another place. If it simply mirrored the political forces in another place, there would be no point in having your Lordships' House.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, I am grateful; that is a very positive statement and a major

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advance. Although it was a very unsatisfactory reply, I now recognise the importance of having this short debate.

I shall not bother the House further with the figures which would be necessary to achieve broad parity between the two principal parties in terms of numbers and proportionality for Members on these Benches. I simply remind the House that the problem has been greatly aggravated by the Weatherill amendment, which has added a disproportionate number of Peers to the Conservative Benches. The total effect is likely not to be 92 further Members of this House but something like 150 if the point about broad parity and proportionality is carried through.

However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I do not think we should bother ourselves about these figures. Whatever they are, they are rather smaller than the figure of 1,290 with which we have apparently lived very happily for many years. I do not believe that we should consider any other fixed figure for the transitional House. I would rather look ahead, when the time comes, to stage two. In those circumstances, I share the view expressed by others that a House of 200 or 300--perhaps 350--would be about right. The Commons is far too large today and should not have more than 500 Members, and your Lordships' House should be rather smaller.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, like many noble Lords and others outside your Lordships' House, I suspect that the interim House that we are creating by virtue of this Bill will last rather longer than has been suggested. Be that as it may, it is right that there should be a cap on the size of the House. My noble friend Lord Kingsland suggests one figure and my noble friend Lord Caithness suggests another. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, suggests a rather smaller figure. However, there must be a figure. I hope that the Government accept that principle. If they have a figure in mind I daresay that a manuscript amendment to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Kingsland will be allowed so that the matter can be settled.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I and I am sure my noble friend Lord Caithness agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that it is much better to have 600. I would rather have 300, but that is neither here nor there. As my noble friend points out, the Government have put on record that the House should be made up as they have said and its composition will be our figure of 830. I should like the Leader of the House to explain how the figure can be less than 830, bearing in mind her past comments.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I agree with an upper limit in principle. However, does the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, agree that even 659 working Peers would give us one of the largest upper Houses in the world? We do not have 659 working Peers at the moment. I believe that that answers the point raised by the noble

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Lord, Lord Rodgers. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, could confirm that the proposal would make this one of the largest Chambers.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Kingsland. I strongly believe that we should define the upper limit of the membership of your Lordships' House. I tabled a similar capping amendment in Committee. I have taken the liberty of looking at the bicameral systems of other countries, such as Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium. In those cases one finds that the numbers of the upper houses are either half, or in some cases one quarter, of those of the lower houses. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and others who believe that the ultimate revised Chamber will have a lower number.

Lord Islwyn: My Lords, the noble Lord quotes other countries and suggests that their second chambers have lower numbers. Will he take into consideration population? Our population is far greater than that of the countries he cites.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comment. However, my point is that the numbers in the upper houses in proportion to those in the lower houses are always lower by half or a quarter. I found one exception, Italy, whose population is almost precisely the same as the UK's. In that case there are 315 members in the upper house and in the lower house. That is less than half the present number. I do not think that that detracts from the argument that the interim House should have a cap on its numbers. We have an opportunity to ensure that the future House has a better framework, not one that for ever worries the Opposition that the government of the day will get their way by flooding your Lordships' House, or a revised version of it.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Acton: My Lords, since the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, appears at the top of the amendment, perhaps I may ask him and the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, whether, if they decide to bring this matter back at a later stage--it having turned into a probing amendment at Report stage, which I find astonishing--they will put down on paper their final figure and stick to it.

Lord Coleraine: My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Caithness, I am anxious to probe further--with all apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Acton--the question of the proportionate creation of Liberal Democrat Peers. I hope that my noble friend will succeed in obtaining further information from the Leader of the House. At Report stage I tabled an amendment to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Kingsland that dealt with the appointments commission. I hoped at that stage to discover why the amendment did not provide for the commission to report on criteria related to the nomination of Liberal Democrat life Peers. When I saw that my noble friend had increased the cap from 615 to

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659 I hoped that between the two figures I might find the proportionate creation of Liberal Democrat Peers. However, that seems to have disappeared into thin air.

If my noble friend on the Front Bench is listening, perhaps he can say where he finds the proportionate Liberal Democrat creations and what he meant when he said in reply to my amendment (before I had moved it) that,

    "it would be wise not to resile from what I might describe in this case as the robust common sense of the Government's proposal".--[Official Report, 22/6/99; col. 825.] At the moment, I am not aware of the Government's proposal.

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