|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I suggest to the noble Lord that it is not a failure of management. It is, as he said, a failure of resources. If one does not have the resources, one cannot provide the facilities. I do not blame the management. I think that the place is well run within totally inadequate resources.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I have to say to the noble Lord that his concept of management may be different from mine. Who is responsible for getting the resources? I am not; nor is the noble Lord. We have no role in this matter. If I am asked why we do not have
We cannot carry on in this gentle mode of saying, "Really, we want a few changes but we don't want to criticise anyone. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings". It is all nice and cosy, as your Lordships love it to be. But there is something wrong about what has been going on in your Lordships' House. It is not something wrong that has emerged since the Labour Party became the Government. It has been going on all the time I have been here. The reason I am in an angry mood is that what is particularly wrong is the wish for us not to expose these matters and demand that something be done. Having said I think that we are wasting our time--I do believe that--I agree with the notion that the committee should consist entirely of Back-Benchers.
I have another point. What we are getting, as always, is talk and no action. That is what this debate is about and that is what we have had for years. What we want is action and no talk. What we are not remotely told is how long what is proposed will take. I am entirely sympathetic to the view of my noble friend Lord Barnett that this is an attempt to make sure that it takes a long time. I cannot see it being done in time for some of us to live to see it, but that may be unduly cynical on my part. I should like to have seen in the report that someone would say to the consultant, whoever he is, "We would like the job done by that date. Will you do it?" If the consultant said, "That is not enough time", we could say, "We will find another consultant. He will do it by that date".
I really do wish to introduce a nasty note into this discussion. I think I have succeeded in doing that. I really do wish to offend the powers that be, because I regard them as the target for criticism. They are responsible. They should have taken the necessary steps. They should not be hiding behind consultants and committees. I do want to criticise people. But what I really want is for the resources to be made available soon and for something to happen.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I wish to ask the Chairman of Committees a question. I have been trying to ask it for the past three-quarters of an hour. On page five of the report, the paragraph entitled "Costs" reminds one of Alice in Wonderland. It states:
My noble friend has a very good point. But I want to make this point, too. If noble Lords have read Hansard and have read the Written Answers, they will have seen that this House is now sitting for more hours than the House of Commons, it is sitting on more days than the House of Commons and it is doing much of the legislative work of scrutiny that the House of Commons, unfortunately, is not doing. If it is to continue to do that--to sit late at night, at all the hours God sends--then it needs very much better resources.
I shall also say this. If noble Lords have been reading their Written Answers in Hansard, they will have seen that it costs £45 million a year to run this House, whereas the House of Commons costs £270 million a year. That is six times more than the House of Lords. The amount of money available to us is only one-sixth of that available to the House of Commons, even though we are doing the job--the job that we should be doing, of course--of revising and scrutinising legislation on an ever-increasing and far more important scale.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I should like to ask the Leader of the House, who represents the interests of all Members of this House, if, during the spillover period, she would be kind enough to put down a Motion for this House to agree that we require back the office accommodation on the second floor currently being used by the House of Commons at the end of the next Session of Parliament. That will give them plenty of time to make alternative arrangements.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I shall speak briefly because I contributed to this debate on the last occasion. I should like to point out that the House should set an example in connection with procurement and contracting procedures.
If a local authority had appointed a consultant on the basis that the next-door local authority thought that he was a "good egg", that authority would find the Audit Commission and every other agency jumping down its throat. I am not persuaded that one needs a management consultant, but if that is to be agreed, then one of the roles of the corporate officer of the House, as it states in the report, is to ensure that,
I can see no reason why, if the House wishes to employ a consultant, it should not comply with the rules covering public procurement by putting work out to competitive tender and considering alternative proposals. The House should set an example and follow the procedures that would be expected of all local authorities and other public agencies.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by agreeing with one of the general points made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon; namely, the point he made on the length of the Sittings of this House. For quite some time I would tell people from outside of the House--especially visiting parliamentarians--that another place was the longest sitting Chamber in the world, while this one was the second longest. The noble Lord is quite right to say that your Lordships' House has now overtaken another place. I agree that that is something to be borne very much in mind when we discuss resources. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, along with other noble Lords.
I should like to go on to say this. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if, after our detailed debate, I do not attempt to respond to every point that has been made, or to every individual speaker. Indeed, I believe that some of the contributions spoke for themselves. A further point develops from that comment. I am grateful for the contributions made by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. They have already dealt with some of the points of detail which would otherwise have fallen to me.
Before addressing the main point made in the debate, I was asked a specific question by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. He asked about paragraph 2 of the report covering the salaries of the Chairman and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees. He asked in particular whether there was a special reason for the increase awarded last year. I feel bound to reply to that. Yes, the answer is that there was a special reason. I shall quote a memorandum from the Clerk of the Parliaments to the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee written in July of last year. I shall quote only a part of it:
I hope that that provides an answer to the specific question. I hope also that your Lordships will forgive me if I say that I do not think that it would be seemly for me, in the circumstances, to join in a debate about these salaries. Indeed, when the first occasion to discuss the increases arose in the committees of your Lordships' House, I offered to withdraw. However,
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|