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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, that will leave the Government some 30 to 35 spaces to fill in the way that they believe appropriate within the rules that they themselves have imposed upon themselves. The noble Baroness also said on Report that she felt that that number was adequate to meet the various tasks that the transitional House would face throughout its life, however long or short that may be.
I am well aware that when the noble and learned Lord comes to reply, he may well say to me, "What is all the fuss about, then? The principles are clear: the number is going to be something over 710. Why do we need a fixed number in the Act at all?"
My answer to that question is in two parts. First, we do not yet know--and indeed cannot yet know--how long the transitional phase will take. We hear optimistic estimates from the Government of two or three years. But let us suppose that the transitional phase lasts five, 10, 15, or even 20 years. What weight will undertakings given in Committee and in the Report stage of the Bill as it goes through your Lordships' House carry 10, 15, or 20 years later with the government of the day?
Let us suppose that the government of the day find that your Lordships' House, with a composition consistent with the principles of broad parity, does not like a Bill that is served up to them by the other place. Let us suppose that your Lordships' House is obstinate. Fifteen or 20 years later a government might well say, "We are going to change the rules", which they can do unless there is an overall cap on the size of the House.
Secondly, the Government have expressed themselves to be quite determined in their intention to move to stage two. Many pundits talk about the shape of the House in stage two. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, say that about 700 would be too many. Many believe that the second Chamber should have fewer Members than another place. Many also believe that your Lordships' House should have a substantial number of elected Members.
If that is to be the case, the number of life Peers likely to survive at stage two could be no more than 200, 250 or perhaps 300--we cannot be sure. However, one thing of which we can be sure is that the larger the transitional House grows, the fewer life Peers will survive to serve in the stage two House.
Therefore, the larger the transitional House grows, the bigger the problem facing the government who seek to shift your Lordships from stage one to stage two. I wonder whether, in the course of those debates, the voices in your Lordships' House will demonstrate the graceful self-restraint which the voices of noble Lords have demonstrated throughout the debate on this Bill.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, as I believe the House is aware, the procedures for Third Reading in this place differ from those in another place. There are times--I must admit that this is one--when I believe that the other place has it right. In the other place, there are no amendments on Third Reading. The whole Bill is revisited, much of it having been dealt with on Second Reading, if the Bill is considered in its entirety with further amendments. I have felt for some time that it is a change in our procedure which at some stage should be properly considered.
Certainly I reflected on that matter today when I looked at the amendments, most of which, although they were not repetitive, could easily have been proposed at an earlier stage of the Bill. Most of the ground is familiar to those of us who have sat through many days of debate over a period now of some six months. There is always an argument for some sensible tidying up at this stage, and I certainly should not complain about that. I do not complain about the government amendments in that respect. However, it was very much in the spirit of our view about how Third Reading should be treated that my noble friend Lord Goodhart made it clear that we did not intend to vote on the previous amendment. Indeed, it is not our intention to vote in favour of any of the amendments before the House today.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, chose not to move the amendment standing in his name. It would have been very bold of him to do so because he remembers our fourth day in Committee, as do I and as does the House. On that occasion the noble Lord moved an amendment to the effect that a figure of 615 Peers should be written into the Bill, being roughly the figure that the Government would need. However, again as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will recall, in his very engaging way, 45 minutes later he said,
I draw attention to one other occasion in the course of our earlier debates. That was during a debate on Report on 2nd June. Then, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House confirmed our understanding of the object of broad parity between the two largest parties in your Lordships' House and proportionate creations for the Liberal Democrats and for other parties. The meaning of "proportionate" is as set out in the Government's White Paper in relation to votes cast at the previous election.
Because I, too, may get my sums wrong, I am reluctant to embark upon a detailed study of the figures, about which there must be still some doubt until our four little elections have taken place. However, it appears likely that when the Bill reaches the statute book about 665 Peers will be entitled to sit. But at that stage there would be no broad parity between the Labour Benches and the Conservative Opposition. In accordance with paragraph 7 of Chapter 6 of the White Paper and the view expressed in this House--a view not opposed from the Conservative Benches--it will be entirely in order for the Government to make additional creations to make up the number. I would put that figure at about 40, but the figure might differ by five or six either way. At the same time, it would be appropriate to make proportionate creations, again in keeping with the plain undertaking that the Government have given openly.
If we had broad parity and proportionate creations, my estimate would then be that the number of Peers entitled to sit in your Lordships' House would rise from 665 to about 740. The significance of that figure
Some good working Peers will lose in the ballot. What about them? There will be former Cabinet Ministers knocking at the door. What about them? There will be men and women who have contributed generously to party funds. What about them? However, I put it to noble Lords on the Opposition Benches that, with only four additional Peers at their disposal, they will not have much scope between the passage of this Bill and the next stage. It is a sobering thought. It is not for me to give advice to those on the Conservative Benches, but I should be extremely cautious indeed in tabling such an amendment unless a figure had been agreed in advance with Ministers and with the Liberal Democrats. If it had been an agreed figure, they could then have decided whether it should be 750, 775 or 800--think of a number and write it into an amendment.
It is ironic that the Conservative Party, which year after year has been content with a House of nearly 1,300 Peers, should suddenly feel that there must be a cap, and a cap of only 750. It is a very odd way to proceed. I should like to know the logic in it.
Of course, I agree that with a figure of 750 there would be too many Peers. I said that on a previous occasion. If the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was not listening at that time, he can read what I said in Hansard. A House of 750 would be much too big for the long term. Indeed, I have mentioned a House of perhaps 300 to 400. However, we need to see how the transitional interim House works: whether the Members who are now sitting on these Benches and will still be here in a few months' time will be active working Peers; whether it may be necessary to supplement them; or whether it will be possible to reduce the numbers. We do not know. To Conservative Peers and to all your Lordships sitting here today--there are many faces that we have not often seen before and I am very glad to welcome them--I say respectfully that they should think very carefully and do the sums for themselves, because they may be excluding the possibility that they themselves will be sitting here again after this Bill has passed.
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, on Report my noble friend Lord Stanley and I also moved an amendment on the question of numbers. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, was right to draw attention to the difficulty in deciding what the numbers should be. It was precisely for that reason, after discussion on the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Stanley, and myself, that I wrote to my noble friend Lord Kingsland on the Front Bench, and to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, to see if a meeting could be arranged to discuss the numbers.
I had the courtesy of a reply from my noble friend on the Front Bench. I did not receive a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. I saw the noble Lord some time later outside the Chamber and reminded him that I had written to him. He promised to get in touch with me to discuss the matter. We have not had that meeting because he has not been in touch with me. It is for that reason that I wholly support the number proposed by my noble friend Lord Kingsland.
It disappointed me somewhat that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, did not acknowledge my letter or follow up our brief discussion outside the Chamber. However, it occurred to me that that was perhaps done out of the kindness of his heart because there had been some sort of deal between the Liberal Democrat Party and the Labour Party on the question of proportionality about which he did not wish to tell me and he thought that it was better that I should be kept in the dark.
My noble friend Lord Kingsland drew to the attention of the House the remarks of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House at col. 347 of Hansard on 30th June. That was in reply to a question which I asked the noble Baroness about what exactly she meant by "proportionate". As your Lordships will have listened to my noble friend Lord Kingsland, I shall not read that out again. However, the noble Baroness did not answer my question. I believe that I asked the Government Front Bench on four or five occasions what exactly they meant by "proportionate" as it related to the other parties in this House. We understand what they mean by broad parity between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, but there is no clear definition of "proportionality".
I believe that my noble friend Lord Kingsland summed up the matter extremely well when he said that there is great concern about the exponential growth that this House could achieve if the interim stage were to last a long time. It is with that concern in mind that I support my noble friend in his amendment and hope that he will take it to a Division.
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