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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the Minister for taking the Question again and for her Answer. As Leader of the House, and in the light of the findings in paragraphs 421 to 425 of the Wakeham Report, will she now acknowledge that the Salisbury Convention is in a state of suspended animation and ripe for review? Furthermore, will she now, without further ado, refer the matter to the Procedure Committee or to a committee set up as proposed by recommendation 21?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as I said in reply to the noble Lord when he asked the Question on an earlier occasion, I acknowledge that procedures in your Lordships' House are a matter for the whole House and not for the Government. However, he asked me for the Government's view and I hope that I replied accurately, as I hope to do today.
The recommendation of the Royal Commission in this area seems to me to underline what I have been saying. Its proposal and the arguments put forward for the composition of a new second Chamber stated that--I am sure the noble Lord and I have read the same paragraphs in the commission's report--something like the Salisbury Convention should continue to regulate the relationship between the two Houses. I am sure that the noble Lord will understand that I do not wish to cherry-pick, as it were, the Government's response to the report of the Royal Commission. As he will be aware, we hope to arrange an early debate on this subject.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, would I be correct to assume that we are unlikely to see much in the way of practical work as a result of the Wakeham Commission either this year or even next year? In those circumstances, does my noble friend agree that, while I have no wish to see any form of cherry-picking, one or two recommendations in the report might be worth considering in advance of any final conclusion? I have in mind recommendation 125 which suggests that we might look at increasing the resources made available
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am sure that that recommendation is one of the most popular in your Lordships' House. However, I had suspected that my noble friend might raise the question of resources for individual committees of your Lordships' House. However, I note that he refrained from doing so.
As I said in answer to a previous Question, of course there are, I believe, 132 recommendations in the Wakeham report, all of which require an extremely responsible and considered approach along with careful discussion. That is what it is hoped we shall undertake when we have a debate on the whole subject. Although my noble friend said that he does not think that anything practical will happen, I believe that the first step in the practical process will be our debate, which we hope to arrange shortly.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, has said. Some of the non-legislative aspects of the report of the Royal Commission should be brought into effect sooner rather than later. However, first, can the Minister let me know, perhaps by letter, what matters are still outstanding from the Labour Party's manifesto that she would regard as ones to which the Salisbury doctrine should be applied? Secondly, only recently this House threw out the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill which had nothing whatever to do with the manifesto. Having done that, the noble Baroness immediately and without hesitation rose to say that the Government would not listen to the views of this House. Does that suggest that the Salisbury Convention has been overtaken by the Downing Street convention; that is, never to accept anything stated by this House?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Lord may have missed our recent discussions in the course of the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill, where the Government listened, proposed amendments, and were then congratulated by all sides of the House for responding in exactly the way that this House had requested. I must tell the noble Lord that while of course the Government are prepared to listen and reconsider--as we did on that occasion--ultimately the Government, through the elected Chamber, have the right to prevail. That is the Government's right, even on some Bills for which advance warning may have been given in general terms, as was the case here because the Government gave notice that they intended to review the whole of the criminal justice process in the 1997 manifesto. Thus, where appropriate, the views of the elected majority should prevail.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness the Leader of the House whether she accepts that, while the Salisbury Convention should no doubt stand at present, if, after the next election, whichever succeeding government choose not to proceed towards stage two, the entire relationship between the two Houses, including the Salisbury Convention, may then have to be reconsidered?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, is aware that the Salisbury Convention does not relate to the relationship between this House and the Government but to the relative powers and authority of the two Houses. The noble Lord may be right to say that if there is any change to the relationship which results in a different set-up from that currently in place, such matters may need to be revisited. However, I shall repeat what I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway; namely, that, looking at the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, it is clear that he does not envisage such a situation. Indeed, I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that the terms of reference under which the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, was operating when he chaired the Royal Commission included the need to maintain the position of the House of Commons as the pre-eminent Chamber of Parliament.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the original agreement was not a convention in the constitutional sense, but merely an agreement made in 1945 between the then Leader of the Opposition and the noble Baroness's predecessor, the then Labour Leader of the House, to try to ensure that there was not a constitutional crisis in view of the large majority at that time enjoyed by the Labour Party in the other place and the large majority then enjoyed by the Conservative Party in this House? Would the noble Baroness further agree that since then there has been a consensus that such a thing as the Salisbury Convention does exist, but that a certain amount of argument has taken place over how it is defined? On several occasions I have attempted to define exactly what is the convention, but in spite of my best efforts, there remain some doubts as to what comprises its detail. Does the noble Baroness agree that it is in the detail that possible difficulties may arise? In view of that, does the noble Baroness think it would be worth our while to attempt to nail down precisely what the Salisbury Convention does envisage? Furthermore, would it be worth having conversations through the usual channels to see whether the two sides agree?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, no one is more authoritative than the noble Viscount in defining the precise understanding both of the spirit and the letter of the original Salisbury/Addison Convention, as it has come to be known. As I have said in answer to other questions, I believe that it is relevant to look at this point in the context of the full long-term reform of this House as proposed by Lord Wakeham. He may
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I should like briefly to remind the Government Chief Whip of a sessional order which requires the chief of police to take care that, during each Session of Parliament, the passages through the streets leading to this House are kept free and open.
I do not intend to delay the House, but we now have in existence a legion of people who consider themselves free to scatter cones across and dig holes in the streets of this city more or less at pleasure, thereby disrupting and disturbing people who wish nothing so much as to move around freely. Now these infernal people have turned their attention to Parliament Square. I wonder whether the Government Chief Whip could marshal the huge influence that he has at his command in order to stop such a nuisance going on?
Lord Carter: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, for giving me notice that he intended to raise this matter. As the noble Lord has said, at the beginning of every Session the House orders the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to take care that passages through the streets leading to this House are kept free and open and that no obstruction be permitted to hinder the passage of noble Lords to and from this House. That order was laid and communicated to the Commissioner in the usual manner by Black Rod on 17th November last year.
These precautions are taken every year. They are held to refer to demonstrations, disturbances and lobbies which might purposely obstruct Members of either House from going about their business. The order has never been taken to refer to any lawful and necessary activity in the public interest, such as roadworks.
I acknowledge that the works which are going on outside have had an adverse impact on traffic, which many noble Lords have found frustrating. However, I do not believe that they can be said to amount to a stoppage in the street. The traffic is moving, albeit slowly, and pedestrian access is unimpeded. However, strictly speaking, this is not a matter for me but for the House authorities--in this case, Black Rod, and your
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