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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I do not question the noble Lord's personal views, but the report says that legitimacy can and would be achieved by widening representation. That is the committee's finding. Does he accept that?

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, there is certainly something in that. I am not making the case for a wholly elected second Chamber. Having been in the House, I recognise the enormous contribution that has been made by people who have not come, as I have, from a political background.

Ultimately, we are looking at whether this House should be peopled by those who are put here as the result of an independent appointments commission or by election. One does not have to look into a crystal ball, because we already have the first tranche of "people's Peers" appointments by an independent appointments commission. I do not wish to cause offence to any of those Members, but I think that those appointments went down like a lead balloon from the point of view of what the public expected from the commission. Therefore, let us not put all our eggs in one basket and believe that the alternative to election is an independent appointments commission—far from it.

As a member of the Labour Party and a socialist, and proud of it, I rest on what I was led to believe was the policy of the Labour Party over the years. My noble friend Lord Richard gave us the run-down on that. In 1992, the Labour Party was in favour of reforms leading to a new elected second Chamber. I say, three cheers for that! My noble friend Lord Plant gave us the gravamen of his report. In 1996, at the John Smith Memorial Lecture, which I attended along with many others in the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre—Tony Blair said that the Labour Party has always favoured an elected second Chamber. That was news to me, but I accepted it. I was certainly in favour of an elected second Chamber. Finally, we fought the last election on wanting a representative and democratic second Chamber.

I know there is an argument, "You can't have both". Frankly, we are in a position to have both. But the elected element is missing. Churchill used a phrase,

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"Trust the people". He won an election on that phrase. I think that, to a greater rather than a smaller extent, we should trust the people. Instead of pretending that we know what the public want, let us give them the chance to put into this place the people they want. The simplest, unadorned way of doing that is to devise some means of election to this House. People may be sick, tired and fed up with elections, but it would be unthinkable for the Labour Party collectively to walk away from this debate. After waiting 100 years, and with the opportunity to do something dramatic, that would effectively be saying that all the Labour Party is going to do is simply tinker at the edges.

I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Renton, to the debate.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He may well remember, but perhaps I may also remind him, that Churchill, as well as saying, "Trust the people", also said on one occasion—and I heard him say it—"Democracy works badly but we cannot have any other system".

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I take that as a "yes" to the arguments. I am grateful.

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is in his place. As always, I listened to his speech with interest. He said that it appeared to him that colleagues from the Commons who sit on these Benches are in favour of appointment rather than election. That may well be true, but from all Benches I have heard former Members of the Commons speak in support of election rather than appointment. I refer, for example, to the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Wakeham, on the Conservative Benches; the noble Lord, Lord McNally and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on the Liberal Democrat Benches; and my noble friends Lord Dubs and Lord Richard from these Benches, as well as myself. Let us not kid ourselves that there has been a sea change.

The question which must be addressed is whether hybridity is acceptable. As has been said, miraculously, all over the world Chambers are peopled by Members some of whom are appointed and some of whom are elected. We do not want necessarily to copy what happens in other countries, but if they can do it and if it is our wish, so can we.

The issue is clear. We either complete the job which the Labour Party has attempted to do for almost 100 years—not alone but with the support of the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats—or we do not. We have an opportunity now to do so and I will vote for as high a percentage of elected membership as can be achieved. Certainly, I hope that that will be at least 50 per cent. I rest my case.

9 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, whom I have for many years both admired and disagreed with. Today, I find myself doing both in equal measure. I might have called him "the noble and

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unreconstructed Lord" because his policies and those of the Labour Party of 100 years ago he advocates with undiminished enthusiasm.

I share the anxieties expressed by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway at the beginning of his speech; that at this time of night one cannot make a speech because everything has been said. I shall probably demonstrate the truth of that. However, perhaps I may presume to suggest that it is just worthwhile drawing attention to one feature that has emerged in the debate. It is that a surprising number of noble Lords who have spoken have experienced a conversion of their views; that is, away from an initial espousal of an elected, wholly or in-part, Chamber and towards a wholly nominated Chamber.

Typical of them, though he is anything but typical as he is unique in his experience of both Houses, is the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. Yesterday, he explained that he had been initially attracted to a partially elected House, but then he began to think of the practical implications. He listed them. First and foremost among them was the fact that there is an ennui in the country when it comes to elections, leading to low turn-out—one might call it "election fatigue"—with unimpressive results when looking at the people who win.

Secondly, the noble Lord spoke with feeling about the prospects of electoral mayhem in the constituencies, with invidious conflicts taking place between elected Members of the second Chamber and the sitting Westminster MPs, leading, most importantly, to instability if the proposed reform towards an elected component takes place. Others have spoken of that and of other differences, too, and those implications weighed with other noble Lords who have experienced the "conversion". The difficulties will be seen; there will be pressure for further change; and we shall be back where we started.

Perhaps, above all, there weighed on the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, the absence of any need for further representation. The House may remember the way in which he listed the number and scale of representative organisations for which people are invited to vote—invited all too often in vain already. He looked, in contrast to that, at the way in which a statutory and new appointments system could be tasked specifically with the widening of the representation of nominees to this House.

Other noble Lords reported similar conversions—not damascene but gradual and occurring after much thought on their part. They include my noble friend Lord Forsyth, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, among many others.

Equally as interesting is the fact that I have heard of no conversion in the opposite direction. This suggests to me that when the issues surrounding the character and composition of a second Chamber are studied, the immediate and seductive attractions of an elected composition are seen to wane. That answer has been

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persuasively given by those noble Lords who have challenged the reliability of various opinion polls on this issue. I shall not recite the arguments that we have heard about them because time is getting on and I do not wish to repeat myself and delay the House unduly.

It is enormously helpful that the Joint Committee has established so much common ground on the continuing need for a second Chamber; on what I may call its job description; on the need to enhance its present legitimacy or acceptability; and, lastly, on the need for its present composition to become more representative. I believe that the Joint Committee is right on all of those matters. It is also right to say to each House, "We have come this far. Now it is over to you to express your own views".

That justifies my setting out—very briefly, I hope—the centrepiece, and no more, of my own views. The composition of the second Chamber is the critical question that the Joint Committee asks us. To elect or to appoint? In either case, how and in what relative proportion?

When we consider the election options, we do so in fairly sombre circumstances. I have alluded already to the effect that they have had upon the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. We are seeing in this country an indifference to political elections which seems to be growing. It is not necessary to go into the reasons, but, whatever they may be, it is not a trend that will be reversed speedily.

Surely, we can agree that we must do nothing to exacerbate the situation. If we try to make the second Chamber more representative by resorting to elections—even for the whole of its membership, not only for part—can we be confident that we will not find a seriously low turn-out? I do not think we can be confident on current form. Even in elections for legislatures with a primary legislative jurisdiction we are seeing this decline in electoral interest.

My noble friend Lady Blatch reminded us of the grim recent record. It would be much worse surely if people were invited to vote for representatives in a House which was only partly elected and had only an advisory role. I do not believe that exhilarating candidates would come forward, and we might find that the electorate would give their support, on a tiny poll, to fringe candidates. So in this House your Lordships might shortly be welcoming the noble, as well as screaming, Lord Sutch in a latter day form. There might be many more such candidates who would make equal contributions to your Lordships' proceedings.

In its wisdom, the Joint Committee alluded to this risk. I shall not take up the time of the House by citing the page. It referred to the situation and said that it might happen. The Joint Committee rehearsed various means by which people could be encouraged—others might say dragooned—into going to vote so as to overcome that risk. I do not believe that that is a sufficient safeguard against the dangers that exist; it is my principal reason for supporting Option 1.

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There are other reasons on which I respectfully adopt, if I may use a lawyerism, the arguments put by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Carter; my noble friends Lord Norton, Lord Higgins and Lord Forsyth; the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, this afternoon; and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, very recently. I adopt all their arguments.

But my vote—for the central reason, first among many, of the declining vote which on that definition will lead to a no less illegitimate House—will go against any form of selected composition. I want to secure a new, statutory appointments commission and a less haphazardly representative second Chamber than we have at present, wholly appointed by it and on a basis to be further considered by the admirable Joint Committee.

9.10 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, this is the first occasion on which I have spoken on the subject of House of Lords reform, and I hesitate to do so given that 83 of your Lordships have already spoken, many of whom in all parts of the House have deployed arguments which I should have wished to put forward myself.

I hope the House will forgive me if I approach this issue from a personal standpoint. My introduction to this House was in July 1999. All 740 hereditary Peers were still Members, although they were clearly going to depart at the end of that Session, save for the 92.

I remember that there were many fears expressed, some in the Chamber and many privately—mainly on the Conservative Benches—that the House would change irrevocably for the worse after the passage of the 1999 Act. We were told that the old-fashioned courtesies would disappear; our debates would become stridently party-political; we should no longer hear speeches of quality from colleagues who bring a lifetime of experience and distinction from outside to our affairs; and our effectiveness as a revising Chamber and our ability to ask the Government to think again about an aspect of their legislation would cease. Concern on the Labour side centred on the fact that, as the Conservatives remained the largest party and Labour strength was still under 30 per cent of the total membership, the Government would be frustrated from getting their legislation, with Bills endlessly delayed by filibustering.

None of those fears has been realised—not one. Certainly there have been Bills where the Government have lost votes. My noble friend Lord Carter reminded us yesterday that the Government suffered 56 defeats in the previous Session alone. There have also been Bills on matters of social conscience where the outcome has not been to the Government's liking—but often that has been because a number of their own supporters has declined to follow the line, and cross-party coalitions have been formed.

When I describe to friends in another place how these matters are settled in this House, I am greeted with incredulity, particularly when I add that from

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time to time votes are won and lost here on the basis of what has been said during the debate itself. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, and other speakers referred to the debate on stem cell research. That is a particularly good example, but there have been many others. It is also interesting how often one hears comments from people outside the immediate political process about the high quality of speeches in this Chamber.

So I would say to my friends who are proposing further radical reform of this House: can we be sure that these qualities which the present House possesses will still exist in any future House, particularly if it is one that is wholly or partly elected? I am not arguing that so far as this House is concerned "This is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds". I am sure that there are many people in the country who could do the job as well as, or better than, we do. But what has not been proved, either in this debate or in the deliberations of the Joint Committee, is that there are people of quality who would only be interested in coming here if they were elected.

There may be a case for a 100 per cent elected House; but we have not heard it in this debate. It is not contained in the Royal Commission report, it is not in the Government's White Paper, and it is not in the report of the Joint Committee. They have not begun to think about the implications of that in another place. It is inconceivable that you could have a bicameral system where both Houses are elected but one has complete control over supply and the unquestioned and undisputed final word on everything else as well. Other noble Lords have spoken about the drawbacks attached to each of the hybrid solutions involving a partially-elected House. I shall not repeat them.

Some of my noble friends have implied that a proportion of the House must be elected to fulfil the Labour Party's manifesto commitments. With respect, that is not so in the case of the 1997 or 2001 manifestos. My noble friend Lord Richard used as his text the 1992 manifesto, which contains a commitment. I gently remind him that the Labour Party lost the 1992 election, whereas it won the 1997 and 2001 elections.

The Labour Party's commitment in 1997 was to end,

    "the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords . . . This will be the first stage in a process to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative".

I shall read verbatim because I do not want to be accused of misquoting. In 2001 the party said:

    "We are committed to completing House of Lords reform, including the removal of the remaining hereditary peers, to make it more representative and democratic, while maintaining the House of Commons' traditional primacy. We have given our support to the report and conclusions of the Wakeham Commission, and will seek to implement them in the most effective way possible".

For a party that has usually been skilful in claiming success, particularly in pursuit of policies it promised voters at election time, it is surprising that the Government have not made more of the profound constitutional change they achieved in passing the House of Lords Act 1999. Lloyd-George, Asquith and Wilson would all have regarded the ending of heredity

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as a basis for membership of the House of Lords as a great political prize. They sought to achieve it and failed to do so. Furthermore, as is clear from the debate today and yesterday, it is an irreversible change. It is inconceivable that the party opposite, if it were returned to power, would invite the hereditary Peers back.

There remains the issue of the 92 excepted Peers, which has come to the fore because of the need to hold a by-election following the death of the noble Viscount, Lord Oxfuird. I have re-read the Hansard reports of the debates on the Weatherill amendment during the passage of the House of Lords Act 1999. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor made clear that,

    "Clause 2 of the Bill is not about keeping open the principle of hereditary membership of your Lordships' House".—[Official Report, 22/6/99; col. 795.]

I do not believe that I would misrepresent his view in saying that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor envisaged completing stage two of House of Lords reform within the first Session of this new Parliament, thus obviating the need for by-elections. But I wonder whether he agrees that, if we abolished the provision for by-elections and perhaps regarded the 92 excepted Peers as de facto life Peers, the Government would regard that as having substantially implemented their manifesto commitments?

I am aware that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, whom I am delighted to see in his place, would object to that. He made clear on 26th October 1999 that he regarded the Government's acceptance of the by-election arrangements as "notable and important" because,

    "the Government thereby accept the principle of a continuing representative hereditary peerage".—[Official Report, 26/10/99; col. 170.]

Quite so, my Lords. That is the problem. Until heredity is no longer a criterion for membership of this House, the central manifesto commitment will not have been fulfilled. I appreciate that fulfilling Labour's manifesto programme may not be high on the agenda of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, but it should be for noble Lords on this side of the House.

I shall be voting for Option 1 and against the remaining options, provided that I get an assurance that the hereditary by-election procedure will be abolished and a more transparent, inclusive appointment will be implemented to avoid the accusations of patronage that would result from an open system.

9.19 p.m.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I add my thanks to the many that have already been offered to the Joint Committee and to my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon for his introduction of the debate. Of the options that will be before the House in February, I shall support the appointed option, although I am bound to say that, given the general acceptance of the existing role and powers of this

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House, I understand why my noble friend Lord Ferrers asked why it is necessary to change the existing arrangements.

On the assumption that change will come, I hope that the plea of the noble and gallant Lord the Convenor of the Cross Benches will be heard in regard to the 92 hereditary Peers and that the same consideration will be extended to them as I understand the report suggests may be offered to life Peers.

Whether one supports the continuation of the existing House or the creation of a new House constituted by appointment, there must be a change in the method of appointment. It is incumbent on those of us who support an appointed House, whether for life—which I favour—or for a non-renewable term, of whatever length, to show that this can be achieved in a modern and open way.

Like other noble Lords, I support the concept of the statutory appointments commissions. However, it is insufficient merely to say that. It is important to put some flesh on those bones to show that it would not merely be a continuation of the old ways.

The noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, has already done some of that work this evening. Perhaps I may be allowed briefly to pursue the point. All appointments to the second Chamber should be approved by a statutory appointments commission, which itself would be appointed by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. In approving all recommendations for appointment, the commission ought to have regard to guidelines which would be established by Parliament and not varied other than by a resolution of both Houses.

Those guidelines should ensure that this second Chamber would be balanced politically as to expertise and interests as between the different parts of the United Kingdom and as between men and women. It should be representative of the population of the United Kingdom as a whole. There should be no overall majority for any party. The independent element of not less than 20 per cent—or whatever is thought to be the right percentage—of the active membership of the second Chamber should be maintained. The commission should have a responsibility to maintain the total number of approximately 700—or whatever is decided is the right number of active Members of the second Chamber.

Proposals for new Members should be made to the commission in three ways. The commission, acting on its own behalf, would make recommendations for the independent element. It could also make recommendations on nominations made by the leader of any registered political party and on recommendations made by the Prime Minister acting as Prime Minster, but not as leader of his party.

In making submissions for recommendations for appointment, party leaders should submit a list of names from which the commission could select, having regard to the guidelines, but the commission should not be obliged to give reasons for rejection. Rejections would not necessarily be absolute. The lists put

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forward by party leaders should contain more names than the party leader might wish or be entitled to have recommended for appointment.

The Prime Minister should have a separate entitlement to submit names of Members to be appointed Ministers to serve in the second Chamber and to recommend individuals who have rendered distinguished service in particular offices, including former Chiefs of the Defence Staffs, former archbishops and, of course, former Cabinet Secretaries—and I am sure there are others. The commission should approve those recommendations of the Prime Minister unless, unusually, there were any reasons of probity or if the numbers, if appointed, would compromise the guidelines of the commission.

The case for an appointed House can be made. I do not accept that the public overwhelmingly support the elected option, despite the figures that have been quoted. These matters cannot be decided by a simple yes or no. If it is explained to people that we do not have and do not seek a House with power to challenge another place, that we do not claim superiority, but merely difference, that we accept a revising, advising, scrutinising and limited delaying power and that we are complementary to, not in competition with, the House of Commons, a different view will be expressed.

I share the surprise of the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, at the idea that only those who have been elected can know what people think. I like to believe that working in the outside world as well as attending your Lordships' House gives me at least some real view of what people think—maybe as real as those who go to the surgeries of Members of Parliament.

Occupying the place that I do in the speakers' list, I considered withdrawing my name. My only justification for not doing so is that I feel sufficiently strongly about this House and its place in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and consider myself fortunate to be here. However, I do not presume to delay your Lordships with my version of the desirability of an appointed House and the consequences of moving from that position, especially when the House has heard speeches from many other distinguished noble Lords who have put the case more fully and persuasively than I ever could.

Accordingly, I trust that the House will forgive me if I, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, adopt the arguments of my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth from my Benches and the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, from the Labour Benches, who advanced the same reasons and will in due course vote for the appointed option and against the others.

9.26 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, when I first came here in 1971, my eyes were opened and I thought, just because my forebear received the title from Pitt or Walpole, why should I have any right to boss my fellow subjects about? However, lo and behold, that is what the constitution said at the time. However, my legitimacy now comes, not from Pitt or Walpole but from the right honourable Anthony Blair who passed

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an Act in 1999 that said that most of us should go but some of us should be elected Peers. The joy of saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, "We elected Peers", which is an experience that the noble Baroness has never undergone, is something that I relish even five years after I invented the phrase.

I have always been a reformer. I wrote to Mrs Thatcher in 1979 and said, "For heaven's sake, we must reform the Lords". I got the brush-off. My great-grandfather discussed the matter with Lord Salisbury in the 1880s. Lords reform has been about even longer than that—the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, quoted Bagehot, for example.

I have read the Commons and Lords debates from yesterday, and it is interesting that everyone is all over the place. The Cabinet is split, the Labour Party is split, the Liberals and Tories are split—everybody is split. Nobody knows or can agree what to do. One would not normally want to put the noble Lords, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, Lord Graham and Lord Onslow in the same dinghy at the same time, but at the moment we are all paddling the same canoes—if your Lordships will excuse the mixed boats.

It may be worth going back over the origins of this House and another place and how they verged. This House started by representing the interests of the powerful and the Commons by representing the interests of the knights of the shire and the burgesses of boroughs. The Commons was regional and we were powerful. We had our powers taken away from us in 1911 because we had ceased to represent power. The moment we ceased to represent power we had to think of a new reason for being here, because it was essential—as everyone accepts, except the noble Lord, Lord Elder—that we should have a bicameral system.

People have been saying that if we gave this House more legitimacy, it would challenge the Commons. But our powers are laid down in black and white. We have immense powers, and if this House started to behave as the Irish nationalists did in the 1880s, it could bring the government of the country to a halt in about 20 minutes. All it has to do is automatically chuck out any statutory instrument or, every time the Lord Chancellor puts a Question, force a Division. We would not have to vote; we would only have to ensure that people hung around for about 20 minutes.

It is quite possible for this House to make things quite unpleasant. However, we have a "written constitution"—I use the phrase advisedly; it is not all in the same book, but it is written—and, above all, we accept the principle and spirit of that constitution. Yesterday in the House of Commons, someone said that the Government must govern with authority, but it should not necessarily legislate with impunity. I thought, "God, those are wise words; I wish I had thought of them". As I said, I think that that is what Parliament should be doing.

The executive of the Crown is far, far too powerful. As was said yesterday in this place, I think, of all the whipped votes in the Commons none was lost. I am not suggesting that the Commons should go back to the days when, writing from the peninsula, the Duke of

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Wellington asked how we could expect a government to have any authority when it was defeated two or three times a week on major issues. No one is asking for that. However, sometimes governments should lose Bills because they are rotten Bills. Sometimes Orders in Council and regulations should be thrown out because they are rotten legislation. That does not mean that the Government's authority is wrong; it just means that we should have the power to do that.

When my noble friend Lord Cranborne did his cobbled up deal with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the object of the exercise was to keep people like me here to stop it being a totally appointed House and to force some form of further reform and change. Now, people are saying, "Just get rid of us or give us a life peerage or whatever it may be and we'll stick with a totally appointed House". I suggest that the idea that we cannot trust voters to turn out—and the idea that appointment is more democratic than election, which I have heard—is not exactly the truth.

If we give this House more authority, which can only come from an element of election, then this House can use more of the powers that it has to argue with this Government and with any government. The moment that happens, the Commons will start saying, "Actually, we do not want to be told our business by the Lords the whole time. Perhaps we should start paying attention to what Ministers say and try to make them change their minds and be more sensible on legislation". I am not making any party political point. All governments behave like that. All governments want to get away with murder and experience no argument over what they want to do. It is in the nature of human beings and of the bossy classes.

I hope therefore that your Lordships will go with at least 50 per cent, and preferably 60 per cent, elected. But it must not be on a closed-list system. That is too illiberal. Lots of systems are not too illiberal, but that is a bad one. Retaining 40 per cent appointed would allow the House to say, "Yes, we will have certain people who represent certain interests". It would allow Churchill to bring in Lord Walton to be Minister of Food and Mr Anthony Blair to bring in the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine, to be Lord Chancellor. That is what we should actually have.

What is wrong with a mixture of appointment and election? What is wrong with hybridity? It has worked in most other places. This House has been hybrid since 1380-something or other. We had the abbots and the bishops. The Scots were elected by one system, at the beginning of every parliament. I believe that it was around the time of the last election that one Peer was cheering and said, "It is so and so's turn. He was a bit thick at Eton, but he will do this time round". The Irish were elected for life. We have always had hybridity. What is wrong with it?

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, made a valid point. As I look around this House, I do not notice any difference in the manners, appreciation or behaviour compared with the days when I first arrived

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at Westminster. Anthony Eden was still on the Front Bench and from the steps of the Throne, I saw, aged 14, the likes of Lord Samuel and Lord Stansgate.

Let us get this matter right. Let us give this House more authority so that it can be beastly to the Government or to any government. That, in turn, would make the House of Commons do its job better.

I conclude on a warning. I quote from my noble friend Lord Cranborne. He said to me, "Michael, I can well foresee the following circumstances when your grandson and my grandson are both elected hereditary Peers and some new scheme for Lords reform will come about and their speeches will be more or less along the lines, 'My Lords, no one in their right mind would have invented this system. However, I suggest to your Lordships that it has stood the test of time, so why change it?'" But I want to change it. I want this House to have authority; I want Parliament to recontrol the executive. By properly reforming this House we shall enable the Commons to do its job better.

9.36 p.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, on the previous occasion we debated this subject, I supported the idea of an elected element of about 66 per cent—the proportion originally advocated some years ago by the noble Lord, Lord Richard—for a combination of reasons. Like my noble friends Lord Ampthill and Lady Saltoun, the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, and others, I have changed my mind. I now think that a totally nominated House is the least bad option.

Four new, and mainly unforeseeable, factors have prompted my about-turn. The first is that the Government have now made it totally clear that, in line with the Joint Committee's recommendations, existing life Peers, whenever appointed, will retain tenure for life. So that rules out a totally elected Chamber for a start. Indeed, it is hard to understand why Option 2 has been put forward at all. It would require both Houses of Parliament to agree to a Bill to expel immediately every single life Peer, every single bishop and every single Law Lord. But it also makes a mainly elected Chamber well nigh impossible. At the moment—or, anyway, two or three days ago—there were 564 life Peers. It is reasonable to suppose that there will be about 540 by the date stage two comes into force: inexorable actuarial probabilities being counter-balanced by the need to grant life peerages to at least some hereditaries on the two opposition Front Benches if the House is to continue functioning properly.

So if 80 per cent were to be elected, the House would contain 2,700 Members; 60 per cent would give us half that figure, 1,350; a 50:50 split would result in 1,080 Peers. A 40 per cent elected element would produce 900 noble Lords and noble Baronesses in all. A 20 per cent elected element would give one a House of 675, rather more manageable, and comparable in effective size—as opposed to theoretical size—to the pre-stage-one House, and comparable, of course, to the present House. The noble and learned Lord, Lord

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Howe of Aberavon, hinted diplomatically that that was a feasible option. However, as has been asked by a number of other noble Lords: how many people of calibre would stand for election on such a basis? What would be the turn-out for such elections? Some 28 to 35 per cent, at a guess.

The second factor is that public expectations of what an elected, or largely elected, House would do for them are being boosted to unrealistically high levels. It is clear that the public have little idea what this House actually does on a day-by-day or hour-by-hour basis. Who can blame them when most Members of the House of Commons have little idea either, as the noble Lords, Lord Gordon of Strathblane and Lord Higgins, and others have reminded us? I am not talking just about those honourable Members who have been elected in the past six years or so.

But there will be a more important reason for almost certain disillusion on the part of the public. They are being told that at long last they will have democratic input into the Lords, and their expectations will be aroused accordingly. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, argued that we have power over people's lives—I think that that was what I heard him say—and that the general public therefore want in some way to control our powers. However, we do not have power over people's lives. We have the power of delay, which is a very minimal power. Nothing that we do in this House gets anywhere at all unless the House of Commons endorses what we do. That is right and proper and as it should be.

Furthermore, what the public will not realise is that men and women elected for a single term of 10, 12 or 15 years with no chance of re-election would have the power to become de facto independents the moment that they were elected. They could go even further. Someone elected as a Left-wing Labour Peer could cross the Floor and become a Right-wing Conservative the following week, or the other way around. They might do so not out of cynical calculation, but from sincere conviction. Threats of deselection or a massive impending electoral swing against an incumbent could be laughed off, as the incumbent would face neither reselection nor re-election.

Those who believe that the main function of parliamentarians these days is to attend to their constituents' inadequate street lighting or refuse collection, as my noble friend Lord Weatherill has reminded us on many occasions, will feel doubly cheated.

The third new factor is the evident determination of the Government to use—or misuse, as many of us would argue—the Parliament Act to the full. It used to be assumed that the Parliament Act would be employed only in exceptional circumstances. No longer is that the case, alas. However, that means that the Government will always be able to get their business through. The sole difference will be that they may have to wait a few months rather than only a few weeks, as used to happen before stage one.

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As it happens, the Government are doing pretty well at the moment without recourse to the Parliament Act. Two days ago, at about 8 p.m. on Monday in a Division on the Courts Bill, they defeated by a very comfortable majority the massed ranks of the opposition—the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the independents and a Welsh nationalist—gaining more than 57 per cent of the total vote. That being so, there is no longer the necessity to achieve a precise or roughly precise party balance in the membership of the House.

As my noble friend Lord Cobbold pointed out in an excellent letter published in the Daily Telegraph on 2nd January, to which my noble friend Lord Palmer drew attention yesterday evening, the present House works extremely well. A year ago, one could not be certain. Things were still in a state of flux, with people still finding their feet. Now everything seems to be working out much better than one could ever have predicted.

At the risk of giving the noble Lord, Lord McNally, a heart attack—I see that he is not in his place, so that risk does not exist—I join my noble friend Lord Weatherill in submitting that the current House "ain't broke" and should not therefore be fixed, unless one could be absolutely certain that the patched-up version would be an improvement on what we have now. I do not think that we could be given any such guarantee.

9.43 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I found a particular remark made by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe quite sinister. It was when he quoted from the committee's conclusions and said that the reason for the widespread disillusionment throughout our political system was the,

    "virtually untrammelled control of the House of Commons by the executive".

That matters more than almost anything else that we have been discussing. If the people of Britain do not feel that Parliament will defend their rights and interests, they will turn to the mob to do so. That is already happening in France.

I fear that part of the reason for the disillusion must lie at the hands of the Government, who have been unable to resist the temptation to disarm Parliament by a steady process. The obvious—the major—example is the way in which nearly every Bill is guillotined and shamelessly sent to us with no consideration. Even yesterday, there they were, debating the same subject as we were debating—presumably it is as important to them as it is to us—but they had only 28 speakers and allowed only five

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hours and 20 minutes before the shutters came down. The Commons is becoming a House of clock-watchers and that is not good for fulfilling their role.

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