The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death yesterday of the noble Baroness, Lady McFarlane of Llandaff. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Baroness's family and friends.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Government will publish a consultation on the draft aviation policy framework and a call for evidence on options for maintaining the UK's hub connectivity later this summer. The Government aim to adopt the final aviation policy framework next spring.
Lord Spicer: My noble friend plays his usual straight bat in his usual charming way. Obviously, consultation is important, but surely the Government accept that Heathrow Airport is now full up and that there is therefore a desperate need for the construction as soon as possible of a third runway.
Earl Attlee: My noble friend is right: consultation is important, as is listening. I have listened to what noble Lords have said in the Chamber and outside, as have my right honourable friends in another place. Government policy is that there will be no third runway at Heathrow. The Government will of course follow the proper process in relation to the call for evidence on hub connectivity. However, it is unlikely that we will discover that we have not maxed out on what Heathrow's affected population can tolerate.
Lord Soley: The Minister is very good at listening, but I point out that we would like some action. The Government keep saying that they want growth. Aviation expansion related to Europe and the global economy is vital. The third runway at Heathrow would cost nothing to the public and would add about £8 billion to the GDP of this country. Why on earth do they not just get on with it and create employment and growth at the same time?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, because we have to get the policy right. Successive Governments have struggled to develop an enduring policy that will outlast changes of government. We have to get it right and we are going to do it properly, but we will announce our aviation policy framework next spring.
Lord Bradshaw: Does the Minister agree that there is a lot of spare capacity at Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham, which is soon to have a runway extension, and that if these resources were used intelligently and properly, we would have sufficient airport capacity? We need to improve surface access to those airports.
Lord Clinton-Davis: Are not the Government suffering from infinite blindness? We have an effective airport at Heathrow, do we not? Subject to some improvement of access by road and rail, would that not be a far better option than anything else?
Lord Tugendhat: Does my noble friend not agree that Heathrow and Gatwick are two great national assets? The expansion of both airports would do wonders for the British economy. It would be very beneficial, in terms of both the work that would be done in the short term and the expansion of capacity. If the Government refuse to allow a third runway at Heathrow, they will be imposing a brake on the growth of the British economy.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, will the Minister agree, as he has generously in the past, that one of the most difficult things for communities that are likely to be affected by airport expansion is the length of time over which these discussions have gone on? Specifically, in Stansted-I declare an interest as a supporter of the "Stop Stansted Expansion" campaign-certain areas have started to regenerate since BAA started to release properties back on to the market. If there is another period of uncertainty because the Government are not necessarily going to stick to their intention not to build a second runway at Stansted, that regeneration will begin to decline again.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, can the noble Lord say how many international flights have migrated from the hub at Heathrow to Schiphol, Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt since the coalition came to power?
Earl Attlee:My Lords, that is a rather detailed question and I do not know whether I will be able to get the answer even by writing, but I will try. I should emphasise that Heathrow is still well connected to the rest of the world, especially China, if you take into consideration direct flights to Hong Kong, which is connected to 45 other Chinese cities.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister reassure me that the British Government will resist efforts by China, the United States and other nations outside Europe to opt out of the EU emissions system, which is there to control carbon emissions for the whole aviation industry in a non-discriminatory manner?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, my noble friend asks a good question, although it is slightly wide of the Question on the Order Paper. We support the ETS scheme, but my noble friend will understand that there are difficulties with it as well.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: But, my Lords, on the question of an integrated transport policy and given that the Minister mentioned Birmingham Airport, does he not, like me, regret the absence of an HS2 Bill in the Queen's Speech? Does that indicate that the Government are in fact having second thoughts on that?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, my noble friend behind me said, "I hope so". I thought, "I hope not". My understanding is that we did not intend to publish a Bill at this point. There is still much work to be done on planning the route, because we need to say exactly what powers we need, so I thought that it was a bit premature in any case.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, why is Manston never considered instead of a third runway? You have a ready-made runway at Manston, which is easy to get to from Dover. It has a lot of advantages and I do not understand why it could not be used.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My Lords, the youth contract was introduced in April 2012 to provide additional support, with almost £1 billion, to young unemployed people over the next three years. It builds on the support already available through Jobcentre Plus and the work programme, enabling young people to look for work, gain work experience and skills and find real, lasting jobs.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, if it were not so tragic, the lamentable performance of the Government would be laughable. More than 1 million young people are not in education, employment or training. When are the Government going to pull their socks up and do something about this problem, or are they happy for young people to return to the misery of the 1980s?
Lord Freud: My Lords, let me just correct those figures. The number of people who are not students and who are unemployed is around 719,000. That figure is much too high but it is not near 1 million. We are doing an enormous amount to help young people into the jobs market, and we are doing it on a structural basis rather than making little fixes here and there.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, which Minister in the Government has specific responsibility for co-ordinating their struggle against youth unemployment? That is my first question; I think that I am allowed a second.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, what are the Government doing to stimulate the introduction of apprenticeship schemes in the private sector to make sure that such schemes are available to young people who otherwise would not have appropriate training?
Lord Freud: Apprenticeships are one of the key things to help youngsters into the market. There were 457,000 starts in apprenticeships in 2010-11, and 60% of those are for the age group that we are talking about, the 16-24 year-olds. We are pushing apprenticeships very hard, and we have put in a programme to reinforce that with incentives to SMEs: for each apprentice they take on, they get £1,500 a year. That is being financed for 40,000 youngsters.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, in east Lancashire alone there are 5,000 18 to 24 year-olds out of work, of whom 3,000 have been out of work for more than six months and are still claiming benefits. We are very encouraged in my cathedral town of Blackburn that the world of education and the world of business are coming together to try to reduce that figure, but could the Minister give us in the north-west some hope that in the next three months we need not expect to see another cohort of young people adding to that figure of 5,000?
Lord Freud: My Lords, one of the things that has changed in terms of looking at young people is that we are getting some real figures that are not disguised, as they were, by people going into training and coming back again. We are counting people who are long-term unemployed as long-term unemployed, and the figure in the country as a whole for those unemployed for more than six months is currently 163,000. That figure is too high but, if you compare like with like, only about 10,000 more than it was when we first came into power.
Lord Peston: My Lords, is the Minister aware that unless and until we get a Government who place the restoration of full employment as a central aim of government economic policy, the young people of this country have no hope substantially of returning to work? We need a policy of full employment and not the kind of Elastoplast policies that the Minister is talking about.
Lord Freud: I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that the lump of labour fallacy is not how one should run an unemployment policy and that a competitive employment approach is the right approach. The way that one achieves that is by skilling up the workforce so that people can take jobs. That, in itself, expands the economy by more than it would otherwise expand. I am sorry that the noble Lord does not agree. I know there are noble Lords on the Benches opposite who dislike the lump of labour fallacy as much as I do.
Lord Flight: My Lords, the apprenticeship scheme is already achieving a lot and can achieve a lot more, but one of the problems is that when people come off jobseeker's allowance their pay on an apprenticeship is very modest and they often cannot afford the travel costs. The Mayor of London is happily providing the travel costs for apprenticeships in London. Will the Minister look at expanding this where it is needed elsewhere in the country?
Lord Freud: I will look at that because one of the central thrusts of our policy is to ramp up apprenticeships. One of the most encouraging signs I saw when I visited a work programme contractor the other day was the way that having sustained outcomes-long-term jobs-is driving it towards putting youngsters into apprenticeships. That is a very happy fact pulling them together, and I will very happily look at anything we can do to reinforce the drive to apprenticeships.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, will the Minister explain why the Government have taken the decision to exclude disabled young people on the work choice
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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, democracy and the rule of law were discussed with Prime Minister Gilani during his visit. We discuss these issues regularly with the Pakistan Government.
Lord Ahmed: I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he aware that Yousaf Raza Gilani was convicted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan of contempt for failing to ask the Swiss authorities to reopen a money laundering case against the President? Is he also aware that his son, Ali Musa, is being investigated by the antinarcotics force for importing 10,000 kilograms of the controlled drug ephedrine, which is used for producing cocaine and other drugs? What message did Her Majesty's Government give to the people of Pakistan when they invited a Prime Minister who is not even accepted by the opposition in Pakistan as the Prime Minister, and when there are allegations that he is corrupt, that his son is involved in drug production and that his President is involved in money laundering?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I am aware of the matters that the noble Lord raises, but I must emphasise that they are internal matters for the Government and people of Pakistan and are not matters in which we can be involved. The discussions which we hold are, in general terms, about democracy, the rule of law and the aspirations to see Pakistan develop in a stable, democratic way. Pakistan is a friend and a nation that has faced great difficulties. When friends face difficulties, you help them; you do not just walk away.
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, we raised the blasphemy legislation, religious intolerance and evidence of it. These subjects were raised not just during these talks. They are raised constantly by our High Commission, by visitors and by Ministers. My noble friend Lady Warsi certainly raised them when she last visited. These are issues that are very much our concern, and we keep raising them.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the issue of contempt of court by the Prime Minister is dealt with very adequately in the Commonwealth Latimer House guidelines, which refer to the relationship between the Executive, Parliament and the judiciary? Pakistan is a signatory to those guidelines, which were agreed by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2003. Will the Minister tell the House whether the Government are assisting with judicial training in that regard, so that the Pakistani judiciary can be better apprised of its responsibilities?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, we are assisting with judicial training and huge educational programmes. The Government's overall training and aid programmes in Pakistan are substantial. If the path is smooth over the next two years, Pakistan will reach the remarkable level of being the largest recipient of British aid, training and technical assistance, with a sum of around £446 million a year being given if everything goes according to plan. Certainly, on the judicial side, yes, these are areas where we can help and which can be assisted and reinforced in a Commonwealth context as well.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I understand the point that the Minister makes about the considerable difficulties and the fact that one needs friends to get through them. However, in a hard-headed sense, have the Government made an assessment of the extent to which Pakistan meets the unfortunately named Harare principles overall as a working democracy?
Lord Howell of Guildford: These are matters that are looked at in the Commonwealth context. We want to see Pakistan develop as a strong, stable, constitutional democracy with respect for the rule of law and judicial judgments, which are in the interests of all Pakistan. We constantly encourage all involved to act in ways that respect these principles. These are things that we do all the time. They are discussed in Commonwealth circles and are matters to which the people of Pakistan themselves recognise they must aspire. I cannot put it more precisely than that. Assessments of what occasionally goes wrong, and positive ideas about how to help, are made all the time.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I declare an interest in that the diocese of Wakefield has a long and enduring relationship with the diocese of Faisalabad in Pakistan. Indeed, we recently brought people with different religious convictions to this country to talk about how we deal with coherence here. Following the question of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, will the Minister tell us whether the Government have received any commitment from the Government of Pakistan on doing something about the religious atrocities that have been committed in the past few years?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I can say only that these are matters that concern us deeply. We raise them repeatedly with the Pakistani authorities and Government. We believe most strongly that religious tolerance of minorities and protection of their rights must be enhanced
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Lord Howell of Guildford: I am sorry to hear that. The Harare principles, and another whole series of declarations, are those drawn up by the Commonwealth network-that is, the Commonwealth at its Heads of Government Meetings-over the years. The Commonwealth today is a completely modern network, which is engaged at this moment in developing an even more ambitious charter that not only asserts the commitment to democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights, but sees that these things are effectively policed so that the Commonwealth is a network of nations that uphold the values that we admire most.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House whether the Government discussed with the Pakistani Prime Minister the problem of young British Pakistanis-young men as well as women-who are taken to Pakistan by their parents for the purpose of forced marriage? If it was raised, what response did the Government receive?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I do not have that on a specific list of issues that were raised in the meeting to which I referred. However, it is certainly a matter that is on our desks and we raise it in dialogue with the Pakistani Government. I cannot be more specific than that, but if I can find a more specific answer I will convey it to the noble Baroness.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My Lords, the changes to the working tax credit are necessary in order to tackle the record peacetime deficit which this Government inherited. Tax credit spending increased to around £27 billion in 2010-11 and extended to those high up in the income distribution. This was unsustainable. The package of changes to tax credits introduced in April will save £4 billion in 2016-17 while ensuring that the most vulnerable are protected. For that reason, they will not be reconsidered.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, this year, more than 200,000 low income families who work less than 24 hours a week will lose thousands of pounds as a result of the withdrawal of the working tax credit. In the present economic situation, a great many employers are not able to offer these people extra hours. Does the Minister agree that the phrase "making work pay" must seem
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Lord Sassoon: My Lords, what underlines this change and the need for it, as well as the unsustainability of the huge cost of working tax credits, is some of the unfairness and behavioural incentives in the system. This Government firmly believe that working people on low earnings should gain through money that they earn rather than from government subsidies. The switch from reducing reliance on benefits to increasing personal allowances is part of a significant change to getting more families to gain more from working than has been the case to date and for incentivising second earners into work. There was also a basic unfairness in the system as it was in that a single parent had to work 16 hours but a couple had to work only 16 hours between them. Therefore, underlying what the Government have announced are a fairness and an incentivisation and behavioural change that are very important.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, what advice would the Minister give to the woman interviewed on the "Today" programme last month? She is in a part-time job that she loves. Her husband is an unemployed builder who cannot find work. She is at her wits' end because her employer will not give her extra hours and no alternative work is available to her. What is she and thousands of others in a similar situation supposed to do when they are struggling to manage without working tax credit and the only alternative realistic option is to give up work, which is the very opposite of what the Minister says that this Government believe in?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I did not hear that particular case and it is very difficult to comment on individual cases, particularly when one has not heard the details. I appreciate that many of the changes we are making across the tax and spending playing field are painful for very many people in this country. I do not minimise the effect on the 200,000 or so, including couples with children, who we are asking to find another eight hours on top of what they may do otherwise.
We should not play down the prospects for finding employment in this country. Nearly 1.1 million people found a job in the fourth quarter of 2011. Some 600,000 of those had been unemployed and had got into employment, and 459,000 were previously inactive. At the moment, the number of job vacancies is rising. At the last count, it was 464,000. I do not underestimate at all the effect on individual cases but there are jobs out there and more than 1 million people in one quarter found employment.
Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I think that a significant number of companies are somewhat fixated around the idea that 16 hours is the gold standard for part-time work. Given that for many people affected by this change, 24 hours becomes the standard number of hours they would wish to be in employment, are there means by which the Government could communicate, through the trade associations and
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Lord Sassoon: First, I congratulate my noble friend on her new responsibilities as her party's spokesman on the economy. I can see that she is not going to give me an easy time. It is an important question. First of all, there are important elements of the present tax credits system, such as the child tax credit, which do not relate to hours worked. Of course, when universal credit comes in, the link to hours worked will go altogether. As my noble friend knows, that change will start with natural migration, coming in from October 2013. Then managed migration will take place from August 2014 in a way that means that nobody loses out in cash terms. So it is a transition that has been carefully thought about by my noble friend Lord Freud.
Lord Eatwell: My Lords, the examination by the Institute for Fiscal Studies of the impact of the April measures demonstrates that the greatest proportionate burden of those measures falls on those in the lowest deciles of the income distribution. In the light of that independent finding, would the Minister like to correct his inaccurate first Answer to my noble friend Lord Touhig?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, of course I shall read the record very carefully, and if I made any inaccurate response I shall correct it-but I do not believe that I did. There were, of course, a large number of tax and benefit measures announced to come into effect in the last Budget, including 24 million households that will benefit by up to £6.50 a week from the changes to allowances as well as benefits. There are the significant above-indexation increases to child tax credits as well. Therefore, one should look at the total effect, which is very much designed to make sure that those at the lower end of the income scale are protected.
That in accordance with Standing Order 63 a Committee of Selection be appointed to select and propose to the House the names of the members to form each select committee of the House (except the Committee of Selection itself and any committee otherwise provided for by statute or by order of the House) or any other body not being a select committee referred to it by the Chairman of Committees, and the panel of Deputy Chairmen of Committees; and that the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, first, I am sure that the whole House would wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Corporal Brent McCarthy of the Royal Air Force and Lance Corporal Lee Davies of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, who were killed on operations in Afghanistan recently. My thoughts are also with the wounded, and I pay tribute to the courage and fortitude with which they face their rehabilitation.
"With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on progress in balancing the defence budget and establishing a sustainable equipment programme as part of the work to deliver the vision set out in the strategic defence and security review-a vision of formidable, adaptable and well equipped Armed Forces, backed by balanced budgets, disciplined processes and an efficient and effective department.
The United Kingdom's Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence exist to protect our country and its interests, and provide the ultimate guarantee of its security and independence. My overriding priority as Secretary of State for Defence must be achieving success on military operations. However, our defence is built on the extraordinary quality and commitment of our people, and ensuring their welfare is close behind. I am clear that when we ask the brave men and women of our Armed Forces to put themselves in danger to ensure our national security, we owe it to them to make sure that they are properly supported with the very best equipment we can give them to do the job.
The best way I can support our Armed Forces as they restructure and refocus themselves for the future is to give them the assurance of stable and well managed budgets and the confidence that the equipment programme is affordable and deliverable, because the only way to ensure, in the long term, the ability to project power, to protect our national security and to ensure that our troops have the equipment they need is to have a defence budget that is in balance.
A strong, diverse economy and sound public finances are a prerequisite to being able to sustain the Armed Forces that our national security requires, so correcting the disastrous fiscal deficit that we inherited and returning the economy to sustainable growth are themselves strategic imperatives. Defence has, rightly, contributed to that fiscal correction, as well as putting its own house in order by dealing with the chaos we inherited in an equipment programme that left a yawning black hole under our Armed Forces.
Tough decisions have been taken and I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those who have taken them: my predecessor, the right honourable Member for North Somerset, who showed the courage to tackle head-on some of the worst and longest-running procurement fiascos, and to make agonising choices over capabilities that Britain could simply not afford; the Armed Forces chiefs, who have grasped the challenges the SDSR has presented and embraced the opportunity to create a sustainable foundation on which they can build for the future; and the leadership team in the MoD, who have worked tirelessly to turn this super-tanker around, to tear up the old ways of doing things and to embrace a new model that will ensure that the MoD never again gets into the mess it was in by early 2010.
Thanks to all of them, and with the decision I announced to the House last week on carrier strike being the final piece of the jigsaw, I can tell the House today that, after two years' work, the black hole in the defence budget has finally been eliminated and the budget is now in balance, with a small annual reserve
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These have not been easy decisions, but they have been the right ones. This has been a difficult period for all our people in the Armed Forces and more widely across defence. Major change, the threat of redundancy and uncertainty about the future all present challenges to confidence and morale. Reaching a balanced budget for the MoD's planning round 12, or PR12, represents a hugely important milestone in the transformation of defence-a symbolic break with the failed practices of the past and a solid foundation on which to build the future-and it starts to put that destabilising uncertainty behind us as we move forward with defence transformation.
At the heart of the plan is the defence equipment programme, which by the end of the PR12 period will account for around 45% of the total defence budget. I have seen over the last seven months just how complex defence procurement is-developing cutting-edge technology so that our Armed Forces have a battle-winning edge in projects that rank alongside the biggest being undertaken in this country today. While there have been widely publicised failures, there have been unsung successes-most notably in Afghanistan where the urgent operational requirements process funded by the Treasury has repeatedly allowed us to deliver quickly and efficiently the equipment our Armed Forces need. Brigadier Patrick Sanders, who commanded 20th Armoured Brigade last year in Afghanistan, has described the equipment his troops had as 'second to none' and 'the best that I've experienced in 27 years'. We need to build on the best elements of the UOR model to achieve that level of performance across defence as a whole.
At the same time, we must learn from the failures. Over the 10 years of PR12, we will spend almost £160 billion on new equipment and data systems and their support, reflecting the planning assumption agreed with the Treasury on a 1% per annum real increase in the equipment and support budget from 2015. But poor decision-making and poor management have too often meant that the Armed Forces have not received the full benefit of all this spending.
Under the previous Government, the equipment plan became meaningless because projects were committed to without the funding to pay for them, creating a fantasy programme. Systemic over-programming was compounded by a 'conspiracy of optimism' where officials, the Armed Forces and suppliers all consistently planned on a best-case scenario, in the full knowledge that once a project had been committed, they could then revise up costs with little consequence. It was an overheated equipment plan, managed on a hand-to-mouth
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So we will move forward with a new financial discipline in the equipment plan-under-programming, rather than over-programming, so that we can focus on value rather than cash management-giving our Armed Forces confidence that once a project is in the programme, it is real, it is funded and it will be delivered, so they can plan with certainty. The core committed equipment programme, covering investment in new equipment and data systems and their support, amounts to just under £152 billion over 10 years, against a total planned spend of almost £160 billion. That £152 billion includes, for the first time ever, an effective, centrally held contingency reserve, determined by the new Chief of Defence Materiel, of over £4 billion to ensure the robustness of the plan.
It includes: 14 new Chinooks, Apache life extension and a Puma upgrade; a programme of new armoured fighting vehicles worth around £4.5 billion over 10 years and a £1 billion upgrade of the Warrior armoured fighting vehicle; the building of the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers; the remainder of the Type 45 destroyers and the new Type 26 frigates; the Astute class and successor nuclear submarines; investment in new Wildcat helicopters; the Merlin upgrade programme and the assessment phase for Merlin marinisation; the introduction into service of the Voyager air-to-air refueller and troop transporter, the A400M air transporter and the Air Seeker surveillance aircraft; an additional C17 strategic airlifter; continued investment in Typhoon and the Joint Strike Fighter; and £7 billion invested in complex weapons-the smart missiles and torpedoes that give our Navy, Army and Air Force their fighting edge.
Balancing the budget allows me to include within that £152 billion core equipment programme: a £4 billion-plus investment in intelligence, surveillance, communications and reconnaissance assets across the CIPHER, SOLOMON, Crowsnest, DCNS and Falcon projects; the outright purchase of three offshore patrol vessels which are currently leased; capability enhancements to the Typhoon; and a range of simulators, basing and support equipment for the new helicopters and aircraft we are introducing.
This programme represents the collective priorities of the Armed Forces set out by the Armed Forces committee on which all the service chiefs sit. The chiefs confirm that this committed core equipment programme, together with the available £8 billion of unallocated headroom, will fund the capabilities they require to deliver Future Force 2020, as set out in the SDSR. That £8 billion will be allocated to projects not yet in the committed core programme only at the point when they need to become committed to be delivered on time, and only in accordance with the
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This Government believe that transparency is a driver of performance, and I want to be as transparent as possible about the defence budget because greater transparency will help me to drive the change that we need to see in the MoD. But the House will understand that some elements of the defence budget are security-sensitive and other elements are commercially sensitive. It is essential that we preserve our negotiating space with defence contractors without announcing all our detailed intentions in advance. To provide the reassurance that the House will want, while protecting the commercial and security interests of defence, I have agreed with the NAO that it will review the equipment plan and confirm that it is affordable. The NAO will have confidential access to detailed information on the equipment plan that cannot be published, but once it has completed its work we will publish its verdict on the plan, together with a summary of the plan itself.
Today's announcement and the work we are taking forward mean that for the first time in a generation the MoD not only has a balanced budget and an appropriate reserve but is putting in place the behaviour-changing incentives and structures that will keep it balanced. It means that the politicians and civil servants in the MoD can look the Armed Forces in the eye in the knowledge that we are delivering them the stable platform that they need to build Future Force 2020, with a budget agreed across government, across the department and by the service chiefs, and a firm baseline for the transformation that is under way to an Armed Forces that may be smaller but will be adaptable, agile and equipped with the very best technology, supported by an MoD that is laser-focused on its needs and working alongside a defence industry that can invest with renewed confidence in an equipment plan that is actually deliverable. It represents the start of a new chapter in the long history of UK defence. I commend this Statement to the House".
Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for reading out the names of the two members of the Armed Forces who have recently died in Afghanistan. I would like to associate these Benches with the condolences to their families and friends and to support the Minister in his reference to the wounded. The two members of the Armed Forces concerned were involved in the extraordinarily difficult task of mentoring the security and armed forces of the Afghan Government. I am sure that we all admire the courage necessary to carry out that task in such difficult conditions.
I thank the noble Lord for repeating that very long Statement-it took him a bracing 15 minutes to do so. I have been faced with Statements and papers throughout my career. Those documents have varied greatly in length, and my suspicions have deepened as their length
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The first thing that it does not contain is a plan. You would think that a Statement about defence expenditure over the next 10 years would have a plan associated with it. The Statement did not contain a plan-it promises a summary of a plan some time in the future. It does not even give a date when that plan will be put forward.
What else does the Statement say? One of the few new things it provides is an overall figure. It says that the equipment and support plan for the next 10 years involves £160 billion-that is the hard figure in the middle of the Statement. It then goes on to explain how that figure is made up. It says-the Minister will correct me if I am wrong-that £8 billion will be available over the next 10 years to adapt to the changing world. So, over 10 years, 5% of that amount will be available for innovation, new equipment and new threats-things that we do not know about now. Some £4 billion will be available as a contingency, which is about 3% of the overall figure. So £152 billion will be available over 10 years and the Government have got things so right that they can manage with a contingency of 3%. I put it to noble Lords that that level of accuracy simply is not credible.
What else will the plan contain? Does the Statement mention any new acquisitions? I do not know-I could not see any. Although it mentions the decision to purchase three offshore patrol vessels, as opposed to leasing them, we have heard everything else before. Is there anything new in the Statement? Are there any new cuts? I cannot see any new ones. I can see no mention of how money will be saved.
Let us go back to what the Statement purports to say. I should add that the press reports about what the Statement would say were rather more exciting than the Statement itself. I invite the Minister to correct me if I have over-read the press reports, but they seemed to imply that the Secretary of State for Defence would say that there would be no more cuts over the next 10 years-no more cuts until 2022. That is pretty ambitious. If that is what the Minister said, I am sure that noble Lords will welcome it. If nothing else, we will not have so many Statements to look at when plans change.
What does this promise? Once again, I looked through the Statement. Does it promise anything different from the SDSR of October 2010? That was a very precise document. For instance, it stated on page 19:
"The new Defence Planning Assumptions envisage that the Armed Forces in the future will be sized and shaped to conduct ... an enduring stabilisation operation at around brigade level ...
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Throughout the SDSR there were a series of statements about numbers of ships, although fewer about numbers of aircraft. We heard about changes to the size of the Army and about a different way of approaching the carrier. Otherwise, are all the commitments in the SDSR fully funded in the plan referred to by the Statement?
I am amazed at the brilliance of the Government. About a year ago, there were what seemed to be extremely well informed rumours in the press-in the Times and the Daily Telegraph, which are normally well connected-that the Government in the SDSR had created a plan that was underfunded by more than £1 billion per annum. May I assume from the Statement that by some miracle the problem about which defence chiefs or their agents briefed the press-the massive gap between what was aspired to and the money available-has been bridged? I cannot see, without any new cuts being described and without any changes other than those mentioned, how it has been bridged.
We know that a very large number of civil servants-about one-third-will disappear. In my career I purchased a large amount of materiel. It was not for the military but for the railways. The essence of doing that efficiently is not underfunding professional capability but if anything overfunding it to get the right contracts, structures and monitoring. Will the Civil Service, after these massive cuts, have the capability to keep hold of this plan and deliver on it?
I find this to be an incredible aspiration, and an incredible Statement that is impossible to judge. I look forward with bated breath to the NAO report and its judgment on whether it will work. I hope that the Minister, in spite of not yet having the report, will be able to assure us that the Statement really means that there will be no more cuts to equipment programmes for the Armed Forces for the next decade.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, of course I agree with what the noble Lord said about the bravery of our Armed Forces in Afghanistan. However, I am sorry that he took such a pessimistic line on our Statement by saying that there is not much to it. We have had to make some very difficult decisions. In the SDSR, as the noble Lord knows, the Harriers went, the "Ark Royal" went and MRA4 went, along with a whole lot of other things that we would much rather have kept. We have had to make some very difficult civilian and service redundancies. There is much greater financial discipline in the department now than there was. It has been a very difficult task.
The department's fundamental approach is to deliver the Future Force 2020-so I can confirm to the noble Lord that there is absolutely no loss of capability. We have debated that over a long period, and we are absolutely convinced that that is correct. The process had the SDSR at its core and has made no significant
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The noble Lord asked if I could guarantee that there would be no cuts for 10 years. The Government have committed to carrying out an SDSR every five years. Although we would not want to pre-empt the outcome of that process, it is clearly important that the department is able to make long-term plans. However, I cannot say what the next SDSR, in 2015, will come up with.
The noble Lord asked if all commitments were fully funded. I can confirm that the answer is yes. He said that a "miracle" had taken place. The Secretary of State has a brilliant-outstanding-head for figures, along with all his other very great leadership qualities. This has given great leadership to the department as far as the budget is concerned. We have a much better relationship with the Treasury than we used to have. The Permanent Secretary is adopting a very disciplined approach to all budget holders, which is a great help to us.
The noble Lord asked about redundancies. I can confirm that, as far as the civilian headcount is concerned, there will be a reduction of about 32,000 by 2020, which equates to just over a third of civilian manpower. Service manpower will be reduced by 33,000, or 19%, by 2020, of which approximately 19,500 will be in the Army, 8,000 in the Royal Air Force and 5,500 in the Royal Navy.
Now that the MoD budget is on much more of an even keel, and given the long-term nature of so many MoD contracts-10 years is not particularly long, and my noble friend talked about the 10-year line-would it not make sense now for the political parties to try to get together to agree a common approach to the level of defence spend? Would it not make a lot of sense if that could be achieved?
I appreciate that my noble friend may not be able to answer all my specific questions at this stage, so perhaps he will write to me. First, have there been any changes to profit margins on non-competitive contracts? Secondly, on the reductions in the civilian workforce that he talked about, how many reductions have taken place so far? I know that there is an aspiration to reduce by about 30,000, but how many specific redundancies have taken place?
My noble friend referred to the offshore patrol vessels that have apparently been leased. Leasing is normally quite an expensive operation. When were they originally leased and what are the financial terms of the purchases? Further, are any other naval vessels currently being leased?
On the question of the NAO review, can my noble friend give an indication of how long the work will take and when publication might come through? Finally, will the likely considerable costs of withdrawing equipment
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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. He has asked quite a few questions and I will not be able to answer them all here, but I will write to him. He asked first whether I think it is a good idea for all the parties to get together. I certainly have very good relations with my shadows and I am very happy to take this back to the department and come back to my noble friend. It is an excellent suggestion, and it is one that he has made in the past. I shall let him know how I get on.
I cannot give my noble friend an instant answer to his questions about profit margins and reductions in the civilian and Armed Forces staff. He also asked whether we are leasing any other vessels which might be bought. Off the top of my head I think that HMS "Protector" might fall into that bracket, but I do not want to be held to that answer and I will write to my noble friend. I am not sure how long the NAO report will take, but I am happy to write to him about that as well.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, when I first was lucky enough to join your Lordships' House some 15 years ago, and I was already appointed as the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, I held strongly to the view that defence matters are far too important to be treated in a partisan way. I was extremely flattered and gratified that when I was introduced into the House, one of my two sponsors was a distinguished Conservative former defence Minister and former Secretary-General of NATO. The Statement I have heard today is replete with political self-justification of a sort that should have no place in a Defence Secretary's Statement. I am very sorry for our Minister because he has had to read it out. The last defence Statement took 13 minutes to repeat, and this one took 15 minutes, with large parts of it just as odious as the previous one. Again, I am sorry that our Minister has to come out with all this stuff because he is a thoroughly decent man. It has no place whatever in a Defence Secretary's Statement, and if he wants to bandy about political remarks, I would ask him to look at who it was that saddled this country with the F35C-Dr Liam Fox-and he can put that in his pipe and smoke it.
However, today I have only one question for the Minister, who I regard as a good friend and hold in great respect. I hope that he does not consider himself tainted with the remarks I have found it necessary to make. What assessment has been made in the MoD of our ongoing loss of the C130, which is going to be kept by the Americans for many years? We are going to lose interoperability with around a dozen of our closest allies-the Australians, the Canadians, the Americans, the Qataris and many others. I think that this is going to be one of the most damaging consequences of these so-called reviews, and I should be grateful for the Minister's views on the subject.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, does not feel that I approach matters in a partisan way. I do not use this as a
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With regard to the C130, the problem as I understand it is that the production line is going to close quite soon. I did have a flight in the A400M the other day-it was its first flight. I did invite the noble Lord and I had hoped that he would join me-and I think I very nearly got there. It is a wonderful plane and the Royal Air Force, which was originally very much against it coming into service, is now absolutely delighted. I think it make a very good addition to the Royal Air Force.
Lord King of Bridgwater: I apologise to my noble friend for not being here to hear the opening Statement, but I have for greater accuracy obtained a copy which I have had a chance to read. He spoke about a bipartisan approach. If I understood correctly the noble Lord who spoke for the Opposition, he called for no more cuts. It seems that we are moving in that direction, which is encouraging. The MoD is very good at producing plans; the problem is whether they are fully executed. Even if the NAO approves the plan, the challenge will then be the difficulties of having single contractors and the various contracts which might be entered into-they are major challenges. In that connection, I agree with what my noble friend said about the Secretary of State. We have a more numerate, literate Secretary of State than perhaps were some in the past. If he keeps up the initiative that he has announced in this Statement, the challenge for him is to make sure that it happens.
Lord Astor of Hever: I thank my noble friend for his support. I do not underestimate the difficulties, but, as my noble friend said, the current Secretary of State is very numerate. He is on top of his brief, and I am fully confident that we can carry these plans out.
Lord Stirrup: I welcome the new arrangements that the Minister has announced, but following on from what the noble Lord, Lord King, said, it seems to me that the MoD enters into contracts which, to my inexpert eye, more or less boil down to, "If you want more than you originally asked for, you pay more; if you want less than you originally asked for, you pay more; and, actually, if you want what you originally asked for, you pay more". For the MoD's books to have a chance of remaining balanced, we will need contracting staff and legal staff who are at least as good as those employed by industry. When will the Minister be able to say something about the approach that the new Chief of Defence Materiel will take on this subject? How will he recruit that level of skill within his staff that ensures that contracts are to the benefit of both sides and not just of the one?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord makes a very good point. There have been cases in the past where the department has been let down in negotiations with industry by the legal staff. We are looking closely at this issue; we are aware of it and of the sums of money that need to be paid. It is certainly in our in-tray at the moment.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, after 25 years of serving at sea and then serving in the madhouse-I am sorry, I should have said the MoD-I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord King, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, about the difficulties associated with contracts. I worry that it is not that easy to stay within costs, and there is an awful lot of smoke and mirrors as well. I hope that the projections are true, but I have real doubts about them. I also share the view that defence is so important for the nation that we should try wherever possible to be cross-party in our approach to it.
Looking at the 10-year timeline for PR12, am I right in assuming that the money for the replacement of the V class submarines, which will be coming to its big spend at the end of that period, is being allowed for in the figures that have been given in this Statement? This morning, at the EIS summit, the right honourable Member for Runnymede and Weybridge spoke very strongly about the need for deterrence.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we have a new team in the MoD who, as I have seen with my own eyes, are absolutely on top of this issue and will do its very best to make sure that this plan is properly carried out. On submarines, as confirmed in the SDSR, the MoD is committed to delivering seven Astute-class submarines, at a cost of approximately £10 million. In order for the UK to continue as a nuclear power, the MoD is committed to delivering continuous at-sea deterrent. The MoD has started the £3 billion assessment phase for the £25 billion successor programme to deliver long-term CASD.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, first, from this Bench, I join with all others in their tributes to those who have lost their lives recently in Afghanistan. I am grateful to the Minister for the considered Statement and for the acknowledgement that the budget should be balanced. I am sure that we would all agree with that. I assume from what he said that much of this is derivative from the SDSR. I am concerned about three questions. First, progress has been made recently with the military covenant, particularly in the area of welfare for families affected by casualties and injuries, and, more generally, for those serving in the Armed Forces. At a time when the conflict continues in Afghanistan, I want to be assured that all that has been set out there can be fulfilled in the short term.
Secondly, and similarly in the short term, in thinking about resources for those serving in Afghanistan, we have all heard on a number of occasions the fears of senior officers in the forces, who are unhappy with the present support in terms of equipment. Can we be assured of that support at present, rather than looking further into the future?
My third question is about morale. I am grateful for all the briefings that the Minister has organised. Morale is one issue that has come up time and again. There are bound to be difficulties at a time when such drastic cuts have to be made. In the Army, I think another 20,000 people will eventually lose their jobs within the forces, and that uncertainty causes continuing difficulties with morale. I want assurances on welfare, the equipment at the present time and how we will try to encourage morale at this tricky moment.
Lord Astor of Hever: I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate. On the military covenant, nothing in the Statement will affect any decision or commitment to members of the Armed Forces. The right reverend Prelate also mentioned equipment. I am sure that some noble Lords went to the briefing by Brigadier Sanders the other day. He is just back from Afghanistan and said that the equipment is better now than at any time in his 27 years in the Army. He could not say enough good things about the equipment. Finally, it is a difficult time as we have to make these redundancies but we are doing our best to ensure that morale is as high as possible.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, would my noble friend take this opportunity to pay tribute to the role which Scottish regiments have played in the British Army and reaffirm that the best future for regiments such as the Black Watch with its proud tradition is in remaining part of the United Kingdom and continuing to play such an important role in its defence?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I share my noble friend's views. I am a strong supporter of the Union and the Scottish regiments. My brother served in a Scottish regiment. I have the highest respect for them.
Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, the noble Lord's own remarks in the House today have been temperate and statesmanlike, as they always are. Yet the Statement that he read out from the Secretary of State was tendentious, and quite disgracefully so. The great difference between the Labour Government and the Conservative-led coalition in defence spending is that we built up the nation's Armed Forces. We increased real spending by more than 10 per cent. This coalition has run down the numbers in our Armed Forces by 20 per cent and disgracefully exposed us to having no carrier strike capability for 10 years. The noble Lord said that the equipment in Afghanistan was better than it had ever been. I wonder as a result of which decisions that equipment came through the pipeline.
I was amazed to hear the Secretary of State, whose remarks were read out by the noble Lord, taking credit for a whole lot of projects, such as the A400M, the new Chinook helicopters-although the Government have reduced their number by 10-and the Scout vehicle, which I negotiated. It was a very disingenuous Statement and I hope that the Government will think twice before coming to the House with such a piece of party-political propaganda on so serious a matter in future.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am happy to pay tribute to the noble Lord and the Opposition for many of the defence procurement decisions that were taken.
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Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, my noble friend has announced the planned future size of the regular forces-the Army, Navy and Air Force. Will he give parallel figures for the reserve forces-the Territorial Army, the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force?
Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield: My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister for his Statement and particularly welcome the firm place that he gave to the successor submarines in the long-term costing and programme. Reverting to the question asked by my noble and gallant friend Lord Stirrup, when will we get the report of Mr Bernard Gray, Chief of Defence Materiel, on the options for structuring future procurement operations? I think it was completed several months ago; it was ready at the end of last year. Some of us have been awaiting it with keen anticipation.
Baroness Browning: I welcome my noble friend's Statement. Having spent six years on the Public Accounts Committee, where we spent many hours dealing with defence procurement, I believe that it is important to get the books balanced first. Will he say something about what changes are to be made in project management within the MoD? Clearly, from the reports that the Public Accounts Committee has received from the NAO over the years, there is a serious systemic problem there involving both systems and personnel.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point. I assure her that the Permanent Secretary is getting on top of that issue and taking a very disciplined approach to budget holders. A number of them have had a quiet gripe to me about that, but it is the right thing to do and the only way to get on top of the problem.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his briefings. He is extremely helpful. I, too, regret that the tone of the Statement was at such odds with the way in which the noble Lord conducts his business with other Members of the House.
The Statement lays great stress on the spiralling costs in defence procurement, which has been a problem for a very long time. What is being done about the other problem which has been around for a very long time, which is the constant delays to the programme? Once we are told that a capability will be delivered in five years, in my time-and I have seen it go on
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Lord Astor of Hever: The noble Baroness makes a very good point. We hope that now that we are on top of the budget, there will be less need for delays. Industry and the MoD will be certain where they are, so there will be less need for delays.
"Most Gracious Sovereign-We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
Lord Trimble: My Lords, the Front Bench speeches last week on behalf of the coalition added very little to the cautious reference in the gracious Speech concerning reform of this House, but that is as it should be. The noble Lord the Leader of the House said that the Government are yet to take a position on the Joint Committee's report. I would add that they should give equal weight to the alternative report-and note that it is an alternative report, not a minority report. It was a committee of 26: there was one member from the Commons who did not attend any meetings; another member from the Commons, during the 30 meetings of the committee, popped in six times at the beginning and popped out not long afterwards. I do not recollect him saying anything while he was there, and he certainly did not vote. We had then, in effect, 24 persons who were contributing to the committee and 12 of them signed the alternative report. In the light of that, that report is entitled to equal weight in the matter.
There are some signs, I am glad to see, that the Government might think again. For example, both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister gave nuanced reactions to the recommendation in both reports of a referendum, and last Wednesday in the other place, the Prime Minister said:
That is of course reminiscent of the Wakeham report. It may also refer to the suggestion which appeared in the Mail on Sunday on 15 January, in a column written by Mr James Forsyth. He said that a compromise was being hatched in Downing Street which would see elections take place in 2015 for 20 per cent of the places in the Lords, but that the elected element-his words-would not be increased without Parliament again being asked to give its approval. In case either of these is being considered, may I advise caution?
If there was a referendum, what advice would the Conservative Party give to the electorate? It is likely
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There is no escape from the reality that a House containing Members with a direct electoral mandate, whether they be few, many or all, will act differently from this place. If the other place is to retain primacy, those who sit here must not be able to assert that they have an equal or superior mandate. The Joint Committee's report suggests this can be done by a concordat between the two Houses, but anything agreed between the two Houses will last only as long as both Houses continue to agree. When one House decides not to follow it, it will end. Ministers giving evidence to the Joint Committee said that the Parliament Acts would be a fallback for Commons primacy. I was interested to note that last week the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said that he "firmly agreed" with the view that had been given to the committee by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that the Parliament Acts would not apply to an elected Chamber. Proposing, as some do, that those Acts be extended to an elected Chamber ranks, to my mind, with the Labour Party's proposal to reduce the powers of the elected Chamber-a proposal rightly derided by the noble Lord the Leader of the House as a rich absurdity.
I would suggest that the solution is to elect Members indirectly, by a formula or process related to a direct election. Indirect elections are not unusual. In her written evidence, Dr Meg Russell told us that of the 76 second Chambers then in existence, 16 were wholly indirectly elected and 18 partly indirectly elected. By way of comparison, the figures for wholly and partly directly elected Chambers were 28, while those for wholly or partly appointed were 34, so there is an interesting distribution there. It is proposed that we have a second Chamber with a majority directly elected and with some appointed members. There are five other upper Chambers around the world that are constituted in the same way and which might be regarded as comparable. These five are Zimbabwe, Burma, Bhutan-they may not be regarded as terribly good comparators for reasons of distance, cultural difference and so on, but it is the remaining two that really worry me-Italy and Belgium. Is that going to be the future of our constitutional and parliamentary arrangements? I hope not.
The simplest form of indirect election is to allocate seats in proportion to the votes obtained in a general
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I would prefer the form of direct election that this Parliament legislated for in the past. The relevant Acts that I am referring to were enacted in 1909 and 1920. The second Chambers provided for in those Acts no longer exist, but that is not the point. Here we have legislation that was enacted in the middle of the crisis that led to the Parliament Act, and it may show what the Government who were involved in that crisis thought would be the appropriate shape of a second Chamber. The first Act was the South Africa Act 1909 and the second was the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Both proposals are very similar. My noble friends to my right might like to note that the 1920 Act was the work of a coalition of Conservatives and Liberals, headed by a Liberal Prime Minister-Lloyd George-whose Budget it was that had started the crisis in the first place. This is something worth looking at.
The South Africa Act 1909 provided for eight senators to be elected by single transferable vote for a 10-year term by the legislature of each of the four colonies that became provinces of the Union of South Africa, with a further eight Members appointed by the Governor General-an 80/20 split. That is interesting. The Government of Ireland Act provided for 24 Members of the Northern Ireland Senate to be elected for an eight-year term by single transferable vote by the Northern Ireland House of Commons, half being elected every four years, with the lord mayors of Belfast and Londonderry as additional Members. I thought that this might be a pointer in view of some other aspects of the coalition's policy, but apparently they got lost by the wayside recently. But you never know, that might come back again.
Interestingly, both Acts had exactly the same procedure written into them to resolve differences between the two Houses. In the event of a difference between them over a piece of legislation, there could be convened-it was discretionary-a joint sitting of both Houses to deliberate and vote on the disputed Bill. That deliberation and voting would then count as the passing of the Bill. This procedure also applied to the rejection of a money Bill, so the legislation contemplated that money Bills might be rejected and had a procedure for dealing with that, which underlines that the Governments at those times did not contemplate that something similar to the Parliament Act was needed or should exist with regard to these bodies.
If anything resembling the draft Bill that the Joint Committee has considered comes forward, it is clear that it will encounter serious opposition in the other place from Members who wish to retain their primacy and to avoid being challenged in their constituencies by a rival elected Member. An indirectly elected senate solves both those problems. So I urge it on those who will be involved in taking decisions on this as something to look at.
It might be possible to do that if the Bill comes after being properly considered in the other place, but I fear for what might happen if we get another ill-drafted Bill pushed though the other place on a guillotine with many of its provisions never debated.
I appeal to the Government: treat this bill as constitutional Bills were once treated in the past. Let it be considered without a timetable. A whip on Second Reading would be understandable, but thereafter let the debate proceed freely. A consensus reached in that way would then be respected.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, I thought that it would be helpful to today's discussion if we cast our minds back a couple of weeks to the elections that took place across Britain. I am referring in particular to the elections regarding the 10 directly elected mayors. As the House will remember, the suggestion was that there should be 10 directly elected mayors in 10 of the great cities of Britain. This proposal was supported by the leadership of the three main political parties, which is always a rather worrying state of affairs. It was argued that it would be a far more democratic system that would provide greater accountability and represent change, and these days we are always in favour of change. I need hardly remind the House of the results of those elections by the good people of Birmingham, Coventry and sundry other cities. When presented with this proposition, roughly three-quarters of the electorate could barely stifle a yawn before they changed the subject. The quarter, roughly, who actually went to the polling station voted pretty overwhelming and, I am happy to say, nine out of 10 said, "No thank you very much. We don't think our present system is broken. We will carry on as before".
I will leave noble Lords to their own judgment as to the relevance of that to the discussion of Lords reform because so much is unknown about Lords reform, despite all the discussions we have had so far. We know that the Government will probably introduce a Bill, but we do not know whether the Bill will be largely the draft Bill or will be substantially changed in the light of the Select Committee's report. We do not know when it will be introduced. We certainly do not know what its passage will show or whether or when it will reach this House. We do not know whether the Parliament Act will be applied, if necessary, and we do not know whether there will be a referendum at the end of everything.
There are a lot of do not knows, but I would like to put to the House something that I do know, I think. We cannot judge how the thing will end, but we can make a pretty educated guess on the direction of travel. I am sure that it is pretty much everyone's experience, as well as mine, that the direction of travel on this debate about whether we should have an elected House has been slowly but inexorably moving towards those of us who say that an elected second
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I do not want to win this battle as, simply on the basis of procedural wrangles, it threatens to be deals between political parties or perhaps even between Front Benches. I want to win this argument because I want to see it concluded and put to bed for a very substantial period. It is very important that that happens. Perhaps I may be partisan because, obviously, the party I care about more than any other, and always have, is my dear old Labour Party. Should we win the next election, as I fervently hope, and should this attempt at Lords reform fail, I hope that we will not find ourselves mired in a commitment to introduce another Bill which will take an inordinate amount of time and trouble to no discernable benefit to the electorate. Perhaps I should remind those newer members of my party who seem to think that an elected second Chamber is in our DNA and is what the Labour Party has always believed in and campaigned for, that they do not have memories anything like as good as those of some of us on these Benches. I actually took the precaution-I never thought I would-of reading the 11 election manifestos of my dear old party since 1970. That is an arbitrary date, and was the first general election that I lost. Since 1970, there have been 11 general elections. Only twice did the Labour Party have a commitment to a directly elected second Chamber in its manifesto. Incidentally, we lost both those elections. I do not claim that there is a direct relationship between the two things but it may be worth a note of caution.
I commend to the House the reference to Lords reform in the 2005 general election manifesto. I expect the ears of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer to prick up at this. The 2005 Labour manifesto said:
Without being overconfident, I am confident about the way that things are progressing because I think we are winning the argument. I will not repeat points that have been made already but we have surely conclusively won the argument on powers. Clause 2 of the draft Bill is ridiculous. It just asserts the primacy of the House of Commons with absolutely no evidence to explain how that would be sustained. The Government have still failed to answer the question that others and I have put repeatedly in public-that is, parliamentary-and private meetings, which is simply this, on powers. If one House votes to go to war and the other House votes not to go to war, following a request from the Government for war powers, where on earth does that leave the Government?
It is no use saying that it works abroad. It is the weakest argument of the lot to say that things work in other systems overseas. For the most part, other systems overseas have written constitutions that precisely delineate the powers of the two Chambers. We are not in that position. We are in a position in which the two Chambers have pretty much the same kinds of powers, but most of the time this House simply decides not to exercise them to the full. That is why we have a good relationship between the two Chambers. Therefore, I will not trouble the House. The point about powers has been well argued already.
There has been no attempt to argue otherwise by the Government, or by the previous Government, under Jack Straw. I had the same sense of frustration arguing with Ministers then as I have now. They refused to address the problem, just saying, "Oh, we have the Parliament Act so everything will be all right".
The other argument is more difficult but I think that those of us who are against a directly elected House have won it. It is the argument about democracy. I will not expand on this because no one could improve on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on Thursday. He simply made the point, which I shall try to make in a sentence, that our democratic system depends on the people electing the Commons, the Commons determining the Government and the people being able to throw out the Government in a general election. To have a directly elected second Chamber would be an immediate and obvious threat to that core of the democratic legitimacy of our constitution. Therefore, I say quite confidently that a directly elected second Chamber would not enhance our democracy; it would damage it.
I put this as the final paradox. I was pleased when I realised that this was the case. The strongest-although not to me-and most frequently repeated argument that one hears from supporters of an elected House-
Lord Thomas of Gresford: The noble Lord referred to his party's manifestos. In 1912, Keir Hardie and Arthur Henderson campaigned on the basis of the abolition of the House of Lords. The current policy, as enunciated by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is for 100% election. Just to clarify this, is the noble Lord saying that 1999 brought about the final apotheosis of the House of Lords and that it should remain in that form for ever?
Lord Grocott: The noble Lord tempts me down the line of being even more of a constitutional anorak than I am. I could read out for him, but I will not, the commitments of the Labour Party on Lords reform to sundry general elections over the years. There is no common pattern within it, except that quite frequently there is reference to controlling the powers of the second Chamber, but when it comes to composition, there has been absolutely no consistency. I am quite happy to put a copy of this deeply researched note in the Library should anyone wish to read it.
I come to what I think is the final paradox of where we are in Lords reform. It is interesting that I should have had an intervention from a Liberal Democrat because I have heard it said frequently that, somehow
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I ask the House to consider the following proposition. Were Lloyd George around today and sitting at the other end of the Chamber-we will call him Dave in order to keep it contemporary-his colleague alongside him might say, "Dave, have you seen this new Lords reform Bill?". Lloyd George might say, "No, I haven't seen it. What's in it?", and his colleague might say, "It's a great Bill which makes the Lords more powerful and will enable them to throw out more Commons legislation. What is more, in due course it will be able to start blocking Budgets. What do you think of that?". I do not think that David Lloyd George would be too struck with that proposition.
I say to the House that in terms of this simple proposition, which I hope does not sound too egotistical on the part of those of us who take this view, if any heirs to Lloyd George are sitting around in Parliament at the moment, they would be saying, "We are protecting the primacy of the House of Commons". I am confident that that is what Lloyd George would want to see, were he here. It is certainly what I say and what most of my colleagues have been saying. I hope that the Government will listen to this and realise that it is not just a bad Bill, it is increasingly a friendless Bill. They would do themselves and the country a favour if they were simply to drop it.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, I will not claim to know what Lloyd George might or might not have said. He was a radical. It seems depressingly clear that there are very few radicals for reform on the other side of the House. I find that very sad for a Labour Party that has always stood for constitutional reform in favour of democracy and the people in this country, but its members must examine their own consciences on this.
I should begin by making an apology to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. On Thursday, I was here for most of his speech. I regret that I had unavoidably to leave for the last couple or three sentences. I offer my apologies to him. Obviously, I read what he had to say in Hansard.
Well, so here we go again. Over the weekend, I was speaking with a friend in Somerset. I do not think that he votes Liberal Democrat-I think he is probably a Tory-but he watches these things rather carefully. He had looked at our debate on the parliament channel or had read it in Hansard and certainly knew what had gone on. I was expressing to him how depressed I was. He said, "Paddy, you may be depressed but you should not be surprised. The House of Lords is performing exactly its traditional function down the years of opposing every democratic reform".
This is the Chamber that opposed the Great Reform Act 1832, women being elected and so many fundamental reforms. It did so à l'outrance but was finally dragged kicking and screaming to the democratic reforms that
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Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: I will happily give way in a moment. Are noble Lords really content that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt will create a constitution with better contact with democracy than we have in this place, and that most Members of this place wish to see here? It is an untenable position and sooner or later this House, in the future as in the past, will be dragged to democracy, even against its will.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: The weekend before last I was in Egypt and sat in the gallery of the lower House of the Egyptian Parliament. It was a lively debate, with over 400 members all present. Does the noble Lord know how many women there were? There were half a dozen. That is all. He should look around him now and see how many women we have.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: I do not pretend that Egypt is a perfect democracy-of course I do not. But if it is prepared to elect its second Chamber, on that matter and in this instance is it not a better democracy than we are in this place, who resist that?
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: I will give way in a moment. Let me just make it clear that across the world, or at least a very great deal of it, people are on the streets demanding democracy, while here we sit huddled, determined not to even let it enter through the doors. It is an unsustainable position.
Lord Cormack: I am most grateful. A couple of weeks ago, the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, asked his noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford why Lloyd George-the hero of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown-did not believe in an elected second Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, could not answer that question. Can the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, do so?
Lord Thomas of Gresford: I did answer that question. I said that Lloyd George was for the abolition of the House of Lords. "I am a single Chamber man", he said-and in that he was assisted by Arthur Henderson and Keir Hardie.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: I am grateful to my noble friend, but I do not want to talk about 1911-I want to talk about today. Democracy is on the march across the world, and you cannot keep it
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I want to answer a few of the arguments that have so far been put forward to prevent this happening, to delay it, and to make sure that we hang on to our seductive comforts for as long as we may. The first is the most ridiculous, but it featured in our previous debates and there were echoes of it on Thursday-that we are not a House of Parliament but a committee. Some committee! We are told that we are a monocameral Parliament, that all we do is advise and that this is just a committee. We are invited to believe, therefore, that when we met King John on the banks of the Thames nearly 1,000 years ago we were not beginning with a Magna Carta and Parliament but creating a committee-and that when we invite Her Majesty to come here all dressed up in her finery, accompanied by a company of the guards and a clatter of the Household Cavalry, to sit on the Throne and read the parliamentary programme for the future to your Lordships, who are dressed in red dressing gowns while the other Chamber has to come and parade before us, we are no more than a committee. That is a preposterous suggestion, and those who make it, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said in a previous debate, simply do not understand our history or function.
The argument that is made to bolster this claim is that we do not contribute to the making of laws. You cannot make that argument on the one hand and then claim, as my noble friend Lord Phillips did, that we have done our function because we have changed and passed so many laws. The truth of the matter is that we contribute to the making of the laws in this country. In a democracy, those who do the people's business should be the people's representatives. We are the daily affront to that basic principle. How can we be satisfied with that? It is a desperate and ludicrous argument that gives little comfort or respect to those who continue to seek to make it.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. I notice that his wording has now changed to, "contribute to the making of the laws". The Deputy Prime Minister said that those who make the law should be elected. Should we take this as an acknowledgment that the House of Commons has the final say on all laws that are made in this country?
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: Of course we should. The draft legislation that was put before us made it perfectly clear that the House of Commons should have primacy. That is not a contentious item. By the way, I said that we participated in the making of the laws. We contribute to the making of the laws. That should be done only by the power that is derived not from the Prime Minister or from patronage but through the ballot box.
My noble friends in the Conservative Party often ask, "Why should we address this constitutional issue at a time of crisis-is this not a distraction?". Those noble
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It is also dangerous to make that point as we are facing not just an economic crisis but a democratic crisis. We should look at what is happening on the streets of Egypt and at what has happened here. Our economy is in crisis but so is our democracy. We should look at the turnouts in the local elections last week. You cannot solve the democratic crisis unless you can create more respect for, cognisance of and at least trust in the democratic process. We need a process of democratic renewal in this country. I do not claim that the House of Lords represents all of that programme but it is certainly a crucial part of it. You cannot resolve the deep economic crisis of this country if you do not also address the democratic crisis, and that is what we seek to do.
Another point that is often made is that famously there is no public call for reform of this place-we have heard it in the Chamber today-and that campaigners have knocked on many doors but not one person has called for democratic reform of the House of Lords. But they never do. This is not the people's business; it is our business. There was no great public call for the Great Reform Act 1832. There was a campaign up and down the country, but in the Dog and Duck and other pubs around Britain in the 1830s there was no great public call in support of that or, later, the suffragette cause. The campaigners believed deeply in that cause and they fought for it, but the public did not, being largely uninterested in it, if not opposed to it.
The noble Lord, Lord Luce, said the other day that there have been four reforms of this place-in 1911, 1949, 1963 and 1999. None of those reforms was called for by the public. We initiated them to put our House in order. This has nothing to do with the public calling for reform. It is entirely to do with the fact that we should recognise that we have grown out of touch with democracy and that we have to put our House in order-no more and no less.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: The noble Lord says that there was no great public demand prior to 1832. What does he think brought together the 100,000 people who risked life and limb at Peterloo about 10 years previously?
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, I did not say that there was no great campaign. I made it very clear that among the ordinary people of our country there was no great public cry for this, as indeed was the case with the suffragettes. I had a look at this in the Library only the day before yesterday and I assure noble Lords that that was the case. However, if noble Lords will not accept that, and it seems that they are not inclined to do so, I repeat that on the four
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Finally, I turn to the question of the written constitution, because this has come up a number of times. Let me see if I may address it directly. Perhaps I may pick up on the statement, or perhaps question, of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, during the debate last Thursday. He is a man for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration, but he made an odd statement. He said that if we were to be a democratically elected second Chamber we would be the only one in the world with an unwritten constitution so to do. There are only three countries with an unwritten constitution-not a huge number. There is New Zealand, Israel and Great Britain. His argument was, "How could we make such a change when there is no model for us to work from?". I looked at his statement in Hansard and could read it out to him; I have it here.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, the point the noble Lord actually made, springing from that, was that we would not have a model to work from. Since when have democratic reformers in this country needed a model to work from? We have always had an unwritten constitution. Did it cause Cromwell to stop and say, "Hang on; I had better not go ahead with demanding that powers be transferred from the king because there isn't a model anywhere else"? He was the model. Others followed him-not he followed others.
For the Great Reform Act 1832, we did not sit down and say, "Oh my goodness, we have no model to follow". We had an unwritten constitution. We did not know how the powers would fall. We did not call for a constitutional convention to decide those powers before moving forward to reform. We made the democratic reforms and the world followed us. I am absolutely confident that, because we were ahead of the rest in 1832, the Great Reform Act saved us from the revolutions that swamped Europe in blood in 1848. Surely the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is not one to argue that because we have an unwritten constitution we cannot have democratic reform. That is a ridiculous argument.
I say to those who say that we cannot have reform because we have an unwritten constitution, but at the same time talk about the magic of our unwritten constitution that reforms and resolves all matters, that I do not much believe in the unwritten constitution. To be honest, there is a case for a written constitution in this country. However, those who argue that the unwritten constitution resolves all, and that because it is a living constitution it can evolve and cope with these changes, cannot then say that some part of that constitution has to be written down. The proposition made by those who make that argument seems to be this: there has to be an unwritten constitution for everybody else but a written one for us-it has to be codified and we cannot otherwise move forward. You cannot make both arguments at the same time. Either you
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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am very interested in the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, because he said, in essence, that he would not be unhappy with a written constitution. To be fair to my noble friend Lord Rooker, the point I think he was making was that if you have two elected Chambers, both with representatives of the people in them, you must have a written constitution in order to resolve the relationship between the two Houses. That was his point-not that you cannot do it, but that there is an ineluctable logic to the written constitution. In that case, the proceedings of the Houses become justiciable. That is why the conventions between the two Houses are not codified. It is why they are written down as explanations, not as a code. If the noble Lord does not understand that, it is he who misunderstands our constitutional arrangements.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: That was rather a long question. Let me address it straightaway. The proposition that the noble Baroness makes is that because our constitution is unwritten we cannot have democratic reform of this place.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: Allow me, my Lords; the noble Baroness's proposition is that, if you want to have democratic reform of this place, you must first have a written constitution. If we had a Bill before us for a written constitution, I would vote for it. However, we do not; we have a Bill for democratisation of the House of Lords. Perhaps I may make this point to the noble Baroness: if the past great reformers of this country took those risks, going out and leading the world from the basis of an unwritten constitution to change the powers of the monarch of this place and of the Commons, why should it not happen again? What is the basis on which it will not happen again?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I agree with the noble Lord, especially because of his allegiance to the principle of a bicameral system, but surely he agrees that in a bicameral system the relationship between the two Chambers needs to be understood by people if it is put to them in a referendum. The noble Lord appears to be speaking in favour not of the draft Bill but of the Bill that he wishes it were. When I spoke to people in Lancashire, they said, "If it's to be democratic, why elect once for 15 years? I would have no control over you, Josie". That is what people said in my locality. Why is the noble Lord not arguing for what he believes in?
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, I have been arguing for precisely what I believe in. Perhaps I may put it to the noble Baroness in this way. The draft legislation made it very clear that the Commons would have primacy, and I imagine that the legislation that will be put before us will have that phrase in it. However, if you believe in an unwritten constitution, you believe that that relationship needs to be worked out when the system has established itself. That is what an unwritten constitution does. I repeat: when they drew up the Great Reform Act, did they say, "My goodness, how will this alter things? If we were to abolish the rotten boroughs, how would this alter the constitution? We must have this codified"? Of course they did not. They went ahead and did what was necessary and our constitution responded effectively. That is the wisdom and the magic which I am told attends upon an unwritten constitution. You cannot argue that you believe in and value an unwritten constitution but where it relates solely to us it has to be written down. Either it is unwritten and works magically, as I propose it does, or it does not-full stop; end of story.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: I guessed that I would be-I have never been popular in making these points, here or elsewhere-but perhaps I may come back to the central issue. The House of Lords Library tells me that there are 71 bicameral Parliaments across the world. Somebody said that it was 76 and I accept that. Leaving aside the microstates of the Caribbean, whose constitutions we wrote, only seven apart from ourselves have no contact with democracy, and they include Belarus and Yemen.
Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I have the figures in front of me. There are 15 wholly appointed second Chambers in the world-16 if you include the United Kingdom-but they do not include the legislatures just referred to by the noble Lord.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: I am happy to put the advice provided to me by the Library into the public domain if noble Lords wish, but I have the advice here and it is very clear. The other seven appointed bicameral Chambers include the nations that I have just talked about. If the noble Lord wishes to contend that, I shall be happy to exchange with him following the debate the Library research paper on which I base what I say.
This situation cannot be sustained. Noble Lords know that. Some people are using every argument to delay or obstruct reform and are coming forward with arguments that, frankly, do not hold water. Sooner or later, in some way, this House will have to become connected to the democracy of our country. Democracy
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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I was going to start my speech by saying that it was a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown. It is certainly a challenge and I shall try not to take as long. I am glad to have this opportunity not least because his support for an elected second Chamber is, as he demonstrated today, both passionate and principled and I respect that. However, I hope that he will accept and acknowledge that it is possible to have as great a respect for democracy and for a parliamentary system without agreeing with him on the virtues of an elected House. It is possible for true democrats, honourable Members and noble Lords to disagree honourably on this point.
The other reason I was pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, was that I would like to echo some of the points that have been made about second Chambers across the world. I fear that in his rhetoric he employs a rather broad-brush approach and fails to do justice, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, has pointed out, to the complexities of bicameral legislatures. Over the past five years-something of a misspent late middle age-I spent a great deal of time visiting, discussing and studying second Chambers, and speaking to their members and debating with their speakers. The position is nothing like as simple as the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, suggests. He achieves the figure of only seven appointed Chambers by simply ignoring some countries that he decides to classify as micro-states and therefore not worthy of consideration.
More importantly, if you look at the figures-whether it is 72 or 76-for me the crucial issue is that directly elected second Chambers are actually in the minority when you consider the large number of indirectly appointed second Chambers and put those together with the ones that are appointed. I say that not simply to parry debating points with the noble Lord, but to suggest that parliaments are rather like Tolstoy's families at the beginning of Anna Karenina: lower Houses are basically all the same-representation by population-and second Chambers are all different-unhappy in their own way, as unicameralists such as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, would say. They tend to be the product of political history or of political geography which, of course, explains federal countries and second Chambers in federal states. Their existence, their powers, their composition are subject to recurrent debate. They are abolished, as in New Zealand, created, as in Rwanda, and revived, as is currently happening in Kenya. The holy grail of achieving a second Chamber that is viewed as legitimate by the public, that adds value to the legislative process, that plays its part in holding the executive to account and in the better governance of our country, while not being either a fractious rival or a pale replica of a lower House, is not easy to find, as the coalition is now discovering.
I return to those issues of principle that are the noble Lord's driving force for an elected second Chamber. One is that no one should participate in the legislature, whatever the limitations of its power, without an electoral mandate. As I understand it, that is what the noble Lord delineated. The principle stands alongside the mantra that we heard in the other place that law makers should be accountable to law obeyers. However, if the two principles of election and accountability are sacrosanct, I cannot comprehend how the current proposals can in any way be judged acceptable. If no one who is not elected should be a legislator, how could one justify appointing 20% of the Members of a reformed House? I agree with noble Lords who said that such hybridity would very quickly become unsustainable. If accountability is king, how can single, non-renewable 15-year terms with no constituency responsibilities be justified?
Clause 2-legislation by assertion-maintains that the current balance between the two Houses can be maintained. How can it be when it is the product of the lack of electoral legitimacy of this House? How can one argue that it will not be fundamentally altered by giving Members of your Lordships' House an electoral mandate? This is not an abstract issue; I speak from personal experience. I proposed an amendment on control orders in your Lordships' House in 2005. It was supported-I see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, in his place. It was supported again when it had been overturned in the Commons and came back in the first round of ping-pong. However, after that round I stepped back-as did the rest of the House-because the House of Lords knows its place. It knows that its job is to revise and advise. It understands the balance of power between the two Houses. The idea that, if I had had any sort of electoral mandate at the time I would have stood back from what I considered to be an issue of principle, is ludicrous. Therefore, one cannot simply assert that the powers and the relationship would remain the same.
There were many speeches in recent debates about fundamental flaws in the proposals. I will not go through all the arguments but will simply say that the current proposals in no way provide a gain in democratic legitimacy and accountability that outweighs what would be lost in complementarity and differentiation between the Chambers and the single focus of democratic accountability that exists in the form of the House of Commons. Those who argue that the only route to legitimacy in a liberal democracy in the 21st century is election have not thought about some very powerful positions in our country for which some jurisdictions have elections. In some countries, judges are elected. I do not think that we would consider that an extension of democracy in this country. I do not believe that voting for police commissioners will be an extension of democracy. We must be prepared to take a more nuanced view on how legitimacy is gained in a liberal democracy in the 21st century. For me, involvement in the legislative process, as long as the powers exercised by such non-elected parliamentarians are commensurate-in the words of the Joint Committee-with their non-elected status, is acceptable.
I fear that he may have thought that my intervention on him the other day was exactly that and I will attempt not to do that today. Let me say quite explicitly that there is much that is wrong with the House as currently constituted. There is much that needs to change-as much has changed in the past. When I was taking my 11-plus, every Member of this House was an hereditary Peer, a judge or a Bishop. There was not a single woman in the place. In my adult lifetime, we have seen tremendous change, particularly in 1958 and 1999, and I believe that we need to see change on that scale now. The lack of that sort of incremental progress is a serious failing. For me, simply to defeat the current proposals would not look like success.
Several noble Lords have referred to the evidence that I gave to the Joint Committee. In that evidence, I put forward what I considered to be the problems the House faces-size, no retirement plan and the lack of terms. I put forward an agenda for change-a substantial reduction in the size of the House, agreement on the proportion of party-political to independent Members, term limits for future appointees, a statutory Appointments Commission operating under clear criteria which the public understood and which could be changed through Parliament, an end to the position that those who had committed serious criminal offences or breaches of the House's Code of Conduct cannot be barred from House, an end to the link between membership of the House and the honours system and an end to by-elections for hereditary Peers.
I understand that not all those proposals will be agreed by everybody, but I suspect that within them, there is a core that would amount to substantial and quite radical change around which consensus-consensus in the conventional rather than the Strathclydian definition-could be achieved. It would require leadership and compromise, but I do not believe that it would be any victory to defeat these proposals by long-drawn-out and bitter hand-to-hand parliamentary combat.
Even more of a travesty would be to confront what I suspect, as the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, suggested, would be the very small proportion of the British public who turned out to vote, with a referendum that gave a choice between a proposal as ill thought out and flawed as the one currently before us and the status quo of the House of Lords as it is today, with no progress or incremental change having been made since 1999.
Several speakers in this debate have referred to their anxieties, which I share, about the lack of respect for and trust in Parliament and politicians. We will not create that respect and trust quickly or easily and we will certainly not do it by putting two such unappetising alternatives to the public at a referendum. The key to slowly rebuilding that trust is to find reforms, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester has
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I agree, if not with Nick, then with the Prime Minister. He is quite right: Parliament can do more than one thing at a time. We could both take measures to improve this House's effectiveness and legitimacy through a Bill on which we have created widespread consensus and at the same time undertake the broader debate about the implications and desirability of an elected House in the context not only of Parliament as a whole but of the wider constitutional developments, which many have referred to, that are taking place in the United Kingdom at the moment. Or to put it in the more succinct words of the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard, we could get on and "do the work".
At the end of a speech made in this House in 2002 about very similar proposals, the late Lord Jenkins of Hillhead argued that there was an intellectual case for either a small, regionally based equivalent of the United States Senate or for a reformed, appointed House. However, he concluded by saying:
A decade on, I believe that we have not only the opportunity but the obligation to do better. It will require leadership, compromise and commitment, and I hope that the Government and Parliament will rise to that challenge.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, although it did not receive top billing, the reference in the humble Address to reform of the rules of royal succession are sensible and timely. I know I speak for all on these Benches when I say that we wish the Government well in their present consultations with the other Commonwealth realms. We look forward to and hope that it will then be possible for the necessary Bill to pass quickly through both Houses of Parliament.
The position of the church on the future of your Lordships' House was set out clearly by my right reverend friend the Bishop of Leicester in his speech on the report of the Joint Committee, on which he served as a member, and by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in his written and oral evidence to that committee. I commend that evidence to your Lordships and I should like to pick out three points. The first is that the proposals in the draft Bill fail to meet the test of shaping a second Chamber that will serve the people and Parliament better. We have already heard a great deal about conventions, primacy, powers and the deficiencies of Clause 2 of the draft Bill. It is obvious that any Bill to reform this House that does not adequately address those points risks being holed below the waterline before it sets sail.
The second point is to affirm and welcome the significant measure of agreement-I recognise that it is notuniversal, but it is significant none the less-that exists on the question of religious representation. We have long held the view that there should be a broadening of representation across the denominations and faiths-
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My third point reiterates the concerns voiced here a fortnight ago by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester about the potential for divisiveness in pursuing the policies on reform that were set out in the draft Bill. As we have heard today, the economic and social challenges facing us are clearly great and severe. If the role of the Government in these circumstances, particularly one forged in coalition, is to place the principles of unity and consensus front and centre, it has to be asked: is this really themoment for stoking division between Houses, within government and within parties, and creating further disillusionment among a population, many of whom have urgent and pressing welfare needs that appear not to be mirrored in the concerns of their representatives in Parliament?
On that last point about welfare, I beg the indulgence of your Lordships while I stray briefly, though within the ambit of our topic of constitutional affairs. The changes made to the provision of care following devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a fine example of the law of unintended consequences at work. Slightly different systems of entitlement and provision of care have emerged to a point where, frankly, we are in danger of creating something of a postcode lottery in the provision of care for some of our most disadvantaged people. I am reminded of a recent visit that I paid to Beaumont College in Lancaster. The college offers both residential and day programmes to learners aged between 18 and 25 with a broad range of physical and learning disabilities. Its aim is to empower learners to take responsibility for their own lives, offering an extended curriculum with a very strong emphasis, I am pleased to say, on creative arts, communication and self-expression. A former student of the college commented to me that, after leaving the college, they found life outside to be far harder to deal with than they had been led to expect. That is not to fault the college-which Ofsted reports as outstanding on many levels-but to make a point about the dislocating effect of moving from one regime of support to another. Let us imagine how a young person from the college would cope if, after leaving the college and settling into the English regime, they found that, perhaps for family reasons, they had to move to Wales or Scotland and then begin to make their way through a totally new system.
Lord Ashley, whose recent death was a great sadness to all his many admirers, was a tireless campaigner on behalf of those with disabilities, speaking up constantly for widows and battered wives, rape victims, the disabled and mentally ill, those with hearing loss and victims of thalidomide. His was an example of one of the great advantages of our current arrangements: the ability of this House to harness and benefit from the specialism and talents of many who might not otherwise have the chance to offer service in public life. In our approach to reform of this House, especially the reduction in space for the appointed and non-partisan, I make a plea that we build in enough flexibility to enable all the future Lord Ashleys to continue to serve the people of this country.
In a debate three years ago in your Lordships' House, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool made a hopeful appeal for us to rediscover the unity of Parliament in our discussions on reform. He spoke of two Houses working in the interests of the whole, the upper deferring to the electoral legitimacy of the Commons, which in turn looked to the upper for its wisdom and experience. The right reverend Prelate described it in terms of a House of elders. That is a point worth reflecting on. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury recently observed, a society that places great value on the cult of youth risks neglecting the needs of the old. This House is-and should not be ashamed of being-a necessary counterbalance to that trend. We hear often of the ageing society and the demographic change to come. Across the two Houses of Parliament, some reflection of that demographic is, on the face of it, no bad thing.
As we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, this House needs to reform. It has too many Members. It also lacks the means to discipline or expel its more errant Members in a way that the general public are right to expect. Like many on these Benches, I wish to see speedy action on those issues where we can all agree the need to change. My fear is that by gambling on the passage of a much more ambitious Bill, such as that staked out already by the Government, these necessary reforms will be further delayed and, in the process, the reputation of this place will be damaged. Your Lordships' House retains the potential to remain a trustworthy and efficient service to the people of this country. Let us not put that at risk by getting bogged down in a far-reaching and contentious Bill that would distract us all from the real and pressing needs of our country.
Lord Giddens: My Lords, I feel a distinct frisson of anxiety in saying that I do not intend to talk about reform of your Lordships' House-at least, not very much-but about much broader issues. I find it hard to credit that the Government have put forward such an anodyne legislative programme in the middle of the greatest crisis to afflict the industrial countries for the past 80 years. The recession is not just cyclical but has deep structural roots. It is essentially a crisis of competitiveness for the West, one which was building for some three decades. It has essentially been papered over by large- scale borrowing, which we know now is unsustainable. To confront that effectively will require a huge effort of the intellectual and practical imagination. I see no sign of that whatever in the most gracious Speech.
I am a believer in an elected second Chamber-apparently one of only about six or seven Peers who hold this view. I am a believer in 80:20 per cent, or what we could now call the Egyptian position. I admire the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, for standing up so forcefully for that. Yet I cannot agree with him that reform of the Lords is of systematic importance at this juncture in relation to the overwhelming crises that we face not only in this country but also elsewhere.
At this juncture, far more pressing constitutional issues are looming, perhaps as fundamental as the economic ones. I mention three. The first has been
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Secondly, there is the potential secession of Scotland. That is not just one part of a country breaking away. Even devo-max would give an enormous impetus to English nationalism and the long-standing idea of setting up an English parliament. There would be deep constitutional and economic implications even for a referendum, which we shall see as it approaches, which need to be thought through.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there are the dramatic events in the eurozone. I was very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who is not in his place, gave the speech that he did; in my opinion, it was very powerful. He said that he might be in a minority of one; he is not, but perhaps he is in a minority of two. I find that odd, given the huge nature of the issues that we face and the enormous implications of what is happening in the eurozone and the EU for this country. The possibility of a collapse of the eurozone and, with it, much of the European project, is all too real at the moment. Not many realise how catastrophic that would be if it happened suddenly, for this country as much as for other EU states.
That means that the future of Europe is radically different from that of even three or four years ago. There is the possibility of collapse; if that does not happen, there is essentially only one way forward, not just for the eurozone but for the wider European Union. At this point, essentially, it is federalism or bust. We do not know what kind of federalism it will be. This is a totally different situation from the past, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, observed. For not just the eurozone but the EU to survive, there has to be much tighter fiscal integration, a further ceding of sovereignty over economic and social affairs, with the ECB in some senses the lender of last resort. We know from what is happening in Greece and elsewhere that new democratic mechanisms will have to accompany those innovations for them to succeed, and those mechanisms will have to be transnational-in other words, they will have to be European mechanisms of democratic involvement.
At the moment, the Government seem hapless in the face of those events. The semi-detached approach to the EU, based, above all, on simply supporting the single market, which all British Governments have favoured, including the previous one, can no longer be an option. The UK must take a position, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, so forcefully said. Whenever that should happen, whenever there is a significant movement towards federalism, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and my noble friend Lord Mandelson that there will have to be a referendum in this country on continued EU membership, which itself raises all sorts of issues and problems. I think that that point may come much earlier than my noble friend Lord Mandelson suggested in his recent lecture at Oxford, when he said that it might be in five or six years. It might come
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I would welcome the Minister's comments on this. He is not only a Minister but a distinguished academic in the field of international relations and an expert on the European Union, and he has reached the pinnacle of academic achievement possible in this country as a professor at the LSE. I hope that he will at least address these wider issues, as surely this country and the world are at the moment on the edge of a precipice. I would like to hear his views on how the Government plan to respond.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, will forgive me for not following him in his masterly tour d'horizon of many of the massive issues now confronting Her Majesty's Government. I wish to speak on the issue of the draft Bill for the reform of this place and to ask two simple questions. First, what was the end product that the Government desired in drafting the Bill? What net result were they aiming for? Secondly, what was the principle that they sought to espouse in trying to achieve that result? Those are two simple but pertinent questions.
Concerning the first question, what was the end product contemplated? It seems that the Government have been saying quite consistently over the last few years that they wished a situation to develop whereby this House would have greater authority-greater moral authority than it has at the moment to conduct its duties, but greater authority vis-à-vis whom? Not vis-à-vis Europe; it can only be vis-à-vis Her Majesty's Government and the House of Commons. Yet that seems a very strange proposition when one considers the way in which Her Majesty's Government and the House of Commons have reacted in the last two years to the assertiveness of this House.
I will not go through any list in detail, but we know exactly what has happened. There has been a reaction to practically every worthwhile amendment that this House has passed, irrespective of its merits. There has been the use of the subterfuge, as I would describe it, of overemphasising the privilege which that House has in relation to financial matters. Of course it must retain that jurisdiction, but to use it even where that result is minimal in its effect upon an amendment amounts to bullying and almost to tyranny. That is one of the very great problems. Is it the case that if this Bill were to be carried, the House would adopt a different situation and, if so, on what basis? It is for the House and for the Government, in my respectful submission, to spell that out.
In so far as the question of the principle is concerned, probably every Member of this House present would say that there is one thing that we agree upon: that the primacy of the House of Commons should be maintained. In the course of these debates over the last few months, I have never heard anybody argue to the contrary. Very few people, however, have defined primacy. Primacy, to my mind, can mean one of three things. First, it can mean the acceptance that there is an overwhelming
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A second possibility is that it is a legal concept, which means that on all matters large and small where there is conflict between this House and the House of Commons, the House of Commons swiftly and peremptorily establishes that authority-and that our situation disappears, as it were, in so far as any status in that connection is concerned. The third possibility is that one does not apply such a rigorous determination as in the second instance but that nevertheless the House of Commons is entitled, in the long run and over a reasonable period of time, to have its own way. I cannot conceive of primacy that does not fit into one of those three categories.
With regard to the attempt to deal with the issue of primacy, Clause 2 of the Bill is of course a disaster. It has been savaged. I may be using a term that is too harsh to describe the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and his Joint Committee, but the clause has certainly been heavily and fairly criticised, even more so in the alternative report. I can well understand that, because if the primacy of the House of Commons is to be maintained, and that is the wish of everyone, then there are only two ways in which that can be done. One way-a dangerous one, to my mind-would be to put the Salisbury/Addison convention on a statutory basis. That convention was developed in very different circumstances from those now prevailing, at a time when there were about 20 members of the Labour Party in this House and many hundreds of Conservatives. Then, it was necessary either to abolish this place or to have a convention of that nature. However, if you put such conventions on a statutory basis, you are in grave trouble. I know that noble and learned Lords who are in a far better position to judge than I would say that you immediately place yourself at the mercy of the courts and do the very thing that Article 9 of the Bill of Rights wished to avoid-in other words, that there should be a conflict between the jurisdiction of Parliament and that of the courts.
A convention is no more than a convention. The moment that it ceases to be a convention, it becomes a great peril. Again, noble Lords may say that we could use the Parliament Acts, but why should you use two pieces of legislation that were passed in very special circumstances to deal with a wholly new circumstance? Those Acts were passed when there was a deadly conflict between a House of aristocratic origin-an hereditary House-and an elected, democratic House. That is not the situation now, nor would it be if the Bill were to be passed. Although of course there is every justification for the broad rules regarding money Bills and taxation to be abided by, the Parliament Acts were nevertheless created in a special situation that would no longer obtain in the event of the Bill being carried.
What are we left with? A situation where the only sane, reasonable and safe choice is either A or B. A is to maintain an appointed House, possibly with many, though not all, of the reforms that were so properly advocated by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. B is
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Lord Elystan-Morgan: I am sorry. However, it seems to me that I am surrounded by many people who subscribe to the same ideas as me. That may very well be the choice. Although the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and others may argue that there is no great significance in a written constitution, I believe that it makes all the difference. I would put it, very humbly, in this way: if you have a written constitution dealing with two elected Houses, it is very much like having two rail tracks running parallel with each other. With luck, no great disaster will ever occur. If you do not have a written constitution, with two elected Houses you have an open highway where each of those heavy, dangerous vehicles is competing with the other for road space and where there is, in the long term, the certainty of disaster. That is the situation.
If I am right that those are the stark choices now confronting our community, then we have gone about it the wrong way altogether. We have sought to deal with this matter in a piecemeal, tunnel-vision manner. That is a fair criticism. The 1911 and 1949 Parliament Acts dealt solely with powers. Since 1949, virtually all the discussion has been about membership. How can you possibly deal with membership save in apposition to powers or with powers save in apposition to membership? How can you possibly deal with a tripartite entity, such as parliamentary government-the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the devolved Assemblies-through totally changing the character and the constitution of one of them?
I believe that one of the most unwholesome proposals in the draft Bill is the 15-year term. I can well understand, and have sympathy with, the motives behind it. I came to this House 31 years ago, although I am sorry that I have not been here for the entire intervening time, having very improperly played truant for a period. I can well understand why a modern legislator should feel that they should have the independence to be able to deal with an issue as they see it on merit without having to look over their shoulder to the next election or to dictate into the columns of the local rag. It is a perfectly understandable and decent motivation, but I think it is a very wrong one. Democratic representation means two things: it means being elected in a democratic way and being answerable in a democratic way. It is not the fact of election that is so important but the fact of facing re-election: that is the mandate that has sovereign value, if you look in a purely tunnelled way at popular election.
I end with this: I believe that the most sensible answer to this situation has come from the alternative report. It states that, bearing in mind all these issues
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