HL Deb 29 May 2002 vol 635 cc1367-82

3.55 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The terms of the Motion have been agreed unanimously by the usual channels in both Houses. I wish to say a few words about the subsequent procedure for appointing the Joint Committee. The matter we are now engaged on is the first Motion. A second Motion will be moved in the Commons sometime after the Whitsun recess agreeing, I hope, to set up the committee and to propose Members from that House. We shall then receive a message telling us that that has been done. At that point there will be a final Motion in this House setting out the proposed names of the Lords' Members and the powers the committee will have. It is the work of the Committee of Selection to draw up that list.

Moved, That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed—

  1. (1) to consider issues relating to House of Lords reform, including the composition and powers of the second Chamber and its role and authority within the context of Parliament as a whole, having regard in particular to the impact which any proposed changes would have on the existing pre-eminence oft he House of Commons, such consideration to include the implications of a House composed of more than one "category" of Member and the experience and expertise which the House of Lords in its present form brings to its function as the revising Chamber; and
  2. (2) having regard to paragraph (1) above, to report on options for the composition and powers of the House of Lords and to define and present to both Houses options for composition, including a fully nominated and fully elected House, and intermediate options;
and to consider and report on
  1. (a) any changes to the relationship between the two Houses which may be necessary to ensure the proper functioning of Parliament as a whole in the context of a reformed second Chamber, and in particular, any new procedures for resolving conflict between the two Houses; and
  2. (b) the most appropriate and effective legal and constitutional means to give effect to any new parliamentary settlement;
and in all the foregoing considerations, to have regard to—
  1. (i) the report of the Royal Commission on House of Lords Reform (Cm 4534);
  2. (ii) the White Paper The House of Lords—Completing the Reform (Cm 5291), and the responses received thereto;
  3. (iii) debates and votes in both Houses of Parliament on House of Lords reform; and
  4. (iv) the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee report The Second Chamber: Continuing the Reform, including its consultation of the House of Commons, and any other relevant Select Committee reports.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

3.56 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, it may be inappropriate but I am sure no one will mind if I say a few words about the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the Government Chief Whip, who I understand has today stood down from that position. He has occupied that post for some five years. As a former Chief Whip and now Leader of the Official Opposition, perhaps I may say what a great pleasure it has been to work with him, sometimes during very difficult times.

The noble Lord took over in 1997 when there was an overwhelming majority in the House against the Labour Party. He dealt with the enormous changes and ramifications of the 1999 Act. It is a record of which he and his family should be justly proud. I should also like to welcome his successor, but I understand that the name has yet to be announced. We very much look forward to working with him in the same way that we have worked with the noble Lord, Lord Carter, when that announcement is made.

I turn to the Motion so ably, albeit briefly, moved by the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House. As he said, we have agreed it. I welcome it. I welcome it because it marks the end of the reform of Parliament as the property of one party and the beginning of true and lasting parliamentary reform, discussed, agreed and designed in Parliament in the public interest.

I repeat what I said the other day in response to the Statement of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I said that the Joint Committee must be a forum to tease out and reconcile differences of opinion on the future of this House and of Parliament as a whole. It must not be a forum in which to try to force through whatever may be the latest will of Cabinet—or any part of it.

That is why it should be a committee of authority and independence, large enough to embrace all shades of opinion in this House and in the other place. And large enough, too, to give a strong voice to Cross-Bench opinion. That is such a distinctive and valued voice in this House. I welcome the fact that this approach is shared by the Government.

Our main objective is an outcome that will strengthen Parliament and this House. As the House knows, the shadow Cabinet has set out what it believes is an effective way to achieve that. I freely recognise that there is some division on this side of the House, just as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor found that there was a division on the other side when he set out to sell the Government's proposals to his Back-Benchers in another place. There is division on the other side; there is division on this side. That is why no solution can be imposed from the Front Benches and why the Joint Committee is the best way forward.

I welcome the breadth of the terms of reference of the committee. I think that the wording could have been marginally better. It might have been more explicit to say that there will be no sensible conclusion on composition without a view of the role, powers and functions of the House.

I read the Motion as meaning that nothing is ruled in and nothing ruled out. It means that powers and composition can be examined together. Role, powers and authority must always be the begetters of composition and not the other way around. This could be the most far-reaching, non-partisan parliamentary examination of Parliament's future for a very long time. No committee charged with this task would want that to be any different.

I also hope that the committee can look at the workings of another place. It is too large and too docile in the face of the executive and has procedures poorly fitted to revise or reform the law. I suggest that to address the problems of this place without considering the problems of another place is to call to mind the beam in one eye and the speck of dust in the other. We cannot achieve a stable parliamentary settlement with a Parliament functioning strongly in the interests of the people unless we consider genuine reform of another place, as my party has said that it will.

We have debated reform of this place for more than 90 years—since 1911. Some, such as the Leader of the House in another place, Mr Robin Cook, say that the committee must complete the task in 90 days. We cannot square the great question of strengthening Parliament and securing its future in 90 days. If we could, the Government would already have come up with the answer.

We bungled reform once in 1999. We cannot repeat that mistake, otherwise the opportunity may not recur for a century or more. If the Joint Committee takes more time, I am prepared to accept that as long as it keeps its eye on the objective of a stronger Parliament. We need the maximum consensus on how that could be achieved.

No one should underestimate the scale of legislation involved here. It is a far larger undertaking than that dealt with in the 1999 Act, which was accepted by large majorities in both Houses of Parliament after the statesmanlike agreement between my noble friend Lord Cranborne and the noble learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Even so, a short Bill with a limited if distasteful aim took many days to pass.

That is why the route of a Joint Committee, long advocated by my party and by the Liberal Democrats, is wise. Let it take its time, as long as it does so for the purpose not of delay but of consensus and quality. Of course, I hope that when it reports, it will remain closest to the ideas that I have proposed, but we will consider whatever it produces constructively and respond as swiftly and as constructively as we can, provided that the end result is a stronger, more authoritative and even more effective House of Lords.

That is what I have worked for ever since I entered this place; it is what I believe in with deep conviction; and it is what I hope for from the Joint Committee that we are creating today.

4 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, on behalf of noble Lords on these Benches, I add a few words of regret and deep respect for the former Government Chief Whip, whom all of us in the House greatly like and who behaved with astonishing patience and understanding. He has friends in all parties and conducted himself throughout with an extraordinary degree of dedication to making this House the best place that he could possibly help to make it. He won great respect and friendship from all sides of the House for his modesty, generosity of spirit and conscientiousness.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Williams of Crosby

We very much hope that his family will understand how closely and dearly we in the House hold his reputation and we hope that he will have a happy retirement—or if not, that he will make many contributions to the House in future. We shall listen to him with great interest and attention.

Like the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, I should like to welcome the successor to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, but of course we wait to find out who it is.

I shall be brief. I am delighted that the Joint Committee is to be set up. Those of us who remember the history of the matter will recall that long ago, in the Cook-Maclennan agreement of 1997, there was a recommendation for a Joint Committee. In that context, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Maclennan of Rogart and the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook. I also thank my noble friend Lord Rogers of Quarrybank for the part that he played in pressing for a Joint Committee along with the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde.

The purpose of the Motion is simple and I need not detain the House. It is extremely well expressed in paragraph (2)(a), which states that one of the main purposes of the Joint Committee will be, to ensure the proper functioning of Parliament as a whole". It must be the purpose of all of us to make this House as efficient and effective a scrutiny and watchdog House as it can possibly be and in every way to complement the other House—I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that that House will also need closely to consider how it carries out its constitutional responsibility.

We in this House will take the Joint Committee very seriously, recognising that the time for reform cannot be permanently delayed, but that there is a great will in the House to make us as effective as possible. Once again, I thank the Government and in this House the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for the manner in which he has proposed, and the phraseology that has been used to describe, the work of the Joint Committee. We on these Benches wish it every possible success.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords—

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, perhaps we can hear from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley.

Lord Craig of Radley

Thank you, my Lords. First, I add on behalf of noble Lords on these Benches our thanks and appreciation for everything that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, did during his period as Government Chief Whip. He has been a marvellous person to work with. He has often reminded me that I could not speak for anyone else on these Benches, but at the same time he was always extremely helpful and courteous and I have greatly enjoyed working with him. He will be sadly missed by me and, I am sure, by all noble Lords on these Benches.

I have only two points to make. I was grateful to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, make the point that Cross-Bench representation is an important feature of the Joint Committee. I shall draw the attention of the committee to the fact that, whereas from the other place there will be representation from parties, there will be no representation from independents or Cross-Benchers. Therefore, the total representation of the Joint Committee should contain sufficient Cross-Benchers to ensure that their points of view are well represented. In this case, the formula 2:2:1:1 does not work towards that result.

My second point, which is important, is that eventually we shall receive several options from the Joint Committee and it is not clear to me from the terms of reference whether it will be for the Joint Committee to determine the order in which it believes that the two Houses should address those options or whether it will be for the Government to put them to the House in a particular order. It is perhaps an unfair comparison, but I am thinking of the way in which the nominations for the Speaker in the other place were dealt with last time. If several options are to be put to us, the order in which and how they are presented will be important. I hope that the Joint Committee will address that in its deliberations.

The Lord Bishop of Durham

My Lords, we on these Benches would also like to be associated with the tributes paid to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, whom we have always found to be courteous and often accommodating in our dealings with him. We wish him well for the future.

We have already made it clear that we welcome the proposal to set up a Joint Committee and I underline that welcome now. Of course, in order for the committee to be effective and persuasive it will need to show itself as wise and just in the complex range of issues that have so challenged previous efforts at reform of this House. Those include both the functions and composition of the House—how individuals become Members of the second Chamber is relevant to both of those considerations.

Submissions on behalf of the Church of England on those matters have made it clear that, while we welcome the idea of art elected element, we do not believe that election is the only means of conferring legitimacy. Nor should it be assumed necessarily to offer the best means of equipping the future House with the expertise and range of insights and viewpoints to lend distinction and value to its work. Of course, one area where that is relevant is the future shape and scope of the religious and spiritual aspects of its composition. I do not imagine that, in the eyes of many Members of either House, that will be the most urgent challenge. However, that does not make it unimportant. In a constitutional arrangement that vests sovereignty in the monarch in Parliament under God, it can hardly be so unimportant. We believe it will be sensible for the committee to include among its members someone with the experience and expertise needed to inform its deliberations on these and other matters touching on the religious and spiritual dimension of our national life. That should be engaged with in this Chamber.

As noble Lords will be aware, we on these Benches have been enthusiastic proponents of widening the religious presence both in terms of Christian denominations and of other faiths. My friend, colleague and successor, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester has already raised here the proposal for a Lord spiritual to serve on the Joint Committee. The Government's response to that request was far from discouraging, and we are grateful also to have had the support of the Leader of the Opposition.

We do not seek this role in a narrow and self-serving way, but in the firm belief that the Joint Committee should be able to do justice to the many challenges it faces. I want therefore to urge that the Joint Committee will be less strong, less representative and more narrowly drawn than would be good or appropriate if it failed to contain an explicit representative of the religious dimension of our constitution, upon which much of the work of Parliament frequently rests.

Lord Barnett

My Lords—

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, our side.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord is a Privy Counsellor.

The Earl of Onslow

Is he? I beg his pardon.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, I want first to share with the House my view of the former Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Carter. We have had one or two disagreements—minor ones—but I endorse everything that has been said about him.

I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, say that there was some modest disagreement on his side on the issue. I assume that he still wants 80 per cent of the Members of your Lordships' House to be elected. I found one Conservative who agreed with him; he will know who that is.

I want to ask my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House a few questions. From the reference in the Motion to the "category" of Member, I take it that he now accepts that a hybrid House would create huge problems. He has previously replied, in a pleasantly jocular way, that it already was a hybrid House. Certainly, there are differences of opinion in the House, but a hybrid House, with elected and unelected Members, would create huge problems. I am glad to see that the Motion accepts that; I hope that he does.

Secondly, I want to ask my noble and learned friend about options. We could all put options on the back of an envelope. That should not take too much time, but it would be a different matter when it came back to both Houses. Paragraphs 2(a) and (b)—in particular—of the Motion refer to legal and constitutional matters. Can my noble and learned friend define that, or do we need my noble and learned friends Lord Falconer of Thoroton and the Lord Chancellor to explain what it means in respect of anything that the committee will consider?

I should also be interested to know from my noble and learned friend what percentages of which House are being referred to. What will be the size of the House? How will we get to a reasonable figure from the 700 to 800 or 900 that might arise from the eventual views of the committee? Will the committee have the opportunity to take written and oral evidence and travel abroad to see how other Houses operate? My noble and learned friend has referred constantly to consensus. How will he get consensus on this? Is it still the Government's policy to get consensus on whatever new House we have as a second Chamber? If it is his view that we need consensus, we will never have any changes in your Lordships' House.

I want also to know about the timescale. My right honourable friend the Leader of the House in another place has spoken of 90 days. Is that 90 days for the setting up of the Joint Committee? It seems more likely that that should be the case than that we should get a report from it in that time. However, assuming that we get a report before, say, Christmas, does my noble and learned friend envisage our moving forward to a Bill in the next Session? I should be grateful if he could tell us.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords—

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, it is the turn of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, to speak, but, before he does, I should like gently to remind your Lordships of paragraph 4.14 of the Companion: Debate must be relevant to the Question before the House". We are simply discussing the terms of the Motion, not any consequential questions, fascinating though they may be.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I express, first of all, a minor regret that hereditary peerages are no longer being created. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, would certainly deserve to be elevated to one.

As someone who has advocated reform of the House for a long time, I believe that the Government have, on this occasion, got the thing absolutely right. They must be congratulated on that. Funnily enough, it may be because we have had five years of shilly-shallying, waffle and, for want of a better word, cock-up—is one allowed to say that? I think one can—that there is now an emerging consensus in the country in favour of a partially elected—more than 50 per cent—and partially appointed House. That seems to be the general view. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, does not like the word-hybrid", but I see nothing wrong with it.

The committee will have the opportunity to make as good a constitutional settlement as our forebears did in 1688. It must seize that opportunity, and we must get it right. We must redress the balance in Parliament, so that we can go back to the ideals of our Whig forebears and have a proper, balanced Parliament that can hold the executive properly to account. The Joint Committee looks as if it can do that, and, if it can, it will deserve the justifiable thanks not only of our fellow subjects but of future citizens.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I add my welcome to those given by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, to the setting up of the Joint Committee.

May we be assured that the committee's terms of reference will allow it to address the question of the accountability of the executive to Parliament, to which the noble and learned Lord attached such importance, when he was discussing the working practices of your Lordships' House? Secondly, I know that there was some difficulty about the timing of the meeting of the Committee of Selection that will select the members of the Joint Committee. I understand that, in the end, the timing was changed to meet my convenience. I am extremely grateful for that, especially to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees and to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, who assisted in that regard.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I spent 34 years in another place, including seven years in government. Four and a half of those years were spent in the Home Office, where I helped Lord Butler of Saffron Walden pilot the Life Peerages Act 1958. I have also spent 23 years in your Lordships' House. In those years, there have already been tremendous constitutional changes, and there have been changes in the membership of another place that we should bear in mind, however courteous we are in our expression of those changes.

Fortunately, the Motion refers to our great responsibility as a revising Chamber. If we are to exercise that responsibility in a way that really helps the constitution, we must retain a vast amount of the expertise found in your Lordships' House but no longer found elsewhere. Therefore, if I may say so, it is essential that the committee should bear that in mind. In order that the committee may inquire into that matter as deeply as possible, will the noble and learned Lord please tell us whether, under the powers given by the resolution, the committee will have power to take evidence from witnesses? There is nothing in the resolution about that, but I express the hope that that will be possible.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Carter. Over the years he has ensured that we stayed until the early hours of the morning when necessary, but he did so in a way that earned him our respect and affection. That is a difficult combination. Had he given me advice before today's debate, he would have said, "Speak if you must but for God's sake, keep it short". I shall obey my noble friend even though he is no longer sitting in his former place on the Front Bench.

I appreciate that it is not for the Government to tell committees how to do their work or when they should do it. But is my noble and learned friend prepared to drop the tiniest hint as to the timescale of the committee's work, and if it were to sit, dare I say it, in September, would that not be for the good of the House and the benefit of all of us? Secondly, is it intended that the committee should sit for a period and then give both Houses its report, or is it intended that the House will get a first report, and then both Houses will pass resolutions about powers and composition and the committee will then return to its work in more detail?

Thirdly, will my noble and learned friend clarify a point in paragraph (2)of the Motion, which states that the committee should, report on options for the composition and powers of the House of Lords and … define and present to both. Houses options for composition"? Is that one and the same process, or is the slight ambiguity in the wording the result of the compromise that had to be achieved? If so, what does it mean?

Lord Renton of Mount Harry

My Lords, as a relatively new Member of this House I want to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Carter. I remember his help when two or three years ago I introduced a Private Member's Bill on the subject of areas of outstanding natural beauty. With his help I found it a great deal easier to get a Private Member's Bill at least through some stages of the process here than I ever did in my 25 years in the House of Commons. I was pleased that the following year the Government adopted a number of my proposals and included them in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. I shall never forget the help given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, in that instance.

I am very pleased to welcome the Joint Committee. It has, as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde said, a chance to make historic decisions leading to a new constitutional settlement that will be of enormous importance. I am delighted with the terms of reference and am pleased that it will investigate the, powers of the Second Chamber and its role and authority within the context of Parliament as a whole". A few of your Lordships will remember that I introduced another Private Member's Bill earlier this Session, which had its Second Reading on 16th January. Its purpose was to amend the Parliament Act 1949 to restore the ability of the second Chamber to delay Public Bills for two years once we had elected Members. I cannot pretend that I expected to change the British constitution in this manner, but I thought that it was a good opportunity, and I was supported by noble Lords from all parts of the House. I thought that it was an opportunity at least to have a discussion about the powers and duties of a reformed upper Chamber. I felt that until then, we had not had enough discussion about that. We had had a great deal of debate about the proportion between elected and appointed Members but we had had none about what a changed upper Chamber would do. Arguably, that should have come before the question of composition.

I am therefore very pleased to see that it is spelt out so clearly in the terms of reference of the Select Committee. On the evening on which we discussed the Second Reading of my Bill, I thought that the Lord Privy Seal somewhat pooh-poohed the idea that once we had elected Members, the second Chamber would certainly be more legitimate. We would be reversing the process of the last century in which powers were taken away from the upper House—in 1911 and again in 1949—because of the presence of hereditary Peers and no elected Members.

At that time I thought that the Lord Privy Seal did not really agree with my point that once we were in part elected, legitimacy in some sense would return to the second Chamber and there was a case for more powers along with more duties. I thought that the reason was not only that the issue was extremely complicated—it would be difficult to persuade the Commons to give a second Chamber more powers—but that Ministers were pleased with the present arrangement. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, speaking from the Cross Benches, said that we had, reached a situation of executive supremacy with which Ministers are wholly comfortable". He added that the Government would tend to say: Let us not change that".—[Official Report, 16/1/02; col. 1116.] I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, is not with us today. I know that he is in Moscow improving his Russian, otherwise I am sure that he would say more on this issue.

The position of executive supremacy must change. I very much hope that the Joint Committee will study how it can be changed as that is very much a part of the process of reaching a new sensible constitutional settlement for the century ahead.

Paragraph (2)(a) refers to the Joint Committee considering and reporting on, any new procedures for resolving conflict between the two Houses". It is very important that the Joint Committee should look at what happens in Senates or upper Houses in other parts of the world—in Australia, Canada, the United States and perhaps most particularly, in Germany. It has a relatively new constitution, largely shaped and formed by the British in 1945. Its means of avoiding gridlock between the two Houses is to have a joint mediation committee so that whenever the Bundestag and Bundesrat do not agree, a joint mediation committee, comprising 16 Members from each House, meets. It is required to seek a compromise that is acceptable to both Houses, which is the sort of avenue that a Joint Committee should be exploring.

That said, I know that the Lord Privy Seal will be very pleased to hear that in the light of those terms of reference I do not intend that my Bill should proceed to Committee stage.

Lord Sheldon

My Lords, one of the most pleasant surprises in coming to this House was to see the difference between the retiring Chief Whip and the ones whom we used to know. His civilised attitude did not impair the passage of legislation or the work that was being done, which is a tribute to him.

Turning to the matters before us, will my noble and learned friend bear in mind the kind of conflict that could arise between elected Members and non-elected Peers? Elected Members will have constituents, and they may tread on the toes of other Members of Parliament. Constituents will say that they were not successful with their Member of Parliament but that they can go to Lord so-and-so. To a number of people, that continues to have resonance and dramatic conflicts could arise. Both groups will have electorates, but one could be seen as better placed than another.

Furthermore, two classes of Peer in this House will be difficult. Some will have research assistants, secretaries and the offices to go with them—then there will be the rest. They will not be quiet. During Question Time they will not give way in the courteous manner which we are used to. They will have to satisfy their constituents and they will demand to be heard. I am sorry if some Members do not understand that, but the other Chamber is like that and becoming more so. Having two classes of Peer will lead to some form of Speaker who will be able to choose who speaks and who puts the relevant questions. I have previously urged for that and it will become not only essential but vital.

Finally, we must exclude a list system. It is a kind of appointed system and there is little difference between the two systems. Other than that, I look forward to hearing the results of the work of the committee. It will need to take a large amount of evidence outside this House and this country and I look forward to seeing the solutions which it eventually puts forward.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, before we hear anyone else, perhaps I may remind your Lordships what we are discussing—I beg your pardon, what we are supposed to be discussing.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, I want to ask the noble and learned Lord one brief question. But before doing so, I want to say how sorry I am that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is no longer Chief Whip. I do not like change much, as many noble Lords know, and this is a change that I do not like. In any event, how is the chairman of the Joint Committee to be chosen?

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

My Lords, we are not supposed to be discussing the retirement of the Government Chief Whip. None the less, I hope that I will not incur the wrath of the Leader of the House if I, as a new Member—possibly the newest of those who have spoken—express my gratitude to him for the way in which he has accommodated Members such as myself with his great consideration.

Perhaps I may say how pleased I am—and I hope that this is what we are supposed to be discussing—by the terms of reference which have been agreed by discussions through the usual channels in both Houses. They appear to be wide enough to enable the committee to carry out the task which was discussed by Robin Cook, myself and our colleagues when we first recommended this outcome more than five years ago. We hoped that the proposal for the future of this House, which is so important to the distribution of power, might commend itself to those who know best how our two Houses of Parliament can work effectively. It was with that hope that the original recommendation was made.

Having taken some five years to arrive at the terms of reference, notwithstanding the obvious attractions of reaching conclusions, I hope that the committee will be permitted to take evidence—oral and written—and to take time to order its preferences in a way which enables it to have influence over the minds of those who will ultimately have to decide.

Lord Elton

My Lords, first, I want to make the briefest of comments to the noble Lord the former Chief Whip. To have earned the popularity and affection of his own party was no mean achievement. To have earned it of my party was a triumph and I congratulate him on it.

I have one query about the words on the Order Paper and I am sure that the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House will be able to tell me the answer. In the first numbered paragraph appears the word "category" of Members. Will he kindly tell me what is the meaning of the word "category" as printed in inverted commas and what the meaning would be if there were no inverted commas around it? They are plainly there for a purpose and those who read the Motion need to know what that purpose is.

Secondly, I turn to a larger issue, but I shall again be brief. I want to say a few words to the Committee of Selection whose Members are before us. Will they recall that for 700 years this House consisted only of the hereditary peerage? No, that is not true: there were of course the Law Lords and the Bishops and I am most grateful to the Clerk of the Table for his expression in drawing me to order. Nevertheless, the bulk of your Lordships were here by hereditary succession. Some of us remain here—in some cases a trifle reluctantly and working a good deal harder than we had either wished or expected—in order to try and ensure that whatever comes after us is the least bad or as good as possible. I hope that the Committee of Selection will ensure that someone of worth and experience from the hereditary peerage is a member of the Joint Select Committee.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, perhaps I may preface my few remarks by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, that he has been a tremendous Chief Whip. It has been great to see him secure the admiration not only of his own side, as my noble friend Lord Elton said, but of all sides of the House. We are all grateful to him.

I wanted to congratulate the Government on bringing forward the Motion for a Joint Select Committee. It is not often that one has found it possible to congratulate the Government on many aspects of House of Lords reform. They began in a dicey fashion and then said that there would be an all-party committee. We expected that to be appointed but it was not. The Government then published a White Paper and so forth, but the committee was not appointed. Eventually, they ran into internal problems and realised that the reform would founder. They have therefore produced an all-party Select Committee. I congratulate the Government and the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House. All I can say to him is that there is joy in the House over one sinner who repenteth and even more joy when there are two —and even more joy when they are both noble and learned Lords.

I look forward to the appointment of the Select Committee whose terms of reference are wide and good. I have no doubt that it will consider the problem of hybridisation, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett—

Lord Strathclyde


Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I beg your Lordships' pardon, it was hybridity. That was a most helpful intervention and I am grateful! Huge problems will arise if the House has unelected and elected Members. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor began the debate by saying that he wanted 20 per cent elected. That so excited my party that Members went momentarily out of their senses by saying that they wanted 80 per cent. I hope that that will not happen because it will result in two classes of citizens. The elected Members will want to be paid but what about the unelected ones? Are they not to be paid? We will get into a muddle and I hope that the committee will address itself to that point. Clearly, "Peer" means equal and one cannot have two groups of people in the same Chamber being totally unequal.

I hope that the committee will also address itself to the question of what will happen to the life Peers. They have always smiled at the demise of the hereditary Peers, but they will have to wipe the smile off their faces because they will be the next to go. If the House is to consist of a certain number of Members, some will have to go. I am sure that the committee members will want to address their minds to that issue. Some noble Lords opposite did not like the House of Lords when they were outside it, but when they came here they liked it. They then realised that it does a good job of work and I am sure that they would be distressed to find themselves removed. However, we hereditary Peers are used to that—we are out one moment; then we are told to come back again; and now we are told to go out again! That will be an innovation for the life Peers.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I shall be very inappropriate and not comment at all on the Motion, except to welcome it. As a Back-Bencher, I simply want to extend a warm thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for whom I have the greatest admiration and respect. I am sorrowful that he is going; indeed, I shall miss him. He is a very nice man.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, before I say anything, I think it would be appropriate to allow my noble friend Lord Carter to respond to the well-deserved words of praise.

Lord Carter

My Lords, perhaps I may remove myself from the strictures of the Companion, and say a few words that are not relevant to the Motion. Your Lordships have been much too kind. When the Prime Minister appointed me just over five years ago, he told me that he was giving me the toughest job in the Government. Actually, I have enjoyed every minute of it. I am really proud to have been Chief Whip in your Lordships' House; to have been a member of this Government; and to have played a small part in steering the programme of legislation on to the statute book.

I believe that I have worked with three Opposition Chief Whips: the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the noble Lord, Lord Cope; I have worked with two Liberal Democrat Chief Whips—namely, the late Lord Harris of Greenwich and the noble Lord, Lord Roper—and also with the two Convenors, the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. Everyone of them has been a good friend and a colleague; and, indeed, a great help.

I have found both colleagues and friends—and I choose my words carefully—in every part of the House. I thank all noble Lords very much. However, there is still a good deal of business on the Order Paper. I was Chief Whip until 10 o'clock this morning, so I can say, "Please get on with it!"

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Chief Whip, I shall! I just want to say what a marvellous companion in arms my noble friend Lord Carter has always been, not just on a personal basis to everyone of us. The best tribute to him is that he was a faithful servant to this place. He is standing down after a very, very hard five years. My noble friend was always here early in the morning, and never went home before the close of business. That is an extremely long day. He never lost his temper, nor his patience, despite frequent temptation.

Debates about the future of the House of Lords are just like Chinese take-aways—as soon as you finish one, you feel an overwhelming urge to have another one. If your Lordships will forgive me, I shall attend to the business now before the House. It is simply a perfect reflection of what was contained in the Statement that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor delivered to the House on 13th May to everyone's welcome and enthusiasm.

There are questions about what "category" means—the word category in inverted commas came directly from the Statement that my noble and learned friend delivered. It is a word of perfect and sublime ambiguity—

Lord Elton

My Lords, would not the ambiguity be removed with the inverted commas?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

No, my Lords; the inverted commas are there mainly to please the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. But apart from that significant constitutional advance, it is there for the committee to come to conclusions. It is a mistake for anyone in this House to attempt to be over-prescriptive. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is quite right to say that this is a significant, historic opportunity that needs to be taken.

When the Joint Committee of both Houses is established, it needs to be given its opportunity to work, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said, with all deliberate speed. It will be engaged on serious business. Precisely how the committee carries out its work is a matter that should be entrusted to its members. We ought not to prescribe. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, asked how the chairman would be chosen. As always, the committee will decide upon its chairman or chairwoman. It is a matter for the committee.

I am grateful for the support that noble Lords have expressed. I shall not engage in dancing on any heads of pins about time-scale, hybridity, or, indeed, whether the Joint Committee may take evidence. That is entirely a matter for the terms of reference, and then for the sound, good judgment of the committee to determine how it accomplishes its work, and how quickly and deliberately it goes about that work. I commend the Motion to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and a message was ordered to be sent to the Commons to seek their agreement thereto.

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