Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Tordoff: My Lords—

Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, could we first have the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, immediately followed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern?

Lord Tordoff: My Lords, can we tidy up the business of what the opposition parties want? What the noble and learned Lord has said certainly distorts the position of this party. I admit that I voted for an all-appointed House, but that is not the position of my party. My noble friend on the Front Bench and my noble friend Lord Oakeshott have made that clear. What the party wants is a fully elected House.

The noble and learned Lord seems to be saying that we are at stage two. This was certainly not the stage two that anyone envisaged for the final reform of this House. Albeit that there is to be a statutory appointments commission, as I am sure will be welcome in the case of a fully appointed House—the idea of taking away the patronage of the Prime Minister is very good—if the base will be the number of seats in the House of Commons and not the number

18 Sept 2003 : Column 1077

of votes cast for the parties in the House of Commons, that is an even greater distortion than we have at the moment.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I have two points. First, I fully understand the position that the noble Lord takes; he supports an appointed House. I fully understand as well the position so far as concerns the Liberal Democrats; they would support a fully elected House. The noble Lord is aware that this House decisively, by three to one, rejected the idea of an elected House, so there would be disagreement between this House and the House of Commons about whether there should be an elected element, let alone a fully elected element. In the light of that lack of consensus between the two Houses, we think that the right course is to make such changes as one can that improve the arrangements. That includes taking away from the Prime Minister the patronage on the make-up of the House.

Secondly, so far as how the previous general election is to be reflected in the activity of the statutory appointments commission, we have always said in the past that it should be on the basis of the votes cast. We say that in the document. The other alternative is seats. Do people agree that we should continue on the basis of votes in the previous general election?

I hope that that reassures the noble Lord and that, in the light of what I have said and the recognition of the fact that there is disagreement, he will feel able to vote for what we believe to be very sensible changes.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has referred to two papers. So far the discussion has pretty heavily concentrated on one of them but, from my point of view, the second is obviously rather important.

The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House said that the Statement would be made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. In the list of Cabinet offices in Hansard, the last member of the Cabinet is referred to as the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor. Am I right in thinking that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has taken the judicial oath, and that he will perform the responsibilities of Lord Chancellor as the president of the supreme court until statute relieves him of that responsibility?

It is extremely important that we know that in the interim. It may not be all that long, but it is bound to be some time before legislation can be introduced. I assume—correctly, I hope—that the noble and learned Lord will perform those functions and the others referred to in the paper until statute relieves him of them.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am as bewildered as the noble and learned Lord at the lack of interest in the detail of the other paper in relation to the Lord Chancellor's role, and disappointed that more questions were not asked of me about my visitorial

18 Sept 2003 : Column 1078

office. I confirm, very willingly, that I will continue to perform loyally all the functions of the Lord Chancellor, including those referred to in the paper, until such time as formal change has been made in those roles.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we have come to the end. Your Lordships will have noticed that only four Labour questions were called, so the multi-faceted voice of the Opposition has been fairly heard.

Local Government Bill

12.44 p.m.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons reason be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons reason be now considered.—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS REASON FOR DISAGREEING TO A LORDS AMENDMENT IN LIEU OF AN AMENDMENT TO WHICH THE COMMONS HAVE DISAGREED

[The page and line references are to HL Bill 43 as first printed for the Lords.]
LORDS AMENDMENT

3Clause 11, page 5, line 32, leave out paragraph (b)
The Commons disagree to this amendment for the following reason—

3A Because it would alter the financial arrangements made by the Commons, and the Commons do not offer any further reason, trusting that this reason may be deemed sufficient.

The Lords do not insist on their Amendment No. 3 to which the Commons have disagreed, but propose the following amendment in lieu thereof—

LORDS AMENDMENT

3Bpage 5, line 33, leave out from "receipt" to end and insert "to be used by the receiving authority in accordance with directions by the Secretary of State"
The Commons disagree to this amendment for the following reason—

3C Because it would alter the financial arrangements made by the Commons, and the Commons do not offer any further reason, trusting that this reason may be deemed sufficient.

18 Sept 2003 : Column 1079

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 3B to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 3C.

I do not need to repeat what I said yesterday, save for the fact that the Commons gave in its reason numbered 3C exactly the argument that it gave in its reason numbered 3A; namely, that the amendment would alter the financial arrangements made by the Commons. The Commons does not offer any further reason, trusting that that may be deemed sufficient.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 3B to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 3C.—(Lord Rooker.)

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says about the Commons' privilege, and I am bound to say that I find this an extraordinary reason. Our amendment does nothing about the revenue support grant for local authorities. It does nothing at all about any of the money that the Government are giving to local authorities.

The argument that we have used all the way through is that the amendment marginally changes the Government's right to redistribute capital already in the ownership of the local authorities to other local authorities that the Government prefer. That was the argument that we made yesterday, and is the basis of the amendment. I had a query yesterday about the amendment on minimum reserves. We must bow to what the Commons puts forward, but I am bound to say that it is an odd argument to make to stop the amendment in its tracks.

We had a disagreement yesterday about how much money was involved. The Minister eventually had to concede that my figure of 120 million was correct and that that was what we were talking about. We were also talking about the right of local authorities to have an idea of what their capital will be spent on, and to not have the money snaffled away from them if they are not in the Government's eyes, as authorities in need, to be able to make a decision that the money should be used for—most likely—housing requirements for key workers, affordable housing and repairs to housing within their own areas.

We have made the point over and again during the passage of the Bill, and have been unable to move the Government, either in this or another place. We have been supported throughout by the Liberal Democrats, who have taken the same view. We will have been supported by local government across the country, and not only those who would be involved in the "set aside" or those who are debt-free. I hope that the Minister realises that the Government's position is not welcome. It is not one from which they will get any thanks at all from local government.

I believe that I am right in saying that the Liberal Democrats also recognise that we are probably at the end of the road so far as the matter is concerned. Royal Assent is due this afternoon. Because we have this extraordinarily messy sitting of the House—we have had two weeks on, and now have two weeks off—it is

18 Sept 2003 : Column 1080

impossible to continue a flow on the Bill. I do not propose to take the matter any further, but it is with a heavy heart that I say that the Government, on this as on one or two other measures, will not gain any kudos from what they have done. I believe that those who have been in opposition to it have had a moral and right argument all the way through.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page