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Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Hoyle: Certainly, my Lords, although it is late.

Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, would the noble Lord care to give us an example of a mixed chamber elsewhere that works well compared with the work of this House, and can he explain why there are far more chambers elsewhere that are wholly appointed than are mixed?

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, that is not true. I could go through a number of mixed Chambers. Ireland is one such Chamber that works perfectly. It has people who are elected and people who are appointed. The noble Lord shakes his head, as he is entitled to, but there are many more such Chambers, and there are many parliaments that are fully elected and work perfectly, without the upper house challenging the other.

The noble Lord may care to read Reforming the House of Lords: Lessons from Overseas, and there are other reports that he might read. We could carry on all night, but the House does not want us to do that. The House wants us to differ in our opinions and present those opinions. I dispute what the noble Lord says. There must be a substantial elected element. I would recommend that it should be at least 50 per cent, if the reform is to be meaningful.

The next thing that I want to mention is the election date. We could not use any date other than that of the general election. We could not use the date of the European elections. I would like to see more people voting in European elections; they are important. However, the truth is that the turn-out is not there. To get the regional spread, we should ask people to vote in the general election and also in an open list system. When all the votes have been counted, the representation in this House will reflect the votes in each region. We should put a limit on the length of time that can be served because, as we know, there is no fixed date for a general election. That would mean that, if there were an immediate general election, no one in this House should have to step down just then. I want to see a good turn-out, so that we have a representative Chamber.

I would also like to see any reforms that are to be made carried through by the date of the next general election. The sword of Damocles cannot continue to hang over both Chambers. We must settle the direction in which we are going and be positive about it. So often this Chamber has missed the boat, and both Houses have missed the chance for reform. We have already got rid of many of the hereditary Peers, and the rest will follow in due course, whether we decide on a House that is appointed or partially

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elected—perhaps the 80 per cent elected element that the Opposition are talking about. We should seize the opportunity. If we do not, we shall never be forgiven.

I make one last plea to the House. I am sorry to say that I must make it because of the speeches that I have heard today. Can the House, for once, instead of looking to the past, look to the future?

10.18 p.m.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Weatherill has already so superbly and succinctly said everything that I wanted to say.

I, too, am against any elected element in your Lordships' House. We have so many electoral systems already—for Europe, the Commons, local authorities and, for those of us who live in Scotland and Wales, a devolved Parliament or Assembly. For those who live in London, there is also the Greater London Assembly. It can surely be argued that yet another election would only increase confusion, not to mention creating even greater voter apathy. As I have mentioned before in your Lordships' House, I believe that that is one of the most worrying situations that we face today.

I did not agree with an enormous amount of what the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, said. However, I agree that, outside Westminster, people do not know what the House does; nor, sadly, do they care. The electorate, to put it bluntly, is bored by politics and politicians. Many of your Lordships have warned that the issue is one of the most difficult to have faced politics for well over a hundred years. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor claimed that it would take a genius to resolve the conflicting views.

I think nearly all of us, openly or secretly, are forced to admit that the House as it is currently constituted is working well. Therefore there must be an overwhelming case to leave it alone. I know how disappointed my noble friend Lord Cobbold is not to be able to take part in this debate today and tomorrow. I quote very briefly from his excellent letter in the Daily Telegraph.


    "The really important fact that the people of this country ignore at their peril, is that the House of Lords is a unique pool of expertise and experience, which could never be equalled in an elected chamber. There are no salaries. The House of Lords costs one tenth of the House of Commons. It is made up of Cabinet Ministers, civil servants, senior servicemen, trade-unionists, businessmen, lawyers, religious leaders, farmers, academics, teachers, sportsmen, doctors, nurses and journalists. These experts are willing and able to contribute their knowledge and experience to the scrutiny of new legislation and, where necessary, to require the Government to think again".

I think all those points are extremely relevant to our debate today.

I have to admit that not knowing when the second stage will be implemented is somewhat frustrating, especially in trying to plan for my own future. I have, however, always accepted that my days here are numbered and I feel immensely privileged to have been a Member of the House both before and after the 1999 Act. I have learnt an enormous amount from serving on various committees, having forged many new friendships and greatly appreciated coming into contact with incredibly helpful

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and friendly members of staff throughout the entire House. I have found it a very rewarding experience and one that I shall always treasure.

I shall miss it greatly, and I wish the new House well. It is certainly one of the most civilised institutions of this increasingly violent and selfish society. Whatever is decided I hope and pray it will be beneficial to the inhabitants of the United Kingdom in calling the ever-powerful executive to account. I have a nasty feeling that it will just, in fact, be another layer of expensive bureaucracy. I hope and pray that I shall be proved wrong.

10.22 p.m.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, listening to the debate this evening I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, should quite pack his suitcase yet.

I have a small criticism to make of the Government. I listened to some of the speeches in another place today—of course, they went to bed at 7.30 p.m. The Minister announced that the Government had no view at all on these issues. I would like gently to suggest to the Government that it might have been a good idea to have a view about where they were going before they started on this process. As a member of the Joint Committee, and having spent a large part of the summer reading everything that I could put my hands on concerning House of Lords reform and associated issues, I confess that I can think of no issue where I have been in more different positions and found the issues to be more difficult than this.

When I was asked to join the Joint Committee it was probably on the basis that people thought I was in favour of a fully elected House, which I probably was at that time. I think I was in the category of those people whom the noble Lord, Lord Richard, mentioned in his speech. The Government had kicked out the hereditary Peers. It was a mess. What were we going to do? The obvious thing to do would be to have an elected House. That would carry legitimacy with voters and would also meet what appeared to be majority opinion in the House of Commons.

At the risk of being rebuked by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, the joy of the Conservative Party overleaping the Government in Disraelian manner was something which seemed attractive—although the principle was what motivated me, of course.

I have never been in favour of a hybrid House. If we have a House of appointed Members and elected Members, I want the chance to stand as an elected Member. I do not want the phrase used by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, directed at me. She said that respect comes only from elections. That is a most remarkable thing. I do not want to be a Member of this Chamber as an appointed person and hear an elected Peer stand and tell me that respect comes only from election. That essential dysfunction would be introduced by having a hybrid Chamber with elected Members.

Perhaps I may explain to the House how I finally cleared my brain. It was thanks to the good offices of my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon. There are two of his former Parliamentary Private Secretaries on

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the Joint Committee; myself and Kenneth Clarke. I proved more malleable than Kenneth Clarke. My noble and learned friend focused us on the issue of the role. Many speakers have made the point that the key question is: what is this place for? What do we want it to do? What are its roles and functions? Surprise, surprise—there is almost unanimity about that. Go down the corridor or across the House and in all the opinions about the reform of the Lords there is almost unanimity that this place should do pretty well what it does now and does very well indeed; that is, to be a reforming, revising House.

In most walks of life, if one wants to set up an organisation to undertake a task, one first works out what it should do and then what is the best way of getting the best people to achieve it. What has bedevilled the debate is the fact that we have thought about composition before we have thought about functions. Another place has a major problem because it wants this place to be just as it is now. Its Members do not want us to challenge their authority or to take any more powers. They want us to do nothing different. However, they want it to be elected. That is having your cake and eating it and that is believing two impossible things at once. It is a fundamental error.

I have been an elected Member and as an appointed Member I behave differently. For a start, as an elected Member I could not have changed my mind on the committee and not had a visit from the Chief Whip. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde, as Leader of the Opposition, said, "I gather you've had a damascene conversion". I said, "I've never been anywhere near Damascus". Elected Members behave differently—they have to because they are accountable to their electorate. That is their function. They would of course expect to be paid and the press and their electors would expect them to be full-time with no moonlighting and all the arguments that we have down the corridor. And of course they must be to a degree—and to an increasing degree in all political parties—accountable to the party. As an elected Member wanting to be re-elected, one will be more partisan and less independent because one must satisfy a whole range of people.

I am delighted to see that the Prime Minister is reported as being against a hybrid House. Many people have argued that the life Peers are just like the hereditary. I am not sure that that is right because the arguments about expertise relate to the reform—the Life Peerages Act—but the point is that that was done over a long period of time. There was a long transition as the life Peers came in and the House managed to find a new role; one which is carried out extremely successfully.

Perhaps I may return to the issue of role because time is getting on. There seems to be agreement that whatever reform we have, it should not challenge the House of Commons. That seems to me to point to an appointed and not an elected body. There is agreement that this House has a great range of expertise. The right reverend Prelate asked: why would people not be prepared to stand for election from whatever background? As a former Cabinet Minister, the thought of going back to surgeries and so forth does

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not fill me with enthusiasm. I imagine that eminent scientists and doctors are not filled with enthusiasm at the thought of having to go through the full political process. People may say, "That is disgraceful. You should have a more positive attitude". Life is as it is and if we want to have a House that is composed of such expertise, we have to be realistic and that points to appointments rather than elections. The House of Lords works.

I have to say—and as its Members have gone home they probably will not notice me saying it—that I am appalled by the decline in the House of Commons. Some years ago, a taxi driver took me past the House of Commons and said, "Do you miss that place?". I said, "The place I miss no longer exists". He thought that I was having some kind of breakdown, but what I meant was that it has changed into a completely different body through the dominance of the executive. So if we want parliamentary reform, it should start down the Corridor where there is a problem, not here where there is not.

This unpaid, ageing House sits longer and works harder than the House of Commons now. If I take a long week-end, I come down from Scotland on a Tuesday—and sometimes I find Scottish Members of Parliament coming home having done their week's work.

The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said that we will end up with a compromise. Let us not compromise our Parliament. The truth is that the more elected people we have in this Chamber, the less independent people we will have; the more elected people, the more cost to the taxpayer; the more elected people, the less specialist expertise; the more elected people, the less room there will be for bishops, judges and others; the more elected people, the more "yah-boo" politics and partisan campaigning we will see; and the more elected people, the more the House will challenge the Commons and the executive with, as the noble Lord, Lord Carter, pointed out both in the Joint Committee and in the debate, pretty well unlimited powers. People believe that this House has no powers, but it has the power to bring the whole of the Government's programme to a halt if it chooses to do so. It chooses not to do so because of its position. Elected Members would use everything available to them in the pursuit of their constituency interests.

It is true that all of these aspects of having elected Members can be moderated. You could make the term longer to reduce patronage; you could say that there are no Ministers in this House to reduce patronage; you could do all kinds of things. But, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, pointed out, all we are seeking then to do is to make elected Members look more like appointed Members with the tenure of a life Peer.

I return, finally, to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and her idea that election brings legitimacy. No one argues that our judges need to be elected to have legitimacy and to command respect. The role of this House is to advise and to encourage the Commons to think again, and to do so in an intelligent and effective manner. It does not follow that legitimacy comes simply from election.

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If I am asked what I do I say, "I work in the City" and "I am a Member of the House of Lords". I do so with a certain amount of pride. If I were a Member of the House of Commons I am not sure that I would do so with the same enthusiasm. It is true that the standards of the House of Commons have fallen and that people are disappointed by its performance. This House commands respect because of its work, not because of how its Members are appointed. When we come to the vote, I shall vote for having a fully appointed House and against all the other options—and I urge other noble Lords to do so too.

10.34 p.m.

Lord Birt: My Lords, introducing an elected element into this Chamber without materially changing its role risks, in my view, unbalancing, unsettling our constitution.

This House has a limited but valuable role, much defined today—to debate the issues of the moment; to monitor the government of the day; above all, and most importantly, to scrutinise and propose amendments to legislation.

At its best, this Chamber discharges that role with distinction, because although some here, inevitably and reasonably, follow their party's line, there are substantial numbers of independently-minded Members on all sides of this House either with long experience of government, or with true and deep expertise in a particular field. They bring wide perspective and robust judgment to bear on proposed legislation.

But our role is limited, because, in the final analysis, as we know, we offer only advice; and that advice can in the end be set aside by the democratically elected Members of the House of Commons. All we can really do is to invite the government of the day to think again.

Many hereditary Peers have made a conscientious contribution to the business of this House. We have been moved, amused and stimulated by several during the course of today's debate. But the proposal to remove them was and is surely right, both on the grounds that birth alone is an untenable qualification for involvement in the legislative process in the 21st century, and because, as a method of selection, it is unlikely, to say the least, to provide the optimum mix of talents to enable this House effectively to discharge its critical role as a revising Chamber.

So, first, the essentially advisory role of this House; secondly, the non-binding nature of the counsel it proffers; and, thirdly, a body composed by selection of the experienced and the expert—the watchwords of the day—are all of one piece.

We could have had—but have not yet had—a fundamental debate about the British constitution. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, believes that that would be impossible. Starting with a clean sheet of paper, we could have designed some optimum mix of institutions. We could have debated whether one Church—any Church—in today's Britain should have an entrenched position in Parliament. We could have discussed the benefits of an organisationally discrete supreme court. We could have asked whether the nation's leading legal

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officer should be a Member of the Government. We could have decided on one House or two—and if two, with what division of responsibilities. We could have determined the ideal split of powers in a two-chamber Parliament. But we have not.

If at some point in the future the role of the upper House were to change fundamentally, if it were to be given real and substantial additional powers, then direct election of all of its Members is likely to be the best method of selection for that House at that time. But, in the absence of such a fundamental re-appraisal, our role is to remain essentially the same. In those circumstances a well-constructed and democratically rooted process of direct appointment is far more likely than direct election to produce stout, independently minded Members of experience and expertise, from a comprehensive array of groups and interests, who can truly bring a different kind of scrutiny to bear than Members of heavily whipped parties in another place.

I do see the strength of the argument made by the Royal Commission for electing members to represent the interests of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, but for me that argument falls on the grounds that partial election to this Chamber would introduce the notion of democratic equivalence with the House of Commons, and thus undermine, possibly fatally, our role as an essentially advisory Chamber.

So, in due course—and for these reasons—I plan to cast my vote for the option of a wholly appointed Chamber and to oppose all options proposing an elected element, unless and until we are presented in the House with more far-reaching proposals for a fundamental re-alignment of our political system.


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