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Lord Hooson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way and I am sorry to interrupt him. It would be extremely helpful if he could tell us what experience Mr Braithwaite has of management problems in legislative assemblies.
In saying that, perhaps I may answer one of the specific points which was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. The suggestion to have management consultancy in this House did not come from another place. The further point on that is that there has been the suggestion that your Lordships' House should have considered these matters from the outset. It is always the practice of your Lordships' House that preliminary decisions and any recommendations are considered first in your Lordships' committees. That is the way in which we operate. That is the way in which proposals come before your Lordships' House. I suggest that it would be wasting the time of your Lordships' House if we did not follow that procedure.
There is a further fundamental point about that. Whatever recommendations the management consultant may make, in the first place, it is for your Lordships' appropriate committees to consider any such recommendations and then, if thought fit, to make recommendations to your Lordships. It is, always has been and, as far as I am concerned, always
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, before the Chairman of Committees sits down, although he has generously and freely offered a great deal of information which has been sought, for which I am sure the House is grateful, I am not clear whether he proposes that the House should agree to that which many of us are worried about and on which we should prefer to have a rather fuller debate. Will he agree to that?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, before the Chairman of Committees responds to that point and, indeed, to any other points that are made--and I can see that a number of noble Lords wish to play a part--perhaps I may make a few remarks not just as Leader of the Opposition but also as a member of the Offices Committee. Apart from the Chairman of Committees, I believe that I am the only person so far who has spoken as a member of that committee.
I want to make two points: one a general one and one a more specific one. On the general point, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, quite rightly raised the question of the report which we are debating. He said that it is rather thin. Having read it again, I agree entirely with that.
I know and suspect that that follows a format which has been well laid down by precedent, but perhaps the time has come, given the greater interest that there is in the House on such matters, for the way in which the reports are laid out to be reviewed and for more information to be provided. That may, in part, allow Peers who have an interest in those matters to raise questions informally with the Chairman of Committees or the authorities of the House before raising them in the House in this manner. I hope that that is a valuable suggestion which the Chairman of Committees may bring forward.
The second matter concerns the appointment of the management consultant. I should like to assure the House that this was agreed to in committee only after a great deal of discussion, debate and advice coming from the Chairman of Committees and others about the role of Mr Braithwaite.
The two points that were made were, first, that although Members of the House may be suitable to undertake this role, the Clerks were tied up in doing a great deal of other business servicing this House, so that they did not have the time to carry out this work themselves. The second point was made by the Chairman of Committees about having somebody from outside examining our structures. I, for one, agree with that. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and others will agree to accept this report. If it should come to a Division--I hope that it will not--I shall support the conclusions of the Offices Committee.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I must say I was very disturbed by the intervention of the Leader of the Opposition just now. I had intended to rise earlier, but the Chairman of Committees got to his feet before I was able to join in. I am particularly concerned about how we operate. We are told that, of course, when we get this document we are free to spend as much time as we like debating it, except that if we debate for too long everybody gets irritated, so de facto, we are not.
We are also told that, of course, we can divide on such a Motion, but in practice we do not, because we are all so sensitive to the feelings of those who serve on this committee that we would not care to offend them. I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Barnett, except that as always in his restrained manner he talked in rather delicate language. I regard this report as ridiculous and if there were an opportunity to vote against it, I say categorically that I would vote against it on this occasion.
I am concerned not merely with the lack of a factual basis but, like the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, having had at least a minimum of experience of what management consultants do, I know that you end up doing all the work for them. All this is is a way of bringing somebody in at £70K so that some of us can then do the job. In my judgment, my noble friend Lord Barnett is quite right: in which case why do we not save the £70K, organise a dinner for ourselves and still do the job? The serious point is that we will end up doing the job even if we spend that £70K. Therefore, I personally would not like to spend it.
It seems to me this is an example of what is going wrong with your Lordships' House. I do not say this to the noble Lord in any personal way--he is doing this in his role as a member of the Procedure Committee--but to put forward the argument that the Clerks have not got the facilities for doing the job themselves simply confirms what we have all been saying for some time: it is about time that we dealt with the resources problem and did not go in for this minimal incrementalism of doing a little bit here and a little bit there but never facing up to the realities of what needs to be done in your Lordships' House. Therefore, I particularly reject the argument that we have to follow this course because the Clerks are too busy. I have no idea what my noble friend Lord Barnett will propose in a moment, but were he for once, instead of being conciliatory, to adopt a rather revolutionary approach to this matter, he would have at least one noble friend supporting him.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, first, I welcome the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I thought it was very helpful. If I may say so, I have found quite incredible some of the replies from the Chairman of Committees. He told us that he did not want to overburden us with information. Well, he certainly did not do that. He said that he would send
Lord Barnett: My Lords, it would be, frankly, outrageous to ask us to agree to a report which suggests, for example, spending thousands of pounds on a consultant without telling us the answer to all the other points that we need to know, some of which have not yet come forward. Therefore, I hope that the Chairman of Committees will tell us that he does not propose to put this Motion to the House. If he does, I ask your Lordships to oppose it.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, the only point I wanted to make has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, with greater force than I would have been able to make it. I sincerely ask the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees if he will withdraw this Motion now and for it not to be debated today.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, as a former member of the Administration and Works Sub-Committee, perhaps I may say that my noble friend Lord Peston is actually wrong. We did divide the House over the matter of carparking at the front of your Lordships' House, so there is a precedent. I, too, hope that the Chairman of Committees will withdraw this Motion, but if he decides not to do so, I shall certainly vote against it.
Could the Chairman of Committees let the House know whether Mr Braithwaite has been chosen as a result of a competitive tendering procedure? There are many thousands of management consultants in this country and I would like to hear that he has been appointed because of his excellence rather than because he is somebody's friend, but I am sure that is not the case.
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