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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I did not see all of last night's programme—I saw a little bit. I am bound to say to the noble Baroness that I do not think it is my job here to answer questions on "Panorama". My job is to answer for the British Government to your Lordships' House. We went over the legality of our participation as a coalition member in a very extensive debate in your Lordships' House. The noble Baroness may recall—if she does not I will remind her—that the Attorney-General's advice was that the conflict in Iraq was legal under UN Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. Finding the weapons of mass destruction, as the noble Baroness knows and as we have been over many times in your Lordships' House, may well take a very long time. The question of justification for our participation was under the UN resolutions. I remind the noble Baroness that all three of those UN resolutions were adopted by the UN and that the most important one, 1441, was adopted unanimously.

Lord Rea: My Lords, about two and a half years ago I met, at a conference in Spain, Dr Akram Hamoodi, who is a senior surgeon and director of the Basra teaching hospital, and formed a high opinion of him. I heard a few days ago that while he was on duty at the hospital, four of his children, aged 17, 18, 12 and 13, his mother and four other members of his family had been killed in a stray missile hit on his family home. Is this man, and many others like him, not entitled to some form of compensation?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is a tragic situation, but he is not legally entitled to compensation. He is entitled to our sympathy and to any help that we can give. As the noble Lord will know, we have given help in relation to some children who were hurt during the course of the conflict. I answer, as I am bound to, that within international law he is not entitled to compensation for what happened, however tragic the accident was.

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House of Lords Appointments Commission

3 p.m.

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have asked the House of Lords Appointments Commission, chaired by the Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, to recommend a new list of Peers.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, no, we have not. However, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister hopes to make a statement shortly on appointments to the House of Lords Appointments Commission and on related matters.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, I am sorry to have to trouble my noble friend to answer this Question, in the absence of the noble and learned lord the Lord Chancellor. Is she aware that, even if they do come to a decision on this matter, there are already 179 Cross-Bench and independent Peers? There are more of them than there are Labour Peers. In those circumstances, would she agree that her noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor should follow the Cranborne deal and appoint political Peers to your Lordships' House? Is that what he has in mind?

Would she accept that it is even more important to know whether there is to be a House of Lords reform Bill in this Parliament? Could she tell us whether anyone has told her that?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, my noble friend tempts me. He believes that I am more innocent and young than I am, in fact.

Although my noble friend is right in saying that there are 179 Cross-Bench Members of your Lordships' House, there are in fact 182 Labour life Peers. Therefore, I regret to tell him that there are actually three more.

In answer to the wider question, I can only reassure the House that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister very much understands the need for appointments. As I say, he hopes to make a statement shortly on the Appointments Commission and other related matters.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords—

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it was the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, who caught my eye first. Perhaps he would like to go first.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, is the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, aware of how spellbound with admiration we all are at the ease with which she resisted apparent temptation?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am always grateful for your Lordships' flattery.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords—

Lord Peston: My Lords, I think that it is this side.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, no, it is this side.

Lord Peston: My Lords, the noble Lord is on that side and we are on this side. I do not mind—go ahead.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. Do the Government agree that a political

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party that has two Members of the European Parliament, seven Members of the Scottish Parliament, three Members of the Greater London Authority but is unlikely to win a seat in the Commons owing to our electoral system deserves more than one 74 year-old Peer in your Lordships' House? Will they therefore take steps to ensure that the Green Party is better and more fully represented?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot see how the Green Party could be better represented than by the noble Lord. However, all issues in relation to membership of this House will be considered and, if history repeats itself, they will be raised and debated in this House at length and on a number of occasions.

Lord Peston: My Lords—

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords—

Lord Peston: My Lords, I really do think that it must be this side by now. When my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and others make statements on this matter, we might be told two things. First, will someone tell us what are the deficiencies of the House at the present time that requires the addition of new Peers—especially given the size of the House? Secondly, what are the qualities and experience of the members of the Stevenson Commission that suggests they would have any idea what was needed in this House for its future development? That is me in my nasty mode.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I seem to be tempted all around by my noble friends today, but I shall resist commenting on the other matters.

Noble Lords will know that the latest report of the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform has made a number of recommendations about the future of the Appointments Commission. The Government will consider those and make their response in due course. I am sure that those issues, along with many others, will be considered.

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords—

Lord Jacobs: My Lords—

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am bound to say that we have not yet heard from the Liberal Democrat Benches on this matter.

Lord Jacobs: My Lords, of the 3,166 applicants to the House of Lords Appointments Commission last time, only 51 applicants were interviewed. Indeed, apart from the chairman, no member interviewed more than 16 applicants. Does the Minister agree that there must have been many more applicants who qualified for interview? Will the Government encourage the commission next

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time—if there should be a next time—to give at least preliminary interviews to all those who meet the interview parameters?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, one of the beauties of the commission is that it was entirely independent. I remind your Lordships that, as a result of its efforts, we have had some really tremendous contributions from the Cross Benches, from those who were appointed. I am sure that no one would like to deprive us of their company.

Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Howe!

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, far be it from me to comment on the last point made by the noble Baroness. Will she bear in mind, having resisted the temptation to endorse in primary legislation the recommendations of the Joint Committee, that consideration should be given to the appointment of a new and manifestly independent commission, endorsed as an alternative to primary legislation by an Order in Council from both Houses of Parliament?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can certainly assure the noble and learned Lord that every consideration will be given to the recommendations made by the Joint Committee. Noble Lords will know that, in the normal way, one would anticipate and hope to be able to respond to such a Joint Committee report within two months. I assure the House that we shall do everything to ensure that our response is made as soon as reasonably practicable.

Aviation (Offences) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Marine Safety Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Sunday Working (Scotland) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.


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