The House of LordsCompleting the
Reform, Submission on Crossbench Issues
1. This paper is submitted by the six Independent
Peers whose names appear below. [Although it has had the benefit
of discussion at Crossbench meetings,] it is in no way a submission
on behalf of all Crossbenchers, or indeed of anyone other than
2. It must be emphasised that this Paper
is a response only to such of the proposals in the White Paper
as are of particular relevance to securing a proper Independent
element in the new House. There are, of course, numerous other
issues in the White Paper upon which individual Crossbenchers
have decided views. But this paper does not touch on those issues
and considers only those matters which appear to be crossbench
3. The paper was prepared in response to
the White Paper (Cm5291). During its preparation we received the
Supporting Documents, and we have attempted to take this further
material into account.
4. (a) "Independent" means
a Member who has been appointed by the "Stevenson Commission"
or who has signed, or could sign, the declaration now used to
identify Independent Peers (see Appendix A);
(b) "Main Party" includes only
Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat;
(c) "Crossbencher" means anyone
who does not take a Main Party Whip, and thus includes:
(ii) Members of Other Parties.
(iii) Those who take no Whip, but cannot
make the declaration.
(d) "Member" means a Member of
the new House after the reform comes into effect.
(e) "Peer" means someone who is,
or becomes, a member of the House of Lords before reform. It does
not include a hereditary peer who is not a member of the House.
(f) "Change" means the change from
the present situation which will happen when the Bill comes into
(g) "Transition" means the period
until the House takes its final form of 600 Member who have come
to the House under the new Bill.
5. (a) (i) The White Paper proposes
an ultimate House of 600 Members, with a quota of 120 appointed
(ii) The size of this "quota"
is obviously a matter for debate and many crossbenchers believe
it should be larger. There appears to be force in this belief.
Unlike political Members who are subject to a party Whip, many
Independents attend, and vote, only when the subject matter is
within their own field of expertise or of particular interest
to them. Thus a quota of 20 per cent is not the equivalent of
a 20 per cent attendance.
(iii) Nonetheless this paper makes no
submission on this issue and, for convenience, assumes the figures
of 600 and 120.
(b) It is obviously essential that only those
who are genuinely independent should count against the independent
(c) Seemingly it is accepted that the following
will not count against the quota:
(ii) Those appointed as Law Lords.
(iii) All representatives of a political
party, whether major or minor (see 6(c) below).
(d) (i) We understand the reasoning which
causes the Government to propose that representatives of other
denominations and faiths have to be part of the Independent quota.
But if any religious representative is in fact an active member
of a political party he should be allocated against the quota
of that party.
(ii) The reason why the Royal Commission
proposed a reduction of 10 in the number of Bishops was to make
space for representatives of other denominations. If these representatives
are in fact to count against the Independent quota, that quota
should be increased by the 10 spaces given up by the Bishops.
(e) This leaves unresolved the position of:
(i) those who have moved from political
(ii) existing non-Independent Crossbenchers.
(f) The Government does expect those who
move from the Main Parties to count against the Independent quota
but contemplates that the Commission will "monitor"
the genuineness of the conversion (Hansard 22). Seemingly
the Government accepts that those who are found not to be genuine
in their conversion shall remain in the quota of the party whence
they came. We would not expect the legislation to lay down how
this monitoring is to be done, but we would expect an unequivocal
public statement accepting the principle.
6. (a) The White Paper does not deal
in detail with the composition of the House during transition.
We assume that it is intended that during transition Independents
will form at least 20 per cent of the House and this assumption
appears to be confirmed on paragraph 15 of Part 5 of the Supporting
Documents. It needs to be unequivocally confirmed.
(b) Again it is essential that only those
who are genuinely independent should count against this quota.
(c) The Government has accepted that anyone
who is nominated from a minor political party will count against
the political, and not the independent, membership. We need to
be assured that, during the transition, existing Peers from those
parties will also not count against the independent quota.
(d) It will also be necessary to exclude
from the independent quota those who have moved from political
parties and those who were not appointed as Independents. We accept
that this should be dealt with by way of a clear statement, and
not by legislation.
7. (a) Paragraph 62 of the White Paper
says, in relation to the Independent quota:
"There should be some small margin allowed
to the Appointments Commission . . . to enable effective management
of the size and balance of the House".
(b) Further the Lord Chancellor has said
"The Appointments Commission will need to
rebalance the House after each general election. It may well find
that it can do this more effectively by "borrowing",
temporarily, a seat from the Independents."
(c) And the Supporting Documents, (Part 17,
paragraph 19), say that the Independents should constitute 20
per cent of the total "on average over the lifetime of a
(d) We consider this to be wholly unacceptable.
If the quota of Independents is "temporarily" eroded,
there is a grave risk that the erosion will become permanent,
or at least of considerable duration. The Independent peers are
in a weak position to protect their quota against erosion and
it must be clearly laid down by Statute.
(e) There is no reason why the cap (of 600)
should be wholly inflexible, and the necessary margin of variance
should be obtained from that flexibility or otherwise.
8. If there is to be any fixed proportion
for the sexes, or on grounds of ethnic origin, these must be applied
evenly over all groups, so that a proportional discrepancy in
the political representation is not remedied by a compensating
adjustment of the Independent group.
9. (a) What should be the period of
an appointment. The choices seemingly are:
(ii) until a fixed retiring age,
(b) Whichever is chosen, it would be desirable
to allow voluntary retirement, (and we agree that this should
also be available to existing life peers).
(c) It would be undesirable for there to
be any scope for pressure on an Independent who might fear that
his or her fixed term would not be renewed. Thus if there is to
be a fixed term it should be of considerable length, and not be
(d) We note that the Government recognises
that there is no reason why the length of term for nominated Members
should be the same as that for elected Members, (Supporting Documents,
Part 6, paragraph 38). The same point could equally apply as between
nominated political Members and appointed Independents. Even if
it is thought appropriate for political Members to have a shorter
term and be eligible for reappointment, we advocate a single long
and non-renewable term for Independents.
(e) If it is decided that this is not appropriate
in relation to other appointments, it may be necessary for the
term of appointment for Independents to differ from that of political
(f) If life appointment is not acceptable
the choice seems to lie between:
(i) a fixed retiring age of, say, 75,
(ii) a fixed single term of, say, 15
(g) Given the significant contribution which
retired Law Lords make at present to legislative amendments and
debate, it is to be noted that the Government's proposal would
give retired Law Lords only five years as Members of the House.
10. (a) The most important functions
of the new statutory Appointments Commission will be to decide
on quotas and appoint the non-political Members. Its make-up and
mode of operation are therefore of great importance.
(b) On its membership, it is desirable that
it should have:
(i) its Chairman who is independent with
experience of the workings of the House, and also
(ii) an Independent Member of the House,
both of whom should have [extensive] experience of
the workings of the House; and we welcome the fact that one of
the Members of the Commission will be nominated by the Convenor.
(c) We are surprised by paragraphs 14 of
Part 7 and 10 of Part 8 of the Supporting Documents, which appear
to accept that there might be no Members of the House amongst
the Independent Members of the Commission. We regard it as essential
that Members of the Commission have personal experience of what
happens in the House and its Committees.
(d) Paragraph 11 of Part 7 of the Supporting
Documents says that the Address on the appointment of the Committee
will be moved only after "the party leaders" have been
consulted. We assume that this includes the Convenor, but this
should be confirmed.
11. (a) As is recognised in Part 5 of
the Supporting Documents one of the functions of the Independent
Members is to provide expert knowledge and expertise for the benefit
of the House and its Committees.
(b) We therefore welcome the Government's
acknowledgement that the Commission will have regard to reports
from the Convenor as to the areas of specific expertise required
from new recruits. Such reports should be a valuable contribution
to the "authoritative analysis of the areas of expertise"
to be made by the Commission (see Supporting Documents, Part 7,
(c) The Commission should aim to ensure
that a candidate, if appointed, will devote some time to the House.
But this commitment must not be too onerous, if the new house
is to attract the best people.
12. (a) At the change, the House will
lose 92 hereditary Peers, and gain 120 elected Members.
(b) On the assumption that all elected members
come from a political party, the number of political members will
increase by 56, while the number of Independents will decrease
(c) It therefore seems essential that there
should be a commitment that an appropriate number of replacement
appointments shall be made at the same time to replace the varying
expertise which will be lost.
Chalfont, Bledisloe, Darcy de Knayth, Hannay,
Weatherill and Wright of Richmond