HL Deb 19 May 1993 vol 545 cc1780-813

5.32 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale rose to call attention to the "Salisbury doctrine" and other practices which qualify the House of Lords' parliamentary role; and to move for Papers.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships have just debated the momentous issues.of socialism and democracy. I am asking your Lordships to focus more narrowly on the various practices which inhibit noble Lords from playing their full parliamentary role. There are about half a dozen issues of great constitutional importance which are calling urgently for the consideration of a Royal Commission. Among them, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, just said, is that of the powers and composition of your Lordships' House.

However, I propose to focus today's Motion on the present powers and composition. That inevitably means that there must be less than full deployment of the legal powers at your Lordships' disposal. That is because political society at large has not yet really worked out the place of an elite in a democratic society. Unquestionably, a House which is partly hereditary and partly nominated is an elite. As a result, an elected House seems to have a sort of democratic magic. Whether it has such magic and whether it is truly democratic depends upon two factors: first, how it is elected, as I expect the noble Earl, Lord Russell, will want to remind us in due course; and, secondly, to what extent an elected House transmutes itself into an elite. It has the famous words of Burke as an encouragement to do so when he said to the electors of Bristol: Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion".

One must consider that the other place is not entirely democratic at all times. Nevertheless, there is no question that public opinion views your Lordships' House as having less than complete political credibility. That must affect how your Lordships proceed. I shall therefore be urging not only some extension in the deployment of your Lordships' powers, but also some caution.

I wish to say at the outset how grateful I am that the Motion has attracted the attention of so many eminent students of the constitution. I am especially grateful that two former Leaders of your Lordships' House have put down their names to speak. I am greatly honoured that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord the Chief Whip are to speak at the conclusion of the debate.

The first question is to determine the proper role, or roles, of your Lordships' House. I would put very high, but not really entirely relevant to the subject matter of the debate, your Lordships' role as a great council of state. If one considers the wealth of experience, knowledge and authority that your Lordships bring to bear on finance, economics, defence, foreign affairs, justice and education—indeed, it is hardly possible to come to the end of the list—no other deliberative assembly in the world can match that experience and authority in those respects.

However, what is more to the moment is your Lordships' role as a constitutional watchdog. Again, I need not expatiate on that because it has just been admirably expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. Finally, the most of moment question is your Lordships' role as a revising Chamber. I believe that that is universally conceded. All too often, I fear, it means merely registering the Government's tinkering with the drafting of a Bill. But there is no question now that your Lordships on occasion, and not infrequently, carry amendments against the Government. That is sometimes put euphemistically—and, I think, very misleadingly—as asking the House of Commons to think again. That implies that it is the Members of the other place who do the thinking, and that the thinking is about the issue implicit in the amendment. But in point of fact neither of those things is true. Your Lordships have only to think of the Further and Higher Education Bill at the end of the last Session when this Chamber, in the teeth of fierce government opposition, wrote an important amendment into the legislation in vindication of academic freedom. The Government accepted that amendment; but they accepted it because a prorogation was pending and if they had resisted it the whole Bill would almost certainly have been lost.

Moreover they did not concede the issue; because in the Education Bill at the moment before your Lordships the Government returned in Clause 1—however, at the moment they are in retreat—to the issue on which they were defeated at the end of the previous Session. That is the important role that is most relevant to what I wanted to submit to your Lordships.

It is most important in respect of delegated legislation. The highly respected chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, Mr. Cryer, has recently drawn attention to the extent and importance of delegated legislation. He did that in evidence before the Hansard Committee and he made a valuable appearance on television. To realise the extent of that legislation, one has only to consider the last year—oddly enough that was as long ago as 1989—for which all the statutory instruments have been published. There are seven massive volumes of them as against three volumes of statutes and ecclesiastical measures, plus one index.

Your Lordships will appreciate the vast extent of the legislation that affects the citizens of this country. As for the importance of that legislation, the Child Support Bill, which is now the Child Support Act, was virtually only a skeleton measure. Everything effective was to be done by subordinate legislation. Only last Monday your Lordships considered subordinate legislation relating to such important matters as marine pollution and the rights or the duties of citizens—or the burden on them—to be wheel-clamped. One could go on almost indefinitely.

The reason, of course, why government departments like to proceed by subordinate legislation is that it avoids the gauntlet of statutory procedures; it is unamendable; and, if there is a negative procedure, the House of Commons is frequently bypassed. Above all, if the legislation is wrong and causes injustice or hardship, the statutory instrument can simply be withdrawn and a new one laid. If some people in the meantime have suffered hardship and injustice, there is the homely and rather heartless phrase about having to break eggs in order to make omelettes.

I place very high in the duties of your Lordships' House the increasing scrutiny of subordinate legislation. I need not go in detail into your Lordships' powers and inhibitions because a most valuable memorandum has been produced by the Clerk of the Parliaments. It is dated last February and I understand it is freely available. At any rate I have been told I can refer to it. The inhibitions of your Lordships' House are largely the following. Your Lordships do not as a matter of practice vote down a statutory instrument. The last occasion when that was done was in 1968 on the Southern Rhodesia order.

In addition, as I have said, your Lordships cannot amend a statutory instrument. I urge your Lordships to do two things. The first is to adopt what has been done by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, on several occasions, and that is to move and support a resolution recommending amendments in a statutory instrument. That has been to a great degree successful. The other course is to adjourn consideration of the measure. That almost always evokes government action.

I pass shortly and quickly to the Salisbury doctrine; namely, that your Lordships do not vote against the Second Reading of a Bill which is foreshadowed in the election manifesto. I do not think any of your Lordships would have doubted that measure at the time it was propounded, when there was a Labour Government with a strong majority in the other place and a reforming programme and an overwhelming Conservative majority in your Lordships' House. I think your Lordships would readily agree that that was a very sensible proposal.

Of course it is arguable that now your Lordships' House is differently constituted your Lordships can abandon that course. I myself would venture to counsel against that. There are several circumstances in which your Lordships can undoubtedly vote against a Second Reading—for example, on a Private Member's Bill, on a free vote of the other place and on other such occasions. I only want to mention two circumstances where it would involve a breach of the Salisbury doctrine to do so. One is where a Bill is quite outrageous constitutionally. I have mentioned the Child Support Act. Not only was it a skeleton Act but it committed practically every constitutional enormity in the book.

The other circumstance where your Lordships can properly refuse a Second Reading is when your Lordships are given insufficient time to discuss a measure of great importance. I think, on reflection, we ought to have voted against the Education Bill on the ground that prolonging discussion until the early hours of the morning was an abuse of your Lordships' House. I beg to move for Papers.

5.48 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I am sure your Lordships, regardless of the views they hold, are very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for instituting this debate on a subject on which he is of course an acknowledged authority. I am sure that it is a most useful debate following the one which we have just participated in.

This debate is concerned with the effective working of your Lordships' House. This is of very great importance both to the general constitutional situation in the country and to your Lordships' House itself. On the first matter, as has already been mentioned, there are people who contemplate, and indeed advocate, very considerable changes in your Lordships' House, or indeed its abolition. To them the only answer can be the effective working of the House. Is it doing a good job, and can it do an even better one? Its procedure certainly is of very great relevance from this point of view.

Therefore, I say both to those of your Lordships who favour radical or revolutionary reform and to those who, like myself, believe that the present structure of our parliamentary system is about right that in both cases we must surely be concerned to see that the system works well. If it is to work well it has to be looked at from time to time.

The Motion refers to the "Salisbury doctrine" and the splendid job of work which the late Lord Salisbury did on that occasion. That was undoubtedly right at the time. However, events have moved on. The pressures on your Lordships' House in terms of the pressure of legislation, the pressure of work and the pressure of the demands of public opinion have all greatly increased. Therefore, it is singularly appropriate that we should now examine the situation to see whether our rules, principles and practices are appropriate for the current situation. That has a bearing, first, on our being able to do a good job, and, secondly, on what public opinion may or may not feel is the proper future and shape of this House. Therefore, I propose to touch on one or two specific points where it seems to me that there are matters which your Lordships may wish very carefully to consider.

First, I should like to contest the view which has recently been expressed by the Select Committee on Procedure that if an issue has not been debated for many years then it should not be debated at all. That seems a very restrictive and out-of-date approach. First, it eliminates the possibility that our predecessors had been wrong not to debate it. The doctrine of the infallibility of our predecessors is not really sustainable. Secondly, circumstances change. As I ventured to say a moment ago, circumstances have changed since the Salisbury advice was given. We may feel that it is necessary to modify views, such as the one I quoted, which date back to that period.

The question which then. arises is which matters should be debated. I accept, as I believe most of your Lordships accept, the general provisions of the Parliament Act that we cannot and should not amend a money Bill and, as my noble and learned friend said, that we certainly should not reject a Bill which is an election manifesto Bill. However, beyond that there are difficult questions as to the extent to which your Lordships' House should be prepared to reject legislation coming from another place.

A classic example, to which my noble and learned friend did not refer, was the Bill dealing with war crimes, which your Lordships' House rejected emphatically and which nonetheless another place, by a rather unusual use of its powers under the Parliament Act, eventually passed over our heads. The fact that since then many millions of pounds of public money have been spent without, so far as I know, a single person being brought to trial, and it has been condemned as an unfair and unsound legal procedure by most of the leading legal figures in this country, shows that we were right.

It is perhaps ironic that after spending millions of pounds not only have proceedings not even been started against anybody, but I see from the press that in Australia the other day somebody was brought to trial and was acquitted. The jury said that it was absurd to try a man for offences alleged to have been committed such a long time ago and, therefore, was not prepared to convict him. It is quite possible that if anybody was ever brought to trial here an English jury would take the same view.

There is also the question, which we have already discussed on a number of occasions, of our treatment of the Consolidated Fund Bill. Here again the attitude of the Procedure Committee has shown excessive concern for the well-being and comfort of the usual channels and rather less for the legislative role of this House. The Consolidated Fund Bill is of enormous importance. Although, being a money Bill, it is not one which your Lordships can or should attempt to reject, with the enormous volume of experience of economics and public and private finance which we have in this House, your Lordships could contribute usefully to discussion of the Bill.

Here again I must be critical of the Procedure Committee because one of its reasons for rejecting the proposal that the Bill should be debated was that it came to us at very short notice. I ventured to inquire of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees whether inquiries had been made as to whether there was any procedural or practical necessity for the shortness of notice. I was informed that no such inquiry had been made. It does not seem to me that there could be the slightest difficulty in arranging for information that that Bill was on its way to be given in due time.

Therefore, I hope that your Lordships' House will feel that it is wrong to debar debate on such issues, whether or not we can vote on them or defeat them, because your Lordships' House can contribute so much by way of knowledge and experience. This House can contribute so much more to discussion of such matters than is available in another place or anywhere else in this country. Even if that discussion does not result in the immediate amendment of the measure, it puts into circulation ideas, criticisms and thoughts about the matter which will be of the greatest use in the future. Therefore, I suggest with great respect that your Lordships' House should be given the maximum opportunity to debate such measures, even though they may be measures which for one reason or another your Lordships' House cannot reject.

I shall raise a question which perhaps my noble friend the Chief Whip can answer. Your Lordships' House very properly debated the Disability (Grants) Bill, which is a very interesting and important social measure. In the course of the Second Reading debate a most moving and effective speech was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton. However, for some reason all the remaining stages of that Bill were not taken. Again, that curtails the debating opportunities of this House totally unnecessarily. It is the greatest pity.

Finally, I am very glad that my noble friend the Chief Whip is on the Front Bench because our great problem is the increasing shortage of Ministers in this House. During the 20 or so years that I have been a Member of this House the number of senior Ministers in the House has been steadily reduced. We now have only two members of the Cabinet, of which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is one. In the nature of things, being on the Woolsack most of the time, he has some difficulty in taking part in debates except on wholly legal matters. We are also very short of senior Ministers of State.

I am full of admiration for the way in which our young junior Ministers participate, sometimes not even being in the department involved. They are exposed to unnecessary strain; and it is no criticism of them that they are unable to contribute to our debates quite as effectively as perhaps one might hope. Therefore I leave with my noble friend the Chief Whip the thought that Her Majesty's Government should be advised that if your Lordships' House is to work as it should we must have more Ministers, more senior Ministers and representation of all the government departments, including the Treasury.

6 p.m.

Lord Shackleton

My Lords, the reason that I wished to take part in the debate is because I am one of the few Members who knew Lord Salisbury. I arrived in the House conscious that Lord Salisbury was a great figure, a very reactionary figure and one to be ignored. I was not here long before I realised that he taught us one of the great qualities of your Lordships: good manners. I received a letter from him when I was about to make a speech. He apologised that he could not be present for it. His contribution to your Lordships' House in terms of manners as well as procedure was profound. I hope that that will be remembered. There will not be many of us—my noble friend Lord Longford is one—who served when Lord Salisbury was Leader of the House.

I was Leader of the House at one time when we had to apply our procedures in difficult circumstances. We managed well largely because we contrived to speak in a friendly way to our opponents. There was a degree of understanding in another place which is not so strong now as it was when we were there. That is a fundamental point in the working and procedure of the House. It is very satisfactory that so many noble Lords are at present listening to the debate.

Lord Salisbury produced a solution that made it possible for this House to function and to do its duty as well as it could under difficult circumstances. That has not been entirely honoured by all parties. Indeed, I would hesitate to say that the Salisbury doctrine is a valid doctrine: it certainly is not recorded officially anywhere. I believe therefore that the consideration of our procedures, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is necessary. At one time it was suggested that there should be consideration by the Procedure Committee. That consideration never took place, I believe probably rightly, because the system was narrow and it was difficult to weigh matters fully in the atmosphere at the time. However, I believe that it will be necessary to carry out some procedure. We have to live with certain anomalies, in particular with regard to the statutory instruments, which are unsatisfactory. We are rather dishonest about it. We had better recognise that and give some further thought to tackling the problem.

However, a major change will mean a major constitutional change. I do not believe that we are ready for that yet. I hope that the Labour Party is producing a good and useful system which will contribute to an understanding of the right constitutional role of the Second Chamber. However, I doubt whether it will come into much powerful effect in my lifetime. Therefore I believe that it is worthwhile to ask the Procedure Committee to consider what is said in the debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, certainly opened my eyes to certain subjects, as did the noble and learned Lord who initiated the debate, much to our advantage. There is no simple solution. Ours is a procedure which is difficult to understand and in which not many Peers take an interest. We want to foster interest in procedure. More Peers ought to take an interest. The debates arising from the reports of the Procedure Committee are rather perfunctory.

Much can be done by example. In that respect I believe that the responsibility of the Leader of the House and the Tory Chief Whip is fundamental to carrying improvements in the House. Advised by the excellent Clerks who give us ideas, I hope that they will give some attention to the issue, bearing in mind that the fundamental nature of the Salisbury reforms was based on the good manners and good understanding which existed in your Lordships' House.

6.4 p.m.

Lord Rippon of Hexham

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is grateful for the way in which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has introduced the debate, and I thank him for raising what we all understand are important constitutional issues. I would accept that the main role of the House is to improve and amend Bills either by vote or by persuasion. What I would not accept in 1993 is the doctrine of the mandate in quite the simplistic terms expressed by Lord Salisbury in his statement in 1964 which is reported in Hansard, 4th November 1964, col. 66, which indicated that the decision of the House should be taken merely by reference to an election manifesto.

In modern times election manifestos, as I know, have become increasingly long and turgid and are rarely read even by candidates themselves. Moreover, the Bills that are subsequently produced in alleged furtherance of a manifesto pledge often bear little or no relation to the one or two lines or paragraphs presented notionally to the electors. I believe that there is therefore much merit in the suggestion by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that one might consider that there is a right to delay if insufficient time has been provided to anybody inside or outside Parliament to consider measures of great importance, even if they are briefly referred to in an election manifesto.

The doctrine of the mandate should apply only where (as, perhaps, I may suggest, in the case of the Maastricht Bill) a party has made its policy perfectly clear at a general election; or where (again as in the case of the Maastricht Bill) there has been a full discussion of the issue in another place. If the power to delay a Bill is one to be used only rarely, I do not believe that any such inhibition should necessarily apply to amendments, in particular those designed to limit the power of the Executive. In that connection I hope that the House may be helped from time to time by the work of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. The growth in the volume of delegation in recent years has been enormous. Last year the total number of statutory instruments exceeded 3,000 for the first time. The total was 3,359. The first four months of this year show an even higher rate of output—1,192 to the end of April.

We are always talking about the bureaucracy in Brussels. We ought to take more notice of what goes on in Whitehall. I am told that Counsel to the Speaker and Counsel to the Chairman of Committees in this House, and their staff, are absolutely overwhelmed by the volume of instruments that they are asked to consider, working even at weekends and sometimes on holidays.

In certain circumstances, it seems that this House may decide that there should be no delegation. But, where they agree that delegation is perfectly proper, it is not, in my judgment, sufficient to say, "Oh, well, is it to be negative or is it to be affirmative?" when there is no vote in either case. In practice, the affirmative procedure amounts to "Take it or leave it", and the negative to "Take it and be damned". I agree entirely with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said—that we should at least be prepared from time to time to move a recommendation for amendment or to move adjournment for further consideration. I believe that I am right in saying that power has occasionally been given to both Houses of Parliament to approve a draft order in Council or draft departmental order with modifications. In such cases, orders could only be made with such modifications as have been agreed by both Houses, as was done, for example, under the Ministry of Health Act 1919 and the Government of India Act 1919. I am afraid that I cannot find any more recent examples, but there may be future occasions when such a procedure might be considered by the authorities.

However, the mischief in modern legislation, it seems to me, goes deeper. I do not wish to dwell today upon the increase in quantity and the decline in quality of legislation. We have debated that on other occasions and we shall no doubt do so again. I hope that in due course the report of the Hansard Society Commission on the Legislative Process, which I had the honour to chair and on which served representatives from both Houses of Parliament, a former Permanent Secretary, a former Chief Parliamentary Counsel, and others of distinction, will be found to contain some recommendations that will commend themselves to your Lordships.

However, what certainly deserves study is the evidence presented to the commission which is annexed to the report—and it can be read in the Library—which comes from a whole variety of responsible bodies. Virtually without exception, they complain about lack of consultation before Bills are introduced, although some departments—including the Inland Revenue—do better than others. They complain of lack of time between the stages of Bills to consider amendments and deal with the practicalities of understanding implementation and enforcement. Reference has been made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter to the Disability (Grants) Bill. Time and again, we are simply not getting the legislation right.

Thus, the Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales told the commission how, in the recent past, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act 1991 provide examples of legislation in which there was little time given for in-depth consideration. There was no consultation or inadequate consultation about the 1989 Act on public order relating to gypsies and travellers and the Road Traffic Act 1991. In all cases, the police were asked to be responsible for matters for which they quite clearly did not even have the resources. They would have advised about the difficulties if they had had time to consider the legislation. Again, they are concerned, like other bodies, about the lack of consultation which takes place if, in the course of the passage of a Bill through Parliament, clauses are added or other amendments made which considerably alter the Bill's effect. We know from our recent experience that time and again government amendments alone far exceed in length Bills which themselves run into hundreds of pages.

Apart from the particular examples given by bodies such as the police, there is the more general mischief that all too frequently no sooner has a statute been enacted than it may be subject to massive amendment, as in the case of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and, of course, as we know, there is another one coming along soon.

We are sometimes told that correctness and certainty must be sacrificed to speed. The programme must be got through by the end of the Session at all costs, regardless of all considerations. There is therefore one particular recommendation in the Hansard Society Commission's report which I commend to your Lordships. It is that we should move towards the adoption of a two-year legislation programme. If our parliamentary sweatshop is to perform the proper function of amending and improving Bills, I believe that there must be an adequate interval between the stages of important Bills.

The present one-year legislative programme both delays and compresses the drafting stage in some cases and leads to under-prepared Bills being presented to Parliament. If there were a rolling programme, that would not necessarily prevent the Government bringing forward urgent legislation. In fact, it could not do that. The Government must be responsible for their programme. But if we plan a more thorough examination of the Bills that come before us—and a rolling programme is one way of doing that—we would at least allay some of the very serious concerns that are now being expressed right across the board by one organisation or another outside Parliament.

6.15 p.m.

The Earl of Strafford

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for introducing the debate, which I believe is especially important at this time.

Perhaps the root cause of our problem goes back to the bruising battles which culminated in the Parliament Act 1911 which marked the political supremacy of the Commons. Since then, the other place has got us in a psychological half-nelson. We have been told repeatedly that we should not really be here, so we tend to tiptoe about, afraid to make too much noise in case we are noticed and given our marching orders.

A factor which undoubtedly inhibits us is the acceptance of the conventional wisdom that election rather than nomination is a superior form of selection. That may seem sound in theory; in practice it is not. An elected second Chamber would result at this moment in the Members of both Houses of Parliament being fettered by party politics. One of the most valuable side effects of the present composition of this House is that party politics are muffled. The country likes it that way.

It is certainly instructive in this context that, in a recent Gallup poll in which people were asked to state whether they had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in 10 of our leading institutions with which they came into contact, the results were as follows. The Army came top with 82 per cent. closely followed by the police with 74 per cent. Parliament trailed third from bottom with a modest 24 per cent.; only the trade unions and the press scored less.

Another poll which compared people's evaluation of politicians in general and their own MPs in particular came up with an interesting fact. Politicians as a group scored very badly, individual MPs, surprisingly well. Both of those polls were aimed at the Commons and suggest that a major problem is party politics and the party politician playing "party games". People can accept this in moderation but the continual din of party politics turns them off. This House is perceived to be largely above all that.

However, back to that psychological half-nelson which inhibits us. The position has changed and changed dramatically. First, in 1968 the Government of the day, with our co-operation, proposed a radical overhaul of this House. They failed to get it through the Commons. That established that we were not against reform as such. Secondly, and of far more significance was the introduction of the first Life Peers 10 years previously. It has been noted that this House has steadily shown more confidence during the past decade and that is clearly the result of the increasing impact made by successive waves of Life Peers who now play the major role in our activities. The result of that influx of talent has been to give the House a massive blood transfusion. It has also been an important way of ensuring a voice for groups in our society who are not adequately represented in the Commons. In this context, it is certainly no accident that there are so many able and articulate women on all sides of the House and that they play such a prominent role on the Front Benches.

We are in the middle of a gradual evolution of an institution with a 600 year-old history and very deep roots in our society. It is worth remembering that the hereditary principle was considered quite normal for most of this period and that the transition to Life Peerages only started in 1958.

In this evolutionary process several issues deserve our attention. First, the privilege of voting should be separated from the right to attend and the right to speak. A shrewd comment has been made that those who attend are effective; those who are disinterested stay at home. A low threshold of, say, 10 visits during the previous Session of Parliament would give an entitlement to vote. It would certainly weed out the true backwoodsmen. Raised to 15, the threshold would involve a visit only once every two weeks.

Secondly, the representation of women in this House must reflect their increasing role and status in our society. The obvious imbalance is that at present no more than 3 per cent. of hereditary peerages are open to women. A variation on the Hereditary Peerages Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, would start that particular ball rolling by creating an option that, if a Peer had no sons, his title could be passed to his eldest daughter. I believe that all Peers who are sympathetic to an hereditary element being retained in this House would come to accept that such a reform is not only essential but highly desirable.

Thirdly, on the Salisbury convention, I accept the words of caution from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, on this subject. But I remember him saying a few weeks ago that conventions, if they are not really necessary, can be discarded. I believe that the Salisbury convention no longer applies and its continued usage masks an important function of this House. A Peer's Writ of Summons includes the phrase, "to give your counsel". In other words, we have an advising as well as a revising role. That can take the form of our right to send any Bill back to the Commons, which is in effect asking them to think again. We are fulfilling our duty as a watchdog. Sending a Bill back is merely a bark to alert both the Commons and the public that all is not well. This six months' pause is only a modest gesture. But we shall have made our point, and it will have been noticed outside the Palace of Westminster. It does not have to become a great constitutional issue. The weakness of the present system is that under the umbrella of the manifesto, the Government can claim that they have a mandate to push through whatever tickles their fancy.

Fourthly, on the selection of Life Peers, the present system puts too much patronage in the hands of the Prime Minister. A solution would be to extend the powers of the Honours Scrutiny Committee and give it a more formal structure. It could advise on the balance of party membership in the House and the range of expertise available and lacking. The system has worked very well in the past few years, but in the 1980s it was not as impartial as it should have been.

Fifthly, I refer to the role of the Cross-Benchers. Apparently we are very unusual. There is no group quite like us in any other parliamentary system. Among our Members are people of exceptional ability. As independents we soften party politics and act as a jury. Our numbers have grown. In the past 19 years that the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, has been our convenor they have nearly tripled from just under 100 to nearly 300.

I believe that new hereditary Peers, unless they have strong political affiliations, should be encouraged to sit on these Benches—to start with anyway. They will get a more detached view of our proceedings and may discover that genuine independence is not a prize to be given up lightly. A shift in that direction would be healthy because the built-in advantage that the Conservatives have because of the hereditary Peers does not make for balance or harmony.

All institutions, like species, have to change to survive. It must be a continuous process. The challenge for us is how to preserve the best of the past and adapt to the needs of the future. If we do not have sufficient resolve to change, the job will be done for us, and will probably be done badly.

6.24 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I was very interested in what the noble Earl said about the composition and character of your Lordships' House. I had to help the late Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, when he was Home Secretary, pilot the Life Peerages Bill 1958 through another place. I must confess that it has wonderfully transformed this House without creating, so far as I am aware, any disadvantage to it. It has widened and enriched the composition of the House, as I believe the noble Earl indicated. I was glad to hear him say that he feels that we are now, as a result, a more confident Chamber. In addition to the experience that we obtain from former Cabinet Ministers and other more humble people like myself coming from another place, the hereditary peerage gives us the advantage of youth to a greater extent than the other place has. So we have the benefit of both youth and experience. That should not make us complacent about our composition and our powers, but we are entitled to have it acknowledged.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has, I suggest, done more in the past 20 years than anyone else to try to improve our ways in constitutional, legislative and procedural matters.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Renton

The members of the Committee on Preparation of Legislation, of which I had the honour to be chairman, are especially grateful to him for his constant support in trying to improve the quality of primary legislation in accordance with our recommendations. Not enough of the important ones have been accepted, alas. But I hope that the Hansard Society Commission's report, of which my noble friend Lord Rippon was the chairman, will have a better fate. It certainly implements a great deal of what we said.

Primary legislation has for many years become more detailed, more complicated, longer and more obscure. The basic intentions of Parliament contained in it are less ascertainable. That is a pity because, if we are to have that great mass of detail, we should have some broad idea of what Parliament intends to be the result of imposing it.

In this matter, parliamentary draftsmen are in my opinion more sinned against than sinning. They have to follow the instructions given to them by civil servants. In my experience, Ministers have come into the matter at too late a stage; and I believe that that is so now. But the great mass of detailed and complicated legislation has added to the importance of your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber.

My noble friend Lord Rippon gave us good examples of legislation which was badly digested before it received Royal Assent. One of the causes is that Members of another place have become so much involved in the important work of departmentally related Select Committees and in other time-consuming and unavoidable activities that they have not always had the time, even if they had the inclination—which they do not always have—to scrutinise legislation as it should be done. So your Lordships' work in doing so is vital.

As a result of what we do, in every Session for some years thousands of amendments have been made to legislation by your Lordships. Sometimes that has meant, as has been mentioned, reversing decisions of another place. But I am glad to say that more often than not our contrary view has been accepted.

There is only one point which I would dare to dispute with the noble and learned Lord; that is when he poured scorn on the expression "asking the House of Commons to think again". I do not know any better way of expressing it. If he could tell me of one, I should be very glad. I believe that the most important power we have is to ask the House of Commons to think again, while it must have the last word, however great the quality of this Chamber compared with another place, because it is elected by the people.

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Hesketh will reply to the debate. In doing so, if he were able to give us any facts and figures about the extent to which our advice to another place on legislation has been accepted or rejected, it would be helpful and indeed valuable.

So much for primary legislation. I turn now, as other noble Lords have done, to our attitude toward secondary legislation. In doing so, I should like to acknowledge the joint efforts of the noble and learned Lord and my noble friend Lord Rippon in persuading the Government to make more restrained use of Henry VIII clauses, the extensive use of which for amending legislation has been quite unjustified for many years—although in minor ways it has been accepted and should be accepted as inevitable. For example, in fiscal legislation when a particular amount in terms of money has been inserted in a Bill, even though it is only in a schedule, inflation may cause that sum to be revised without bringing the matter before Parliament and troubling Parliament with a Bill. Indeed, it may be a mistake to wait too long before such amendment is made. Therefore to that minor extent a Henry VIII clause is necessary.

But one has to accept that when legislation goes into the masses of detail that I mentioned, Bills would be even longer than they are if secondary legislation, including Henry VIII clauses, were not used to some extent. What is important is that the delegated power to use it should not be abused. The report of the Jellicoe Committee was extremely valuable because it recommended the appointment of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee—again, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Rippon—which has already produced its first report; namely, on the Education Bill.

But when we find that a piece of secondary legislation is for some reason unsatisfactory, we should use the power, which constitutionally we have, to vote against it. It is only an outworn convention that prevents us from doing so. Is it not a ridiculous paradox that we ask the House of Commons to think again dozens of times in every Session but do not do so with regard to secondary legislation? I hope that the usual channels will get together and try to reach some agreement on this outworn convention and that we shall hear more about it in quite a positive way. I strongly support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, on this issue.

Those are the matters that I wish to mention. I conclude by saying that it is becoming increasingly understood by the public that your Lordships' House has a very valuable part to play. I find in perhaps casual conversation but conversation with a good many people of various kinds that there is no great clamour for revision of the composition of your Lordships' House. People accept that the House of Commons should have the last word but they increasingly recognise and welcome the value of the work done by your Lordships. We must take the fullest advantage of that.

6.35 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, paid a well justified tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for his work in this House over the past 20 years. I gladly join in that tribute. I pay a similar compliment in slightly different terms to the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Some of us who have been in this House for a long time occasionally find ourselves giving advice to young Members on how to proceed. The advice is not always asked for and certainly not always taken but sometimes it is given. In recent times the advice I have given to young Members is to model themselves on the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I hope that if there are some novices present—I look round and see one or two—they will have listened to his speech today with the usual benefit.

I hope that the House will allow me to interpret the phrase the "Salisbury doctrine" in slightly different terms so that it enables me to supplement what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I hope that it will not be mere repetition. His performance as Leader of the House filled me with undisguised envy. The noble Lord referred to Lord Salisbury in his contribution. I should like to dwell a little more fully on that time because I came to the House in 1945 when I saw him acting as Leader of the Opposition and before that he had been Leader of the House. His contribution was twofold: one was what one might call social and the other political.

Socially he made us all feel equally welcome. That may sound fairly obvious now but when I came to this House in 1945 there were only a handful of Labour Members. The place was overflowing with Conservatives. The Independents, apart from the Bishops and the Law Lords, hardly existed and the Liberals were not very numerous. Today I consulted Vacher's to see the figures for the distribution of the House but it did not even bother to give them. It was just assumed that overall it was Conservative. I suppose that one cannot find those figures. That was the situation. It might have been a very hard time for the little handful of Labour Members. Lord Salisbury made us all feel at home and realise that we were Members of a friendly society. Lord Addison also played a very big part in the formation of the post-war House with the Leader of the Labour Party. But Lord Salisbury, inevitably here at least among the serried ranks of the Conservatives, as the fourth member of his family in succession to be Leader of the House, had a unique position and he used that influence entirely for the good.

So this House became then and it has remained since the least snobbish society in the world. I say that with confidence. It may be thought that that is only what one might expect from civilised gentlemen but it might not have been so. We owe a great debt to Lord Salisbury. That is one part of what I call the "Salisbury doctrine".

The other part is, in a way, rather more interesting. I shall tell one story to illustrate what I mean. There was a much respected Labour Peer who took it on himself as his duty on one occasion to criticise Conservative Members for failing to disclose their interests in Rhodesia in the debate in which they had spoken. Lord Salisbury was one of those concerned. He was not in the House when the criticism was made. There then occurred something that I have never seen before or since in this House. A number of noble Lords stood up and walked out. If I may say so—making a party point—it was not a dignified operation. I was the Leader of the House at the time and was informed that my noble colleague had had a bad time. However, it all finished honourably, otherwise I would not be telling the story.

Lord Salisbury met my Labour friend in the corridor. He went up to him and said, "I gather that our fellows were angry with you for something you said the other day. If you thought that what you said was the truth and right, it was your duty to say it. This is not a club"—though in a sense it may be a better club than any other—"It is a House of Parliament".

That was the double contribution of Lord Salisbury to this House. Though I realise that there are many other aspects of the matter that have been and will be raised today, I felt that that anecdote should be told and be on the record because that is the spirit that has animated this House ever since.

6.41 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords we must all be grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale—not for the first time—for directing our attention to our own proceedings and what governs them. It is a well-known maxim of constitutional historians that the constitution, by and large, emerges in the interstices of procedure. It is procedure and changes in procedure over centuries which have made our Parliament what it is.

One can also have revolution. Everything we discuss today in relation to the Salisbury doctrine, in relation to our rights as a revising Chamber, whether in regard to primary or secondary legislation, is relevant to a House of Lords composed as it is today; that is, of hereditary and nominated persons. However, if, as a result of implementing what I understand to be the policy of the party opposite—the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, will no doubt confirm that when he speaks—that were to be replaced by an elected Chamber, all this would fall away.

In every country in which there is a bicameral legislature with two Chambers, most attention is paid to conflicts between them. Those conflicts are inevitable since both can refer to the ultimate sovereignty of the people that elected them. Therefore we exist at a moment in time when we accept the sovereignty of the people in the sense that the House of Commons must have the last word and has it, in fact, in most cases—if it requires it—under the Parliament Act.

But we must think of how things change even within a House so constituted. It seems to me that in the light of that doctrine we must re-examine the Salisbury doctrine in regard to not opposing what is in a manifesto. As has been pointed out, manifestos are not only documents unknown to the constitution; they are also documents unknown to most voters and, indeed, to many candidates.

What the doctrine meant was not that something appeared in print in a manifesto, but that the country, in the course of a general election, had clearly decided on the issues raised. That is to say, were a Labour Government to be elected next time on a programme of renationalising utilities and, after a hard fought election in which that policy was central to their position, they succeeded in obtaining a majority, clearly an unelected Chamber would have reservations about opposing such a programme.

But that does not always happen. I find myself obliged to disagree with my noble friend Lord Rippon that the Salisbury doctrine could possibly apply to the Bill to implement the unfortunate Treaty of Maastricht. Although that appeared in the manifesto of a governing party, it appeared also in the manifestos of the two opposing parties. To my recollection it was never debated or discussed during the election. The country gave no verdict on it one way or another. The question was whether Mr. Smith's taxation policy was correct and whether the Government had done this or that in relation to one of the public services. Maastricht was a non-issue. Therefore to claim the protection of the Salisbury doctrine for something which the people have not had the opportunity of debating on the hustings, seems to make that doctrine a laughing stock.

Furthermore, although my noble friend Lord Rippon was right to say that it has been exhaustively—or at any rate exhaustingly—discussed in another place, we know, as the presence of the Government spokesman, our own Chief Whip, reminds us, that its success in its various stages in another place was due to whipping of unimagined intensity and indeed ferocity. No one seriously believes that an unwhipped House of Commons would have returned the majority which that Bill received.

Therefore when it comes before us, in my view, we start with a clear field. I am not suggesting—because it would be a constitutional innovation which has nothing to do with the Salisbury doctrine—that we vote against it on Second Reading, tempted though I would be to make my disgust for the Bill clear from the beginning. But it must affect the degree to which we feel able to amend it. Much of the problem that we face, not only in relation to that Bill but also in relation to other Bills, is the question of when the amendment of a government Bill becomes obstruction.

The Government feel totally free to use the amending process. We all know that the absurd Clause I of the Education Bill, to which we will return on Report, was inserted at a late stage in the other place so as to avoid it being debated there. But we gentlemen, unlike Ministers, have more inhibitions in regard to using the amending process. Some people take the view that it should be extremely limited.

My noble friend Lady Blatch (whom I informed that I would be raising this point) wrote to me and said that she regretted she could not be present but had no objection to my raising the matter because she has a reply. The other day in this House, in reference to an amendment which she had described as a "wrecking" amendment, she said, My definition of a wrecking amendment is: this is something the Government want to do; it is something the Opposition do not want to do".—[Official Report, 29/4/93; col. 458.] That makes it a wrecking amendment. If that were taken literally, there would be no role at all for your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber. Subsequently in a letter to me—I gather that my noble friend will be repeating this in some form when we come to debate that unfortunate Bill—she said that that was not really correct. "I withdraw it". Her definition would be that if the House of Lords has passed a Bill on Second Reading, it must be assumed —correctly—to have assented to its principle. Amendments which clearly violate the principle of the Bill then would become wrecking amendments.

It is a difficult area. These words and phrases come into use in the course of debate in which one is more concerned with the actuality of the issue than with the precise constitutional niceties. Having listened to other noble Lords on both sides of the House, there seems to be at least a consensus that this House is a genuine revising Chamber. Clearly, it cannot obstruct or endlessly oppose government measures for which there are majorities in the other place. But particularly at a time of appallingly badly drafted legislation—we owe much to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, for pointing out those deficiencies—a revising Chamber is essential. One of the difficulties which I see about changing the composition of the House, as I mentioned at the beginning, is that an elected Chamber might find it more difficult to act as a revising Chamber because the element of constitutional competition between the two houses might make it much more difficult.

It is also the case that it is only by insisting on and exercising our right to amend such legislation—for example, getting rid of Section 1 of the Education Bill—that we can persuade Ministers to overcome the primary reason for the weakness of so much legislation. As has been pointed out by more than one speaker in this debate, that is their failure to consult the people who can explain to them how the legislation can be made to work. There would have been none of the problems which has occupied myself and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who follows me, as regards the Government and the universities, which have dogged their career in relation to higher education over the past few years, if they had been willing to sit down and consult those who can tell them how universities work and what the universities feel should be the ambit of their responsibilities. I fear that that is probably true concerning legislation and matters about which I know less.

I do not know why the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, cannot be here this afternoon. I understand that Ministers are all very busy. I assume that she is in a school trying to do the testing for herself since the department finds itself unable to get anyone else to do it. A kind of DIY in the DFE would be a valuable contribution to government in this country. I believe that this is a useful occasion for us to point out both what are the responsibilities and the limits of our powers. I hope that noble Lords who have still to speak will follow along that line.

6.53 p.m.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak very briefly in the gap in the list of speakers. I promise that I shall not speak about Maastricht or the Education Bill. I wish to raise a point of view which touches on matters which previous speakers have raised, but from a slightly different angle. That may be of use to your Lordships in deliberation on this very important procedural matter.

I see the Salisbury doctrine as an exercise in self-preservation in the sense that if we have the House of Commons dominated by one particular party and the House of Lords dominated by another, there is a very great risk that with a popular mandate the other place may take the view that either the powers of this Chamber or its very existence, should be done away with. I suspect that that is part of the reason for the emergence of the Salisbury doctrine. It effectively gave an incoming government, which was not of the persuasion of the House of Lords, the opportunity to get through its major pieces of legislation. Therefore they would not need to do anything drastic about this place.

One of my anxieties is what has come out of that process. It is the emergence and development of what is generally described as enabling legislation. Effectively, the government of the day puts through a Bill which gives them powers which they wield through secondary legislation, and statutory instruments which are not very well debated in Parliament and are incapable of amendment. This evening we have had references to the enormous raft of statutory instruments which come before us.

In our deliberations and suggestions for changes in the future, we must be very careful to protect the democracy of this country. One of my anxieties is the way in which legislation goes through the other place first and then comes to this House. Quite often it is then extensively amended. That is the reason for the enabling legislation concept and the statutory instruments because in that process of extensive revision and amendment the Bill may be changed out of all recognition.

The essential factor is that the House of Commons should be seen to be the power in the land. I suggest that our great strength in the House of Lords is as an advisory Chamber. We are in a very strong position because of the membership of this House. It is seen to be fairly independent and comprised of experts in a whole range of subjects. We have tremendous authority and our advice should carry weight. I fear a situation where we are seen to be almost superior to the other place. That situation may arise where the other place passes a Bill and then we are seen to revise it extensively. We shall be seen to be in some way superior. That will do no good for democracy and the good government of this country.

6.58 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, if you should grow useless, you will soon grow burdensome. That warning was delivered to this House by the first Earl of Shaftesbury in 1675. If it is not immediately topical today the credit for that is in no small measure due to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I should like to thank him for introducing this extremely valuable debate.

Before we can take Shaftesbury's advice, most of us have to answer some questions about our legitimacy. I believe that that is a very simple question. If one looks at the Parliament Act of 1911 and of 1949, one will find that in taking away certain powers which we then enjoyed, the other place chose to leave us others. Since they chose to do that, it means that we enjoy those powers now by grant from another place until such time as it chooses to take them away again. So in the meantime we need have no moral or constitutional compunction about using them. The question is normally about the political wisdom of doing so.

Like another place early in the 17th century, we enjoy our title to power from those we are supposed to check. That is a difficult, ambiguous and troublesome tightrope, but it is of the nature of tightropes that one can fall off them on one side or the other, so I think that we should take care on both sides.

I have listened with a great deal of interest to what has been said about the Salisbury doctrine. My own instinct in approaching that is to say that, like other rules, it should be construed to contain the word "normally". During the debate on the Second Reading of the War Crimes Bill, I recall saying that I could not at present imagine circumstances in which I would vote against the Second Reading of a Whipped Government Bill. It is, I think, without contradicting that statement, that I say that were we to have before us a Bill to alter the judges' tenure—to make it, again, during pleasure—even if that Bill had been in a manifesto, I would be very sorely tempted to vote against it.

It may not surprise your Lordships, however, to hear that in the main I want to concentrate on the issue of delegated legislation and to say how much we owe to the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham, and to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. The Secretary of State for Education, in his Swinton Lecture of 1991, claimed that Parliament controls the Executive, but how far does the conduct of the Secretary of State's own department illustrate that principle? I have checked this against a matter of current controversy, the tests under the national curriculum which are now so much in dispute. Perhaps I may reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, by saying that I do not intend to deal with the substance of that issue, but only with the form.

I decided in that context, and remembering that we are sometimes told that we have approved these tests, to look back at our debates of 5th May 1988 to see how far that is the case. In fact, what we approved was a simple statement that there should be assessment, the form of which was to be specified by order by the Secretary of State not subject to any parliamentary proceedings. In the words of the noble Baroness, Lady David: No details are contained in the Bill, which leaves the form of implementation to ministerial orders. Yet the assessment arrangements are central to the direction of the national curriculum. Without at least a broad indication of the Government's thinking, it is impossible for Parliament to judge the practical effect of the legislation". [Official Report, 5/5/88; col. 690.] As the debate progressed, it became clear that all parties were willing to support testing; but, apart from a firm assurance that we were not going to have league tables, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, speaking for the Government, was unable to tell us what form of testing the Government envisaged because she did not know. When asked her intentions, she replied (at col. 706 of Hansard): in certain respects it is not possible to know them yet because we are still waiting for further reports and further decisions". My noble friend Lady Seear asked whether the teachers would have a share in formulating the tests, and said (at col. 708): We would then feel a great deal more comfortable about it She received no answer.

Nowhere in the debate was there a syllable about the "accountability" of schools, which in recent weeks we have been told is the most important requirement in the whole affair. It is no wonder that the late Lord Stewart of Fulham said towards the end of that debate (at col. 709): we are no wiser … now at the end of the debate than we were at the beginning". When pressed further, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, had said (at col. 707): it was never the Government's intention to put this sort of detail into the Bill. It is a framework Bill". It is interesting to put that remark beside the memorandum of the Hansard Society to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of this House: We emphasize that statutory delegation should never leave an Act bare of everything except a framework of ministerial powers, with all the real substances being left to ministerial regulations, etc. This has been done (see the legislation on student loans in the Education (Student Loans) Act 1990, for example); it should not be repeated. The main principles of the legislation and its central provisions should appear in the Act itself. When these principles are ignored, as they were in the provisions of Clause 4 of the Education Reform Act 1988, there is force in the argument then made by my noble friend Lord Grimond (at col. 711) that, our legislative process is being made a mockery of". The principle that there should be testing, which was all that the 1988 Act laid down, was uncontentious. All the contentious points were in the nature and content of the tests; and on those points, which were embodied in non-parliamentary orders, this House had no opportunity to give or withhold its assent. It was therefore denied the opportunity to carry out its normal—and in this case very necessary—duties as a revising chamber. It is true that when there is a parliamentary order, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said (at col. 707), there is, scope for people to make their views known at that stage". But that is a little like the residual right of resistance in Hobbes' Leviathan, defined by Christopher Hill as, the right to kick on the way to the scaffold". It may relieve our feelings, but it does not change anything.

In introducing all the key provisions for testing by order, it is hard to resist the suspicion that the Secretary of State's department has refuted the central argument of his Swinton Lecture, that Parliament controls the Executive. When this House is faced by framework provisions such as were put before in 1988, it has only two options. One is to reject the clause in the Bill conferring delegated powers, even if in order to do so it has to vote against a principle which it accepts. It is easy to understand why the House gave the Government the benefit of the doubt on that point in 1988. The other option, and the one more relevant to this debate, is to accept the advice given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale—either the advice that he gave on 23rd April 1990 (at col. 352) that this House should depart from what he called the "weak convention" that it does not vote against regulations, or to accept the milder advice that he gave today.

Restraint shown on the other side of the House and the success of the milder procedures may influence what decision we take on which of those procedures is appropriate. The noble and learned Lord is, indeed, right that it is a "weak convention". Since 1968, it has been departed from in 20 Divisions on affirmative instruments, and three on negative instruments. To take just a few examples which are within the memory of many Members of the present House, on 6th August 1980 there was a Division on the Motion to approve the affirmative resolution on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Regulations. On 30th July 1982, there was a Division on an affirmative resolution on the Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations—always a contentious matter. On 22nd July 1982, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, divided the House on a Prayer for an Address to annul the Town and Country Planning (Vauxhall Cross) Special Development Order. I will take one final and rather ironic example. On 24th November 1983, the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, moved a Prayer for an Address to annul the Milk-Based Drinks (Hygiene and Heat Treatment) Regulations, and the Motion was negatived. Whoever was responsible for negativing that Motion thereby conceded the propriety of having a Division on it.

The power exists, and the only question is about the wisdom of our using it on a particular occasion. On that subject, I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and I shall listen with great care to the response of the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh.

7.10 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Earl will have to listen to me between those two speeches. I shall do my best not to disappoint him. Perhaps I may say at the outset how grateful we are to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for introducing the debate and for introducing it in the way that he did. I am bound to say that it has been a fascinating debate.

Two things have been notable. First, there is the genuine affection that everyone who has spoken feels for your Lordships' House and for the role in the British constitution that it discharges. Secondly, I was fascinated by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. May I say that that was not for the first time. He stimulated my thought processes. He will forgive me if I do not intervene in the private fight that seems to be going on between himself and his Front Bench, the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, and the absent noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. His was a speech of great interest.

I am grateful also for the expertise that has been shown in the course of the debate by so many constitutional experts. I do not mean that in any pejorative way. I mean it genuinely. During the past few hours, your Lordships have heard from some noble Lords with an experience of the way in which the House functions and runs, and how it fits into the British constitution as a whole, which is unique. As the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said, I do not believe that it could be equalled in any other deliberative Chamber.

I have heard a great deal about Lord Salisbury himself. I did not have the privilege or pleasure of knowing him. There is no doubt about one thing, and that is that the mark he left upon the House is one that has been both enduring and, so far as I can tell—the consensus of views expressed here tonight leads in that direction—is wholly beneficial to the way in which your Lordships' House operates.

Obviously the Salisbury doctrine—to use that somewhat imprecise shorthand term—was designed to answer a problem which needed to be solved at a particular time; namely, the relationship between this House and another place at a moment when there was a massive Conservative majority here—I interpose merely to observe that there is still a massive Conservative majority here—while there was a Labour Government who naturally wanted to get their legislation through. Therefore the simple proposition, which it seemed to be at the time, was that if the matter was in the manifesto, then this House could not oppose it. That proposition, as a proposition then, was indeed probably right. As a general proposition now, that proposition is probably right; but, although the doctrine has, by and large, worked reasonably well since it was introduced, it may be that the processes of parliamentary life, and the way in which governments feel that they have to legislate, are now perhaps so complicated that I am not sure whether the Salisbury doctrine, pure and simple, can any longer be wholly sufficient to cover the position in this day and age.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for example, takes the view that, in relation to Private Members' Bills, Bills upon which a free vote was allowed in the other place, Bills which are constitutionally objectionable—I feel sure the proposition as to what was or was not constitutionally objectionable would command a fair degree of dissension in the House, but I leave that aside for a moment—and, finally, Bills upon which there is no manifesto commitment, the House should consider seriously and calmly whether the existing Salisbury doctrine covers the present position.

The doctrine clearly helped to lead in the past to the identification of a relatively clear role for the Second Chamber; namely, the revision of Commons' Bills; the initiation of non-controversial legislation; and the limited use of delay to permit detailed consideration of Bills and full debate on general issues of policies. There still seems to be a consensus in the House on the desirability of what, I suppose, I can call the general practice of self-restraint when it comes to legislative matters. But it is important to acknowledge that as the House has become busier, questions will increasingly be raised, and have been raised, about the viability of its former role. Perhaps it is time for the House to examine its workload, the question of its powers, and its relation to the other place. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Shackleton for his suggestion that perhaps the attention of the Procedure Committee should be drawn specifically to the deliberations that have been taking place here this afternoon.

There has clearly been an unplanned and large growth in the work of your Lordships' House. The average length of a daily sitting, for example, has increased from five hours in 1967 to 1970 to seven hours in 1985 to 1986. In 1946, at the height of the Labour Government's post-war legislative drive I am told that this House agreed 1,027 amendments to 23 Bills. That was all. In the 1987-88 Session, 1,257 amendments were agreed, not to 23 Bills but to only 3. So the amount of work that is being done by the House has increased enormously over that period of time. That is not just because more legislation is being put onto the statute book; it is because mistakes in drafting now seem to be almost routine and have to be corrected in this House when the mistakes have been made in another one, as was pointed out in the excellent Hansard Society Report Making the Law, which was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Ripon.

I read that report, if I may say so humbly, with great interest. I found it stimulating, and many of the ideas contained in it were ones that I could accept. If the problem of drafting is one of the reasons why the scale of work undertaken by the House has increased, it is doubly true (is it not?) in relation to our role as scrutineers of primary and secondary legislation.

The function of the House, though, has changed, as I see it, from being primarily a revising Chamber. One of the main functions the House now has in relation to the other place, is that it is effectively the only place in which the legislature can curb the power of the executive. If this House is the place in which detailed scrutiny of legislation is taking place, it is because legislation is being guillotined or rushed through in the other place. One aim that we could perhaps push for collectively is less legislation, more elegantly and precisely drafted, which is less likely therefore to need widespread redrafting when it arrives in the House. I know from experience that that is something to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, would give his wholehearted approval, especially so far as concerns drafting.

I am sure, for example, that none of us on these Benches particularly wants to examine and resume work on an Act such as the Criminal Justice Act 1991 which is now to be altered fundamentally only seven months after it first came into effect. But there it is. No doubt the House will do its duty in that respect as it does in others.

Perhaps I may return to the question of the workload of the House. The House sits the second longest hours of any legislative Chamber in the world; the longest are being endured by another place down the Corridor. As this is a non-professional Chamber, many Members of which have to earn a living outside the House, that is a pressure which needs to be considered and considered seriously. When and if certain recommendations of the Jopling Report into the sitting hours of the other place are implemented, the pressure here could become even worse and graver. It would be paradoxical if the hours of the other place (the democratic Chamber) were lightened to the extent that this non-professional, undemocratic Chamber would then be sitting the longest hours of any legislative Chamber in the world.

It might well mean, if there were no equivalent lessening of the hours here, that we were effectively having to take on part of the workload previously covered by the other place. It is therefore of the utmost importance that any change to the sitting hours of the other place is co-ordinated with changes here.

In the meantime, perhaps we should think about ways of taking some of the pressure off this House. One way of achieving that, which was covered in the excellent report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, might be to send more Bills up to Public Bill Committees, which would function something like Standing Committees in the other place. The House takes the view that only non-controversial Bills should be dealt with in that way. However, perhaps I may place on record my belief that this is an avenue which we ought to explore for more Bills if we are to cope with the pressures on the parliamentary timetable and effectively to carry out our role as a revising Chamber.

I wish to express the anxiety of those on these Benches, as has been expressed elsewhere, at the emergence of what has become almost a culture of delegated legislation. I profoundly agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that this flood of delegated legislation undermines the principle of parliamentary scrutiny. I would not want to see our workload reduced at the cost of less scrutiny of controversial measures.

In the light of that argument the House might want to examine the possibility, which was recommended in the first report of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, that this House should be able to delay secondary legislation by one month so as to permit proper scrutiny which otherwise could not take place. That is particularly important if it is true, as I believe it is, that this House is where the most detailed scrutiny of delegated legislation now takes place.

I was invited by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, to make a speech about the reform of the House of Lords and what my party may wish to see happen. I wish to make only a few comments, if the House will permit. I believe that three points must be considered in any reform. The first is that our constitution requires a second Chamber which works effectively and efficiently, in particular in the role of revising legislation. The second point is that somehow it ought to be possible to preserve the unique contribution in experience which the Cross-Benchers now bring to our House. The third point, although I do not demand such generous accord, is that in the view of the Labour Party we must do something about the hereditary principle and the mass of hereditary peers who sit on the other side of the House.

I have spoken for one minute beyond my allotted time. Therefore, perhaps the House will forgive me for merely stating principles and not going into the nuts and bolts of the details of their implementation. It is up to the House to decide whether it wants to change the procedures within which it works or even to consider a more wide-ranging reform of its role. It could actually do both if it so wished. However, it is obvious to all that this debate is a timely reminder—and I repeat my thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon—of the need for all institutions to consider their own role from time to time and to explore possibilities for change. This has been an interesting and important debate in that respect.

7.24 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the House will once again be grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for affording us the opportunity to debate the parliamentary role of the House of Lords. It is perhaps particularly opportune that we should have such a debate to examine our working practices at a time when the House is at its busiest, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter pointed out. I think that that is a consideration which should colour our thinking about what, as a House, we should do and how to achieve it.

First, however, I fear that I owe the House an apology. Your Lordships may feel that in view of the rigours of the past few weeks that is entirely called for. However, my apology today is more personal. It is that I should present myself, inexpert though I am in comparison with those who have preceded me in this debate, to respond to the points which your Lordships have made. I know that my noble friend the Leader of the House would have liked to respond to the debate but he had an unbreakable commitment elsewhere. However, his miraculous reappearance, having reduced the commitment in order to be with your Lordships, will I hope make my contribution that much better and not disappoint your Lordships. I can only pray your Lordships' customary indulgence.

The Motion which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has placed before your Lordships this afternoon refers to conventions and practices which limit the constitutional role of this House. The noble and learned Lord, along with my noble friends Lord Rippon, Lord Renton and Lord Strafford, has in addition drawn attention to issues of wider constitutional significance. If noble Lords will forgive me, I do not propose to follow them down that road today in the context of what is a time-limited debate. Suffice to say that I acknowledge that such matters are well worthy of full debate on a separate occasion. Nor do I intend to discuss the composition of the House; this seems to me to raise equally far-reaching questions and propositions.

I take the Motion—and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, explicitly confirmed this—to start from a position of acceptance of the existing powers, as well as composition, of the House. The main formal limits on such powers are set, as noble Lords have already pointed out, by the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 and by the financial privilege of the House of Commons. I might also remind your Lordships of one vital constitutional power which your Lordships have under the 1911 Act; namely, the power to veto any Bill to extend the lifetime of a Parliament beyond five years.

To these limits we must add other constraints which the House has agreed to apply to its own activities, principally those laid down by the standing orders of the House, and the interpretation which the House has given to those standing orders contained in the Companion, the bible given to every young Whip on his first day in the House. This class of rules, if I may so term them, is of course flexible. The House is master of its own procedures and when it deems it appropriate it is free to depart from them; for example, it may agree to dispense with standing orders to enable some uncontentious or urgent piece of legislation to be disposed of quickly. That such flexibility should exist—and that your Lordships apply a pragmatic approach to applying your own procedures—is I think a great strength of your Lordships' House. It enables us to concentrate our time and effort on those issues which are of most importance while providing a valuable safeguard against abuse.

Thirdly, there are the conventions—neither procedural nor enshrined in statute—which govern the way in which your Lordships' House chooses to exercise its powers. In discussing these conventions I suggest that we need, first, to set them against the background of what we understand our role to be as a second Chamber within the constitutional arrangements which we now have. Here I agreed with much of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, had to say. Our prime role lies in the examination and revision of Bills. That is, of course, borne out by the statistics. We spend well over 50 per cent. of our time in discussing legislation, most particularly in Committee (30 per cent. of sitting time) and on Report (14 per cent. of sitting time). Secondly, we act as a forum—and a particularly well-informed and constructive forum—for the discussion of general questions of policy. General debates account for about 16 per cent. of the time of the House, but to this we must add the many hours of work which are performed by Select Committees, whose sometimes rather narrow scrutiny remit is frequently belied by the breadth of their inquiries. I know that that second role is highly valued, and rightly so, by many of your Lordships, by many outside the House and by the Government. One of the great strengths of the House is that there are comparatively frequent opportunities for general debates, particularly in the earlier part of each parliamentary session.

Perhaps I may pick up a point made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Even when the House may be restricted in the close scrutiny which it can profitably bring to economic and financial legislation—a matter which predates the Salisbury doctrine—it may still make known its views in more general debates on such issues. For example, in this Session alone we have already had substantial debates on a range of economic issues, from the broad economic issues facing the country to more narrow questions such as the role and function of the Bank of England.

However, as I have suggested, it is in scrutiny of legislation that the House derives its prime importance. I should stress at the outset that the Government in no way underestimate the importance of the views of this House on the legislation which they place before it. If I have sometimes had particular reason to regret the strength and resolution with which your Lordships have pressed your views against the Government, that is not to say that your Lordships do not have the right to press those views or that they are not considered most seriously both in government and in the other place. It is your Lordships' constitutional right to ask the other place to think again.

That seems to me central to the role of a second Chamber in our system and it is a right which both I and my noble friend the Leader of the House take very seriously indeed. If, on occasion, my colleagues and I complain about that, I hope that your Lordships will recognise that we cannot always be expected to welcome being told we are wrong. Maturer reflection often shows us perhaps that we were not entirely right.

My noble friend Lord Renton asked me a question of which he gave me notice. I have done some speedy research on it without a great deal of success. He asked me about the number of amendments that were carried in this House and the number of amendments that were accepted in another place. It has been difficult to obtain that information because sometimes part of an amendment has been accepted or a government amendment is tabled in lieu. However, it was an extremely worthwhile question to ask and I shall continue my research to see whether a representative and accurate reply can be given to your Lordships.

In exercising those functions of revision and scrutiny the House has, in theory, broad powers only circumscribed by the Parliament Acts. But the manner in which the House chooses to use these powers is the critical issue, as indeed it is to almost all facets of the way the House operates. As I recognise perhaps more frequently than some of your Lordships, this place functions on the basis of agreement. I do not think that the House could operate as effectively as it does without the existence of a consensus about what is or is not an appropriate course of action for your Lordships to pursue—that is, without the general agreement of the House to observe conventions which regulate its activities. That involves in all of us the exercise of self-restraint—from the length of our speeches to the more fundamental recognition of the limits of what is practically or constitutionally appropriate.

Of course, it is always open to your Lordships to change your habitual way of proceeding, and noble Lords have suggested today that change is indeed needed in some areas. I believe that we should be very cautious about that. The conventions and practices of the House have evolved over a long period of time and in response to many political and constitutional considerations. There is much accumulated wisdom inherent in them. Tempting though it may be for your Lordships to seek to depart from such practices—perhaps in response to specific anxieties which your Lordships may have—I think that your Lordships would want to consider the consequences carefully, both for the House internally and in respect of the wider perception of the House.

Perhaps I may take, first, the Salisbury doctrine. That is the convention that the House will not oppose legislation for which a government with a majority in another place have a mandate; that means in practice that the House does not seek to vote down a manifesto Bill at Second or Third Reading. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I am an unashamed supporter of the doctrine. It is not merely true that it has served the House well. It has, I think, become essential to our parliamentary system. I remind the House that the doctrine had—and, as this debate has shown, still has—support from all sides of the House. Its first supporter was the grandfather of my noble friend Lord Addison who was then Leader of the House.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, sought to make a case for departing from the Salisbury doctrine in circumstances where the legislation in question is constitutionally objectionable in form. The Child Support Act was cited as a case in point. I repeat that it is of course for the House to determine whether the doctrine should continue to apply and, if not, why not. But I believe that it is difficult to distinguish categories of Bills to which the doctrine should not apply. Not only would the House set itself against the express will of the other place, but it would involve also the development of new constitutional doctrine. I do not know what a constitutionally objectionable Bill might be, and nor would it be easy to define one. The phrase would be likely to be used in respect of a large number of pieces of legislation which might not find favour in some parts of your Lordships' House.

The noble and learned Lord referred in particular to the concept of a skeleton Bill and his anxieties about the powers of delegated legislation. That is a matter about which he has the respect of the whole House. But for other noble Lords it may well be the policy for which the delegated powers are to be used that provokes objection rather than the form of the legislation. I suggest that agreement on those issues would be unlikely to be forthcoming.

My noble friend Lord Beloff and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, referred to the Education Bill. The noble and learned Lord suggested that there should be a departure from the Salisbury doctrine in cases where insufficient time was given to consider legislation. I do not see that noble Lords can object to a Bill on Second Reading on the grounds that it will be considered at a late hour in Committee. That would put us in an extremely difficult position. I remind your Lordships that in my brief span in this House—in the happy days of 1988 and 1989—I remember very well my noble friend Lady Young moving an amendment at 5.30 in the morning on the Education Reform Bill. I see the noble Baroness, Lady David, is present in the Chamber and I am sure that she too remembers that well. For all of the crimes that I have committed of late, we have not yet reached five o'clock in the morning.

Baroness David

My Lords, I believe that the noble Baroness moved the amendment at about 8.30 in the morning when some noble Lords were beginning to return to the House.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that intervention. I fear that I may have told the Chief Whip at the time that I was off sick and thus I was not present at that moment. I have now been vilely exposed.

It is only a short skip from the question of delegated powers in Bills to the issue of scrutiny of delegated legislation by the House. That was discussed not only by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, but also by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, my noble friends Lord Rippon of Hexham and Lord Renton and the noble Lords, Lord Monkswell and Lord Shackleton. It is the convention of the House that it does not seek to divide against delegated legislation. No such Division has taken place since 1982; and, as was pointed out earlier in the debate, in recent times the House has only once, in 1968, voted down a piece of delegated legislation. Instead, a number of devices have been developed which enable the House to express its opinion on a piece of delegated legislation without challenging it outright.

That does not in any way mean that the views which your Lordships express on delegated legislation can in any way be ignored. As a Minister with some experience of debate on such issues, I can bear witness to that fact in my previous incarnation. My colleagues and I are fully aware of the strength of feeling in the House about the growth, amount and scope of delegated legislation. It is only right that your Lordships should be vigilant about those matters. Indeed, I believe that the knowledge that your Lordships are rigorous in scrutinising delegated legislation is a significant factor in the Government's considerations.

The House, with the support of the Government, has recently taken a significant step to meet those concerns through the establishment of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Rippon of Hexham. That committee does not look at delegated legislation itself, but it has a perhaps more fundamental remit to report to the House on the appropriateness or otherwise of Ministers taking powers to make such legislation in the first place. The committee has, of course, been established on an experimental basis only, and the Procedure Committee and the House will wish to evaluate that role. Although I am a member of the Procedure Committee, I, luckily, carry no remit from it and thus will restrict myself in trying to provide answers to some of the questions posed by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter as regards the direction of the committee. However I think that noble Lords will have been impressed by the committee's first two reports, which, if I may say so, appear to steer a judicious course through difficult waters.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred specifically to the powers taken in the Education Reform Act 1988. I know that the noble Earl will wish to develop his theme in more detail when his Unstarred Question on the subject is debated after Whitsun. But I wish to stress that the point to which the noble Earl referred is one which would now fall within the remit of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, so I think that some action has been taken.

I should also draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that all affirmative instruments are taken on the Floor in this House and that time is invariably found to debate Motions relating to, or prayers against, negative instruments; in each respect, your Lordships have more opportunity to debate delegated legislation than is available, for example, in another place.

Nevertheless, some noble Lords have questioned the continuing validity of the convention against voting on Motions to approve or annul delegated legislation. The power to do so certainly exists. It would be open to your Lordships to use that power. However, I think that we should again be very wary of that. It would sit uneasily with the revising aspect of the work of the House. Indeed, it would run directly contrary to it. The House has the right to ask the other place to reconsider its decisions. But delegated legislation, almost all of which has been debated in another place before it comes to your Lordships, cannot be amended. There is no mechanism available whereby the other place can be asked to think again. Were the House to reject a piece of delegated legislation, it would fall. That would be a step which your Lordships would wish to consider most carefully. I think that it could lead us into some considerable difficulty.

My noble friend Lord Rippon referred to the recent report of the Hansard Society. The report raises a number of issues which the House may well wish to debate on a later occasion. However, I should like to pick up the point that my noble friend stressed; namely, that we should move to a two-year parliamentary Session. That may well have some attractions, but it would also have certain political implications. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, drew attention to the fact that the end of the Session may well provoke concessions from the Government if they wish to get their legislation through. I think that it is an important check for our constitution. It is a check which would be eroded if we had a two-year Session.

Finally, perhaps I may place this debate in the wider perspective of the way the House discharges its business. In a way, I apologise for bringing the House to my more parochial concerns. But the House is now more active than it has been for the last few Sessions. The number of your Lordships who attend the House with some regularity is now 750. Daily attendances of over 400 are now commonplace. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, provided us with a number of other statistics which add to those figures in terms of the actual volume of work that is passing through the House, both in terms of legislation and as regards noble Lords. That represents a large increase, and those figures and statistics are continuing to rise.

As each of your Lordships has an unfettered right to participate in our debates, and many of your Lordships are assiduous in exercising that right, the pressure on our procedures grows apace. We have to regulate our own procedure; but that becomes daily more difficult. We consider virtually all legislation on the Floor of the House, with no Standing Committees as in another place to ease the pressure on the time of the House. We have no guillotine; and few restrictions on the ability of noble Lords to speak or to table amendments and have them debated.

Yet we are an amateur House. Your Lordships' dedication and assiduity is widely admired; but even those of us present during the days in Committee on the Education Bill, for example, had cause to wonder whether we had got the balance quite right and whether self-regulation, which has always been so prized a part of your Lordships' procedures, was working. Our procedures would inevitably appear more difficult if the other place were to agree to reforms in its sitting hours in response to the Jopling Report.

Against that background, noble Lords today have proposed extending into new areas the way we conduct our business. They have, of course, made their case with the moderation and persuasiveness for which your Lordships' House is known; but the effect of that would be to add to, rather than relieve, the pressures which we face.

As I have already stressed, our procedures work only because we all agree to abide by conventions and to exercise general restraint. I should like to float two ideas for your Lordships' consideration. The first is the desirability of committing some Bills—it would not need to be many to make a substantial difference—to Public Bill Committees. That would clearly depend on securing agreement on appropriate Bills to commit. It might also depend on an agreement, as proposed by the Jellicoe Committee, to defer decisions on particularly contentious issues to the Report stage.

That is one idea. The other is to look again at our procedures on the Floor of the House; and at the nature of the Committee and Report stages in particular. I think that there is at least an argument to be made that Committee-proceedings have increasingly moved from being based on a presumption of elucidating the purposes and effect of legislation, of probing the consequences, and inviting the Government to respond to something which is of a rather more adversarial nature. Matters are now frequently put to the House for a decision at the Committee stage which might formerly have been deferred to Report. I make no complaint about that. But it does seem to me to be questionable whether the House is making the best use of its time when, as sometimes happens, debates on issues decided in Committee are replicated on Report—perfectly proper procedurally though that may be. Unless there has been some material change in circumstances, or in the information available to the House, I see only limited value in that exercise.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, made a very simple statement, but a very true one: we need less legislation and better drafting. I can assure him that he has the entire support of the Whips' Office on both points. There is a malicious falsehood sometimes put about that the Whips are enemies of debate. I do not know how that impression can have arisen, let alone gained credence. But, in any event, debates such as this today would convince even the most dedicated member of the freemasonry of Whips of the value, at least on occasion, of listening to the argument. In conclusion, I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord for initiating the debate and for the stimulating contributions to which I have attempted to reply. I am grateful for the opportunity to return to the Dispatch Box and for the courtesy with which your Lordships have heard me.

7.48 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the speeches that have been made on the Motion which have so illuminated us. It would be invidious and impertinent if I mentioned other than very few of those speeches. I shall only do so in passing.

I respectfully agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said about the War Crimes Bill and the odd invocation of the Parliament Act which I am bound to say owed more to maintaining a reputation for iron government than constitutional propriety. I also agreed with what the noble Lord said about the importance of ministerial representation in your Lordships' House.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, expressed a tribute to the hereditary element in your Lordships' House. I venture to agree with that. In any change in the composition of your Lordships' House I would hope there would be a continuity of the hereditary principle, perhaps by vote of the hereditary peers, rather on the lines of the old Scottish and Irish representative peers. I think that would meet the point of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, about the likelihood of collision between two Houses with equal democratic credentials. I do not believe that that would run counter to the ideas expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

I second the tribute paid by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, to the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham, as regards the Hansard Society document on the legislative process which should really become a textbook in any course of constitutional law. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham, for his chairmanship of the Scrutiny Committee both as regards the way he framed its general approach and for the immense tact and clarity of the report on the Education Bill. I note that my Motion includes a prayer for Papers. However, as I am too old for filing, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.