Memorandum by The Rt Hon Lord Howe of
Aberavon (LR 24)
I was very glad to receive your letter and enclosures
of 21 Novemberand am sorry that I have not replied more
promptly (as always, or so one feels, because of pressure of other
For much the same reason, I hope I may now be
forgiven for not having prepared a separate and up-to-date presentation
of my views. I offer the same alibi for my inertia in that respect.
What I am doing instead is to enclose three documents, which reveal
this particular pilgrim's progress on this fascinating topic:
(1) The evidence which I gave to the Wakeham
Royal Commission, dated 4 May 1999.
(2) My Times article of 2 August in
the same year.
(3) My (unforgivably populist) piece in the
House Magazine of 26 November this year.
The first, long document, contains my fullest
and most lucid analysis of the problemand I remain content
with the reasoning, save that I have now withdrawn my initial
acceptance of the case for an elected element. The second was
written after I had been persuaded of the case against any elected
membership. And the third is a summary, which barely does justice
to the case but is in line with the article by Rolf Dahrendorf
on the following page.
It may be worth mentioning two reasons for the
shift in my position.
The first is my reaction to our actual experience
of closed lists. In my judgment, experience of the European Parliament
election shows how numbingly this procedure seems to compel would-be
candidates to compete for what they see as their Party's centre
of gravityhowever narrowly based; the process tended, perhaps
predictably, to work heavily against independence and candour.
My second reason is based upon the manifest
success of the Upper House that has emerged from the Cranborne
compromisewhich has allowed just enough continuity to secure
the benefits of incremental (rather than fundamental) change.
The arrival of Life Peers had been a similar move of even greater
importance. This whole process of benign transition was well discussed
by Conrad Russell, in his piece in the Sunday Times colour
supplement of 11 November 2000.
And I have two further comments to make.
If the future Upper Chamber is to depend (as
in my view it should) very largely upon a process of nomination,
then the independence of the whole procedure is, of course, absolutely
fundamentaland the role of the "Stephenson Commission"
(or whatever) requires clearer definition and robust independence.
It was a pity that they (or their unsolicited advance publicity?)
raised expectations of a patronisingly gimmick-laden, populist
listwhich exposed their final choice to some ridicule.
Yet even so, it was perhaps disappointing that they were not able
to find a more broadly representative (or at least a little less
predictable) set of nominees (as the spouse of one, I must, of
course, declare an interest).
My final point rests upon the fourth modest
document enclosed, a recent letter to the Financial Times.
This is an interesting echo of the first book I ever reviewed
for the public prints (Swansea Evening Post, circa 1948),
"Can Parliament Survive?" by Christopher Hollis. His
principal prescription, itself derived from Winston Churchill's
Romanes Lecture of about 1932, involved the establishment of a
third chamber, called, I seem to recollect, "the House of
Industry". When one comes to think about it the House of
Lords, as at present constituted, comes pretty close to meeting
that particular case, as well as having all its other virtues.
I renew my apologies for such discursiveness
and hope that some at least of this material may of some use.
5 Ev not printed. Back
Ev not printed. Back