Perhaps I might announce to the House that I have selected the Amendment on the Order Paper in the names of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) and his right hon. and hon. Friends, in line 1, leave out "takes note of" and insert "rejects".
I have not selected the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) in line 1, leave out "takes" and insert "declines to take"; and in line 2, at end add:'on the grounds that it envisages a second chamber which will be too easily subordinated to the executive and which will thus conform to the tendency encouraged by Her Majesty's present advisers to turn Parliament into an elective bureaucracy, which is a travesty of its historic and proper constitutional purpose and function and is the opposite of the kind of reform required'.I have not selected the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), in line 2, at end add:'but regrets that the Command Paper includes no proposals for the complete separation of the Honours system from the reformed Second Chamber'.At some stage during the debate I shall call on the hon. Member for Fife, West to move his Amendment. This will not cramp the debate in any way. It will be a general debate.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Richard Crossman)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Command Paper (No. 3799) on House of Lords Reform.Before I come to the main argument of of my speech I would like to make an observation or explanation. I shall be referring more than once to the White Paper as containing "agreed" recommendations and I wish to make it clear precisely what "agreed" means. As is normal in White Papers, this one presents a set of Government proposals. But in this case the Government's proposals are based substantially on the conclusions reached by the inter-party talks, and substantially it presents to the House the unanimous recommendations produced by the members of the conference for the reform of the other place. They are 1126 agreed between the participants of the talks and not between the parties.
I should add that there was one point of importance on which the Conservative members of the conference disagreed with the representatives of the other two parties. It referred, however, not to the reform itself, but to the timing of the reform. The representatives of all three parties were agreed that a Bill should be published and presented as soon as possible implementing our proposals. The disagreement came on what should happen after the Bill had become law.
The Government and Liberal representatives held the view that immediate steps should be taken to carry the reforms out so that the Queen could deliver her gracious Speech to the reformed House of Lords at the beginning of our next Session. The Conservative representatives took a different view. They held that though it was proper to pass the Measure which reformed the Upper House in this Session, its coming into being should await a new Parliament.
How did it come about that, on the substantial issue of reform, we achieved unanimous conclusions and differed only on one point, the timing of the reform? Each member of the conference started the talks from a fully thought-out and carefully prepared position. We did not come with "open minds". On the contrary, each of us, naturally, had clear views and possibly even strong prejudices. What was remarkable was how far each of us was able to go to meet the other fellow's demands without budging an inch from the requirements with which he had entered on the talks.
To demonstrate what I mean, I will describe my personal position. During the many years when I was either a don lecturing on politics, or a journalist writing about them, I had always been a staunch theoretical supporter of single-chamber government. It seemed to me that the British House of Commons should be not only the prime element, but the sole element in our sovereign legislature. However, as I got to know more about Parliament and party machines I began to realise the difficulty about the project of simply abolishing the House of Lords and, with it, the peerage.
1127 In the climate of British politics I began to think that it would be difficult to get rid of their Lordships without the risk of seeing a modern and more efficient second Chamber put in their place. Since I disliked the whole idea of a second Chamber, I became increasingly attracted to the view that an obviously ridiculous collection of peers was serving a useful Socialist purpose by ensuring that Britain had the weakest and most ineffectual second Chamber in the whole democratic world. In fact, I came to be in favour of preserving an undefensible second Chamber—to use Hilaire Belloc's words—for fear of getting something worse. But that is a view which it is easier for an Oxford don or for an assistant editor of the New Statesman than it is for a member of a Labour Government.
Soon after we took office I began to realise—I think that my conversion was shared by a number of old Left-wingers—that I had underestimated the danger presented by the other place to any Government, except a Conservative one, in the fourth or fifth year of a Parliament.
I now saw that though its hereditary composition made it ridiculous, its powers, if skilfully employed by a Conservative Opposition at the right point in the life of a Parliament, could be used to imperil the whole legislative programme of a Labour Government. I began to think, therefore, that the best way of dealing with this problem would be to leave its composition unchanged, while reducing its powers. This clear-cut separation between composition and powers had been taken for granted in all the textbooks I read; and I too easily assumed it to make sense, along with a great many political journalists who ought to know better.
In fact, the distinction is quite artificial, as I came to realise as Leader of the House, in which capacity I was able to study the other place at first hand, to observe its procedures and to consider its rôle as a second Chamber in this Parliament of ours. It did not take me long to realise that the project of dealing with powers while leaving composition unchanged was quite unreal.
In reality, it is the in-built Conservative majority which provides one of the main obstructional threats to a Labour 1128 Government, and unless he is prepared to abolish the House of Lords altogether, the Parliamentary reformer must deal not only with its powers but with its composition, too.
As Leader of the House, it was brought home to me that when one considered the possibilities of, for example, increased Select Committee work, more effective scrutiny of subordinate legislation, or the reform of Standing Committee procedures, one kept finding that we were coming to a dead end if we were not allowed to consider the reform of another place.
It was, therefore, as a House of Commons man, intent on strengthening our own Chamber of Parliament, that I became convinced that major progress in reforming the procedures of our House cannot be made without a full reform both of the powers and of the composition of the other place. In other words, it was not good enough to allow the Lords to decay and mould away. We must tackle a political problem which had defeated our predecessors for more than 50 years.
In doing so, I had no doubt that we should, if humanly possible, achieve substantial all-party agreement on the substance of the reform. I know that some of my hon. Friends are suspicious of the White Paper precisely because it represents a solution agreed at all-party talks. If Conservatives have agreed this solution, they argue, then it just cannot be the kind of solution a Socialist should accept. I ask my hon. Friends, before they adopt this attitude, to remember that it is in straight opposition to our own attitude in dealing with reform in this House. In the House of Commons we are not ashamed to give all the initiative in suggesting procedural reforms to a Select Committee with normal all-party representation; and when that Committee reports we are always glad to welcome a unanimous recommendation.
This does not mean, of course, that a Government with a majority should not on occasion go beyond the unanimous recommendations; and indeed, if I remember rightly, we did this once or twice while I was Leader of the House. Nevertheless, it obviously remains true that when we are making changes which affect our democratic constitution we should always seek to do it by agreement—and, 1129 when agreement is reached, as it has been on this occasion, it seems to me absurd to dismiss it out of hand for that reason.
Moreover, in this case the Government representatives went into the talks with five declared objectives, or minimum requirements. This is the way in which they are set out in the White Paper:
Those were the five requirements with which we entered the talks, and the result of the talks was that the Government came out of the conference with a model for a reformed Upper House which precisely fulfilled these five requirements, but which also included important new features which will, if accepted, make our new model second Chamber a real improvement on the new model with which we on the Government side, entered the talks.
- (a) the hereditary basis of membership should be eliminated;
- (b) no one party should possess a permanent majority;
- (c) in normal circumstances the Government of the day should be able to secure a reasonable working majority;
- (d) the powers of the House of Lords to delay public legislation should be restricted; and
- (e) the Lords' absolute power to withhold consent to subordinate legislation against the will of the Commons should be abolished.
I will summarise the plan laid out in the White Paper, and for convenience I will do this in terms of our requirements. First, the requirement that the hereditary element should be eliminated. This is fulfilled in the White Paper by the device of a two-tier scheme which distinguishes between the voting Members who wield the political power and the non-voting Members who retain only the right to speak.
The voting Members will, in fact, form the core of the new House. They will be expected to give a substantial part of their time—not less than one-third of the sitting—to the business of the House and they will be in complete control both of the legislative functions on the Floor of the House and of committees upstairs. A Member of the voting House who fails to carry out these obligations will forfeit his right to vote until the end of that Parliament. At the beginning of the next Parliament, however, he can recover these rights.
1130 On the Government side we were attracted to this proposal not only because it fulfilled the first of our negative requirements—that peers by succession should be eliminated from the exercise of political power—but also because it fulfilled our second requirement, namely, the elimination of the in-built Conservative majority. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will tell us why his party was attracted by this method of eliminating the hereditary principle and the majority which his own party has, through it, been able to enjoy for generations.
I can only say that we, on the Government side, welcomed his acceptance of it, because it seemed to us to have not only negative but positive virtues. Not only does it destroy what we oppose in principle: it also creates conditions for a second Chamber which combines the two essential functions of, first, a working legislature and, secondly, a debating Chamber of distinction. By keeping Members of the Upper House who can speak but not vote, who can influence opinion without wielding effective political power, our proposals make it possible to retain in the reformed House the cross-bench and expert element—the part-time element—which forms such a valuable part of its present membership.
Let me make this clear. The hereditary peers who once dominated the House are at one stroke eliminated from power, although any one of them will have as much right as anyone else in the United Kingdom to be selected for a life peerage, and we expect, under the conventions which exist between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, quite a number of them to become life peers—while the rest, for their lifetime, retain speaking rights.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
Can my right hon. Friend say why no provision has been made for the abolition of hereditary peerages in toto?
§ Mr. Crossman
If my hon. Friend means, by the word "abolition", the forbidding of anybody holding a title, that would be a matter for the Royal Prerogative. The terms of reference of the conference concerned the reform of the House of Lords and not the future of peers and titles, which is a separate matter. If we reform the House of Lords first, and 1131 abolish the hereditary principle there, we may find it easier if we want to proceed to the second stage of the argument.
The special advantage of the two-tier system is, as I have mentioned, the rôle it gives to the cross-bench part-timers. I mention this because it is one of the more controversial parts of our proposals. To understand that role, however, we must first consider the size of the new voting House and the balance of parties within it. Our intention is that the voting House should consist, in the first instance, principally of those present created peers able to attend regularly—about 150 last Session—supplemented by about 80 newly-created life peers, draw principally from the existing peers by succession.
Now for the party's strength in the reformed House. We propose that the Government of the day should, by convention, have the right to a majority of about 10 per cent. over the combined strength of the opposition parties. If we assume a total voting House of 230, the Government would have 105, the Opposition 80, the Liberals 15, and there would be about 30 cross-benchers, excluding those law lords and bishops with voting rights.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)
On a point of some importance—the right hon. Gentleman said "the Liberals 15". Surely he means, "other Opposition parties 15".
§ Mr. Crossman
Yes. The right hon. Gentleman has made a strict and accurate point. I should have referred to "other Opposition parties". That was the agreement reached. I believe that the Liberal Party wants to comment on this, but this was the precise agreement, because we had to look forward to possible changes after elections.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
In the White Paper it is not clear how the cross-bench active Members of the House of Lords will be appointed. These may well be made a blocking third, which will destroy the balance. How is this to be done?
§ Mr. Crossman
I would get on somewhat faster if I were allowed to develop my speech in my own way. I said that I was going to deal with cross-benchers. To explain the position I had to deal with the allocation of party strength first.
Before I deal with cross-benchers there is one other question concerning the parties, and that is the question of retirement. That affects the total strength of the House. We do not have to deal with that problem in this House, because our constituents do it for us. They make a decision, and that is that. But in a House constituted of nominated or life peers it would seem reasonable that there should be a retirement age. Unless there is a retirement rule there would equally be an inflation in the number of peers. We have carried out studies which show that if we accept 72 as the age of retirement it should be possible to keep the size of the House down to reasonable numbers—between 230 and 300.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington) rose—
§ Mr. Crossman
In our House the decision when to retire is taken by our electors. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) on surviving the test for so long.
I am sure that the House wants to debate this question. I have tried to prepare my speech in an orderly way, and I now turn to the question of cross-benchers. I have just mentioned the 30 voting cross-benchers. This is nothing like the total cross-bench membership of the House. This is our estimate of the number likely to attend—the number who would attend one-third of the time.
At present, there are over 100 cross-benchers, but so many of them are occupied outside Parliament, as doctors, scientists, farmers, economists or technologists—or even as Press lords and bankers—that we estimate that only about 30 will be able to give the necessary amount of time to qualify for voting rights. Most of them will be more than ever part-timers, by nature. The rest will be speaking peers—and again I emphasise that their presence will be possible only thanks to our two-tier system.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
Will the 30 be appointed as stooges of my Front Bench or the Government Front Bench?
§ Mr. Crossman
Then he knows the answer to that question.
The method of nomination will be unchanged from the present one. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the result of the present method, used by the Conservative Prime Minister of the time, was the result he described, it is likely to be repeated; but if he was making mere propaganda, and he was satisfied with the results achieved, there will be no change in the method of appointment.
I have seen it suggested that in the reformed House—[Interruption.] It seems that I must spell it out in detail, if the right hon. Gentleman has not understood. A cross-bench peer or any other peer will go to the House by nomination by the Prime Minister of the time. That is clear, and is laid down. There are paragraphs about it in the White Paper. I shall deal later with the problem of the nominated House, but there is no difference between the nomination of one peer and another. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is listening to my reply.
§ Mr. Fraser indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Crossman
I have seen it suggested that in our reformed House a Government with a 10 per cent. majority over the Opposition parties will be placed at the mercy of the block vote of the cross-benchers. Those who make this criticism seem to me to misunderstand the rôle which the cross-bench element has played in the other place during the last decade. Most are men and women who have made a name for themselves in careers other than politics, and the last thing any of them wants to do is to be a member of a block, or obedient to a Whip.
I know that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends will resent this, and think 1134 that I am a little gullible in saying it, but I have studied the situation during the last 10 years very carefully, and it is my settled conviction that the individualism and independence of non-party peers is an important element in the life of our second Chamber which the Members of the inter-party conference were right to recognise. It is remarkable that although we are all party men we did so unanimously.
I now turn from the question of the composition of the reformed House to the question of its powers. Here I want to preface what I have to say with a warning. Some people have asked why, if the evils of the composition of the present House of Lords are eliminated, its power should be reduced. They argue that a reformed House should have its powers not decreased, but increased. The answer to this objection seem clear to me.
The present House of Lords has very great powers indeed, but hardly dares to use them owing to its ridiculously anachronistic make-up. A reformed House, given the same powers as the present House, would challenge the sovereignty of the House of Commons. If we want a second Chamber, subordinate to the Commons, we have to make sure that its powers are exactly attuned to this purpose. Whereas any unreformed House would be reluctant to use its powers, a reformed House would be entitled to use them, and we must not, therefore, give it more powers than we feel are needed. This is a calculation that we have to make—
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Lord Mancroft said on television that while, in the past, the Lords could never use these powers because they were incredible as a chamber to the country, now they will use the powers, effectively and frequently, for the first time?
§ Mr. Crossman
This is exactly what I said. If we institute a reformed House it is ridiculous not to recognise that it will use the powers given to it, and have the authority to do so, and, therefore, it should be given no power which it is not prepared to use. I shall come to discuss what powers we think the sovereign House of Commons should give to this second Chamber. My hon. Friend has 1135 anticipated my own mind which is winging towards his ideas.
The Government's principle was clear. The second Chamber must be denied the right to wreck our legislative programme or obstruct Government business. The conference proposed to substitute for the old period of 13 months' delay from Second Reading in the Commons a new period of six months' delay from the date of disagreement in the two Houses. From the Government's point of view, and my own point of view, six months seemed unduly long, until the ingenious suggestion was thrown up of a "carry-over" into the next Session, or even into the next Parliament.
The House will appreciate that this proposal for the "carry-over" has a very important practical advantage of allowing the Government to send a Bill comparatively late in the Session to the Lords, and even if it is disagreed the Bill will become an Act by a mere Resolution of the Commons in the next Session, even if that next Session is the first of a new Parliament. This device presented itself to us as a method of at once enabling the Lords to tell the Commons to think again, and that, in my view, is a right and duty that we must give them. That is the object of a second Chamber, to enable it to tell us to think again, but not to enable it to obstruct our legislative programme. It will enable the Lords to tell the Commons to think again while protecting the Parliamentary timetable at any stage of any Session of a Parliament.
Now to deal with subordinate legislation. Although they have not used this power, except on one very recent occasion, the possibility the Lords possess to veto any Order, either affirmative or negative, except financial, provides them with their greatest threat to a modern Government. It is obviously impossible for a modern and reformed second Chamber to retain this power—this veto.
The White Paper proposes, therefore, that in future the power of the Lords will be limited to defeating any Order of which they disapprove, and so compelling the Government and the House of Commons to reconsider it and to vote on it, if necessary, twice. The House of Commons, under our new reform, can never be frustrated by the Lords. It can 1136 only be compelled to look at a decision again, and if necessary, to vote it again. That is the outline of the structure.
Now I turn to the objections from both sides of the House, and the criticisms that have been made of the White Paper. I have no doubt that the criticism that has caused the greatest alarm is the charge that our reform would extend Prime Minister patron age in a most sinister way and constitute a threat to our democracy. This attack has been deployed most effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), in a recent contribution to the Daily Express. "Government by Patronage with King Harold mustering his placemen" was the headline.
My hon. Friend does not tell his readers what kind of second Chamber he wants, if he wants any. There is no doubt what he does not want.What we are now witnessing"—he writes—is the prospect of Parliament handing over to the Prime Minister the right to dish out dozens of new, paid appointments to peers, many of whom will be drawn from the House of Commons, where M.P.s already tamed by the Whips, will wait in supine deference and expectancy for their elevation.It is a very unattractive picture of the House. I will consider this charge later, but I am first bound to ask, even if my hon. Friend failed to ask the question, what alternative he puts forward to a nominated Chamber?
Would he prefer an elected Chamber, a senior House of Senators just as we see across the Atlantic? I am sure he does not want that, because he realises, as much as I do, that any elected second Chamber constitutes a direct threat to the sovereignty which the House of Commons has enjoyed through the whole of this century. Of course, countries with a written constitution and a Supreme Court to interpret it—countries which also have a division of power between the legislature and executive and another division of powers between the two Houses of the executive; countries with constitutions based on the division of powers—can have a challenge of this kind and find it not only tolerable but essential.
I would have thought that every democracy which derives its constitution from the American Revolution or the 1137 French Revolution is based on a division of powers of this kind. But our British democracy is a unitary democracy, based on the sovereignty of the Commons. That really rules out any proposal for an elected second Chamber.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
Is this pure constitutional doctrine? Sovereignty is the sovereignty of Parliament, not of the Commons.
§ Mr. Crossman
I do not want to indulge in a constitutional controversy, but there is always a difference between the mythology and the realities in British laws. I was describing the reality, which affects us. I can take it that such a second Chamber is out.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has said that any elected House would be a challenge to the sovereignty of the Commons. Would that not depend upon the powers which that elected House was given?
§ Mr. Crossman
I would have said that any directly elected House, however, small its powers, would feel entitled to challenge the Commons because it was elected by the people, and was a rival representative of the people. This is the point I was putting to my hon. Friends and I am glad that they agree about it.
I now come to the question of indirect elections. I have seen proposals that a reformed House of Lords should be composed partly of nominated peers and party of men and women selected by local authorities and similar bodies, representing the regions or countries. A House of Lords formed in this way would not constitute so grave a challenge to the Commons as a directly elected Chamber, but nevertheless, the challenge, although weaker, would be there, and the Government majority over the Opposition parties would be constantly threatened by a new and unpredictable block vote.
Moreover, having had some experience of indirectly elected bodies, I would hazard a guess that if one is looking for a second Chamber with fewer placemen and more men and women of distinction and independence of mind, one is more likely to get it from a Prime Minister's nomination than from the unpredictable vagaries of indirect election at local level. I am a fervent believer in regionalism, 1138 but I have the gravest doubts whether its cause would be furthered by this particular method.
If elections, both direct and indirect, are ruled out, we must face the fact that for a second Chamber which is subordinate to the Commons nomination remains the only practical alternative to abolition.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
Has the right hon. Gentleman studied the proposals of the late Lord Bryce on indirect elections?
§ Mr. Crossman
I have, and I thought they were some of the most theoretical and abstract ever put to the House.
I have come to nominations. I admit the dangers of patronage. They are there in every kind of democracy, and also in every kind of totalitarian government. But dangers of patronage are certainly increased, as my hon. Friend for Coventry North suggests, when the post proffered to the politician provides money as well as status. Is the danger he foresees a real one? Let me deal with the problem of remuneration and get clear where we stand. The Government accept that Members without private means should not be prevented from playing a full part in the second Chamber. The principle of remuneration is in the White Paper—and I should have thought that no hon. Member could say "No" to that principle.
But the question both of the amount of remuneration and the kind of remuneration best suited is to be referred to an independent body similar to the Lawrence Committee. I am aware that this will not satisfy some of my hon. Friends, especially those who tell me that hon. Members of this House could be suborned by the prospect of a peerage at so many thousands of pounds a year into forfeiting the back-bench independence we so rightly cherish. And if there is to be a payment I gather that they would prefer a kind of expenses to a fixed salary—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, we must have one or the other.
Since we have decided to leave the decision to a Lawrence-type Committee I will not argue the case, except to observe that in my experience outside Parliament tax-free expenses are the richest pasture in which businessmen feed, occasionally 1139 raising their heads to admit that a taxed salary provides little fodder for them. It is my personal conviction that tax-free expenses are totally inadequate if lack of means is not to become an effective bar to membership of the reformed House. But the White Paper wisely avoids forcing a conclusion on this issue, and I myself am merely stating a personal opinion. The White Paper recommends leaving a committee to decide upon the method and amount of remuneration.
Apart from remuneration, what are the real dangers to the independence of Members of Parliament presented by a nominated second Chamber? I would agree that the dangers would be enormous if, as some suggest, the second Chamber were nominated only for the life of each Parliament. It would surely be the worst of all worlds to create a Chamber of nominees dependent on patronage and the favour of the Whips for reselection in each new Parliament. That is certainly the way to spread political corruption. But that is not what we are proposing. We are proposing a nominated house of life peers. What my hon. Friend, I think, is suggesting is that the sudden influx of new life peers would create a mood in the House of Commons of place men, if I understand him aright.
I want to look at the facts and figures to see whether it has already happened. The facts and figures are these. After very careful calculation, I concluded that no more than 80 new peers would be required to man-up our new Chamber, and that would be a quite unusual once-for-all creation of new peers. Nevertheless, it would be a considerable extension of patronage. But how considerable would it be? In measuring the extension, hon. Members should recall that since 1964 there have been 146 new creations—146 to man-up the old House compared with 80 required to establish the new House. Therefore, if there is a danger here it is not a danger in the new House of Lords, but in the present one. There will, therefore, be no great expansion of creation in the new House—
§ Mr. Mendelson
But does not my right hon. Friend realise that the number of new creations, even when lowered to 80, is irrelevant? The possibility of being included among a number, however small, 1140 is the problem, because hope springs eternal.
§ Mr. Crossman
That is a problem we have with us today in an unreformed House. We will still have exactly that problem with us. All I say to my hon. Friend is that the problem of patronage remains absolutely, or almost, unchanged whether we reform the House of Lords or not.
Summing up this part of my argument, I disagree with those who argue that these proposals constitute a vast extension of patronage. To say this seems to me to be a vast exaggeration—
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, may I ask whether he has given any consideration to the position of Ministers in the Lords? Does he envisage the possibility of these nominations resulting in the Prime Minister of the day bringing businessmen into his Government?
§ Mr. Crossman
It is not for me to say what a future Prime Minister might or might not do. We are concerned with constitutional reform and not with intelligent anticipation of the character of the leaders of the parties. In certain ways, the Prime Minister's powers will be narrowed, not enlarged. I call attention to paragraphs 31 and 71 of the White Paper, which describe our proposals for a Review Committee which would review the composition of the reformed House, and report any deficiencies in its balance and range of membership either to the Prime Minister or to Parliament. This in itself is a powerful safeguard against abuse of patronage.
It is true that we originally conceived this committee when considering the possible danger that cross-benchers could become a political party in disguise, but it applies equally to patronage as well. I would add, coming back to the problem of regionalism, that this committee would be charged with the task of considering not only the total size of the reformed House, but the problem of regional representation.
Throughout our talks, the Liberal spokesmen stressed the issue of regional or country representation, and since the publication of the White Paper I have seen columns in The Times favouring this 1141 approach. Both the Government and the authors of the White Paper are in full agreement that the reformed House must contain Members who can speak for the special needs and interests of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, indeed, the various regions of England. The committee which is to consider the composition of the reformed House will have the duty to secure amongst the membership of the House a suitable representation of the various parts and regions.
I am aware, however, that those who press for regional representation would like to go further. Indeed, The Times wants us to postpone the whole reform of the Lords until the Constitutional Commission has reported, so as to be able to fit the new second Chamber into the regional or home rule proposals which it assumes will form part of the Commission's report. There are a great many assumptions in this argument which, any way, would have the effect of postponing a reform just when we are on the point of carrying it through after 50 years' delay.
Nevertheless the Government have tried to meet this objection, whether it comes from the editor of The Times or from the Leader of the Liberal Party or from our own back benchers. Indeed, I was pointing this out in a Committee Room last week, when I was misreported as saying that this reform, if carried through, would not last. What I actually said was something very different: that this reform when it becomes law will not exclude the possibility of introducing any new methods of self-government and regional representation at a later stage.
In everything I have so far said I have been assuming that British Parliamentary democracy needs a second Chamber; and that the only issue is whether a reformed House of Lords will fulfil this function or whether we need a brand-new and quite different sort of House. I now want to turn for a moment to the even more fundamental issue: do we need a second Chamber at all?
I want to answer abolitionists who say, "Do not reform the House. Just leave it to moulder on until you can remove it altogether from the body politic and leave the House of Commons to run the country on its own." In answering them I would ask them—because we are all good House of Commons men—to examine seriously how the Commons would 1142 actually manage if the House of Lords were abolished to-morrow. I suggest that we consider this question in four parts.
The first part is public legislation. We recently made a number of notable improvements in our procedures. Nevertheless, the commonest complaint I hear from back benchers of all parties is about what they feel about the waste of time in Standing Committees and, generally, the disproportionate amount of time devoted to public legislation. The first thing to notice is that the amount of time would be greatly increased by the abolition of a second Chamber. We might well have to introduce two extra stages to our Public Bill procedure as well as spending much more time on the Floor of the House discussing what are really points of detail. But with a reformed House of Lords a whole realm of procedural possibilities opens up. We can consider, for example, curtailing proceedings in one of the Houses or making certain stages a joint procedure. These are all possibilities. After reform we could send many more non-contentious Bills to a reformed House of Lords.
Next comes delegated legislation. Here the disadvantage to our own House of abolishing the second Chamber and the advantage to be gained by reforming it are both even greater. Without a second Chamber the House of Commons would have to spend far more time examining Statutory Instruments and, frankly, I am certain that we would go on skimping the job. In fact, by abolishing the power of the Lords to veto Statutory Instruments we shall, for the first time, enable the other place to co-operate with us in exerting adequate control in this field.
The third area is what I would call unconventional legislation—the kind of Measures which Governments feel too risky to attempt and which even private Members do not launch without some outside encouragement. I am fairly sure, for example, that the reform of the laws on homosexuality and abortion was greatly facilitated by the existence of a second Chamber, where these social problems could be discussed and ideas for reforms aired in a different atmosphere from that prevailing here in the House of Commons. If we abolish the Lords we abolish what has proved, even in its uniformed state, to be a useful vehicle for 1143 controversial ideas. If we reform the other place we preserve this vehicle and make it even more useful.
§ Mr. John Lee
Is not this entirely falsified if my right hon. Friend takes the example of capital punishment? Is it not right that the abolition of capital punishment would have taken place far earlier if there had not been a House of Lords at all?
§ Mr. Crossman
I hesitate to correct my hon. Friend about that history, but I think that he has got it wrong. It is very ungenerous of him not to face the fact that time after time the other place has ventilated unpopular issues which would not be ventilated here. This is a useful function for a second Chamber to perform which we would lose if we abolished it.
Fourthly, I turn to the central issue about which everyone of us who cares about this place must be increasingly concerned, the decline in the authority of Parliament. That derives mainly from the failure of the House of Commons in this world of ever-increasing managerial activity to exercise a continuous investigation of the activities of the Executive. Who can really pretend that by abolishing the present House of Lords instead of reforming it, we should strengthen the authority of Parliament and increase the chances of Westminster reasserting itself against Whitehall?
Take, for one example, our Specialist Committees. It is already clear that the chance of rapidly expanding the number of those Committees is reduced by the manpower problem both in the House and among the Clerks who serve us. With a reform of the House of Lords this problem would be considerably eased—
§ Mr. Crossman
Thanks to the infusion of the cross-bench element, the experts and public servants I have mentioned, we should have at our disposal after the reform a new source of manpower in Joint Committees who could devote time and expertise on service on these Committees, if they were made, as they could be, Joint Committees of both houses.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] There is 1144 nothing like a radical proposal to upset hon. Members below the Gangway. Here we have it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I ask a question arising from what my right hon. Friend has just said? He has spoken—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sidney Irving)
Order. I am not sure that the Minister has given way to the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).
§ Mr. Shinwell
He has given way now and I am grateful to him. He has spoken about the decline of Parliament. If there is talk about the decline of Parliament—meaning the House of Commons—by the electors, what are the electors going to say about a House of Lords which is not elected at all?
§ Mr. Crossman
I should say, with great respect to my right hon. Friend, that he should ask himself another question: what would the electors say about a House of Commons and a reforming Government who left the hereditary House of Lords completely unchanged and un-reformed? [HON. MEMBERS: "Get rid of it."] The issues of Parliamentary reform which my right hon. Friend and I discuss with great interest, are not, it is quite clear, of tremendous interest outside, because people outside do not appreciate the enormous importance of the changes we make, either in our own procedures or for a second Chamber.
I want to sum up. We have here proposals in the Bill which will eliminate the hereditary principle once and for all, which will eliminate the in-built Tory majority once and for all and which will destroy effectively the power of the House of Lords to block our legislative programme. These are all things which come from the Bill straight away when we have passed it. The Bill will also give us not only these negative reforms, but a chance of reorganising Parliament, reducing pressure on back-bench members and giving a better chance of achieving adequate Parliamentary control of delegated legislation, and expansion of non-party controversial legislation with the prospect of a radical reconstruction of Parliament as a whole.
That is what we can do if we take on hand the reforming of the total anachronism we have in the other place today. I 1145 suggest that it is a future which we can get, instead of fulminating about the abolition of the House of Lords, which is not a practical proposal, and that we should carry out the proposals, radical and evolutionary, in this White Paper.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
This debate is on a very wide Motion, chosen by the Government, to take note of the White Paper. I think that they were very wise to choose this Motion, because it will enable the House to have the broadest possible discussion of all the issues involved. I have no doubt that if the Government decide to proceed with legislation after this debate, they will pay full attention to what is said on both sides of the House. [Interruption.] I cannot make out whether hon. Members opposite like this proposal or not.
I start by reviewing the circumstances which led to the White Paper. The Government announced that they intended to legislate to reform the House of Lords. They decided to give priority to this Measure. This we have never understood on this side of the House. The grounds for giving priority to this Measure are very obscure. The Government have never advanced any argument to show that on constitutional, social or economic grounds there is any urgency whatever to be attached to this particular proposal.
The right hon. Gentleman was a little changeable, I thought, this afternoon. He started by saying that in his salad days he thought the other place the weakest and most ineffectual Chamber in the world. Then he spoke of an obstructional threat—a splendid phrase. He did not make clear to the House why it is necessary to proceed at this moment with this reform.
When the Government proposed that there should be consultations between the parties, we naturally agreed to take part. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the discussions between the three parties took place in a very good atmosphere, an unbiased atmosphere, a frank atmosphere. I think that all parties recognised that if we were to get agreement on a set of principles there must be concessions from all sides, but, unfortunately, the discussions were broken off by the Prime Minister. I think that 1146 I said at the time it was "in a bit of a huff". We said that by breaking off the consultations he would make no advance whatever with the reform of the other place, and this is entirely proved at present. Now the position is that the Government have introduced these proposals as their own proposals, not as a joint proposal, but as their own proposals. I think that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that.
We who took part in those discussions have no intention whatever of going back on them in any way. We have not, as a result of the breakdown of the talks, changed our minds on what suits the constitution of this country, or suits the national interest, and we will not in any way depart from that; but I think it only right to stress that we on this side of the House have no responsibility for the White Paper in its terms or wording, and that we expect the Government to be prepared to answer the many questions which will be put forward and the many criticisms that may be raised. [Interruption.] I have confidence in the ability of the Government to do that.
In particular, a point to which we attach greatest importance is that we strongly disagree with the Government on the matter of timing. We regard this as a fundamental point.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
Would the right hon. Gentleman please say at this point in what important respects the proposals in the White Paper differ from the agreement reached when the talks were abandoned?
§ Mr. Maudling
If the hon. Member will be kind enough to listen to my speech he will find that that emerges with a certain amount of clarity.
Why did we agree to enter into these discussions? First, we on this side believe in a two-Chamber system. I think that the right hon. Gentleman very strongly put forward the practical arguments for a two-Chamber system. I think that his description of the volume of work falling upon this House in the absence of a second Chamber was a conclusive proof on a practical basis of the need for another place.
Possibly even stronger than that, I do not believe that there is any public support of any volume for a single-Chamber 1147 system. Whatever one thinks about the present status of Parliament, or about the reasons why the present public regard for the House of Commons may be a little lower than we would like it to be, we should all recognise, if we are practical and sensible, that the electors would not like to see one-Chamber government alone. [An HON. MEMBER: "How does the right hon. Gentleman know?"] By having some acquaintance with what people are saying and thinking. If hon. Members think that I am wrong, they will have plenty of time during the debate to advance their argument.
There is also the point that one cannot specify any major advanced country that is working a single-Chamber system. The arguments, therefore, from our point of view, are very strong indeed for the maintenance of the two-Chamber system.
The second reason why we agreed to enter into these conversations is that we believe, as the right hon. Gentleman rather foreshadowed, that the present upper Chamber is not fully effective and does not make the full contribution it should to Parliament as a whole. In all this we must look at Parliament as a whole. It is the total process of legislation and government that matters; and the contribution of the upper House to that total process is surely what should be decisive.
It is generally recognised that the quality of debates in another place is very high indeed. The value of the other place as a revising chamber has been acknowledged by all objective people, as, indeed, it was acknowledged this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman.
It is true that at present the upper Chamber is handicapped by its hereditary composition and by its permanent one-party majority. The simple fact is that this regular majority for the Conservative Party has made it more difficult, not more easy, to oppose the Labour Government. The reason for this is that any action by the upper Chamber to oppose the will of the House of Commons immediately provokes a constitutional crisis in which what is put at issue are not the merits of what is being decided by the upper Chamber, but the relative powers and the 1148 relative privileges which that Chamber should enjoy.
Therefore, anyone who has studied developments in recent years knows that it is a fact that the present composition of the House of Lords makes it less effective as a check upon the Commons in the public interest than it would be if it were reformed.
The third reason why we agreed to take part in these discussions is that we think with the Government that progress should be made by inter-party agreement in these major constitutional problems: first, because the framework within which the parties operate and within which the parties contest with one another should be agreed as fair to both sides; and, secondly, because the alternative would be continued argument; a seesaw between the two parties according to the movement of public opinion at the elections; the development, I am quite certain, of extreme views; and ultimately, I believe, the disappearance of a second chamber.
§ Mr. Mendelson
Do I detect correctly a considerable difference between the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, in spite of the Mafia of the Front Benches on this matter? My right hon. Friend said that by reducing the powers there will be less check by the second Chamber on the Commons. The right hon. Gentleman has just claimed that in the past the check could never be exercised, but that now it will be much more effective. Is that the argument?
§ Mr. Maudling
I have stated my sincere belief. I will come on to the powers in a moment.
Our final reason for agreeing to take part in these discussions was that, although we think that one should be slow to change these traditional facets of our constitution, we cannot regard ourselves as being totally inhibited from making change. In the constitution, as in everything else, we must be prepared to make progress and adaptation. That is why we took part in these discussions.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain 1149 why he disagrees with the hereditary principle?
§ Mr. Maudling
I do not think that that is necessary. The hon. Gentleman is a much more eloquent advocate of that particular disagreement than I could possibly be.
I come now to the proposals, viewing them against the background of the functions of Parliament. I think that we should analyse the functions of Parliament on these bases. First, there is legislation, which is becoming constantly more complex, more difficult, and more remote from the ordinary man in the street. Secondly, there is the control of the Executive, which, once again, is becoming more important and more difficult as the state impinges more directly on the life of the individual. Thirdly—this should not be forgotten—there is the importance of Parliament as providing both a forum for the discussion of the major issues of foreign and home policy of the day and the leadership which a weary and often disillusioned nation is looking for avidly at the moment.
Viewed against the background of these functions, the two questions which the House must ask itself are surely these: first, will these proposals provide an effective second Chamber; secondly, is there any better alternative, including that of maintaining the status quo?
I think that composition and powers are interlinked. Unless the upper House is given adequate powers, adequate people will not be persuaded to take part in it. Conversely, unless the upper House is given proper composition we shall not be able to entrust it with adequate powers.
Are the powers under the proposals enough for a real, effective second Chamber? In my judgment they are. I think that the powers on Bills to delay for six months from the point of disagreement between the two Houses will, on average, differ very little from the delaying powers in existence at present. This seems to me to be logical and right.
I must confess to some concern, which, I think, will be generally shared at any rate on this side of the House, whether the proposals on Orders give to the other place as much opportunity as should be given, though I recognise that, in fact, 1150 the Government, in their White Paper, envisage a possible extension in this field. Perhaps the Minister who will speak tomorrow will be able to give us a little more information on what the Government have in mind.
I believe that the powers to be given to the new upper Chamber will be enough to enable it to inhibit the Government, not to frustrate the Government; enough to give the Government cause to think again and to pause, but not enough permanently to obstruct the decision of the House of Commons. It is very difficult indeed to strike a balance in this matter of judgment. There cannot be total power of inhibition; nor can there be an upper Chamber which means anything if it has no power at all. My judgment is that the powers given by the White Paper to the upper House, and which are broadly agreed between the parties, are as sensible a compromise as could be achieved by discussion.
Will the new House be frustrated in the use of its powers as the present House in practice is frustrated by its composition? I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman gave a very clear assurance on this point, namely, that if the new House were to be established it would be entitled to use its powers to the full and no one would be justly entitled to object if those powers were then used. This is a very important point.
§ Mr. John Lee
Are we to understand from that that, in the unlikely event of a Conservative Government being frustrated by cross-benchers in alliance with Labour peers, they would gracefully accept it?
§ Mr. Maudling
Of course they would. That is the whole point of the scheme.
The composition of the House and the two-tier structure is a unique proposal. I must confess that when I first heard it suggested I had considerable doubts about it. However, the more one thinks about it (he more difficult it is to find any better solution. This is the practical point. The two-tier structure preserves both the legislative and executive or supervisory functions of the upper Chamber and the opportunity for distinguished people from all walks of life to make the contribution they do at present to those debates.
§ Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
For how long would the two-tier system continue? This is the nub of the matter. For how long would these peers have the right to attend but not vote?
§ Mr. Maudling
As I understand, the intention is that it should be a permanent arrangement. It is in no sense a temporary or transitional arrangement.
The division between Government supporters, Opposition supporters and cross-benchers is of fundamental importance. I do not believe that a Government could be expected to accept a majority of their political opponents against them in the upper House, but neither would it be right to guarantee to the Government of the day a permanent majority in the upper Chamber as a whole.
One is, therefore, left with this third and only other course, of providing a body of Members of the upper Chamber of no party allegiance who, if they ally themselves with the minority parties of the day, are in a position to defeat the Government's proposals. Those of us who believe in a two-chamber system of government cannot claim more than that by way of check on the Government, and neither should we accept less.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
My right hon. Friend has not yet told us, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite failed to tell us, how the selection of the 30 cross-benchers is to be made. Are they to be paid? I understand that there are more than 100 at present who can claim to be cross-benchers. Who will decide who is to be a cross-bencher? Will it be my right hon. Friend, or the Prime Minister? This is the key question.
§ Mr. Maudling
If I may, I shall come to that later. It is, as my right hon. Friend says, an integral part of the whole argument.
§ Mr. Maudling
I am coming to it.
The plan is to provide for an uncommitted vote, in the sense of being uncommitted politically, both by the presence of the law lords and the bishops who will be there for special reasons and by the provision of a number of cross-benchers to be nominated by the Prime 1152 Minister. I believe that this is the only way, against the background of a democratically elected House of Commons, by which one can have a system which makes it possible to muster a majority against the Government in the upper Chamber.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
If someone is nominated as an independent peer, how will he be kept independent? How does one make sure that he does not change his mind?
§ Mr. Maudling
The next point in my notes is that the basis of the whole plan is that the convention can provide genuine cross-benchers. I entirely agree that this is a fundamental issue.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, experience has shown that cross-benchers in the other Chamber do work, and have done for many years, as cross-benchers. It may be difficult to guarantee that. But, if one cannot proceed in that way, I see no other way of making a second Chamber operate. Those who cast doubt on this arrangement, and rightly say that it is difficult to guarantee the independence of cross-benchers, can assert that argument with conviction only if they propose an alternative.
I think that I can speak for all who took part in the inter-party consultations when I say that we did not regard this as a perfect solution, and that, if we could have found a better, we should have been happy to have it. But, so far, no one who believes in having an upper Chamber which operates effectively within our Parliamentary system has been able to suggest any other method whereby the Government of the day, elected by popular voice and in a majority in the House of Commons, could be outvoted in the House of Lords.
This whole proposal is based on the belief that the convention will be operated, that the cross-benchers nominated by the Prime Minister of the day will be and will remain genuine cross-benchers.
§ Mr. Shinwell rose—1153
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am much obliged. I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman is suffering under a slight embarrassment because he is making proposals but is not quite sure that he believes in them. He has just told the House—I think I represent him accurately—that the House of Lords, even reformed in this way, could not be effective without the cross-benchers functioning effectively. These cross-benchers are supposed to be distinguished persons of independent mind. Will they have remuneration similar to that paid to the other Members?
§ Mr. Maudling
If they do the same job, they will have the same pay. If I may state it again, the basic issue is this. Do we have an upper Chamber with a permanent Government majority? Do we have an upper Chamber in which the Opposition parties have a majority over the Government, which would be intolerable to the House of Commons? Or do we have a system under which the balance is held by people who are not directly affiliated to either of the main parties?
I have been trying to explain the reasons underlying this proposal. If any hon. Members can find a better solution whereby the upper House can operate and be so constituted that it can vote, and is likely at times to vote, against the Government, I shall be very interested to hear it. I doubt that any such proposal will come forward from hon. Members opposite below the Gangway.
There are, as has been apparent, many objections to the present proposals to which the Government must give answers. To some extent, I have been trying to do their job in finding such answers. I come now to one or two of the important points which must be answered by the Government before we can hope to proceed on this course satisfactorily.
First—the Government must recognise this—there is a genuine feeling of concern about the position of the Crown in these matters. There are many people who believe that abolition of the hereditary composition of the House of Lords might threaten the position of the Monarch. I do not share that view. I do not believe that the position of the constitutional Monarchy would be al- 1154 tered by taking away the voting and legislative rights of the hereditary peerage. In some ways, the unique position of the Monarchy and its unique strength would be emphasised.
However, I was a little disturbed by what the right hon. Gentleman said today in reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) about abolishing not merely the legislative rights of peers, but the whole system of peerage. If it is the Government's intention, as he rather suggested, to proceed from this stage to abolish the hereditary peerage as a whole, that would raise constitutional issues of far greater importance.
§ Mr. Crossman
My reply to my hon. Friend was that I thought that he was one of those who favoured getting rid of the peerage. All I said was that, if he had that aim, there would be no obstacle to it if the hereditary principle were abolished. But the Government have no aim of that sort whatever.
§ Mr. Maudling
I think that the right hon. Gentleman said that it would be easier to do, and that is what worried us. He ought to be careful what he says on these matters, which are of great constitutional importance.
Next, there is the point which has been made so often, and which, I suspect, will be the main subject of our two-day debate, namely, the excessive power of nomination to the new Chamber apparently given to the Prime Minister. Formally speaking, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the present powers of the Prime Minister in nomination of peers are almost unlimited, and to some extent, formally speaking, they will be limited by the numbers established under the convention in the White Paper. But there is genuine concern about the need for safeguards here. There is genuine concern also rightly and understandably felt that, if Members of the upper House are to be paid for their services, this arrangement would give powers of patronage of a rather different character from what the Prime Minister has now.
Believing as I do, after our discussions, that this is the best system which can be found to solve the current problem, my appeal to the Government, therefore, is that they recognise how 1155 important it is that they convince the House that the difficulty over patronage by the Prime Minister will not, in practice, be a real difficulty. My own belief is that an awful retribution would be wreaked by the nation on any Prime Minister or any party who distorted the convention in this respect for purely party ends. This is only a belief; it is not susceptible of logical proof, but I appeal to the Government to put all the emphasis and eloquence at their command behind this point, which I believe to be by far the most important in the discussion.
There are other difficulties: the difficulty if the numbers fall off; the difficulty, to which one of my hon. Friends referred, if a member of the upper Chamber changes his spots; and the difficulty that there will be, on the whole, an elderly House because the younger members of the upper House now normally come from the hereditary peerage, and it is hard to see where they will come from under the new system. The Government must deal with these difficulties.
But I return to the point that if the upper House is to be reformed it is hard to see what alternatives there are to a nominated House. There may be many of my hon. Friends who believe that we should retain the hereditary principle. I do not know; this will emerge in the course of the debate. It is one solution, but I do not believe that an elected upper House can, in practice, be an alternative solution. I accept the importance of regional considerations, to which the Liberal Party has often referred.
There is a fundamental difficulty if we have two elected Houses. Our system is based on a clear calculation—and often we accept a very unfair or unjust calculation—of how votes in an election result in votes in this House. The problem of a second Chamber is not so much a potential challenge to us, but the fact that it would reflect either the political composition of this House, in which case it would be a rubber stamp, or a different political composition, in which case there would be a constant conflict between the two Houses. That is the basic reason why an elected upper House cannot really be a solution to our problems.
1156 I have been talking about the various issues that arose, and trying to deal with the questions of powers, which, in many cases, we regard as adequate, and composition, which, though open to much criticism and doubt, appears to those of us who were in the conference to be the best solution we could find.
But there is one point on which we totally disagree with the Government, namely, the question of timing. We do not believe that any new scheme of this character should be brought into effect during the course of the present Parliament, for three reasons, First, we do not accept the urgency of the Measure. Compared with the economic and social problems the country faces, it cannot be regarded as urgent. Second, the composition of the new upper Chamber, if it is formed, should reflect the political realities of the day, and not of 1966. That is a point of logic and force which the Government should accept. Third, a new factor is introduced by the Government by the setting up of the Constitutional Commission. The right hon. Gentleman wrote that off this afternoon, but there is far more point to it than that.
Paragraph 23 of the White Paper says:Two Royal Commissions are in any event subjecting the present system of local government to detailed and comprehensive inquiry, and the Government has also announced its intention to initiate consultations on the appointment of a Commission on the Constitution. It would be wrong to establish a second chamber on a regional basis until the outcome of these studies is known.It would be equally wrong to establish a second Chamber on a non-regional basis until the outcome of these studies is known.
The logic of this is quite clear. If the Government say that one type of new upper Chamber should not be formed until we know the outcome of these studies, how can they argue that another type should be formed? I ask them to take this very seriously. I am not merely echoing the interesting leaders in The Times to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, but feelings widely held on both sides of this Chamber.
If the Government are going through the process of examining the whole governmental structure of the country and putting it into the melting pot, it is a little odd to choose the present time to 1157 amend one particular part of our constitution. I hope that they are not thinking of the proposal as a merely transitory or short-term phase. I hope that they recognise that a reform, when made, must remain for a long time, and that, therefore, if they reform the upper Chamber in the present Session they will make a decision that will largely result in considerable changes throughout the broad pattern of the constitution. There is a definite conflict between two of the Government's arguments, and I hope that they will try to reconcile them, or clear up the argument, in this debate.
In opening the debate from this side of the House, I have tried to put forward as clearly as I can what was in the minds of those of us who were members of the conference on the upper Chamber. We reached a very wide measure of agreement before our discussions were broken off. We do not intend, merely because of the tactical situation, to change our views on the real constitutional merits of all the proposals from the point of view of the national interest. But I emphasise to the Government that great concern and disquiet is felt by many hon. Members on many aspects of the proposals, which we hope that they will do their best to answer. We also emphasise that we do not accept the Government's views on timing. On that, we are totally opposed to them.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Sir Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
Not quite for the first time in my life, I find myself in complete opposition to both Front Benches.
In the last Session of Parliament some of my hon. Friends and I placed on the Order Paper an Early Day Motion in which we recalled, and invited the House to reiterate, an earlier Resolution passed by the House in February, 1684, when it declared that the House of Lords was a useless and dangerous institution, and ought to be abolished. We added that there should be a form of second Chamber, but that we were opposed to the creation of a class of nominated, salaried peers, because that would mean the bringing back of patronage into politics in a way unknown since the 18th century.
There are two questions we must consider in approaching the White Paper. 1158 First, do we need a second Chamber at all? Second, if so, what form should it take? On the first question, I differ from some of my hon. Friends sitting around me. I think that we need a second Chamber, because the House of Commons is always the slave of its timetable. There is never nearly enough time for all the matters we want to discuss, and should discuss. Every Thursday, when Business questions are reached, questions are put from both sides of the House to the Leader of the House asking whether this or that Motion, this or that topic, can be debated. The answer is always that there is not enough time.
An example is a document which I have here and which I believe to be extremely important in Parliamentary history—the Report of the Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, which proposes certain vital changes in the law of privilege. The Report is dated 1st December, 1967, and in spite of constant demands from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), no time has yet been found to debate it here.
The pressure does not diminish. If anything, it increases, largely because of the changing character of the House. I first came here a very long time ago, although not so long ago as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I arrived here in 1931. In those days there was on each side of the House a very large, silent column. In the Conservative ranks there were a number of old gentlemen—retired generals, admirals, country landowners and others. On the Labour side, there were old gentlemen who were mostly retired trade union leaders. I am sure that they were all men of sterling worth. But they contributed very little to Parliamentary debate. Since then, particularly during the past 10 years, the House has become much younger, with the result that far more Members now want to play a really active part. That is why we have the demand for things like Select Committees. As a result of the change in the character of the House, the problem of our timetable constantly increases.
The business of Parliament—and I repeat, Parliament, not just one House of Parliament—is to keep the state of the nation and the conduct of the nation's 1159 business by the Government under constant review. That cannot be done by this House alone. The term "Parliamentary government" which we so commonly use is somewhat inaccurate. We do not have Parliamentary government. Except in the days of the Protectorate, this House has never itself tried to carry on the business of administration. What we do have is a system of Parliamentary supervision. The function of Parliament is constantly to supervise the Executive and everything which is done by the whole machinery of Government. That involves a process of constant inquiry. We cannot do it all ourselves. That is why it seems to me quite clear that we need a second Chamber. Now the question arises—what sort of second Chamber?
This may sound almost bizarre, but in my view it should be elected in one way or another. The only time when this matter was fully considered by an authoritative body was in 1917, when the Bryce Commission was set up by Mr. Lloyd George. Lord Bryce presided, and on the Commission were leading representatives of all the political parties and of the professions. The Commission reported in 1918.
It seems rather astonishing, because there has been no similar Commission since then, that there is no reference whatever in the White Paper to the Bryce Commission. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services was asked about it and brushed it aside. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) had apparently never even heard of it.
The Commission proposed that three-quarters of the other place should be elected on a regional basis by the House of Commons. It proposed that we should have members of the other place elected for a term of 12 years. Some would be elected by Scottish Members of this House, some by West Country Members, some by Welsh Members, some by East Anglian Members, and so forth. It further proposed that the remaining one-quarter of the other place should be nominated by a special committee, representative of both Houses, and that these nominations would be based on public distinction. Apparently, those proposals have not been considered by the Govern- 1160 ment They were not even considered when the party leaders met to draw up their agreement.
Now I come to the White Paper's proposals. They are open to very serious objection because of the wide area of patronage they open up. It seems that, whenever we have a general election, and that general election results in a change of Government, we shall have to have a very substantial new creation of peers. The question therefore rises—what sort of peers will be created? The White Paper says:An incoming government would achieve its majority over the other parties by means of a suitable number of new creations during its first months of office.Of course, the Government will only make these new creations so that they can rely, and absolutely rely, upon their votes. They have all got to be completely orthodox party men. Otherwise the whole purpose of the exercise would be defeated. I remember some lines written in 1907 after the L.C.C. election by G.K. Chesterton:The line breaks and the guns go under.The Lords and the lackeys ride the plain.If we have creations of this kind, we shall have not merely a House of Lords but a House of Lackeys as well.
If we put this kind of patronage into the hands of the Prime Minister, whoever he may be, we considerably strengthen the party machines. That, I think, would be a disaster. We all of us here accept the party system as an integral part of our Parliamentary life. We accept what was said by Disraeli in his speech against Peel in January, 1846;Above all, maintain the line of demarcation between parties, because it is only by preserving the distinction between parties that you will preserve the integrity of public men and the power and influence of Parliament itself.But during the past 40 years we have not merely had the party system; we have had party regimentation.
My right hon. Friend referred to the decline in the authority of Parliament. I doubt whether there has been any decline in the authority of Parliament, but there has been a decline in the reputation of Parliament. I believe that the main cause of that decline has been the excessive party discipline exercised over many years by both the major parties in 1161 this country. Their methods are different. The Labour Party specialises in public executions and the Tories in private assassination. I may add that the latter has been far the more effective.
I was in this House throughout the 1930s. I remember what happened in those days. I remember, as the menace of the Second World War drew nearer, the speeches made from the corner seat below the Gangway by Mr. Churchill and how he denounced the policy of the Chamberlain Government with increasing force in one speech after another. I remember one particularly famous occasion when he was dealing with an Amendment to the Loyal Address of Thanks for the Gracious Speech which had been moved by the Liberal Party and was in favour of setting up a Ministry of Supply to speed up rearmament. He appealed to his own side thus:If only 50 members of the Conservative Party went into the Lobby tonight to vote for this Amendment, it would not affect the life of the Government, but it would make them act."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1938; Vol. 341, c. 1129.]That appeal fell almost entirely on deaf ears. Out of nearly 400 Conservative Members, only two went with him into the Division Lobby. I am certain that there were: many other Conservative Members who agreed with him. It is, I think, inconceivable that all of them really approved of the Chamberlain policy. Yet it made no difference because party discipline was too strong.
That was in the 1930s. We saw a similar spectacle in the 1950s, this time in the Labour Party. There was one absurd occasion when five Members of the Labour Party had the Whip withdrawn and were threatened with serious displeasure, possibly with attacks in their constituencies, because, on a matter on which they felt very deeply, they had voted against the party even though the party itself was then in opposition.
In recent years, however, there has been a very considerable improvement. I think that it began in the last days of the Conservative Administration, when there was a considerable revolt among Conservative Members against the Government on the issue of resale price maintenance. A number of them voted against the Government. Nothing happened and as far as I know, there was no attempt to discipline them in any way.
1162 One of the chief features of this and the last Parliament which I greatly welcome has been the relaxation of party discipline on this side of the House. Again and again right hon. and hon. Members on this side have voted against the Government or against the party without incurring any really serious displeasure on the part of anyone. I have on many occasions at party meetings and outside paid my tributes in this respect to my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and, indeed, to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. But, if I am right about that, here in this White Paper we have a thoroughly retrograde proposal to put power back into the hands of the party machines. That in itself is a compelling reason why we should oppose these propositions.
Now I come to the position of the cross-benchers. We are told in the White Paper that the cross-benchers will hold the balance of power, and that is perfectly true. We are told that they are so different in character, or so seldom attend, that it does not make very much difference. But it does not alter the fact that there will be some 30 nominated peers who will hold the balance of power, and the delaying power, if it is used as it may be and as it has not been used in recent years, is a considerable power. The position of the cross-benchers will be quite different from that of the other peers, because they will be able when there is a difference to hold up the passage of any Bill.
I am never in favour of creating or strengthening a class of professional politicians, by which I mean persons who serve in politics and have no other occupation or interest outside. I believe that the great strength of our Parliamentary system through the centuries has been that we have always drawn men from all walks of life who can speak from firsthand experience, men from the Services, the law, banking, industry, agriculture, the shop floor and the mine. They have all come here in the course of their lives to take part in the work of one House or the other, and they have all made their own special contribution.
But, having said that, one must add this rider, that anyone who takes a leading part in public life needs to serve a 1163 long apprenticeship. We have had, particularly in the war, certain figures coming in from outside not having served any political apprenticeship. To put it mildly, they were not outstandingly successful. But here we will have a group of people who, by definition, will have served no political apprenticeship, because they must not have been associated, or prominently associated, or recently associated, with any political party. They will be a group of latecomers, most of whom will not have had any experience of public life, who will occupy this key position and who will decide whether the Government of the day are to be defeated and whether this House may have to pass a Measure, perhaps a very important and complex Measure all over again. That is not democracy. That is not the Parliamentary system as we know it; it is government by mandarins.
Therefore, I believe that we ought to oppose these propositions. I think that we should have a second chamber, but it ought not to be a chamber of horrors.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The proposals before the House today are both unnecessary and undesirable, and I believe that long before the end of this debate, let alone of any proceedings which are to follow, the Government will have been undeceived as to what the Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), seemed to think was the degree of agreement about it. Indeed, it is a symptom of what is to come that I find myself in such unwonted and far-reaching concurrence with the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), who already, in the first back-bench speech in this debate, has shot away in ridicule considerable portions of the scheme.
Reform is commended to us on two distinct and contradictory grounds. One is in order to prevent the upper House from frustrating or unduly delaying the decisions and wishes of this House. The other ground, which is contradictory to it, is to enable the Upper House to be a more effective check upon the proceedings of this House and to hold a more convincing balance against it. I 1164 believe that both these notions are chimerical.
First, there is no substance in the contention that the Upper House as at present constituted can check or frustrate the firm intentions of this House. Indeed, the Government themselves in the White Paper say that quite plainly and give the reason for it. In paragraph 18 they say:…the composition of the House—that is, the Upper House—is such that the Lords cannot persist in their opposition to a measure upon which the Commons are determined without the risk of producing a constitutional crisis.No convincing evidence is produced for any ability of the Upper House in modern times seriously to interfere with the implementation of the wishes of this Chamber. We have recently witnessed how, even where the powers of the Upper House have not been limited by the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, even in acting upon a Statutory Instrument, the Upper House has not found itself in a position to frustrate, or even sensibly to delay, the purpose of this House.
So I turn to the other horn of the dilemma, the claim that it is desirable to reconstitute the Upper House in such a way that it can confront this Chamber more effectively and can provide a more substantial check upon it. This is a mirage which has been pursued, not least by my own party, at various times since 1911; but a mirage I believe it to be. It is neither desirable nor tolerable that much more than the present degree of check upon the decisions of this House should be exercised by another place, and I do not think that Members of this House, if they found that a sharper check was operating, would tolerate it and would not again seek to overthrow the legislation which had made it possible.
But not only is it not desirable or tolerable; in the circumstances of this country, the very basis of an alternative authority which would make it possible is not available. In principle, as has already been pointed out several times in the debate, there are only two ways, other than the prescriptive right of the present House of Lords, in which a second chamber can be constituted. One is election; the other is nomination.
1165 In nations which are federal or confederal there can be and are second chambers, which represent the federated units as against the numerical population at large. In such countries it is not merely tolerable but is intended and is necessary that there should be a check and a balance between the re presentation of the states, or whatever it may be, which have come together into federation, and the crude representation of mere numbers of population in a lower chamber. But ours is neither a federal nor a confederal country, and there is only one electorate which can be represented by an elective system.
If we were to seek to establish another chamber, representing that same electorate, we should be faced with the insoluble conundrum—"Who are the true representatives of the wishes and party affiliations of that electorate?". One or the other would have to concede. We should have to decide which was to be the method of election and one chamber or the other would have to give way to that which it was conceded was elected in the most appropriate way. However the mode of election was rigged, we would never escape from this dilemma: how can the same electorate be represented in two ways so that the two sets of representatives can conflict and disagree with one another?
So, as the Government and my right hon. Friends have found, yet again, one is driven back to contemplate methods of nomination. Methods of nomination are two a penny. Anyone can devise a new method of nomination. There is an endless array of various ways in which it has been proposed that a nominated House might be constituted. However, as we have one lying on the Table, we can take that as an example.
Straight away we find that it exemplifies, and is destroyed by, the contradictory nature of the approach to reform of the Upper House. At one and the same time the proposals seek to secure a built-in Government majority and also to make it possible for the Upper House to disagree with this House, vote against it, throw out the Government proposals, and get away with that. In other words, it is designed to give the Government a secure majority, and also to deny the Government a secure majority. Upon 1166 that inherent dilemma this scheme is bound to perish.
Let us look at a few of the absurdities implicit in it. In a straight party conflict in such an Upper House—and I am taking, for illustrative purposes, the figures in the White Paper of a House of 230—it would only require a transfer of six votes from the Government Party Members to the other side in order to checkmate Government business.
There are two possibilities here. The first is that the party nominees—who incidentally will be nominees, not only of the current Prime Minister, but of recent Prime Ministers—who will be the deposit not only of the last General Election but of the last few General Elections—are to be absolutely bound to take a sort of oath, for the purpose of working the system, that when they enter the Upper Chamber they will never, never, defy the Party Whip. If that is to be the basis, if that is to be the ' convention '—and I use the mild term employed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet—what sort of men and women are they to be who would submit to be nominated to another Chamber upon condition that they will be mere dummies, automatic parts of a voting machine?
Take the other alternative, that no such requirement is imposed upon them, and that some half dozen come to the conclusion that after all—this is not unknown in political life—their own party is on the wrong track, and the kind of legislation, the kind of policies, it is pursuing are not in the national interest. They conscientiously go into the Lobby against the Government in order to defeat or check it. What sort of authority will attach to the resistance put up by another place to this House when it is due to some half-dozen renegade appointees—the appointees, for all I know, of a previous Prime Minister? There is no authority there, no built-in respect, which could give the other place a counter-balancing influence that would make it a complement to this House.
Then there is the other grand absurdity of the cross-benchers, those 30 appointees, appointed on the basis that they are neither fish, fowl nor good red herring; upon the very basis that they have no strong views of principle on the way in which the country ought to be governed; upon the promise that they will fluctuate 1167 from case to case, from question to question, and not seek to decide in the light of any such general principles as bind us respectively together in this lower House? What sort of people would those be, and, secondly, how much authority would attach to them if they should dare to be the means of confronting and checking and seeking to frustrate the decisions of this House and its majority?
It is often said of democracy that it is the worst form of government until one begins to look at the alternatives. It may equally be said that there is no case for the present prescriptive House of Lords—I think "prescriptive" is perhaps an even more accurate definition of the source of its authority than the word "hereditary"—until one begins to look at the alternatives. Absurd…illogical…the words come easily, when looking at a prescriptive institution. But it would be unwise for this House to sneer at a prescriptive institution. What if someone should ask us "By what right do you so often install and support a government against whom the majority of the electorate have just voted at a General Election?" What if someone should ask us, "How comes it that you in this House continue to support a Government when you are morally sure that the majority of those who put them into power would no longer do so if they had the opportunity?" Our reply to such questions can only be: "It has long been so, and it works." Prescription is just as much the basis of the authority of this particular House, the House of Commons of this Kingdom, constituted as it is, as it is the basis of the authority of the other place, constituted as it is.
Of course, it would be different if there were some irresolvable constitutional clash, if the business of government were being held up, if the economy of the country were being threatened by the present proceedings and opposition of another place. No one has suggested that. Indeed, my right hon. Friend pointed out how grotesquely inopportune it is that we should be being invited in this Session to spend so much time, as perhaps we may still be invited to spend, upon this subject.
Again, it would be different if there were some great widespread public indigo-1168 nation and demand: "Away with the prescriptive upper house of Parliament". There is not. There was recently carried out by Mr. McKenzie and a colleague of his a survey of working-class political attitudes called "Angels in Marble." They found thatonly one-third of the entire working class sample, and only a slightly higher proportion of Labour voters, favoured abolishing the Lords or altering it in any way…. About a third of the whole sampleof working-class voters in the countrysee the Lords as an intrinsic part of the national tradition or of the government of the country.As so often, the ordinary rank and file of the electorate have seen a truth, an important fact, which has escaped so many more clever people—the underlying value of that which is traditional, of that which is prescriptive.
Once depart from that basis of prescription, and there is no further foot hold; one step and all is marsh. We shall find that after this expedient we shall stumble on to another and another after that. I notice that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) was reported as saying last week that:The scheme for Lords reform was not logical, nor was it the last" though "he saw no reason why the Lords should not make a success of the experiment.My right hon. Friend was right. If this is done, it will be treated just as an experiment. This scheme will not be the last. Another and another will succeed it. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State made it clear that he had been misreported in saying something similar; but at least he did say thatin due course…it would be necessary to look again at the composition of Parliament.That is what the Government them selves say in their White Paper:…the Government has…announced its intention to initiate consultations on the appointment of a Commission on the Constitution. It would be wrong to establish a second chamber on a regional basis until"—notice that "until"—the outcome of these studies is known.First we make one experiment; then, when the outcome of the Royal Commission is known, we may change it; after that we may change it again and again. Once we depart from the present basis of prescription, no scheme will have more 1169 authority than the authority of its makers, and its makers in this House will claim to unmake it and remake it and remake it again, until in the end we shall come to that which the vast majority of hon. Members do not want to see, namely, single chamber government.
For no necessity, for no intelligible gain, it is proposed in this White Paper to destroy what, once destroyed, we cannot restore. We ought not to do it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I call the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) to move his Amendment.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I beg to move, to leave out "takes note of" and insert "rejects".
I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House, at any rate, will be glad to see the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) making his speeches in this House—at least on certain subjects. We only wish that he would make more on other subjects where he can be challenged rather than—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I must ask the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) to contain himself.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The right hon. Gentleman should make more speeches on other subjects in the House rather than pick audiences elsewhere in the country. Certain of my hon. Friends have hesitated to give me promises about going into the Lobby tomorrow night lest it be soiled by the presence of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think that the rules of order require me to ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw that phrase.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker; if you direct me to withdraw it, then I do so, but I was simply stating the fact that certain of my hon. Friends have said to me that they will unwillingly go into the Lobby tomorrow night if the right hon. Gentleman is with them. He can make of that what he likes.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services made what I 1170 think we would all agree was a very unconvincing speech. It the Trade Descriptions Act had been in operation, he would have ben prosecuted for false advertising. He knows as well as the rest of us that there have been several meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party on this subject. There has been no unanimity of view, except on one point, on which there was complete unanimity at every meeting, namely, that we were opposed to a nominated, salaried second Chamber. The Government have flouted that view. They were more anxious to avoid a constitutional crisis and to get agreement with the Conservative Party and Liberal Party leaders than with their own back benchers. We were simply to be the reliable lobby fodder when they came forward with their White Paper and subsequent legislation. The result is that we have this consensus ragbag—and I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West on that point if on no other.
This scheme is based on an assumption that there must be all-party agreement if we are to have major constitutional reform. This is a wholly unwarranted assumption. It has no firm historical basis in the Reform Act, 1832, the legislation on the secret ballot, the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, and the Life Peerages Act, 1958, against which the Labour Party voted; and even the Bill which we debated yesterday, the Representation of the People Bill, will no doubt be fought in Committee.
The Government claim, strangely enough, that they have a good bargain: that the hereditary system has been destroyed; that the built-in Tory majority has been eliminated; that the power to frustrate the will of the elected House of Commons has been abolished. If the bargain is so good for us, why does the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) say that it is such a good bargain for him? It cannot please us both. This is a sinister conspiracy between the two Front Benches, and it must make us pause and look at it very carefully.
The Labour Party manifesto of 1966 said that we were toreinforce the democratic element in modern government.1171 I measure that phrase against what is in the White Paper. Let us examine the proposals.
Like the new postal charges, the second Chamber will be two-tiered. The fivepennies will be the voting peers, who have to be regular attenders and less than 72 years of age. The definition of a regular attender is that he must attend on one day in three. If a miner or docker attended on one day in three, he would get the sack. These fellows are to get £2,000 a year. That is not just a rumour plucked out of the air. I understand that this figure has been bandied about among the coteries. I do not know where it comes from, but I have it in good authority that it is much more than a Press rumour. I wonder what Aubrey Jones will say about it.
Let us consider some of the statistics about how the other place operates which I obtained from the research section of the House of Commons Library—a very reputable organisation. In the last four Sessions, the Lords have sat, on average, on 127½ sitting days each year. The average length of the day's sitting in the Session 1967–68 was 5¾ hours. So that would be a four-day week, a 23-hour week. He would put in less than a voting peer could put in, less than 45 days per year, and get his £2,000; with no constituency worries, no weary weekend travel back and forth, no daily postbag, no Whips to worry about; complete security for the rest of his life. No wonder letters bearing 5d. stamps are pouring into 10, Downing Street day after day. To adapt the G.P.O. advertisement, there should be a motto put up in 10, Downing Street: "Everywhere someone is waiting for a peerage".
What about the second tier, the four-penny lot? They will be the non-voting variety; they will be a mixed bag; they will be created peers over 72 years of age, or poor attenders—one or the other, or both. Then there will be existing hereditary peers. The existing hereditary peers will be able to sit for the rest of their of days introducing Bills, moving Amendments, moving Motions or calling for papers. Presumably they will still be paid expenses of 4½ guineas a day, or is the independent committee to have a look at that as well? I do not believe 1172 that these people should be there at all. We should clear them out forthwith.
Does it apply to the Scottish hereditary peers? Following the last foray I had in the House of Commons on this matter. I had correspondence with a Scottish duke. I received a nice letter from him, written in his own hand, containing three spelling mistakes. By what divine right should a bad-spelling duke pontificate in a democratic Parliament?
I come back to the nominated, salaried, voting peers. In the main they will be superannuated party politicians, and the implications for this House will be very great. Even today, certainly on this side—and, no doubt, the Opposition when they are on this side will be in the same position—a massive revolt of the Government's own back benchers can hardly ever beat the Government. The payroll vote ensures that. If these proposals are put into effect, the payroll vote will be added to by the prospective peer vote. So there will be the P.P.S.s plus the P.P.V.s. It is already happening. Tomorrow night certain hon. Members will hesitate to go into the Lobby into which I shall go lest they jeopardise their chances of getting one of these plums; those with marginal seats, those retiring from the party battle, those in their fifties and sixties—
§ Mr. Hamilton
Those under 77. This is happening even before the salary is agreed, and we are asked to sign a blank cheque. An extension of patronage on such a massive scale and with such grave implications should not be tolerated by this House.
There are further objections which I will enumerate. We are by this method perpetuating and extending the snobbery of titles. Whatever the eventual outcome for the second Chamber, we should drop the use of words like "peers" and "lords". Let us just call them plain Mr., Mrs. or Miss. It is an unwholesome fact that all too often the snobbery of titles has pecuniary value to the holder. I asked the research department of the Library for the names of the directors of every television company in the country. Almost without exception those companies have titled people on their boards, and it is the same with companies in 1173 the city. So these titles have a great pecuniary value.
My second further objection is that the proposition to increase the number of Cabinet and other Ministers in the House of Lords is a retrograde step. My party voted against the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire being made Foreign Secretary because he was in the other place. We thought that he had no right to be in the other place and at the same time to be Foreign Secretary. We object to an increasing number of Ministers being in an unelected Chamber, as the White Paper proposes.
I come, thirdly, to the power of the cross benchers, a power which will be out of all proportion to their numbers. Who can speak of these fellows as independent—Lord Shawcross, Lord Wigg, Lord Aylestone, Lord Boothby? They are cross-benchers in the other place. These fellows are intensely political animals and they will not be slow to recognise the power that will be put into their hands. The right hon. Gentleman has made the point time and again; who is to appoint them? I pose the question which has been posed before in the debate. Which is preferable—a House of Lords as it now exists, which is so absurd and indefensible by any democratic test that it dare not use the limited power it now has; or a more respectable and perhaps more defensible second Chamber which will not hesitate to use more often the more limited powers envisaged in the White Paper? The alternatives open to us are either to leave the second Chamber as it now is but to strip it of its power, or to have an elected Chamber perhaps on a regional basis. I reject both.
I would simply divide this House into two, each with roughly 300 elected Members, specialising to a certain degree, maybe one in foreign and Commonwealth affairs, and each revising the legislation of the other. This would at least have the enormous advantage that every Member of Parliament would be elected, there would be no element of patronage, and there would be no titled Parliamentarians apart from those who received their honours in other days. I hope in the Lobby tomorrow night there will be a cross-section of the House who feel as I do, that these proposals are extremely dangerous and might be extremely dam- 1174 aging to the name of Parliament and the country.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Sir Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
I hope that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the many amusing points which he made. My reason is that I do not propose to comment on the other speeches to which we have listened. I have always regarded a debate on a Motion to take note of a White Paper as one where hon. Members can all put forward their views in the slender hope that the Government of the day will take note of what is said and, in due course, possibly revise their proposals.
I agree with a number of the objections raised by the hon. Member for Fife, West. However, I am not prepared to join him in the Lobby tomorrow, although, if a Bill is brought forward embodying all the proposals contained in the White Paper, most certainly I shall vote against it.
I want briefly to enumerate the various points in the White Paper which I consider to be quite objectionable. The first underlines the fact that these proposals increase to a tremendous degree the powers of patronage of the Prime Minister. When I say that, I am referring not to the present Prime Minister but to anyone who may lead any party in the future—
§ Sir B. Craddock
My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) reminds me that it is also in the power of the Leader of the Opposition, and I object to extension of patronage in any quarter.
Admittedly, the Prime Minister and the Executive have a great deal of power today—far too much, in my opinion—and the time has come already when we might have a Joint Committee to consider how those powers should be curtailed. We hear so much today about democracy. I get quite sick when I am told that a proposal is or is not democratic. My own definition of "democracy"—(which is original)—is "freedom to do what you are told". Therefore, I object 1175 to the White Paper first on the grounds of increased patronage.
My second objection relates to a proposal which I do not quite understand. It concerns the so-called delaying powers. In my view, these proposals give the Government of the day a permanent majority in the other place. To talk about delaying powers is a contradiction in terms. There is no guarantee that cross-bench peers will have any force under the new scheme. After all, they are appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day and at least a few of them will be permanent supporters of the Government when they go to the other place.
Like the hon. Member for Fife, West, I would be against the payment of a definite remuneration to voting peers. Whether they be voting or non-voting peers, in my view, they should be paid on the same basis as today, receiving only expenses. Later in my speech, I shall make a suggestion in that direction.
One must then consider how the Lords Spiritual are dealt with in the White Paper. I appreciate that His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury has set up a special committee to discuss the matter, and it is right that there should be no definite proposal in the White Paper at this juncture on the number of archbishops and bishops there should be in the House of Lords. It is suggested very tentatively, that the number should be reduced from 26 to 16, but I shall have one or two comments to make on that point presently.
Having criticised what is in the White Paper, I would consider it a very fair question if I were asked for my alternative proposals. May I, therefore, put forward one or two, though with no idea of their being accepted? Having been in this House for some years, one comes to the conclusion that, no matter what a back-bench hon. Members says, on which ever side of the House he sits, it makes very little difference.
I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members will agree that the treatment of the other place is a matter of great constitutional importance. In view of that, I suggest that we adopt the old Latin tag, "hasten slowly"—
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
What is it, then?
§ Sir B. Craddock
I am surprised that, being a Scot, the right hon. Gentleman did not know that.
§ Sir B. Craddock
I am sorry. I thought that, like me, the right hon. Gentleman had received a classical education and would not want me to supply the Latin.
§ Sir B. Craddock
Undoubtedly, there is a case for some reform. I have never liked the idea that, when some important issue arises, it is possible for one party to call in a huge number of hereditary peers to defeat it. It has not happened very often, but I have never thought it very fair. In the few cases where it has happened, I have regarded it as rather obnoxious.
My first proposal would be for a House of Peers consisting of roughly half the number of hon. Members in this House; in other words, some 300 voting peers. I would give all existing life peers voting rights. In the present composition of the other place, there are about 150 of them. The remaining 150 voting peers making up my figure of 300, I would leave to be elected by the members of the other place. They know those among their fellow peers who have real experience and knowledge.
My proposal would result in a House of Lords consisting of peers of first creation, hereditary peers and life peers. In my view, that would be a very good mixture. After all, there are a number of young hereditary peers who make a great contribution to the discussions and the business of government in the other place. Like most hon. Members, I listen to and read the debates there from time to time, and certainly that is my impression.
Delaying powers are one of the greatest bones of contention in the whole situation. In the reformed House of Lords which I have suggested, I propose that for the first two Sessions of a Parliament there should be no delaying powers 1177 in the other place. When a General Election has taken place and—to use a popular phrase which I do not like very much, but which is good enough—the will of the people has been expressed by electing Members of Parliament, it is only fair that for at least two Sessions the Government elected should be allowed to get on with the proposals that they put forward during the General Election campaign. Therefore, I repeat that for the first two Sessions there should be no delaying powers in the House of Lords, composed as I have suggested.
But in the third Session it is reasonable that there should be a delaying power of three months, and in the fourth and fifth Sessions six months' delay. That, after all, would be in conformity with the recommendations of the White Paper. During the first two Sessions, with no power of delay, if a Bill were defeated in the other place or if Amendments were not accepted at once when it came back here, the Bill would become law forthwith.
On remuneration, I feel that the best thing would be an allowance, as at present, although four and a half guineas these days is not enough. Therefore, I suggest six guineas.
Finally, the Lords Spiritual. I would hope that in due course the Archbishop's Committee will agree that those bishops entitled as of right to be Members of the other House should consist of, say, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Winchester and Durham, and I should like to see a representative of the of the Roman Catholic Church taking a seat in the House of Lords—probably the Cardinal Archbishop. I should also like to see—
§ Sir B. Craddock
If that would help Christian unity I would not object.
I should also suggest as Members of right, the Moderator of the Free Church of England, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. Apart from other considerations, in these days when there is a great effort to obtain Christian unity, this might be one small step in what I consider a desirable objective.
1178 I have put forward these proposals for reform knowing full well, as I have said, that they will probably not be given any consideration at all. But I feel strongly about the timing, which has already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). In view of the Constitutional Commission which is to be set up, I feel strongly that we should await its recommendations before taking any further steps about the reform of the Upper House.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir B. Craddock), in the early part of his remarks, expressed what I thought was a very sad epitaph on the back-benchers. He said that whatever back-benchers may say it makes very little difference. It has not always been so. I regret that the hon. Gentleman takes a somewhat defeatist view of the rôle of the back-bench Member. In a sense that is what the debate is about and I hope, during the course of my remarks, to show it.
We are discussing a matter of great constitutional importance. If it is not accompanied by the clamour and uproar which has attended previous debates on Lords' reform it is simply because it does not coincide in time with any great constitutional clash between the two Houses. We are not considering a battle of peers versus the people. We are not dealing with a clash between the Lords and the Commons. We are concerned with a much more subtle clash between the Executive and the Legislature, between the party machine and the private Member. That is why, although the debate takes place in relative calm, I do not feel that we should lose sight of the great underlying matters with which it is concerned.
Everyone must pay tribute to the ingenuity and industry which has gone into the White Paper. But no one likes it. It is significant that speaker after speaker has expressed the strongest possible objections to its contents. Whatever may be the result of the Division tomorrow, the fact remains that already the sense of the House is apparent; 1179 that is, that it is opposed to the White Paper.
I spoke about the ingenuity of the White Paper. Certainly, in attempting to enlarge simultaneously the Lords' functions, while diminishing the powers of the Lords, it is in the general trend of Lords reform in this century. To that extent, though to that extent only, I commend it. Perhaps I may include, also, its reference to the elimination of hereditary powers, about which, with few exceptions, I think most people are agreed. But functions and powers do not exist in a vacuum. They must be related to those who wield them.
What matters in the debate today is the composition of the Lords. The proposals for an élite and privileged hierarchy within the social and political hierarchy, with a number of political vestal virgins sitting on the cross-benches, has a Byzantine quality which is clearly the product of highly-sophisticated political minds, but political minds, nevertheless, which have little relevance to what people want for their constitution.
For my own part—and I mention this because my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) suggested that I had not put forward any alternative to the White Paper in the article which he quoted—I certainly should like to see a second Chamber with useful functions, limited powers, and indirectly elected.
We are debating this matter at a time when more and more people—especially the young—are tending to regard Parliament as an irrelevance. When they regard Parliamentary democracy as lacking an effective representative basis, in this context I believe that, in a literal sense, it is reactionary to propose reform of the House of Lords by making it a thing of the parties, a Chamber appointed and paid, a sort of brantub of patronage.
What the White Paper recommends is, in fact, a radical change in our constitutional practice. It is that the Executive should make a large take-over of a branch of the Legislature—the Lords—among whose functions today, as the White Paper states, isthe scrutiny of the activities of the Executive.1180 The White Paper which had the effect not of asserting the primacy of the Commons over the Lords, which is a question which exercises many of us, but rather the effect of asserting the supremacy of the Prime Minister over the Lords with effects on the Commons which can only be harmful. Some of these effects have been mentioned today.
The first effect of the White Paper would be immediately to extend the personal patronage of the Prime Minister. I speak not only of the present Prime Minister, but of the Prime Minister of the day. Whatever limitations might be imposed on his power of appointment by a committee, it is he, the Prime Minister of the day, who will have within his gift the paid offices of voting peers mentioned in paragraph 52.
While it is true that no firm figure has been fixed, and while it is equally true that there have been rumours of £2,000 a year to be paid to voting peers, whatever the sum that is fixed—and the analogy is with the Lawrence Committee, which was set up to assess the remuneration of Members of Parliament—I believe that by appointing peers who will be paid by the Executive we are entering on a very dangerous and slippery path.
A limited patronage is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the exercise of patronage is something which is essential for the machinery of government. It is natural that all Prime Ministers, especially in the first flush of office, should scatter the confetti of patronage on those who are celebrating the marriage of the party and the people. The present Prime Minister has gone out of his way, perhaps rightly, to emphasise that in the exercise of patronage he has not created political knights. I believe that everyone who has seen how political knights have been created by seniority, by favouritism, and by other techniques of patronage which are and were available to Prime Ministers, will commend the present Prime Minister for the limitations he has imposed on himself in that connection.
During the last four years, since 1964, 146 life peers have been created. Even taking into account the need to redress the balance of the parties in the Lords, this is not a small number by any assessment. In 1958, when the process of 1181 creating life peers began, 12 were appointed. In 1960, this number had dropped to one, but now they are being created wholesale. I am still on the point of the appointment by the Prime Minister of life peers. In a personal sense the choices are admirable, but I doubt whether the elevation to the peerage of failed Parliamentary candidates is entirely a democratic procedure. But there it is. The Prime Minister has exercised a wide and benevolent patronage which has been much enjoyed, I have no doubt that Labour patronage is as good as Tory patronage, and probably much more fastidious.
For centuries this House fought to establish the constitutional principle that the legislature should be independent of the Crown, and that a Member of Parliament should not hold an "office of profit" handed out as a favour from the Executive. That has been the centuries-old struggle on the part of the House of Commons. After various amendments the principle still holds good in general, and it is this, that a democratic Parliament should not be a home for place men on the Executive's payroll. That has been the fundamental principle which time and again has brought this House into collision with the Executive, with the Crown, and with all the other fountains of authority.
But in recent years this principle has been much diluted. As the Crown's power has shrunk, so the power of the Prime Minister has grown. Instead of being "first among equals" in confronting the Crown on behalf of Parliament, the Prime Minister of the day—more President than Prime Minister—has taken over many of the actual prerogatives of the Crown. As Parliament's power has been whittled away, as the rights and influence of the back bencher have diminished, so the Prime Minister, who progressively has become more like a Paymaster in Chief, has asumed the rôle of the Monarch as the one whose authority needs to be checked by constitutional safeguards.
Now we are in a situation in which, so far from being checked, the authority of the Prime Minister, as proposed by the White Paper, is about to be extended. There is a reference in the White Paper to the Committee referred to by the right 1182 hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser). The Comittee is intended to be a check on patronage. The question immediately poses itself: under whose patronage will the Committee be created whose job it is to check on the abuse of patronage?
In Britain, since the Civil War, the usurpation of power has never been dramatic. It has usually come from a meek surrender by Parliament, huggermugger, to some sort of White Paper or its equivalent. But what we are now experiencing, and I repeat what I said in my article in the Daily Express, is the prospect of Parliament handing over to the Prime Minister the right to dish out dozens of new-paid appointments to peers, many of whom will be drawn from the House of Commons, where some Members, at any rate, already tamed by the Whips, will wait supinely and expectantly for their elevation. The promise of an office of profit under the Crown—I am talking about the promise, not the actual gift—or of the Prime Minister must be every bit as diminishing to the independence of a Member while he is still sitting in the House of Commons as an actual appointment would be.
No one can doubt—and I think that this is equally true of a Tory Government—that the influence of the payroll vote, and I use that as an omnibus term to describe the tied vote of those who are linked in some direct association, based on benefits, to the party machine, has grown, is growing, and should be diminished. We are witnessing a wholesale reversal of the historical trend of British constitutional development towards broader democratic responsibility and representation.
In the 18th century the system of patrons and their counterparts, the place men, undermined the quality of political life. These men were naturals for jobs, often sinecures, ranging from Tellers of the Exchequer, and Comptrollers of the Imprest, to Masters of the Buckhounds. But by the end of the Victorian era a reformed Parliament, and a reformed Civil Service, had raised our political representation to the pinnacle of its authority. Limits were set on favouritism by limiting patronage, and this made the Mother of Parliaments the envy of the world, and one which was imitated by 1183 most of the world. If we are now to retreat into a system of patronage arrangements which evoke some of the aspects of the patronage system under Walpole, we shall do a grave injury to the institution we represent.
We all know—and I relate this directly to the subject we are discussing—that in the last 10 to 15 years a whole spectrum of new jobs has emerged which are now filled by appointment. For example, there are 13 major administrative boards, extending from the Court of the Bank of England to the White Fish Authority, whose members are appointed by the Government. The Minister of Power has over 200 jobs in the nationalised industries within his gift. The Minister of Housing and Local Government makes more than 100 appointments to the new towns. The Minister of Health appoints 300 members to regional hospital boards. If we add to that all the other examples of jobs within the gift of the Executive, I hope that every hon. Member will agree that it is time measures were taken not to expand the authority of the Executive, but rather to limit it.
Over the last 50 years the subject of Lords reform has become something of a bore. Declining energies and declining powers have made the Lords of small importance—and this was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling)—compared with the great issues which the country is facing today, the question of peace or war, the question of the economy, that of the £, and so on. To some extent this debate may seem an irrelevancy compared with the great subjects facing the world.
The danger of the White Paper does not lie in the power which it confers on the Lords. That is weak enough. It lies in the vast new area of financial patronage that it offers the Executive and in the enfeebling effect which this, in turn, will have on the Legislature. I hope that, whatever happens to the Lords—and I see no good reason why they should not be indirectly elected—the proposal for paid peers, nominated by the Prime Minister, will be rejected with indignation. The placeman is a throwback to the 19th century. There should be no room for him in a modern democracy.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
By the sound of it, when we come to decide this matter tomorrow night the only Members voting in favour of this form of reform will be those who comprise the two Front Benches. I am only too happy to think that the cabal which devised this scheme was in no way like the cabal which was formed of the American founding fathers. The welcome which these proposals has received from both sides of the House is probably the coldest in the history of Christian charity.
The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) spoke for us all when he spoke about patronage. I am sure that when the Constitutional Commission is established one of the main issues before it will be the power of the Executive, which has increased, is increasing, and should be diminished. This is the general view of the majority of people.
The long-term problem before the House is not concerned with peers versus people, but with people versus politicians. There is no more unpopular a personage in Britain today than the average politician. [An HON. MEMBER: "Speak for yourself."] Some of us are heroes to our dearest friends. Others are not even heroes to their valets. It all depends on one's position.
The problem which faces the House today concerns one's view of the constitution as a whole. It is the various parts of the constitution which make it a workable system. I agree that the House of Lords has absurd functions—and naturally, as the younger son, I am not in favour of primogeniture in all senses. I appreciate that there are absurdities in the system. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said, it is probably the easiest of all our institutions at which to poke fun. Yet there is, because of the very tensions and difficulties of the present establishment of the House of Lords, a built-in regulator which ensures that the constitution is not upset and that all the will of Parliament is not thwarted.
That can, of course, be denied, and it may be said that the threat is always there. If we consider what is now proposed, I suggest that the threats in the 1185 new proposal are infinitely more grave. There is, first, the question of patronage from both Front Benches. Theoretically, that patronage could mean that the Government of the day would appoint the maximum number of liars to the House of Lords while the Opposition would appoint the maximum number of bores, and this would lead to a great improvement in the formation of the Upper House, some might say. In fact, however, it would not work like that.
I regret that, as a result of these appointments and as a result of the proposed constitution, admirable men might be appointed from this House, from either side, but that the power would lie in the hands of the extraordinary people called cross-bench peers. Should they be called "cross-bench" or "cross-wench"? Some of them would be an angry lot, and what would happen then?
Who will appoint these cross-bench peers? Spokesmen on neither Front Bench have been able to answer this question. They say that it is natural that the men appointed would have many interests. I trust that both Front Benches accept that they would also have tremendous power in their hands. When I have asked on several occasions who will make the selection out of the 100 or so eminent so-called cross-benchers, nobody has been able to reply.
The next stage could be that life would become absolutely impossible for this House because of the will—or determination, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West put it—of these cross-bench peers. There might be a sudden switch of six votes; a sudden determination to thwart the Whips, some of the peers having remembered that "Lord Blah" wanted rabbit shooting abolished. "You will not get your Bill through," a Minister might be told, "because he will not give you his vote unless rabbit shooting is abolished." Even more terrifying than this initial use of patronage is the fact that the Executive would have to move forward quickly to abolish the so-called independent peers.
The next stage, of course, would be the appointment of even more hon. Members of this House to the Upper Chamber, or a drawing in of party people from outside. Finally, one would end up with a constitution which was 1186 totally out of national balance and reflecting only what was being done in this House. This would be an entirely wrong state of affairs. The cabal from both Front Benches has failed dismally. This enterprise of constitution-making has gone wrong and I will take pleasure in joining the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), if he will have me, in the Lobby tomorrow night to reject this form of reform. And there, I hope, many other hon. Members will join me.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. David Marquand (Ashfield)
This debate has seen an extraordinary backbench revolt. I cannot recall a back bencher having spoken in support of the White Paper, and this does not surprise me. My doubts about the proposal, which were great enough before the White Paper was published, were intensified when it was published and intensified still further by the speeches of the Front Bench spokesmen on both sides in its defence.
I yield to no one in my admiration for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. His achievements as a Parliamentary reformer have been excellent. In the short time that I have been an hon. Member he has done more work along this path than was done during the previous half century. However, this proposal goes directly against all the things he was trying to achieve when he was Leader of the House.
Throughout his speech today he said, in a gay and charming way, to those who disagree with him, "There are, of course, anomalies in the White Paper, but, then, there are anomalies in the existing situation". That is an absurd argument. The existing House of Lords is admitted universally to be anomalous. The point in reforming it is to get rid of these anomalies. If the proposed reforms perpetuate the anomalies, there is no point in having them, unless there is a compensating advantage. Having listened to the debate so far, I have yet to hear of any real compensating advantage to emerge from the White Paper.
I would go further. In my view, the White Paper does not merely perpetuate the existing anomalies that I dislike most, but exacerbates them. That is my real objection. First, there is the social aspect. Ignoring the question of powers 1187 for the moment, what are the values symbolised by the other place—values symbolised by having people we call lords who legislate by right of being lords? This may seem to be a small point, but it is important. The values symbolised by the other place—by the whole apparatus of mediaeval pageantry and mysticism that surrounds the other place—are values that we on this side find abhorrent. Indeed they are deeply opposed to the values of the liberal enlightenment on which the Western world has been based since the French Revolution.
I agree that if we are to keep the other place going on the ground that it is not really worth abolishing them this may mot matter, but if we are to erect a new system in the middle of the 20th century, it is quite ridiculous to perpetuate this social snobbery, this mediaeval symbolism, in our new system. Why not adopt the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), and use the title "Mr."? It is said that this would be to run into trouble because of the Royal Prerogative. That is an argument I cannot understand. In the White Paper we are abolishing hereditary legislators. Why not abolish hereditary lords at the same time? I see no valid objection to that.
§ Mr. Marquand
They may ail come in here, but if they were elected here and have no objection to that. Some of them would perhaps add a little to the gaiety of life here.
I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services really took the point on patronage when he tried to answer it. He said that there is patronage already and pointed out that about 140 life peers have been created since 1964. But the point about this White Paper is that the job which is to be created if this measure is enacted will be a lot better than the job of the life peer now. The life peer will be paid a proper salary. Move important, he will have legitimacy and status in the affairs of Parliament and the nation.
If the proposal contained in the last part of the White Paper is adopted we 1188 shall get new Joint Select Committees of Members of the two Houses. In that case, these nominated legislators, perpetual legislators to the age of 72, will have more opportunities to exercise an effective check on the Executive than have the elected Members of this House. It will be a far better job and, of course, the inducement to become a Member of the other place in those circumstances will be far greater than it is now.
What I find alarming is not so much that the present proposal increases the power of the Executive of the day. That is bad enough, but what is much worse is that it accentuates the drift to increasing the power of any party leadership, whether in opposition or in government. It increases the power of the Leader of the Opposition as well. No doubt that is why he is in favour of this proposal.
My right hon. Friend—and I am sorry that he is not here, because I have been mentioning him so much—in his Granada lecture the other day, pointed out that we were moving away from what he called "participatory democracy", meaning Parliamentary democracy, towards "plebiscitary democracy", meaning a system where the effective choice is between the two party leaders. In that same lecture he also implied that this trend is one of the greatest dangers in the existing situation. He was right, but his own proposals accentuate that danger tremendously. It is time for us to call a halt to this process of concentrating more and more power in the hands of the party leader of the time, and this would have been an opportunity to do this.
What are the alternatives? I must emphasise that it is not incumbent on the opponents of the White Paper to suggest alternatives. Personally, I would rather have the existing system with all its absurdities and anomalies than the White Paper. Nevertheless, there are alternatives which could be considered. I do not see why we should write out of court—as my right hon. Friend did and as did the right hon. Gentleman for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), in a very impressive speech—the idea of having a second Chamber which is elected by regional councils. As I understood it, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was that at the moment we have only one electorate, that this is the only source of legitimate authority 1189 that exists in the United Kingdom in 1968, that, therefore, there would be something artificial and false about having an elective second Chamber, and that under such a system it would be difficult to decide which was the true representative of the people—ourselves or the elected second Chamber.
But if we go for regional government and have considerable devolution of power towards Wales and Scotland—which I think is essential if the United Kingdom is to survive in the long run—the present situation will no longer exist. We shall have a different situation. It is at least worth considering having an elected second Chamber representing regional authorities. It need not conflict seriously with this House, because the powers of that second Chamber would not be great enough to involve serious conflict. At the same time, it would introduce into our whole political system an important element that is now missing. That point might be seriously examined.
In my the, the Government have responded, correctly but half-heartedly, to a feeling, which is growing, to the effect that there is a malaise in our political institutions of all kinds. This feeling has been growing for the last 10 years and has been getting increasingly acute in the last two or three years. I think that the feeling is justified. We can no longer take it for granted that the system which we inherited from the Victorians is necessarily the right system for the middle of the twentieth century. This feeling exists, and the Government have begun, half-heartedly, to respond to it. Unfortunately, they are responding to it in the wrong way.
What we need is a comprehensive examination of the whole of our institutions to see how they fit in together, to see what sort of reforms are needed in toto. What we do not need is a series of ad hoc reforms which make no comprehensive overall sense. The Government have in the White Paper produced a further example of "ad hocery". That is my strongest reasons of all for urging them to think again.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
As the debate now stands, I feel that I shall have to go into the Division Lobby, 1190 if he can bear the shock, with the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). I cannot help feeling that the timing of the whole of this business has been deplorably inept. The consultations which took place last Session seemed to me to have taken place only because of that one statement in the Gracious Speech last Session that the Government intended to deal with the matter. The moment I saw it, I came to the conclusion that this was simply being done to provide a red herring should the time come when the Government wanted attention taken off things that were awkward for them in the hope that there could be some rabble-rousing of this issue.
I must congratulate those who took part in the discussions for the detail into which they went, but since those discussions something else has been thrown into the ring by the Government. This was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) at the beginning of the debate. It is the decision by the Government to establish a Commission on the Constitution. This I welcome. From time to time, I have discussed with my hon. Friends the desirability of getting down to a complete review of the constitution. I believe it to be creaking and terribly out-of-date, and it is high time that we had a look at it. If we are to do this, it is important first to decide the logical process we should follow if we are to have this Commission.
Item No. 1 on the agenda ought to be: what sort of a Parliament is now required to serve the ends of the body politic as far ahead as we can see? The moment we start considering that, many other alternatives besides a monocameral or bicameral system of Parliament are presented. The question of the number of chambers of Parliament there should be is one which we have dodged for far too long. One thing in this White Paper is right, the indication that the House of Commons is at the moment overworked and incapable of doing the business it ought to do and wants to do. The case, therefore, for a second Chamber has increased rather than diminished since the war, but I do not stop there in my thinking.
Is it not possible that we ought to have yet a third House? If one starts thinking on these lines, one has to ask 1191 oneself: what powers would be necessary for however many Houses we have? Having decided the powers which are necessary, we would then have to decide who are capable and suitable to exercise them. This is the way I have been thinking for a number of years. I put in a paper on these lines to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition before the discussions started last Session.
I know how very reluctant we are in this House, let alone what they may be in another place, to become really radical in our thinking about reforms of our own Chamber. We are great believers in evolution; we are, I think, reluctant ever to have head-on collisions if we can possibly avoid them. That attitude has been instrumental in producing a situation in which what few powers now remain to their Lordships they dare not now exercise for fear of causing a constitutional crisis.
My belief is that sometimes, however blessed the peacemakers may be in avoiding the shedding of blood, that avoidance may lead to abandoning something which we need. We need a constitutional crisis. The constitutional crisis which I would precipitate is this: I would have a crisis, if need be, but I hope that it would lead to some sound thinking on what sort of a Parliament we need—let alone what we want, what we need.
Over the years I have been in this House I have been confirmed in my belief that at present the two Chambers are incapable of doing what Parliament ought to be doing in the modern body politic. Several hon. Members have referred to patronage. I remember a very beloved character who was a Member of this House in my earlier years whose name, no doubt, will be familiar to many in the Chamber now, the late Sir Will Y. Darling, who, perhaps, was at his best when things were getting a bit dull at 2 o'clock in the morning during an all-night sitting. I remember his saying that the loss of the freedom of the citizen began when patronage was ended and they started to make the Civil Service efficient.
The more one examines that, the more wisdom one realises there is in it, because the more efficient we make the Government machine the more tyrannical tend to become the Government who are sup- 1192 posed to be controlling it, but who usually end by being controlled by their-own machine. This, perhaps, is one of the troubles from which we suffer more than any other. In the Parliament which we want we might find a way of doing something about this.
If we were to have a third House in which we brought out into the open, and in which we made to debate, those people who are appointed by the Government and who now plan and order a great deal behind the scenes of our lives and our futures, we might do a great deal to diminish the tyrannical trends of government. I therefore would like to see a third House and I should like it to comprise people such as those on regional planning boards and regional planning councils, even. I should like the Bank of England to be represented and there a number of bodies which we could also bring into the open and more of those who control the spending of our scientific and technological budgets. Let these matters be discussed by those most qualified to discuss them.
I know that it is a very rightful pride of this House that we like to think of ourselves as a microcosm of the country as a whole, but the more we become professional politicians, and may become so because of the pressure and burden of work in the House, the more certain it is that we shall diminish our right to claim that we are still a real microcosm of the country at large. The more we are closeted in this building for very long hours, and the more those of us working on Specialist Committees, such as the Committee on Science and Technology, with the amount of reading, apart from anything else, which has to be done to do the work properly, the more of a burden is imposed on us.
If we go on like this, we shall eventually break down the whole of the machinery of the House. I love this place and I believe that everyone in the Chamber loves it.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Arthur Irvine)
I have listened with great care to what the hon. Member said about a third House. I am not clear whether he envisages that the Members of that third House would have voting powers or not. I should be grateful if he would make that clear.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am coming to that. I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for his interruption.
I love this place, but it is no good loving something which is steadily decaying. I think that, as an effective Parliament, the whole set-up today is decaying. That is why I want to see our two Houses reconsider their future and the possibility of finding better machinery than the White Paper suggests.
The hon. and learned Gentleman asked me a very appropriate question: would not a third House assume that it would have voting powers? The way in which I would arrange it would be, roughly, that every year, in each Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would earmark so many million pounds, perhaps several hundred million pounds, for that third House to recommend how it should be spent. It would be for us here to approve or disapprove of how the third House recommended. We might possibly take a leaf out of the book of the Ecclesiastical Committee and have a committee to take a look at what the third House was doing and to report here. We could debate that report, or let it go through on the nod, but we should have the ultimate say about spending.
If one looks at the upper House, one finds some difficulty in understanding the philosophy which underlies hon. Member's thinking. This obsession with the awfulness of the hereditary system makes one ask: if we are to abolish the hereditary system, or to seek to diminish that system in another place, how far are we to take this exercise?
I suppose that the smallest and most personal form of government that can be thought of is the running of a household. Nobody seems to mind very much that that is conducted on a herditary basis. Where do we suddenly draw the line? Is it simply because those who have a hereditary entitlement to reach decisions may affect others adversely?
If they were on their own, if the whole of our Parliamentary discussion ended with the House of Lords on a hereditary basis finally deciding what everybody in the country should do—this is as regards governmental decisions—this would probably be impracticable and intolerable.
1194 Is there not something to be said for having this our elected Chamber, for my suggestion of a third Chamber composed of the more sophisticated technocratic experts, and for having in the second Chamber the hereditary system also expressing itself in the body politic?
If this suggestion for reducing or diminishing the hereditary principle is followed to the logical conclusion, sooner or later it is being said that man, through the electoral system, can make a better job of providing useful people than can the Almighty. This is the logic of it. Some may say that it is a logical absurdity. I have yet to know the true answer to the question whether the electoral law or the hereditary system produces more wisdom. I believe that wisdom matters more than cleverness.
I am convinced, having distened to debates in both Houses from time to time, that I hear as much if not more wisdom in another place than I hear here. I know that there are many very able and clever people here, but Francis Bacon once said:Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.We may be suffering from that at the moment in the Government. Wisdom has an important contribution to make to the well-being of the body politic. Over the years the House of Lords has provided considerable wisdom in the consideration of our affairs; and I am grateful for that.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
Has not the issue of reforming the House of Lords arisen because of the paucity of efficient hereditary peers? Is it not the case that there is a large amount of dead wood, namely, a large number of hereditary peers who never attend the other place?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
In my view, it shows a very much better sense of discretion than sometimes the Government Whips or even the Opposition Whips display when noble Lords in another place decide that the business of the day does not interest them. I would that we had the same right quite as often in this House not to be here when the business of the day did not interest us. There are many other things which we could do and I believe that we would 1195 probably serve the country far better by doing them than by coming here to discuss an erudite matter which is of importance possibly to only one district.
We usually find a way to compromise. As long as all the things which go to make the body politic are represented in Parliament, we shall be all right. What worries me is that the White Paper proposals will endanger those of independent mind who have up to now been in the House of Lords by making them possibly placemen.
Now that the Government have brought the Constitutional Commission into the picture, they should put the White Paper into a pigeonhole for a while. Let us have the Commission and let it do the job properly. It should not confine itself to dealing only with Welsh and Scottish nationalist problems. Let us look at the whole of our constitution and do something really radical, because that is what is necessary.
§ 7.5 p.m.
Mr. Arthur Blekinsop (South Shields)
We have listened to some interesting speeches. If we were to follow the advice tendered by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), consideration of any long-term proposals in connection with the constitution would certainly last for many years. This would be inevitable if we were to satisfy ourselves of the validity of any proposals eventually put forward.
There is a matter of importance of a much shorter term character which needs to be examined. I am surprised at the naiveté of some hon. Members who seem to have suggested that there is no hurry. There are immediate problems of a political character which need solution if a Government of whichever party, certainly the present Government, are to be entitled to govern for their normal constitutional period. I believe that this question has not been adequately raised by hon. Members on either side so far, although I may have missed some contributions. The right to govern in the last year of their period of office is one which certainly a Labour Government have every right to seek to safeguard.
It may be a valid criticism of these proposals that the White Paper would not adequately achieve that object. As I 1196 understand it, this is part of the criticism of some of my hon. Friends. In that case the criticisms should lie against the suggestion that the delaying powers should be for as long as the six months suggested in the White Paper, but not necessarily against the broad range of proposals in the White Paper.
Therefore, I take a rather different view from that taken by some of my hon. Friends about the need for consideration of this matter at this time. The more the Parliamentary programme and the requirements of government are examined, the more one feels that proposals broadly of this character, although with no doubt many criticisms of their detail, are needed, and are needed within a reasonably short time. I can well understand, even if the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) cannot, why the Government seek to put these proposals into statutory effect during this Session.
There has been a good deal of confusion because of those who basically are opposed to the concept of a second Chamber. I can well understand this view. There are many who have held this view in the past, but who have changed their minds in recent years, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, as he very fairly stated today.
I start from the basis of believing that there is a need for a second Chamber. Accepting the need for a second Chamber, I do not see how the present Chamber can be accepted in its present form. I have already said that I accept the need for urgency here and for a solution during the course of this Session.
If it is accepted that a second Chamber is required, there is a whole range of questions as to what type of second Chamber it should be. There is the perfectly fair question as to whether there is a danger in a second elected Chamber. I think that there is. The record of countries which, though their backgrounds are different from ours, have elected second chambers convinces me that we should inevitably run into almost impossible difficulties in seeking to reconcile different points of view. Even though we tried to ensure that in the initial stages that second Chamber had clearly limited powers, there would almost certainly be a built-in demand for a steady 1197 increase in those powers; and before long the kind of clash which I fear would almost certainly arise.
So far from achieving a situation in which the Government of the day had reasonable right and authority to govern in the last year of the period for which they were elected, one would have moved much further away from such a state of affairs.
This argument, however, does not rule out the possibility of some form of indirect representation, for example, through regional bodies if they come into existence after the reforms which we are all awaiting with lively interest. That is a possibility which should be borne in mind as an addition to the use of patronage which, naturally, hon. Members fear. There could be at least a proportion of Members representative of the regions, and we ought to discuss how that could most effectively be brought about.
Obviously, the use of patronage causes real anxiety, and I accept the sincerity of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite who have vigorously expressed that anxiety, both in the House and outside. But I ask them to examine with care the state of affairs in the other place after a little experience of appointments made in recent years by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the Opposition. Whatever criticisms one might have on detail, I imagine that all will agree that the other place now has an infinitely higher standard of contribution than it did before, and, what is more, it is no longer a place which automatically stands for reaction and against any kind of radical moves in social affairs.
Indeed, rather the reverse is true. In recent years, there has been some indication that the other place, with the introduction of some of those who have come by nomination by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, has introduced new measures of reform which it would have been difficult for this House to raise. The situation is greatly changed from that of a short time ago.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
It is inconceivable that it should continue to exist in the old 1198 form. Some modest improvements have been made, and I want to see further changes made. I have already said that it cannot be acceptable to a Labour Government to continue to have the barrier to their action which the other place in its present form still presents. The dangers of nomination and patronage are there—I do not doubt that for a moment—but the results of their use so far suggest—I put it no higher—that one can exaggerate those dangers.
I come now to a point on which I agree with several of my hon. Friends who are critics of the Government's proposals, although it does not lead me to desire the complete rejection of them. My wish would be to widen their scope. If we are attempting to establish a more effective and efficient second Chamber to do a clearly defined job, a job which I believe to be necessary, why on earth tangle it up with continued maintenance of the honours system? I should like to see the complete disappearance of honours as they now stand. I should like the whole subject to be re-examined. I am very much against prefixes and slightly less against suffixes, but however that may be, I am certain that the whole question of honours should be gone into, but as a much wider matter which ought to be discussed separately.
But, in any event, why not take the present opportunity to press forward with getting rid of at least this element of the honours system and its relationship to a second Chamber? It is a system which perpetuates snobbery and the aura which lies about it. Why is the other place known as the House of Peers? Whose peers are they?—certainly not peers of hon. and right hon. Members of this House, and neither would most of them arrogate to themselves such a position. The very use of the term is out-dated in relation to a second Chamber.
So far from titles having any value, I sincerely believe—though I may be naïve—that many of those who today make the greatest and most valuable contribution in the other place would regard a title as a positive disadvantage. I cannot believe that some of those who were Members of this Chamber, men who have a fine radical record, better than that of most hon. Members today, would object at all, but, rather, 1199 would welcome it, if the useless nomenclature which we still perpetuate were withdrawn.
Surely, this is the moment to press forward with that change. If we are talking about a new Chamber with a clear responsible task to perform, with severely limited powers, this is the time to get rid of the title which, to my mind, perpetuates an atmosphere which we should all be eager to see ended. The system of titles is redolent of snobbery and sham.
Some of my hon. Friends have expressed a view on this point—in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) in a most interesting speech—but so far from assuming, as they seem to do, that the problem of titles torpedoes the proposals before us, I believe that those proposals, with that additional consideration, could be of real value in enabling us to establish a second Chamber which could give the nation good service in the functions accorded to it—I understand that few of my hon. Friends would reject that suggestion—while, at the same time, striking a real blow against some of the sham and snobbery which has existed in this country for too long.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I listened with care to the speech of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), a distinctive speech in that he seemed to express some sympathy, rather qualified sympathy, towards the proposals before us. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is any need for haste in this matter, but, even if there were, the course of the debate so far should convince him that, if the Government go forward with their proposals, or something based upon them, they will fly in the face of the House of Commons.
I make plain at the outset that, unless someone speaks with near miraculous powers of persuasion between now and tomorrow I, also, should be in the Lobby to vote against the Government's proposals had I not a public engagement in my constituency which I do not wish to miss. I make that clear now, and I am sorry that I cannot do so in the presence of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton).
1200 Reform is a difficult matter, but I am impressed, so far as my knowledge goes, that it is among, or appears to be among, the more active and younger peers that there is an ardent desire for it. Also, I regret a situation in which the House of Lords has so little confidence that it hesitates to use its powers, for I want to see an effective Chamber, just as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Social Services does. But I am convinced that these proposals will not permit it to become one.
It is incumbent on all who regard the proposals with as much disfavour as I do to try to explain what they would do if they think, as I do, that reform should at least be seriously considered. I would adopt the following principles: that reform should tend to reduce, and not enhance, the power of the Executive; that it should tend to reduce, and not enhance, the influence of party politics; that it should give maximum expression to independent thought and to the views of minorities; and that it should enable the House of Lords to reflect, as once it did, so far as possible the true estates of the realm.
Opinion may differ as to what they are today. I suggest that, in addition to the Church and the law, the following are worth consideration: industry, both management and unions; finance and trade; science and technology; the services, both armed and otherwise; the education system; and the arts. Finally—I know that this would be "abhorrent" to hon. Members opposite because that was the word used by one hon. Member opposite—I would seek through an electoral college of peers to preserve a hereditary element in the House of Lords, which would be the last fraction of Parliament chosen without affiliation or mass interest, but on merit alone.
The present proposals defeat practically all those principles. First, they will increase the power of the Executive. A power of delay for six months is meaningless if there is a built-in majority for the Government in the House of Lords. It has been argued that the cross-benchers will hold the balance. So they may for a time—the present cross-benchers. But who will create cross-bench peers in the future? That question has not yet been satisfactorily answered. In any case, it seems to me that all the available capacity 1201 is to be stuffed with political placemen in order to achieve the sacred majority. They are all to be paid salaries by the Government and, in any case, what Prime Minister will bother with cross-benchers, or, if he does, how cross will he allow his benchers to be?
Second, the proposals will extend the deadening influence of party politics, in other words, the worst element of the House of Commons. Let none of us be under any illusion about that. I am speaking primarily to my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite on the back benches. Which of us on the back benches do not know the frustration of work spent to no avail here? Who really takes much notice of what any of us says in the dog watches of debate here? We get perhaps half an inch in The Times or the Daily Telegraph if we are lucky. We cannot blame the Lobby correspondents, or the newspapers, for they know that either we play variations on the themes of our Front Benches, or we are rebels, or cranks, or both. We may attract attention in that last capacity, but otherwise we do not attract very much.
Which of us does not know that he could not bid to hold his seat unless the great party machine was behind him? This place is run by the Government, from the Treasury Bench and by the anti-Government from the Opposition Front Bench. And we are being asked to extend this paralysis to cover the whole constitution. It is ill-advised and it is a threat to liberty.
The proposals take no account of what I have termed the estates of the realm. It is a pity that those great group interests or activities which finally make for stability and progress, and create wealth, such as industry, science, education and the others that I have mentioned, can only bring their influence to bear as individuals once in five years. It may be said that they can and do lobby here, but it would be much better, if reform there must be, that they should have legitimate representation in Parliament.
Finally, the hereditary principle is to be swept away, and without explanation or argument, although there was one rather grudging reference in The Times to its merits. It is simply taken for granted that the necessity for its demise 1202 is self-evident. The phrase one hears so often on the radio and television, and reads in the newspapers, is that it is unacceptable and anachronistic "in this day and age", that the House of Lords is an anachronism. Now, this implies that we live in a particularly enlightened time.
Whether or not the House of Lords is anachronistic, whether or not the hereditary principle is superseded, to tamper with the constitution is no light matter. I want to examine "this day and age" from the point of view of somebody looking back on the present period as history. He might be excused for regarding it as a period of almost unrelieved stagnation of political thought, in which radicalism was divided and purposeless, changing for the sake of change and building nothing, or else still slavishly in thrall to the degrading delusions and tricks of Marxism and in which Conservatism was no more than a long process of surreptitious surrender.
I mean no disrespect to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, for I am speaking of a period of decades. He would see it as an age in which the independent had been driven from the House of Commons—a matter which we might regard as serious. As an age of mass cynicism, in which public life, public figures, and party politics were held in near-contempt, when the most powerful medium of persuasion, television, was regarded with almost universal mistrust; an age when power could be gained only by pandering to the majority; an age in which the economic cycle was arbitrarily geared to the General Election, in order to provide the means—
§ Mr. Hastings
I am coming to the reason for what I am saying.
It is an age when real truth is all too often shunned by politicians as a certain vote-loser. Perhaps I might finish this section of my remarks by quoting briefly from a speech made as long ago as 1908 by Arthur Balfour, who said:And when through an ancient and still powerful State there spreads a mood of deep discouragement, when the reaction against recurring ills grows feebler and the ship rises less buoyantly to each succeeding wave…1203 He was speaking on decadence and his words could well apply to "this day and age."
I do not for a moment doubt the capacity of the people to recover from "this day and age". What I doubt, and why I have gone into this discussion, is that we live in times so enlightened that we can blithely alter the constitution and dismantle its ancient safeguards because they appear to be anachronistic in terms of temporary political fashion.
There is a danger here and it stems from two popular, but false, beliefs. There is, first, the god of egalitarianism, which is behind so much in these proposals. And there is the dogmatic belief that all extensions of democracy—the apparent rule of the majority—bring good. Equality, I am convinced, does not exist, and all attempts to coerce it into existence lead to tyranny. Nor is democratic government one whit less in need of checks against the erosion of liberty than any other form of government. It has been said of the British that they are free people—once every five years. In between, what Professor Hayek, no less, has called the tyranny of the majority is a real possibility.
These proposals, if adopted, will not strengthen our liberties. They will reduce them. They will not improve the House of Lords, but turn it into a sickly appendage of the party in power. Those of us here who still pay more than lip-service to independence and freedom should consider very carefully what, by party compact, we are being asked to accept. For my part, I have no intention of having anything to do with it.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
The Government would be well advised to realise that they have stirred up a hornet's nest. It is clear that a very large number of right hon. and hon. Members will find themselves in the same Lobby on this issue who are unlikely to be found in the same Lobby together again, and who certainly have not been found there together for many a long year.
I shall be among those voting against these proposals. It is hard for me to find a single good word to be said for them. They represent to me an eloquent commentary on the psychology of an extreme 1204 Right-wing Labour Government. They seem to be a good indication of the kind of inferiority complex the Government have in dealing with institutions of the Establishment.
We know, and have known for years, that the Government have not the courage to stand up to the City of London, or to the Governor of the Bank of England; that they cannot or will not tackle the gross inequalities of wealth which, according to the New Statesman, are getting worse instead of better; and, of course, we said farewell to a Socialist foreign policy many a long year ago. The Government have also shied away from the constitutional implications of denationalisation, because they are not really interested in nationalisation anyway and prefer not to talk about it. They are also only slightly less embarrassed than the Opposition Front Bench by the activities of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell).
§ Mr. Lee
I wonder why so much has been done to ease the hereditary peers so gently out of the system. I understand why hon. Members opposite should want to keep them. The peerage is a legitimate part of the Conservative tradition and ideology which the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) seems to want to preserve. But really what is the purpose of turning them into a curious kind of second-class peer for the remainder of their lifetime, in a way analogous, so far as I can see, to the case of the A class voting shareholding which the Jenkins Committee on Company Law has recommended should be abolished?
Why, indeed, should there be different categories of peers all sitting in the same Chamber? Surely this will lead to a curious and rather invidious situation. We shall have two categories of peers enjoying the same status and occupying the same facilities of Parliament, but divided into those who have power to vote and those who have not. The reason, clearly, is that the Government want to do the minimum possible to change the constitution for fear of provoking a constitutional crisis.
1205 I wish there were a constitutional crisis, because it might be one of the few ways in which we could jog the Government into more drastic and radical proposals. I wish, for example, that the other place had insisted on its opposition to the Rhodesia Sanctions Order last July, because that might have forced a showdown on that subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) put in a gallant word on behalf of the White Paper, but even he attacked the proposals for the maintenance of the peerage system. I want to say why I think that this aspect is still very important. I do not believe that the powers of the other place have mattered much for a long time. They have been rarely exercised. Apart from the opposition to the Iron and Steel Act, 1949, during the days of the Attlee Government, there has been no important instance of the exercise of its powers since the First World War.
It is true that the threat is there, but that threat could always be met by the threat of a mass creation of peers to swamp the House and I doubt very much whether, in these days, there would be insistence from Buckingham Palace on a General Election as a prerequisite to the creation of peers designed for that purpose.
In any case—and I am strangely in agreement with the Right-wing opposite on this—I would have thought that the existing peerage has not the courage of its convictions to have a showdown unless it can be provoked to do so by measures from this side which are deliberately designed to provoke it—and there is little chance of that from the present Government.
I want to see the whole peerage abolished. All that the Life Peerages Act has done has been to create another and sixth rank of the peerage. The effect of the Government's failure to recommend any further hereditary peerages whilst leaving the existing peerage alone, I think, indeed, is to enhance the social value of that peerage. One knows that a duke has great prestige because there are so few dukes, since none have been created this century. The same applies to the rank of marquess. No marquesses have been created since 1936, and for that reason the present marquesses too have a 1206 scarcity value. The same thing will inevitably happen with the other ranks if the existing hereditary peerage is left untouched, with no further additions to it. I want the Government to embark on the task of getting rid of the thing altogether along with the other place.
Far more important, I think, than the potential damage that the powers of a second Chamber does to the activities of a Labour Government is the influence of the whole peerage system in our class society on working-class voters. I think that much abused programme, "Till death us do part", and its archetypal character, Alf Garnett, is much more representative than some people imagine of a certain kind of view.
The frantic regard of a certain kind of working-class people for our class system is one of the things which the Labour Party has long had to overcome and one of the reasons why, even in 1945, and, indeed, in 1966, millions of working-class people voted Conservative. Unless we are prepared to strike a blow at the whole class system by ripping the peerage system to pieces, we shall not get anywhere in destroying the class system. Certainly, the extension of education is doing its job, but there is still a long way to go.
I may add that, if this derogates from the position of the Crown, so be it. I am not so particularly enamoured of the Crown that I would mind destruction of the peerage being the penultimate step to this country becoming a republic. I hope that other hon. Members on this side who have the courage of their convictions will be outspoken on this point. The Government are very reticent on the subject of a republic and I suppose that this is one other reason why the hereditary peerage has been let down so lightly in the White Paper.
In general, I am not opposed to the principle of an elected second Chamber. I do not think that there is anything particularly sacrosanct about this House of Commons. What matters in democracy is that there shall be adequate representation, that the Government shall be sensitive to public opinion, and that they shall have mandates from the electorate that they will keep. Both sides in the House know perfectly well that there have been numerous instances during the last 20 years of Governments being elected 1207 on mandates and then resiling from them. The Conservatives were elected in 1959 on opposition to the Common Market and resiled from that policy a few months later. A parallel situation existed with the Labour Party in 1966. So neither party comes out very clear on that score.
Elected second Chambers have not always been as bad as some of my hon. Friends seem to think. I recall the situation in the 1950s, when McCarthyism—the "ism" of Senator Joseph McCarthy—was at its height not only in the United States, but in Australia as well. The elected Senate of the Australian Commonwealth threw out the Suppression of Communism Bill which the Menzies Government introduced, and did so often enough to force that Government to abandon the proposal.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand)—I do not think that the opponents of the White Paper are called upon to provide alternative proposals. We have to judge the White Paper on its merits and we do not, therefore, have to propose any alternative.
I would be quite satisfied if the other place were abolished now and if the peerage were abolished now, then waiting for the Constitutional Commission before going into the wider constitutional implications which, I hope, would include consideration of the possibility of an elected second Chamber. I recommend my right hon. Friends to reconsider their position, because I have the feeling that they will get a nasty shock in the Division Lobby to-morrow night.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
I do not know whether, as an elder son, I have an interest to declare, but I can assure the House that I have sought to intervene not because of my own position, because of course I am already a Member of Parliament, but because I think that the composition and the power of either House of Parliament must be a matter of great constitutional importance. As it is a matter of constitutional importance, I cannot help regretting that the Government have decided to have the debate in this House at the same time as a similar debate is occurring in another place. This is an extraordinary way in which to arrange 1208 business particularly if the two Houses are meant to complement each other, which is one of the things suggested in the White Paper.
My own attitude to constitutional change is rather cautious. I tend to think that the devil one knows is often a good deal better than the devil one does not know, however prettily it may be painted. Unless there is something specifically wrong with the working of the constitution, it is much better to leave things as they are. Like the Secretary of Stale for Social Services, I shall refer to Belloc—Always keep a hold of NurseFor fear of finding something worse".If we change the House of Lords, we may easily end with something worse. The grounds for change should, therefore, be very strong.
What are these grounds for change? It is not as though the members of the House of Lords were incompentent; nobody has suggested that. It is not that the Lords have abused their powers; it is not that they have failed to do something which they ought to have done, or have done something which they ought not to have done. The objection to the House of Lords is not practical; it is not against the way in which the House of Lords has acted or has worked; it is an entirely hypothetical and theoretical objection to the way in which it might work, because it might do something objectionable to the Government. As a result of this hypothetical objection with nothing practical about it, the powers of the House of Lords are to be reduced and its composition changed.
I agree that for ordinary legislation the reduction in powers may not amount to very much, but it may be a different matter with subordinate legislation. Subordinate legislation more often concerns matters like the Stansted case than the Rhodesia case. Indeed, as everybody knows, the fuss about the Rhodesia Order was a completely "phoney" constitutional crisis cooked up by the Prime Minister. It was a mere storm in a teacup. But cases like the Stansted case are cases in which the Lords are able to stand against the dictatorial powers of the Executive. There is nothing party political about this, for it happens to all Governments. The White Paper suggests the 1209 removal of a valuable check against the tyranny of the bureaucratic machine and, because it removes this check, we in this House ought to examine this proposal with the greatest care.
At the same time as the powers of the other place are to be reduced the composition is to be changed, and the hereditary element is to go. I have never been able to understand why hon. Members opposite are so opposed to the hereditary principle. It has been with us from time immemorial, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) referred to it as the prescriptive principle behind Parliament. On the whole, it has not served the country too badly. Even today, this principle plays a prominent part in the counsels of the Labour Party where the second generation Benns, Jenkinses and Greenwoods are every bit as influential as the Cecils and Cavendishes are supposed to be on this side of the House. The Attorney-General seems to be mystified, but I am merely saying that I cannot understand the objection to the hereditary principle when it plays such a large part in the counsels of his own party.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I was not referring to the hon. Gentleman. I do not know his marital position, but there may well be someone following him. I was referring, of course, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)
All the sons of the people to whom the hon. Gentleman referred were elected to the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I am not saying that they were not elected. I am saying merely that the fact that their fathers were here before them was probably a great help to them in getting elected.
If there are to be changes, I should like the retention, at least for the time being, of some hereditary element. If the retention of the hereditary element were to be the cause of abuse, we could always get rid of it later, but once it has gone, it can never be replaced. I therefore suggest that the hereditary peers should elect a few of their number as voting peers. This is the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for 1210 Spelthorne (Sir B. Craddock). This would imply that all the hereditary peers would have the right to speak. Otherwise, it would be impossible for them to know whom to choose to have the right to vote. I cannot see what harm there would be in having a few extra speakers, and I do not understand why the White Paper proposals suggest their exclusion, for it seems to be the only way in which to get young blood into another place.
Indeed, it is an extraordinary commentary on the Government's thinking that, at the very moment when they are introducing youth to the vote with votes at 18, they are excluding youth from the second Chamber. This does not make sense. Even if my suggestion is not agreed, it would be wrong and foolish to restrict speaking only to existing peers. The White Paper suggests that existing hereditary peers will have the right to speak, but that existing heirs will not. At least existing heirs should be included. Many of them may have planned their lives on the assumption that they would follow their fathers. This is not a case of seeking privilege for its own sake, but of seeking the opportunity to serve, for they will have already been preparing themselves.
§ Mr. John Lee
Does the hon. Gentleman envisage a future Conservative Government creating more hereditary peers?
§ Mr. Galbraith
I have never suggested that. The White Paper says that existing peers will be able to continue in the House of Lords. I am saying that it would be very foolish to restrict that right to existing peers when there may well be heirs of peers who are very old and when the heirs themselves may be men in their forties or fifties who have been preparing themselves to follow their fathers.
I cannot help feeling that, in the national interest, it would be extremely stupid to exclude them. For example, if the proposals had been in force during the lifetime of their fathers, neither the present Leader nor the Deputy-Leader of the Conservative Party in the Lords, both relatively young men, would be in their present positions. I cannot help feeling that the most partisan would think that there is something wrong in proposals 1211 which lead to the exclusion of people so obviously able to serve the nation as well as these two gentlemen.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Gentleman is being a little stupid. I will now pass on from him to the question of the Scottish peers. This will interest Mr. Deputy Speaker, because he, like me, represents a Scottish constituency.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The Chair may not have an interest, in which case I apologise, but previously the occupant of the Chair used to have an interest, and perhaps that will make it all right. It seems that the Act of Union is involved here. I do not see how, without breaching the Act of Union, it is possible to exclude the Scottish peerage. It seems that 16 of them, at least, will have the right to vote in the new Chamber without having to fulfil the attendance qualifications which will be required in the present proposals.
This alone should not create any great difficulty because, I think, bishops will have the right to vote without attending full time. If that is all right for judges and bishops, I cannot see why it should not be ail right for Scottish peers, who would not be required to attend for business which was not of interest to them.
I would like the Attorney-General in his reply to say what he envisages will be the position of the Scottish peerage. Can they be excluded without breaching the Treaty of Union? This is a matter which we would normally be very chary of touching, and at present I should have thought that it was extremely unwise to do anything which breaches that Treaty between England and Scotland. If they cannot be excluded, or are not to be excluded, I suggest the principle of having a small body of elected hereditary peers from Scotland be extended also to the United Kingdom peers.
To sum up, I think that the reforms envisaged in the White Paper are misconceived on two grounds. The first has to do with timing. It is not really 1212 sensible to tinker with reforms of the House of Lords when major constitutional changes, affecting not only the House of Lords, but perhaps this House, the regions in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, as well as local authorities, will all come within the Constitutional Commission envisaged in the Gracious Speech.
If there were some definite defect, causing actual harm at this moment because of the misuse of powers of the House of Lords, I would say "Yes, go ahead in advance of the general review." But when the objection to the Lords is purely theoretical, a hypothetical one, I cannot believe that now, in advance of the Constitutional Commission's report, is really the best time to legislate.
The second misconception in the White Paper and a more serious one, is that it is shooting at the wrong tiger. The object of the White Paper is apparently to create a Second Chamber that will be a rubber stamp to the Executive, and merely a pale reflection of this place, which is a rubber stamp, whether we like it or not, of the Executive. Surely Parliament was never intended to be a rubber stamp to the Executive? It was precisely to challenge the Executive that Parliament came into existence in the first place. It is because of its ability to challenge the Executive that it gained its reputation over the centuries as the champion of the liberties of the subject. Parliament is nothing if it is not in opposition to the Executive, and if it is not able to force its will on the Executive.
In the old days the barons certainly did not go to Runnymede to act as a rubber stamp for King John, and so it has been throughout history, until now. Now all there is left in this House is a mere rump of an Opposition, and the bulk of the Commons are the "yes" men, more to be added to the Lords—the dogs, as the Prime Minister so felicitously put it, with a licence to bark but not to bite. [Interruption.] We all know that in our heart of hearts, even the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) who is interrupting me while sitting down.
§ Mr. Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I would like to put this to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that he would agree that I and many of my hon. Friends could not be regarded as "yes" men.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Gentleman, however he regards himself and his hon. Friends, has still not succeeded in getting the Government to change anything they have decided to do. We all know that this is the fate of this House. We all know in our hearts that this is the real reason for the low esteem in which we are now held, compared with the high esteem in which Parliament was held in previous ages.
We are, if we admit it honestly, broken reeds, and no longer able to prevail against the Executive. What is really wrong is not that the Lords are too strong vis à vis the Executive, but that the Commons are too weak vis à vis the Executive. We in this House should stop scratching at the pimple of privilege in the Lords, and take a good strong dose of salts that will flush out the constipated workings of our own Chamber. If we did that, we might get a reform that would be worth while and that would satisfy the people of this country.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I will not compete with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) in his extravagant language. I agree about one thing he said, namely that the devil one knows is better than the devil one does not know. This is a very important point of departure for the White Paper, and for all our procedural changes. The reason I can support this White Paper is, if I may use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase again, that if we can modify the devil we know, it will be better than having the devil we do not know. This is the right way in which we should always, and do always in the end, approach all our constitutional changes and our reforms of procedure.
I have listened to practically every speech tonight, wide-ranging as they have been. Some have said "I want the whole thing started from scratch" or "I want a clean sheet of paper; I will rebuild it like this" or "I want this magnificent scheme." I have been here long enough to know that one gets nothing done in this House, in modifying the British constitution, if one starts with that approach. Parliament is too cautious, rightly so, to accept that proposal.
This leads me to say one other thing by way of introduction. I do not share in 1214 the running-down of this place, and of the British Parliament, which has gone on in speech after speech until I am sick and tired of it. Some hon. Gentlemen who are so critical of the functioning of this place should take a few trips abroad. I do not run down other legislatures by choice; I simply say to them that if they will go round the world and look at this place from a distance they will thank God for what we have got, and say what a bright example we are, with all our imperfections.
I begin by saying we have something fairly good. The question is: how can we improve it? I accept this White Paper, because we can improve it in the way it suggests. I have been here before, like the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). We had a debate on this 10 years ago, on 13th February, 1958, on the Life Peerages Act, when we both spoke. We then talked about what the ultimate form of reform should be. We were all coming round to this consensus. What we are now building on in this White Paper is what we have been steadily building since 1958—a second Chamber of life peers. The 150 who are there—and I am talking in round figures now—plus the 150 or whatever it is, of first creations, are in effect the 200 or 300 people who are now doing all the work in the House of Lords.
The number of people who have inherited titles is very small in the total of working peers. Whether they be hereditary peers of first creation or life peers, we have steadily evolved a system of nominated men doing the work of the second Chamber. It is on that alone that we have a chance of building reform if we proceed by the British system, which is gradually to evolve on the basis of what we have.
The 10 years' breathing space since the Life Peerages Act has given us the chance to do that and to take the next step which, in 1958, I chided the Opposition with refusing to have the courage to take. They would not go further than the concept of life peerages because they were split on whether to end the hereditary principle. Lord Hailsham, as he then was, now the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), favoured the abolition of the hereditary principle in the Lords, but his 1215 colleagues in this place and the vast majority of peers would not allow it. Therefore, there was no chance in 1958 of going further than that very modest reform.
I am glad to see that today the Opposition are, very broadly, in favour of taking away hereditary rights as the basis for a second Chamber. I have a strong feeling that even the Lords, with their new-found interest in radical re form, will probably take the same decision in their debate.
That is the first point: we build on what we have. The next step, logically and properly taken in this White Paper, is to take away the hereditary power.
The second thing we should achieve is a more sensible arrangement about the delaying power. It is generally accepted—and this is something which I and a number of other people said in 1958—that the vision of the hereditary peers as people who would stave off a revolution based on the despotism of the Commons, of the Commons over-exerting its powers and needing to be checked in some new tyrannical action, is a myth. Lord Attlee said in the debate that if there were to be a revolution no paper provisions or powers of the Lords would stop it. What stops tyranny in this country is the unwillingness of the British people to accept it. They would not obey it, and nor would the Army, Air Force or Royal Navy.
Nevertheless, what is inconvenient about the delaying power is what happens to a Government like this Government in their last year of office. It is worth accepting the White Paper, with all its blemishes, if we have an agreed reform on that issue alone, because it is so important, and it makes sense—and here all credit should go to my right hon. Friend for reaching this agreement. It is so important that it should be emphasised time and again from our side of the House that it is a great advance.
I wish to deal with three other issues. There are two main objections to the White Paper. The first is that if we make the House of Lords less anachronistic it will be able to use its new delaying power. The second is patronage. I deal with these issues in that order.
1216 What has put me in an embarrassing situation is what my right hon. Friend said about the first issue. He was pounced on by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who was happy to agree with him. My right hon. Friend said that if we make the Lords less anachronistic in the way proposed in the White Paper and leave them with the six months' delaying power, we must expect them to begin to use it. I see the right hon. Member for Barnet nodding his head in agreement. This is where I fundamentally disagree with him.
§ Mr. Mendelson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Chapman
I know that my hon. Friend does not agree because he wants to wreck the White Paper, but I want the White Paper to work.
§ Mr. Mendelson
My hon. Friend makes the wild accusation that I wish to wreck the White Paper. He is trying to mislead the House. It is not only the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) who takes the view that this will make the Lords use the delaying power. The first to say it was Lord Mancroft on television the other night, when he said that the Lords would use it.
§ Mr. Chapman
I am not misleading the House. I have no wish to do so, and I do not see where I have done so.
Let me deal with the point about the delaying power and its possible use. The new House will consist largely of the same people who are doing the work there now. They will be mainly life peers and peers of first creation, and a few will be added to make up the arithmetical balance suggested in the White Paper. I do not expect this collection of eminent gentlemen suddenly to arogate to themselves powers over this Chamber. The right hon. Member for Barnet says that we are giving them the powers, but when it comes to the test, does he think that Members of the House of Lords will say, "We were not elected. We are exactly the same people who were doing this job three years ago. Members of the House of Commons have a mandate to carry out their election programme which has been approved by the electorate"? Do we expect this same bunch of gentlemen in the House of Lords to say, "We shall start rejecting Bills left and right as if we have some new power of constitutional decision in our hands"?
§ Mr. Maudling
Is not the Government's argument that the power given to the new House should be used by the new House when it thinks fit?
§ Mr. Chapman
That may be. I should be tempted to vote against the White Paper if that were the case. But I do not believe that it is. Because of the fundamental point on which I base my speech, namely, that we make our constitutional changes by advancing gradually and improving on what we have, I believe that those same gentlemen in the House of Lords will say, "We are not in a very different position today from the position that we were in five years ago. We are still an anachronism. We are still appointed. We must beware of setting ourselves up against the Commons. If we use these powers right and left, there will soon grow up a pressure in the Commons to take them away from us". That is what will prevent overuse of the powers.
The case has been grossly over-stated today. I should expect use of the six months' delaying power to be very infrequent lest it built up pressure in this House for further modification. On that basis, it is misleading to suggest that we must accept that the powers will be used to the extent that the right hon. Member for Barnet seems to imagine.
The second point about which the White Paper came under criticism today, and continues to come under criticism, concerns patronage, which is a much more difficult matter. I do not deny that the problem is substantial. But let me take my basic position again. Who are the people concerned? They will be very largely, as to 80 per cent. of them, the Members who are there now doing the regular day-to-day work. What patronage is involved in allowing them to continue to do it? Over-use of patronage can come only if there were to be substantial, continuous additions to their number on a scale which has never happened before in our history. I do not imagine for a moment that that will occur. The only numbers that we are likely to create will be of the same order as we create nowadays. The arresting figure that my right hon. Friend gave to the House was that there had been 140 new creations since 1964. Why has there not been this outcry about patronage now—
§ Mr. Chapman
I accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's correction; I am coming to that. If we argue on the issue of patronage, there is no argument on the numbers; and no argument that there is a vast new flood of patronage coming into the hands of the Prime Minister. So we are reduced to the second argument, that the patronage can arise only if they are paid. On that issue I agree that we are in difficulties.
First, I accept the proposal in the White Paper to appoint a Commission which will look continuously at new creations and advise the country, independently, whether there has been a misuse of patronage or whether the right balance is being kept in the creation of peers. It is not right to dismiss this safeguard in the light way in which hon. Members have dismissed it today. It is an important check on the patronage which the Prime Minister will be exerting.
Secondly, I would accept as a second check that the only way is to leave these gentlemen significantly underpaid. It is a terrible thing to have to say. It means that many people will have to be trained to do a job for less pay than is their value. But this is the only escape from the present dilemma, until we see how the system works. If, after a period of first activity in the new Chamber, we are able to dispose of the hare of patronage, then—when we have it firmly on the right lines—we can perhaps steadily get nearer to a realistic salary. Let us begin by accepting the necessity for underpayment because of the dangers.
Thirdly, I personally can vote for the White Paper because of what is said in the Appendices about procedural reform. We discovered in the Procedure Committee of this House that we could begin steadily to turn the attention of the House towards doing increasing work in checking the executive. For example, a vast area of Government expenditure is not at the moment checked. There is no watchdog in the sense that there was in the 19th century, since the whole thing has grown so big and our machinery cannot now cope with it. That is one example of where we could do much more work, and I could give many others.
1219 The key to the situation is that we will not do any of this work until we can lighten the burden on individual Members of Parliament. We cannot take on more work. We cannot even man some of the Committees which we would like to do more active work in the House of Commons. We are short of hon. Members who have time available to do this work. The only way in which we will solve this problem, partly at any rate, is by relieving ourselves of some of the burdens which we now carry.
There is an interesting proposal in the White Paper which again builds on what we have started to do here. One way by which we have started to disembarrass ourselves of work is by the use of Second Reading Committees. We have begun to differentiate among our activities and to say that certain activities are consensus activities which need not be brought to the Floor of the House but can be entrusted to a Committee, so that they can be put through quick stages, subject to being brought back to the House if the Whips or the Front Benchers have not made a right assessment.
Why do we not accept the proposal in the White Paper and agree that many more consensus Bills could be put through the hardest part of their work in the other Chamber? Much non-controversial legislation could start its life in another place where it could be thoroughly discussed and amended, even to the point perhaps of having a Joint Committee of the two Houses for the Committee stage. When the legislation reached this House we would be very thankful that we need not waste a great deal more time on it. As the Appendix suggests, this is a way in which the new chamber could be used, and I agree with it.
At the end of a recent Session when the Procedure Committee was finishing its work, we reached the stage when there was no more possibility of reforms in this Chamber for giving us more worth while activity until we can relieve some of the burden that is on individual hon. Members. If we can accept the proposal in the White Paper for using the reformed second chamber in this way, further reforms in our own procedure could then be considered.
What attracts me about the White Paper is the repeated assertion in para- 1220 graph after paragraph—paragraph 25, for example—that the interesting thing about this exercise is what will happen if we begin to regard the second chamber in a different light. The procedural reforms which will then be opened up are most attractive. As the White Paper says, there is no reason why the Lords should always duplicate the House of Commons in the way it behaves, with Second Readings, Committees, Third Readings; a pale copy of what we do here. Let us, as the White Paper says, regard it as a complement to our activity, relieving the elected Chamber where it wishes to be relieved, and not otherwise, of some of the less controversial work, and keeping for the Floor of this Chamber the party fights, the tough battles which we are sent by our electors to fight.
Let us use a reformed House of Lords increasingly in the way the White Paper suggests, to relieve our burden and to help us to make our own procedural reforms more effective, so that we and not the Lords will once again become the real check on the Executive, which, after all, is the final goal. If there is anything wrong in our Parliamentary system it is that we are no longer the effective vigorous check we used to be. Let us now proceed to use our reforming zeal, even our vision of the second Chamber, in a way that will allow that process to get under way again—so that we, with their relieving help, will again become the real check on the Executive.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
I agree with much of what has been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) about the tendency to denigrate Parliament, and that one only has to look abroad to realise that we should count our blessings at home. He also expressed such sentiments in the delightful speech with which he moved the debate on the Address a little earlier.
There are some matters arising out of the hon. Gentleman's speech which I would have liked to touch on, but I shall resist the temptation to unpack all my luggage, or use my imaginative embroidery to describe the world as I would like it to be. I will, therefore, devote my attention to one or two material matters within the framework of the White Paper.
1221 There is one exception. I see the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General on the Front Bench. His former companion as Solicitor-General, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), is now not at his side, but he spoke earlier in this debate and there is one point that I would make in reply to a sentiment expressed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ipswich about the years preceding the outbreak of war. I am one of the few who also shared this House with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in those years.
The right hon. and learned Attorney-General will recall that his right hon. and learned Friend referred to an occasion when Sir Winston Churchill, pleading with the then Conservative Party, invited its members to go into the Lobby against Government proposals. On a Supply day, he could find only two supporters. I speak as one of only 17 hon. Members who supported the Foreign Secretary when he resigned on 20th February, 1938. That was the time when Sir Winston pleaded for 50 or 60 members of the Conservative Party to support him in the Lobby in the policies that he proposed.
But, much more harmful than criticisms which could be levelled against the Government of the day was the consistent attitude of the Labour Party, then in opposition, which again and again voted against the Service Estimates. It was the courage of Hugh Dalton, at the Labour Party conference in 1937, that turned the tide and convinced the Labour Party to support the Estimates which were so urgently needed by the Government of the day.
I want to turn now to one or two matters in the White Paper. Opening the debate, the Secretary of State for Social Services said that he would prefer to see these proposals implemented in the lifetime of this Parliament, contradicting the view put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that the proposals should be accepted in the lifetime of this Parliament but should begin in a new Parliament.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a Parliamentary matter and not a constituency one. The reform of 1222 the House of Lords raises no great temper or steam at constituency level. If these proposals are to see the light of day in the form of a Bill which will come to Second Reading and go through all its stages, in my view it should be dealt with as early as possible. I should hate to see our respective manifestos at a General Election cluttered up still with this age-old subject, the reform of the House of Lords. If we are to deal with the matter at all, let us deal with it now and get it out of the way. Then we can go cleanly to a General Election with it having no part in the exchanges of party politics. After all, the electors look upon Parliament to find a solution to its own problems.
The next point which has caused considerable concern is that of patronage. I know of no proposals ever put before the House of Commons that have been more coldly received by both sides. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) described it as "the coldest day in the history of Christian charity". It has hardly a friend. I agree that anything which could be devised would have imperfections, but, as one reads through the White Paper, the holes and imperfections in it are enormous, especially to anyone who wants to build a little sandhill of prejudice out of it.
The speech of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) has provided a high degree of laughter and delight to both sides of the House, but do not let us take it too far. These are important and serious proposals, and the Government cannot claim that they are really seeking the advice of the House on their proposals.
Far too much has been made of the Prime Minister's patronage as outlined in the White Paper. All Prime Ministers and Ministers surrounding them have enormous patronage and, if one knows anything about the work of the Appointments Office in No. 10, one knows that the Prime Minister's patronage is immense. Would it matter if, as a result of the proposed legislation, the existing level of patronage was increased to some slight extent? Would it make the slightest difference? It has been dressed up as an enormous bogey, and I give it no countenance.
1223 I turn now to the pay proposals in the White Paper, and I speak now as Chairman of the Trustees of the Members' Fund. For reasons of insurance and safety, the hon. Member for Northfield felt that it ought to be taken at a low level, but the payment of the other House, first proposed in the form of an attendance allowance of three guineas, which the Lawrence Committee later raised to four and a half guineas, is a squalid way of remunerating members of the other place. I am glad that it is proposed that another Lawrence Committee is to decide upon the proper payment to be made to voting peers.
Hon. Members will appreciate that in the position which I am privileged to hold, as one of the founders and architects of the Members' Fund, I see a good deal of the personal circumstances of Members on both sides in this House and in the other place. If the Lawrence Committee were to decide upon a reasonable level of payment to be made in a proper way, I know how beneficial and heartening it would be to a minority of Members of the other House. For that reason, I shall support any proposal which brings to an end the present undignified process of peers having to draw an attendance fee of four and a half guineas a day. I would give them £0, £500, or £750 a year, taxable, and have it done in a proper, dignified way, as we enjoy it in this House. I believe that the taunts which have come about some form of payment going to Members of the other place falls to the ground.
The hon. Member for Northfield touched on one point which the Secretary of State made in his opening remarks. There is and has been a denigration of Parliament in recent years which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, has led to a decline in the authority of Parliament. This is a dangerous tendency which has to be stopped. Much impatience, and even derision, has in recent years been poured out from certain sections of the community upon Parliament. Yet it still remains the sovereign freehold of every elector in the country, and it is our duty, holding our short tenancies here, to defend this institution with every fibre of our bodies. That is the inheritance that we have to pass on to the electors who 1224 will be the beneficiaries, I hope, of an improved freehold from us.
The only alternative to the system which has been much criticised here today is some form of tyranny, of which the world is full of illustrations. Tyrannies, supposedly the most effective form of government, when analysed are the negation of good government, open to the unbridled will perhaps of one man or a committee.
One cannot be associated with this House for many years, as I have been privileged, without still loving it and wishing to protect it, sentiments shared and expressed this evening by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). We know the possibilities of Parliament and its limitations. As Lord Butler often used to remind the House, politics is only the art of the possible. I like to think of Parliament as the late Mr. Ed Murrow thought of it when he said goodbye to us in 1945. Speaking of our circumstances in Britain, he said that the wonder of the war was not its famous military heroics and battles—Matapan, Anzio, Caen, Arnhem—the wonder of the war was that one single man, Winston Churchill, was able to mobilise Parliamentary democracy at that Box to fight the greatest war in history.
If anybody within the House, or outside, feels in terms a disenchantment with Parliament, it is our duty, as its Members, regarding a matter today which is common to both sides of the House and will have to be considered by them, to bend our will to improve our institution, to take it on to generations ahead and give the freehold that our constituents inherited on to their children, that it may come in better form from us.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I am sure that we have all listened to the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), with great interest. We know his affection for this House; we also know that he had great affection for the late Sir Winston Churchill. I agree that Winston Churchill contributed a great deal to this House by way of oratory and leadership. Nobody denies it. But over 50 years ago, when he was leading a campaign against the House of Lords, I remember Winston Churchill 1225 using language which would have horrified right hon. and hon. Members opposite—indeed, I am not sure whether it would not have horrified our own Front Bench—because he referred to the House of Lords as a Punch and Judy show. Those were the days when Winston Churchill was in his intellectual prime—1910. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) said that he was satisfied with our rate of progress.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) who, like me, is a Scottish Member. In fact, I represent the hon. Member in this House. He is one of my electors in South Ayrshire, and I have a great personal affection for him and for his father. His father is, of course, in the House of Lords, and my greatest hope, after hearing the hon. Gentleman's speech, is that his father will live to be a centenarian. If he does, the opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to make those great speeches which he has been preparing so assiduously will be rather interminably delayed.
I have listened to nearly all the speeches in today's debate. The more I hear of the debate, the more I am convinced that the House of Lords should be abolished. "Ended, not mended" was the slogan of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. The more I listen to the discussion on how we should reform the other place, the more sceptical I become about the various solutions which have been presented to the House.
Let us consider the coldness with which the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) spoke about the hereditary system. I tried to probe the matter, but the right hon. Gentleman wisely dodged the issue. Why is he against the hereditary system? I just do not know. I know why I am against it; it is because, biologically, it is not true that the son inherits the gifts of the father.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) is in favour of the hereditary system, and he wants a third Chamber mixed up with it, with the chairman of the Bank of England as a member of that Chamber. If we bring in the chairman of the Bank of England, and if we retain the hereditary system, do we assume that the son of the present chairman of the Bank of England will 1226 be brought in because his father was a successful banker? The more one looks at this hereditary business, the more one realises that it is a myth, and something which has no place in 1968.
References have been made to the hereditary system in the highest office in the country. I take a pragmatic view about this. I hope that Her Majesty will live to be a centenarian. If she does, there will not be another coronation in my time, and it will be for the next generation to decide the issue. But because we are content to say that we do not want the Monarchy to disappear during the life of Her Majesty, that does not mean that we are in favour of hereditary peerages.
The hon. Member for Hillhead says that we must have these hereditary peers from Scotland in the House of Lords. I hardly think he knows anything about the hereditary peerage in Scotland. I have a classic book about the hereditary lords from Scotland. It is written by a distinguished ex-Secretary of State for Scotland and is entitled, "Our Noble Families". I shall not trouble to give the House details of individual gentlemen, but in the introduction to the book Mr. Tom Johnston wrote:The first step in reform, either of the House of Lords or of the land laws is to destroy superstition. Show the people that our old nobility is not noble, that their lands are stolen lands—stolen either by force or fraud; show people that the title deeds are rapine, murder, massacre, cheating or court harlotry"—More robust language was used when the controversy raged 50 years ago. This view was expressed during that controversy of 1908–10Dissolve the halo of divinity that surrounds the hereditary title, let people clearly understand that our present House of Lords is composed largely of successful pirates and rogues, do these things and you shatter the romance that keeps a nation numb and spellbound when privilege picks its pockets.At last the Conservative Party is getting up to date with what Sir Winston Churchill was like 50 years ago. The Government Front Bench is gradually coming along, also.
The White Paper has been subjected to much criticism. I would call it a haggis of a paper.
§ Mr. Hughes
We do not want to be served up with constitutional haggises.
We are virtually all agreed that the hereditary principle has no place in this century and that the votes of hereditary peers should no longer exist. Nevertheless, a great many of these peers will still talk—and that certainly goes for the Scottish peers. If there is anything to do with land—be it concerned with poaching deer or an attempt being made to acquire land for the Forestry Commission—the Scottish peers from the backwoods will be in London in even greater numbers than they came in 1745 to discuss it. I do not want to see them here. If they are still hale and hearty, I want to see them taking part in the future government of Scotland, but only if they can be elected. No rational person can now argue in favour of the hereditary system.
It has been suggested that we should have an elected House of Lords. There was a by-election in Glasgow the other week when the people were concerned with matters right under their noses. Only 27 per cent. of those eligible to vote took part. I wonder how many would turn out to vote for an elected upper Chamber? If there were two votes to be cast at a General Election, one for the House of Commons and one for the House of Lords, how many people would vote?
I agree with everything that has been said about patronage. One can conceive of the House of Lords being selected by the bosses of the various party machines. The "safe" people would be selected. A few odds and ends of rebels might be allowed in—like Lord Brockway and Lord Soper, just to savour the haggis—but the Establishment would be entrenched for another decade, and I do not want to see that happen.
Everyone says that they do not want a single Chamber; and that we must have a second Chamber of some kind. Why? I do not see why there should be five wheels on a motor car, or why a second Chamber is necessary at all. I would make the other place into some kind of museum and charge for admission in order to help the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and goodness knows he needs it.
What is the case for a second Chamber? We are told that it is necessary to revise 1228 legislation; that it is necessary to have second thoughts. I agree, but why cannot we have a House of Commons committee appointed for that purpose? How many hon. Members sit in this Chamber when Lords' Amendments are being gabbled out and agreed to? Half a dozen, maybe—I do not know. I do not see why we need 100 or 200 people to be established in another place when we have good reason to believe that one-tenth of them will not be there regularly?
Government second thoughts could well be attended to by an enlarged committee, with a maximum of 50 members. Those members could be divided into sections to deal with particular Bills, and could easily attend to Amendments which the Government introduced on second thoughts. There is no need for an extensive establishment at the other end of the building when a comparatively small committee could deal with the work—as happens, in any case, when the House deals with Lords Amendments.
I know that the other place is regarded as being a good debating platform for those who want to put a point of view. Lord Soper uses it with great effect. He gets a better audience in the House of Lords than he gets on Tower Hill, or at Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, and that is the only justification for it. But we do not need a glorified debating society of selected people to display their dialectical and oratorical powers in an expensive second Chamber.
The democratic thing would be to have a committee, not of veterans of this House—they are too talkative—but of selected people; some lawyers, some experienced in municipal administration, some trade unionists—and a few landlords to represent the country's decaying landlord industry. It would be a committee with a membership of at the most 50 members, with powers, perhaps, to co-opt for certain pieces of legislation but with the power remaining with the elected Members of this House. That is as good a suggestion as any that has been made in this debate.
I confess that I will be sorry if the other place goes. I have a sentimental regard for it. It has its uses. Whenever I get some of the farmers from my constituency visiting the Fatstock Show 1229 and the Gallery here is crowded, what do I do? I take them to the House of Lords and put them in a sort of glorified waiting room to have a little entertainment until I can get them places in this Gallery. The other places has some uses of that kind, but they are not political. It is even getting very difficult to adopt that procedure. About a year or so ago I put two of my constituents, who were very puritanical-minded members of the Free Kirk of Scotland, into the Gallery of the House of Lords while I was waiting to get them in here. Their Lordships were discussing the homosexuality Bill. When they came out they said, "Don't take me to that place again. I have heard words there which I would not like to tell my wife." So even the House of Lords, as a sort of ancillary, is beginning to lose its power.
The great landlords among hon. Members opposite will agree that titles shall no longer be hereditary, that the titles should not be inherited, but when it comes to the land which goes with the title that is another matter. Then they would all be in favour of the hereditary principle. If I tried to take the Duke of Buccleuch's land from him on the ground that if the Duke is not entitled to be a hereditary peer in the House of Lords he is not entitled to inherit the land which goes with it, hon. Members opposite would be up in arms.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Did the hon. Member give an hon. Member who sits for one of the Edinburgh constituencies warning that he was to attack his family?
§ Mr. Hughes
I am sorry. That was impromptu. I apologise in advance to the hon. Member who will become the Duke of Buccleuch, but he knows my point of view and will not be surprised.
This applies to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton). He would far rather lose his hereditary right to sit in the House of Lords than the right to the acres he now possesses and from which he now draws rent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They all agree, so the hereditary business goes, the nominated business goes and we come down to the commonsense argument that those whom the people elect to the House of Commons should have the first and last word. The time has 1230 come to change the constitution of the country accordingly, democratically and intelligently.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). During all the years that I have been in the House I can never think of any occasion when he has spoken without endearing himself to one side or the other, nearly always our side. His wit, which is so charming, is nearly always turned against his own party. He wished that the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) should be a centenarian. I am sure that the whole House would be with me in wishing that the hon. Member will entertain us in his inimitable way for even longer than that.
This has been a most singular debate because basically those on the back benches on either side of the House have come together almost to a man in condemning this White Paper. What is so curious is that hon. Members opposite have condemned it because to them it increases the power of the House of Lords, and it has been condemned from this side of the House by so many because it is said to reduce the power of the House of Lords. This is such a curiosity that it is very difficult indeed to understand, but I think it time that we threw a little light on the powers of the House of Lords which hon. Members on this side of the House are so anxious to retain.
Precisely what is the fundamental power of the House of Lords? As an effective political check, the House of Lords was broken by Lord Grey's Government in 1832 when, to ensure the passing of the Reform Bill, King William IV agreed to create a certain number of peers. This was repeated in 1911 when Mr. Asquith and Lord Crewe persuaded King George V reluctantly to take the same step.
Therefore, basically the House of Lords has no authority and no power. If there ever comes a real emergency or a real pinch when the Government are likely to be overwhelmed, the present Prime Minister or any future Prime Minister can immediately create, or 1231 threaten to create, a sufficient number of peers to ensure that the legislation that he wants goes through.
When we on this side talk of these powers which should be kept, we should admit that the powers are non-existent. There is a slight delaying power, and it could be said that the country would reconsider its view of such a creation of peers, but basically the House of Lords as a power disappeared in 1832.
What the debate is about, or what it should be about, is whether one believes in two Chambers or whether one believes in one-chamber Government. This is the heart of the problem, for basically hon. Members opposite do not believe in any second Chamber, whether hereditary or not. That is what the storm is about on the other side.
On the other hand, we on this side believe implicity in a second Chamber. This is hardly surprising, because in the period immediately after the war and during the last few years, both periods of Labour rule, it is almost impossible to conceive what would have happened to the legislative processes had there not been a second Chamber to digest some of the legislation which has come from this House.
We want a second Chamber which is effective and which is more powerful than the present House of Lords, which, as I have said, can be so easily overwhelmed. Do the White Paper proposals achieve that end? There is much in these proposals which is bad. There is also much in them which is quite good.
Curiously enough, the essential for a member of the second Chamber—here I will cross swords with hon. Members opposite—is that he should not be elected. If he is, not elected, but appointed, he will soon learn that all the democratic processes about whose beneficial results we hear so much do not perpetually sway him into making decisions which he believes are in accordance with the wishes of his constituents or which follow the party line. Although this is an unpopular view, I cannot believe that any second Chamber will ever be effective, unless it consists of people who do not owe their position to that of election.
1232 I find it very difficult to agree with those on this side who propose that the regions should elect Members to the House of Lords. I cannot conceive any system more designed to produce sectional rather than national interests, or more designed to create a Chamber looking inward rather than outward, which should be the function of a second Chamber.
It is no exaggeration to say that the White Paper is not a success. It is perhaps on the right lines in many ways, but not good enough for a House of Lords so reformed ever to work effectively. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), in a remarkable speech, condemned the White Paper, because it was illogical in its proposals. But he then justified the House of Lords as it exists now because it works, although it ought not to do so.
There is a curiosity here. We are thrashing round about a subject when we ought to be looking at the fundamentals of what we want. Neither side will firmly pose and answer these questions: Do we want a second Chamber? Is it to be elected or non-elected? Of whom is it to consist? All this indecision and imprecision leads me to the conclusion that this matter is one which should be considered by the Commission which is to consider the Constitution before this White Paper is put into legislative form.
There is so much confusion, so much incomprehension and so much illogicality in the Government's present proposals that one cannot believe that they will lead to a Bill which could create a second Chamber which would be universally respected, which, more than anything else, is the quality which a second Chamber must have.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
First, I have one or two comments to make on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. As usual, coming from my right hon. Friend, it was a brilliant speech, though a very curious one and remarkable in the sense that only he could suggest that the House of Lords was carrying out a useful Socialist purpose. No one but my right hon. Friend could have come up with that idea. It 1233 was very much in line with similar ideas which he developed in regard to the Prices and Incomes Act, which, he said, if I recall aright, was a great step forward in the advance towards Socialism. A curious doctrine. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend is not here to hear me make that comment. Obviously, I did not send him a note to say that I should make it, because I thought that he would be in his place.
My right hon. Friend made another point which calls for comment. He said that the White Paper proposals are a compromise between the three political parties. True, the discussions did not reach finality because they were broken off as a result of the action of the Lords on the Rhodesia sanctions Order. Nevertheless, they had gone a long way with the compromise. My right hon. Friend said that the remarkable feature of the discussions was that no one on either side had really given anything away to the other; it was remarkable how far they had compromised without anyone giving up his principles.
I do not know how anyone can compromise on a question of basic principle without giving up something. What did we give up? We gave up abolition of the delaying power of the House of Lords. It was reduced from a year to six months, but still retained. True, it will be spread over and, therefore, is not so very important, but it is none the less clear that we gave something up. In my view, we gave up a good deal more than that. This is why right hon. and hon. Members opposite, certainly on the Front Bench, are enthusiastic supporters of the compromise which was reached.
I ask the House to look into these matters a bit more deeply. In particular, I ask those of my hon. Friends who support the White Paper to look into the history of the Labour Party's attitude to the House of Lords. Some of my hon. Friends seemed to give the impression that at all stages of its history the Labour Party had merely wanted the reform of the House of Lords. But that is not the history of the Labour Party in relation to the House of Lords. The matter was first discussed at any length at the Labour Party conference in June, 1918, when the programme that I think was called "Socialism in the Future" or "Labour in the New Social Order" was decided. 1234 An amendment to Resolution No. 11 was carried unanimously, calling for the abolition of the House of Lords and the establishment of a one-Chamber democratic system. That was the policy.
§ Mr. Heffer
My hon. Friend goes a little further back than I do in the history of the Labour Party.
My point, which he has underlined, is that, like a red thread running through its history, the Labour Party has constantly urged the abolition of the House of Lords. The conferences of 1928, 1933 and 1937 in different ways urged the abolition of the House of Lords.
We did not abolish the House of Lords between 1945 and 1951, but we made certain inroads. It is interesting that the question of the future of the House of Lords always comes up during a reforming Government. It does not come up when the Conservative Party is in office, because then the House of Lords is like a great giant sleeping. It stirs now and again, but not very often.
However, when there is a reforming Government it stirs a great deal. The Parliament Act of 1911 had to do with reform of the House of Lords, and the then Prime Minister, Asquith, had to get the King reluctantly to accept that he might create 700 peers so that Asquith could get his legislation through. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not 700, but 600."] It may be 600. I cannot remember the exact numbers, but it was a lot of peers. In 1947 reforms were introduced by the Labour Government, but it took two years, because of hold-ups in the other place, to get them through.
It is said that on this occasion we are carrying out the reform very kindly, that there is no great feeling, because there is no constitutional crisis. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is no reform."] My hon. Friend has taken the words out of my mouth. There could have been a constitutional crisis because of the Rhodesia Order, but there was not, because the other place decided that it was wiser not to cause one. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) stressed this point when he said the House of Lords cannot now use the powers that 1235 it has. But when the new compromise is in operation, the powers can be used. In other words, the powers the other place now has cannot be used because it would not be sensible to use them. But we shall give the new House of Lords more powers, in a sense, than it has ever had, and which it can and will use.
What are we creating? Is it in line with the concept of abolishing the House of Lords or even leading to its abolition? The other suggestion is that we are to have more Cabinet Ministers and junior Ministers in the other place and then joint committees. But to whom will the nominated members of the other place be responsible? To the electorate? The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) was honest about it. He said that they should not be responsible to anyone but themselves. That is an élitist view, an old-fashioned view, an anti-democratic view, but a view which one would logically expect coming from a Lord sitting on the benches opposite. But it is not the view on this side and it is not a democratic view. It is not right that anyone in the other place, nominated or hereditary, should not be responsible to someone.
I am in favour of a second Chamber, but if we have one then I believe it must be elected. If we are not to have an elected second Chamber, then let us abolish it altogether, and if, in this immediate situation, we are faced with some necessary revision, then I have a simple answer—abolish the delaying powers. Let the Lords continue for the time being, looking at our legislation, but do not perpetuate them and strengthen them on the basis of these proposals.
I feel horrified to think that we shall be putting immense power in the hands of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party by these proposals. I give an example of what happens now under the patronage system. Every hon. Member knows this. Someone comes up to one and says, "Look here, you are Ministerial calibre". I have had it said to me often enough. But that line does not wash with some hon. Members. They may be Ministerial calibre, but they will decide on it in their own time. Some 1236 hon. Members remain silent and become good lads.
We are now being asked to extend patronage. We are now to have not only a system where someone says to an hon. Member, "Look here, you are Ministerial calibre". We are to let him say, also, "The next time you lose your seat you will end up in the other place." So we may have a double advantage. We shall have Ministerial calibre and a stake in the other place as well.
I do not think that this is "on". I do not think that we can accept this situation. If we are to have a second Chamber, it really must be elected. I am not asking for direct or indirect elections. At this moment, I have no idea how the election should be done. All I can say is that I think that it should be elected. I am opposed to the concept of a nominated second Chamber.
Again, if we have a second Chamber, its members must have a fair salary. If they do not, we shall have again the situation where the only people who can be in it are those who can afford it, and that would be quite wrong. I am in favour of a second Chamber, but on different terms from those suggested in the White Paper.
I understand that there is a rumour going around that we may now be asked to vote for the White Paper tomorrow night. I am very sorry, but I cannot see my way to vote for the Motion. I shall be voting for the Amendment. It is logical and it states my position. I shall support it whatever the consequences and I feel that in so doing I shall be carrying on the tradition of the Labour movement and the Labour Party. We have to stick to our basic principles on issues of this kind. That is why I feel that, whatever we do and whatever proposals arise in future, they will ultimately lead to the abolition of the other place and the establishment of a democratic second Chamber in line with the views of my party.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Esmond Wright (Glasgow, Pollok)
We have spent some six hours in debate and it may be proper to say at this stage that there has been an overwhelming consensus, with only one 1237 clear voice in dissent, that the Government should take back these proposals and think again.
Because time is short, I shall address my remarks to the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), the one coherent speech in favour of the White Paper, although with some important reservations. He built his case on two points. One was that we must build on what we have. In many ways, we would all want to go along with that, especially when we call ourselves as he does not, Conservatives. Of course, we build on what we have, but what I question is the arrogance of this Chamber and the arrogance of the two Front Benches telling us what the character of that second Chamber shall be. I use the word "arrogance" advisedly, because I believe it to be appropriate.
I think that it was Edmund Burke and, incidentally, some inaccurate historical references have been passed across the Chamber today, but I will not correct the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) about the number of dukes who moved south in 1745; there was none—who in the 18th century said that the tyranny of the multitude was a multiplied tyranny. Today the tyranny of the Executive is ever more multiplied tyranny and I am very much afraid when that Executive gets strange and unholy allies from the Opposition Front Bench.
The second ground is the last-year-of-the-Government argument. We heard this from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). This is the 1947 parallel. I ask the House to remember that there have been two occasions, in 1947, two years having gone and the end of a Government visibly coming up, and again today, four years having gone and the end of a Government coming up, when two Labour Governments have not talked about the need for a new constitution, but have made an attack on the Upper House. I want to pin my own arguments to this central point.
Yesterday, we discussed votes at 18 and the whole character of representation. A Commission on the Constitution is to be established which will look forward to some two years or more. Are we seriously to say, as the Secretary of State began the debate by saying, that we should introduce this fantastic suggestion 1238 of a revised and transformed Upper House and in two years, when that Commission reports, do it again? What are the Government thinking about and what will the country think of it if we in this House arrogate to ourselves this sort of stupid silly powers?
Let me list a few of the arguments in the White Paper. I shall not attempt to follow the admirable speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) making the case for the history of the prescriptive rights of the Upper Chamber. He used a very important word, because when we consider an Upper Chamber, whatever name we give to it—a senate—we must consider it on a basis of election or selection different from that of the people who send us here.
Otherwise it is simply a copy, a rubber stamp, and almost every speech today has hinted at this fear of it being a rubber stamp. I suggest that there must be a different franchise. As a great many have said, it does not fall to us to offer alternative proposals. If we did offer them, I would go some way with the hon. Member for Walton in suggesting that there should be an elected second chamber, whether directly or indirectly, to which I would like to see some element of hereditary principle attached.
We are talking here of interests. There is an interest, in the historical sense of that word, which the peers represent—the interest of tradition, the interest of 700 years, the interest of variety and the interest of land. If we are to consider a chamber which represents business and churches—we have had them all proposed today—why not land itself? This is an important feature in our upper house.
§ Mr. Heffer
To take that to its logical conclusion, would the hon. Gentleman agree that we would have to have hereditary miners and dockers?
§ Mr. Wright
We could spend a long time on these Utopian proposals, and I was saying this as an aside. If there is to be an upper House which is in some measure directly or indirectly elected, I see no reason why it should not represent the regions or the constituent nations of this country. I want to dissent from my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) 1239 in his assumption that a regional chamber is in some degree a divisive body.
Tell that to the Senate of the United States; tell that, until recently at least, to the Council in France. These are elected by totally different constituents or from different areas, from the lower Houses in those two countries. They have a regional background and interest. They used to talk in the United States about "senators for oil" or "senators for timber." But, once there, they represent the national interest.
The whole history of the upper House indicates that at times it represents and speaks for the national interest as, at times, this House does not. We have talked about the danger of delay and there has been an arrogance on the Front Bench in saying that we must not give them powers X or powers Y. Let me remind the House that there are moments when one needs to exercise delay. We may never on either side in this place know when those moments are, but since history has been quoted I would remind the House that the area known as Ulster exists only because there was between 1911 and 1914 a delaying power exercised.
If that power had not been there Ulster would have been absorbed, under the Government of Ireland Act 1914, into the whole of independent Ireland for good or ill, whatever views we take of it. The whole history of the area would have been transformed. Let us remember that Ulster exists and is growing more and more viable because of the delaying powers applied in 1911.
I want to press the point a little further. Unfortunately there is no time to go right through this White Paper, which was more an indication of the days when the Secretary of State for Social Services was still a don, rather than the practical statesman as he presents himself today.
Let me itemise two or three points which have already been touched upon. I am very frightened by patronage, as I think most Members are. I do not accept the argument that there is a Committee supervising the patronage. We live, and we know it, in an ultra-bureaucratic society, and a great many of those bureaucrats are at the beck and call of 1240 the Executive. I am not attacking individuals here. This is a danger which will arise whichever party is in power.
The great theme of this debate has been that this is a talking shop. We have had some humorous and delightful examples of that—a curb on the Executive, not a party to its antics. If there is a vote, as I hope there will be tomorrow, I appeal to hon. Members to go into the Lobby against the White Paper in order to say to the Government that in two, three or four years there may be a big constitutional proposal to make about the whole character of Britain. That will be the moment to make this change.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright), like my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), put the case for an elected second Chamber. I am not too sure about it. We are a country small in distances and relatively homogeneous, and, when second Chambers have been felt to be needed for countries less favoured than ours, the fact of our short distances and of our homogeneity of character may be one of the unusual factors which will make a second Chamber unnecessary. But the question of an elected second Chamber is not before us.
In discussing changes of the House of Lords, what particularly bothers me, and what I feel is most important, are not the changes in the House of Lords but those which will be brought about in the House of Commons. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services stated 12 months ago that he was initiating discussions of the kind which have produced the White Paper, I was relatively enthusiastic. I felt that with his background in reform of many of our procedures, he would look at the matter fro mthe point of view, not just of what we can do with the House of Lords, but what is required of Parliament in these modern times and how we can make Parliament the instrument for responsible and informed legislators, which it should be. It was in this respect that I found my greatest disappointment when I read the White Paper.
Reform has only just started. One of the first things which I had hoped to see as a result of Lords reform and of 1241 many reforming procedures initiated by my right hon. Friend was the views of hon. Members in discussing and promoting legislation. We know that at present the views of hon. Members are sought only in order to counter a potential revolt. We cannot have 630 Members of Parliament paid at the rate of £3,250 a year being limited to this minor long-stop position with immense theoretical power which is very rarely used. Therefore, as a result of the kind of reform which I hoped to see from my right hon. Friend, I expected a participation in much more of the day-to-day working of the legislative processes and of the administrative machine.
One thing which I expected from my right hon. Friend's reforms was a much more effective use of Members' time. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), I do not think that what we need is the help of the Lords. We need a much more effective way of using the present 630 Members. This is a very large Legislature, larger than that in the Congress and Senate of the United States and that of many other countries. But it is most inefficiently and ineffectively used.
At a time when we are asking the House of Lords to help us in the problem of running the legislative machine, we have the nonsense of Standing Committees with 20 silent men on one side and 20 filibustering men on the other. This is no way in which to discuss legislation if there is a shortage of Members of Parliament. If there are large numbers of Members of Parliament, then this wastefulness can be afforded. It may well be that having such a large number as 630 Members of Parliament has permitted us to continue this wasteful use of manpower, so that we are faced with the final absurdity of having to cut down specialist Select Commitees because of this waste of manpower.
We also hoped, as the result of reform, for the opportunity for better examination of legislation, the ability to interrogate and the ability to question civil servants on the background of their reasoning, so that when hon. Members come to discuss the Bill they will be better informed. It is not necessary to have assistance from the House of Lords in order to do this. There are hon. Members who are willing and anxious 1242 to be used in this way but who are less willing and less anxious to be part of the silent or filibustering teams seen in the Standing Committees. If we should need the views of the outstanding men who, it is held, are often to be found in the House of Lords, then a Standing Committee ought to be able to call on these men of great wisdom and understanding rather than to use them just because they happen to be there. Their views could then be exposed for examination, interrogation and debate, and this is the way in which to approach the informed legislation which should be the aim of us all.
My great hope as a result of the reforms is that we may find ourselves able to undertake a proper examination of the choices before us. This is crucial. The Government do not now undertake the proper examination of the choices before us. We therefore had the absurdity of the January cuts, the agony of trying to save £30 million by the postponement of the raising of the school leaving age, the agony of trying to save £25 million on prescription charges and then, one month later, finding that the estimates had risen during the year by £500 million or more, so making a nonsense of our minor savings. We need to examine the choices. If we have the choice of spending £30 million out of a total revenue of £10,000 million, we have the right to say that we prefer to spend the £30 million in this way rather than in that way.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I was trying to say, Mr. Speaker, that such choices ought to have been the result of the reform of our procedure, part of which is incorporated in House of Lords reform. The question of choice is central to any reform of Parliament.
In giving the projected House of Lords the greater powers, it must be remembered that any increase in the power of the House of Lords automatically means a reduction in the power of the House of Commons. There is only a certain amount of power at any one time which the people of this country give to the Parliamentary machine. If the House of Lords is to have greater power to use 1243 than in the past, then there will be a reduction in the power of this House, and this I would totally oppose.
What bothers me about patronage is not its effect on peers in the House of Lords but its effect on members of Parliament in this House. I am not a purist in the matter of patronage. I know that there is obviously an area within which patronage is necessary in order to ensure the working of the legislative process. However, I recall also that no Government have fallen since 1940, so there has been no great shortage of patronage, and this has been added to since that time.
Although I can understand that there may be a case for a small increase of patronage to help the machine work more effectively in minor matters such as getting certain business through smoothly and manning late sittings, there is no case for any big increase in patronage. Indeed, there are many who think that there is a strong case for reducing it. Within whatever limits it may be, no one has argued for a large increase in patronage. Because of that, I feel that it can have the most deleterious effects on the way in which the other place works.
It is not just a matter of the money, important though that may be. It is not only a question of position. It is the relationship between the two Houses which concerns me.
Much has been made of the retiring age of 72. However, the year in which a member retires from voting in the House of Lords is not that in which he reaches the age of 72 but the end of the Parliament in which he becomes 72. That will mean an average retiring age from active voting of 74 or 75. If one thinks of appointments being made to those in the early 60s, one can visualise an average life span in the House of Lords of 10 to 15 years. That is a long time compared with the average life span of Members of this House. If we find ourselves in joint committees, with the experience of the long-term Parliamentary processes possessed by Members of the House of Lords in addition, possibly to previous experience in this House, we may find ourselves in a not very enviable position. In that way, there could be a fundamental shift in the importance of Members of 1244 this House compared with that of Members of the other place.
My right hon. Friend said at one stage that this might be a temporary arrangement and that there would be other changes to come. I think that we can consider experiments in matters concerning Select Committees, Standing Committees and the sittings of the House, but we cannot experiment with the Constitution. When we change it, we change it for a very long time.
This House will not willingly go through the agonies of deciding the future of the other place every few years in the way that it is able to discuss the position of certain Standing Committees and other minor matters. One must remember that the appetites of Members of this House and of people outside it are limited. We can play about with reforms of one kind or another, but we cannot do it for ever and, when we do it, we must get it right. That is the problem of the reformer which faces all right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House. Those on the benches opposite do not have to think in anything like the same way. We have not only to think matters through but to get them right at the same time. If we do not, not only is the reform dulled, but the appetite for other reforms is also dulled. That is the great burden of the reformer, and it cannot be avoided.
The power being presented by the increase in patronage is one which the Prime Minister will find added to that which he already possesses if this White Paper is approved. I am not very worried about that. What worries me is that, in years to come, there will be a Prime Minister who is more avid for power than those of recent years have been. We must be aware that the weapons that we are providing for his use at some time in future could be used with great effect and to the great disadvantage of this House. The increase of Cabinet Ministers from the other House is also part of this encroaching power of the House of Lords.
Many of us came into this House after fighting a pretty gruelling campaign. When we fought for the right to represent our constituencies we did not think that we would have to fight the democratic process over again in this House. 1245 Having fought our elections at constituency level, if this legislation goes through, we are likely to find at the end of the day that the battle still has to be continued here. This we ought not to accept.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The most important sentence in the debate seemed to me to be uttered by the mover of the Amendment, the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). He explained in some detail the different discussions that had taken place in the Labour Party. He said that of all the proposals that had been put forward, and of those that had been criticised, there was absolute unanimity on the back benches of the Labour Party that they would have nothing to do with a nominated and salaried second Chamber.
If that is true—and there is no reason to disbelieve the hon. Member—these proposals are dead, because there are many on this side of the House who will have nothing to do with it, either.
The precedent for this debate, as was pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) comes in the report of the Bryce Commission. The recommendations of the Bryce Commission are extremely apposite to what we have to discuss tonight. That Commission, which had a very distinguished membership, discussed all the alternative methods of proposing a new second Chamber.
Although the Commission published a very long Report, it is significant that it dismissed in six lines the possibility of a nominated second Chamber. It was considering even in those days—1917—that the Members should be salaried. I regard this as an important distinction between the present system of nomination by the Prime Minister for peerages and the proposals in the White Paper. It makes all the difference to the power of patronage if a salary is paid.
I draw attention to the fact that the Bryce Report also envisaged the payment of Members of the second Chamber. In the very short paragraph 12, the Bryce Report reads:The first method was that of nomination by the Crown acting through its Ministers. This plan appeared unlikely to find favour with the country, because it did not provide 1246 any guarantees for the fitness of the persons who might be nominated and because it would be liable to be frequently employed as a reward for political party services. Nor was it held that a provision requiring that the persons to be nominated should be taken from certain prescribed categories would furnish an answer to these objections.I suppose that we have become so blunted and corrupted now by patronage that we do not have the same horror as Lord Bryce and his distinguished colleagues had. But we must remember whom he was addressing. He was addressing—and no doubt his colleagues had this in mind—none other than Mr. Lloyd George, and six lines were a sufficient shot across the bows to alert the country about the possibilities of the further corruption of the House of Commons if there were to be a nominated and salaried second Chamber, to use the words of the mover, the hon. Member for Fife, West.
It is said that nobody would behave as Mr. Lloyd George did behave. That may be true. It may be that the shadow of Maundy Gregory no longer lurks in the coulisses of this place. Nevertheless, we have some experience of patronage in recent years.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
Whatever he created, I think there was no doubt that he created too many, and too many bad ones, but I think my point remains that in those days it required only six lines of a long Report to dismiss the scheme which the Government are now putting forward. I suggest that the same circumstances, though not the same corruption, exists today, and I do not think that a distinguished supervisory commission which the White Paper envisages will be a sufficient sanction.
We know the extent to which the Administration have been swollen in recent years. The numbers in the Administration at present, salaried and nominated, are enormous, and this does not give us any great confidence that the powers of patronage will not be used or that any committee could stop them from being used in the way that many hon. Members on the back benches opposite have so vividly described from their personal experiences in the last year or two. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton 1247 (Mr. Heffer) was particularly effective in his example of what happened to him personally.
It is asking too much of human nature to suppose that on a Division such as we are to have tomorrow night the lure of £2,000 a year, for that is the figure that is often mentioned, for about eight to 12 hours a week, for perhaps 12 years, is not very considerable indeed. Anything which increases the power of patronage, which I hold to be too great already over Members of the House, perhaps not very large in bulk, but it will loom very large in the prospects of many hon. Members, condemns these proposals. I think that it would make quite a good House of Lords, but it would make a very bad House of Commons, and to my mind the House of Commons is more important than the House of Lords.
I do not altogether agree with the objection to the Chamber that is suggested. Indeed, I think that it would be an extremely ingenious one, but to my mind it is nullified and the scales are tipped against the proposals because of this dangerous suggestion.
In opening the debate the right hon. Gentleman said that it was incumbent on those who disapprove of this power of nomination, as Lord Bryce and his Committee certainly did, to propose alternatives. I am not sure that that is so, but assuming it is let us examine the suggestions put forward by Lord Bryce. He examined them all. First, he examined the possibility of direct election. He came down against it because he said it would lead to the familiar dilemma that the upper Chamber in those circumstances would either be a rubber stamp, that is to say, a mint reflection of this Chamber, in which case it was unnecessary, or it would be opposed to this Chamber, in which case it would be very dangerous indeed.
The right hon. Gentleman dismissed it on the ground that it was suitable only for countries which indulged in the doctrine of the separation of powers, which followed the theories of de Tocqueville and others, and was suitable for the United States and for other federal systems.
I do not think that it has anything to do with the separation of power. The upper and lower Chambers are both part 1248 of a Legislature and the separation of powers is a doctrine that deals with the Executive and the judiciary, and not with the composition of the Legislature. That was, therefore, a foolish criticism.
There are plenty of second Chambers which are elected and which are not the product of federal constitutions. Most of the Europeans—the Low Countries and others—have second Chambers which have nothing to do with a federal system. Nevertheless, Lord Bryce rejected these suggestions and, although I regard them as far better than the nominated and salaried suggestion, he nevertheless did not like them; and who am I to quarrel with him?
Then Lord Bryce and his colleagues dismissed the election by local authorities, and on this one I am with their recommendation 100 per cent. God forbid that we should have that system of indirect election when, undoubtedly, there would be placed in the Upper House those members of local authorities whom the local authorities wished, for one reason or another, to shuffle off into honourable retirement.
Lord Bryce also discussed at great length—and none of this seems to appear in the White Paper, although it is extremely interesting—the idea of selection by a Joint Standing Committee of both Houses. I will not weary the House with that. Then came two systems, which are very interesting indeed, of election by the House of Commons, either directly—which he rejected on the grounds that it would become a purely party contest—or for hon. Members of the House of Commons to be divided into groups representing certain large divisions of the country, roughly today what we would describe as the regions, where they would meet in such groups to elect the persons whom they held to be best fitted to serve in the second Chamber.
It was considered by Lord Bryce that the dangers to which he had referred—of party contests, and so on—would be less likely to arise. They would be able to meet in friendly discussion and compromise to select persons who would better represent the different political parties from among men not active in party politics, but able, from their local knowledge and service, to consider current questions in a fair and impartial spirit.
1249 This was referred to as the "group scheme"—a scheme of election by geographical groups of hon. Members of the House of Commons, and that suggestion obtained the largest support of any other system. This was dismissed by the right hon. Gentleman earlier as being "abstruse and academic"—and so, in a sense, it is, but at least it would not produce the sort of corruption of our public life which I fear the present White Paper will indubitably do.
I suggest, therefore—if the Government will take these proposals back and think about them again—that there is a lot to be said for that scheme; certainly more than there is to be said for the White Paper, though not as much as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) suggested in "leaving matters as they are".
If one is to leave matters as they are, then that should be done only until the Constitutional Commission has reported. In any event, the Government must widen the terms of reference of this Commission to consider the central part of the constitution. Having set up a Commission to consider the Constitution, how can the Government withdraw from the consideration of that Commission the most important, the heart, of our Constitution? We look forward to the Government's saying tomorrow—there would be no shame in this—that they have decided to reconsider the whole matter.
This is something which I would very much welcome, not only because I do not like this system but because it is quite right that Governments should put these large proposals before the House of Commons for our consideration without committing themselves to those proposals and then when they discover, as they must have discovered today, that a very large proportion of the House dislikes the proposals, there is no shame involved in taking them away and thinking of them again.
That is what we are here for. That is what the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) said. He said in a very moving way that, having fought a hard election in 1964 and thinking that he had come here and won, he finds that he had to fight the battle for democracy all over again once he was 1250 here. Let him hope that this experience we have had today means that the fight in future will not be quite as heavy again as it has been in his life and perhaps in mine.
Today, within this Chamber, we have struck a considerable blow for democracy. Here has been a most remarkable debate with opinions going right across, and diagonally across, the Chamber, and no one can say that it has not been an exhiliarating experience to listen to it. The White Paper has had a trouncing. It has had an undeserved trouncing in many of its details because many of the proposals are ingenious and good. I think that the removal of the time delay on delegated legislation is a mistake, and that it is really an outrage to have tried to rush this thing through and make it effective before the next election.
Apart from that, and even apart from what I regard as the greatest objection of all, namely, the nominated and salaried Chamber, the proposals were extremely ingenious and good. In a way, I feel somewhat ashamed and sorry that those on both Front Benches who did such hard work in forming the later proposals should have had such a raw deal. But they should now admit that they were mistaken, that they misjudged the view of the House. In those circumstances, I think that they should take the proposals back.
I should say one last thing which does not have much to do with the debate. What I would say at this hour, Mr. Speaker, is this. Even though I think that the upper House should be elected in one form or another, if it is to be reformed, this may not apply to the same extent to the "cross-bencher" proposals. The idea of election of cross-benchers is really a contradiction in terms if people care to pause to think about it. There is a case for their nomination, but that depends on the whole scheme—which has been riddled to sinking point—going through. But if it is to continue I hope that there will be elections of the party members, or elections for all except a reserved number of seats—perhaps the 30 proposed in the White Paper. But I think that if they are to remain as cross-benchers, they must be nominated.
1251 We would give tension to the difference between the Lords by giving a long period of service to the elected members. As Lord Bryce suggested, they should be elected for periods of 12 years with the sort of rotation they have in the Senate in the United States; that is to say, one third retiring every four years. In the United States, one third re tire every two years but our circumstances are not the same.
The Bryce Commission suggested that these elections by geographical groups of Members of the House of Commons should be for periods of 12 years but that there should be a roulement, and one third should retire every four years. One can, of course, elaborate that like the Abbe Siéyés indefinitely—he was a great constitution maker—and it is everyone' privilege and fun to make his own constitution with his own kith.
|That this House wishes to congratulate all the police who were on duty in London on 27th October 1968 for their efficiency good discipline and tolerance under great provocation; requests Mr. Speaker to send a letter of commendation on behalf of the whole House to all concerned especially thanking those who gave up their leave periods to be on duty; and furthermore wishes to place on record their admiration of the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who in the interests of the liberty of all Her Majesty's subjects decided not to invoke his powers to ban the demonstration.|
§ I beg formally to move the Motion.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I announce that I have not selected the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis): In line 1, after 'congratulate', insert'the Government, the Home Secretary and'.and in line 5, after 'of', insert'the Government, the Home Secretary and'.
§ Question put and agreed to.