Memorandum by The Rt Hon Earl Ferrers
You asked for views on the White Paper on Lords
Reform. Mine are as follows:
On many occasions during the passage
of the House of Lords Bill the Government gave a commitment that
there would be a joint Committee of both Houses to consider the
future of the House of Lords. The Government now says that there
will be no joining Committee. This is a shameful breaking of an
undertaking which had been given on a number of occasions on the
Floor of the House.
It is wrong to expunge all Hereditary
Peers. They have much to offersuch as continuity, outside
experience, youth and non-professionalism.
The Government say that, in the new
Second Chamber, the link with the Peerage must be dissolved. If
that is to be the case, then the Second Chamber should be given
a different nameMr Smith, ML of the Upper House, would
be a possibility.
The Government says that the authority
of the Second Chamber must not be altered. Any change along the
lines proposed will, though, inevitably alter the power and the
authority of the Second Chamber. It is difficult to see how the
Government can wish for a more powerful Chamber as it likes as
little interference as possible with its legislative proposals.
It would be difficult for the Government to say that it wants
a less powerful Second Chamber. No-one would wish to become a
Peer if their work were to be of less value than it is now.
There should not be elected Members
in the Second Chamber. The House of Commons is the Chamber of
elected Members. The House of Lords should not seek to emulate
it or to challenge the authority of the House of Commons. Even
a partly elected Chamber will give the House of Lords more authority.
The House of Commons will dislike that greatly. The nature of
the House of Lords will alter. The relationship between the Lords
and the Commons will become more fractious and infinitely more
The closed party list system is a
bad one for electing people to the House of Lords. Candidates
will not be elected on their personal merits. They will be placed
on the list at the discretion of the political parties. That will
be appointment by another route.
People, who have been elected, will
expect to be paid. Some Members who are paid and some who are
not is an impossible position. A paid Second Chamber will be inevitable.
This will lead inexorably to demands for more secretaries, more
research students and, eventually, to a Portcullis House for the
Lords, which demand has already been made.
The Government says that it wants
the House of Lords to be more democratic and to have more "legitimacy".
There is nothing democratic about appointing people to the Lords.
There is nothing democratic about producing a report of excellence.
There is everything confrontational about having aneven
partlyelected Second Chamber.
The House of Lords must remain independent
of mind and must be able to continue its highly respected work,
for instance in Select Committees, for which it is renowned throughout
No argument has been put forward
for the partial elimination of the Bishops. They enhance the proceedings
in the House of Lords considerably and have done nothing to deserve
To retire people at 75 will remove
from the Lords some people of great distinction, such as retired
Law Lords like Lord Ackner, Lord Brightman, Lord Simon of Glaisdale
and others, like Lord Renton.
If the Government wishes to find
people, who are successful and who are in the prime of life, to
become Members of the House of Lords, they will not get them if
they are not to be paid. They will certainly not get them if they
cannot call themselves Lord. What we are seeing is not a reform
or a modernisation of the Lords but a destruction of a fundamental
part of our Constitution. It has been economical in operation
and has shown frequently to be closer to the views of the people
of the country than have the elected Members of the House of Commons.
Both the House of Lords and the House
of Commons must be able to question, and to apply a check on,
the Executive. This is becoming increasingly less possible in
the House of Commons. The House of Lords must not follow down
the same path.