HC Deb 21 February 1963 vol 672 cc632-4
Q3. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to proceed with reform of the House of Lords before the next General Election.

The Prime Minister

I think the first step is to arrange a debate in the House of Commons, and no doubt a similar debate will be arranged in the House of Lords.

The Government think that it would be better to await these debates in which the various points of view can be expressed before putting forward any proposals.

Mr. Shinwell

When the right hon. Gentleman considers Government action in this regard, will he take two points into account? The first is that, consistent with the democratic practice of this country, the time has come to abolish the hereditary principle in another place. Secondly, will he consider the steps necessary to ensure that any noble Lord in another place who seeks to leave that assembly to become a Member of this House, and who may wish to occupy the exalted position the right hon. Gentleman himself now occupies, is provided with the necessary facilities to do so?

The Prime Minister

I think that all these matters were discussed in some detail in the Joint Committee and will, I imagine, be fully discussed in the debate. I think that far the best thing is to have a debate in this House and in another place, and it will be for the Government to formulate proposals.

Mr. H. Wilson

While not pursuing the question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) about the Prime Minister's successor, which is a matter of supreme indifference to all of us on this side of the House, could I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will tell us when it is intended to have this debate, and whether the Government will then state quite clearly what view they have formed on this Report? Will he bear in mind that to keep hon. Members of this House who have, through no fault of their own, succeeded to peerages, in a position where they cannot serve their constituencies in this House is quite archaic and out of tune with this modern age, and will he as quickly as possible announce the Government's decision on this matter?

The Prime Minister

There are three parts to that supplementary question. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is not at all interested in who is to be my successor. I am very glad to hear it. I thought that he had a mild interest.

Second, the right hon. Gentleman asks when we hope to have the debate. I think that it has been generally thought that it should take place next month, but this is a matter to be arranged by the usual channels.

Third, I am asked whether the Government will await the debate before formulating proposals or will formulate them in the course of the debate. We think that it would be more courteous and more correct in a matter of this kind, about which there are widely differing views and different views on different details of it, to listen to the debate and then to formulate and put forward, in the light of the debate, our legislative proposals.

Viscount Lambton

Will my right hon. Friend say whether he would welcome Members of the House of Lords into this House?

The Prime Minister

It depends which Lord.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is at present considerable competition on his own side on the need for finding an immediate successor to him? Will he provide facilities for that?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The difficulty about the whole problem raised in these questions is that there appears to be equal anxiety on the part of some people to go to the House of Lords and on the part of others to come back to the House of Commons. But we must find a way through.

Mr. Grimond

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether, apart from welcoming Members of the House of Lords in this House, he is anxious to retain some possible future Members of the House of Lords in this House?

The Prime Minister

All these matters would be much better raised in the debate which, no doubt, will be very interesting. After we have listened to the debates in both Houses, we shall hope to put forward proposals which, we trust, will be passed by both Houses.