House of Lords Reform (Hereditary Places)

– in the House of Commons at 5:09 pm on 7th March 2007.

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Votes in this debate

Motion made,

That this House is of the opinion that the remaining retained places for peers whose membership is based on the hereditary principle should be removed.— [Mr. Straw.]

Amendment proposed: (c), in line 2, at end add:

"once elected members have taken their places in a reformed House of Lords."— [Mrs. May.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 329.

Division number 71 House of Lords Reform — Remove Hereditary Places once Reform has taken place — rejected

Aye: 241 MPs

No: 329 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 72 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 391, Noes 111.

Division number 72 House of Lords Reform — Remove Hereditary Places

Aye: 391 MPs

No: 111 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 140 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House is of the opinion that the remaining retained places for peers whose membership is based on the hereditary principle should be removed.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The first vote tonight was on whether the House wanted to continue with a bicameral Parliament, and many of us voted aye on the basis that the House of Lords is as it is now. If we are to be offered a House of Lords that is either wholly or largely elected, some of us might vote the opposite way. Could we please be given that opportunity?

Photo of David Clelland David Clelland Labour, Tyne Bridge

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House has made a clear decision on an issue that was not included in the manifestos of any of the political parties at the last election. Would you expect the Leader of the House now to come to the House with proposals for a referendum, so that the people of this country can make a decision as to whether they agree with that decision?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Given that in the votes that we have just had, the House has passed two motions for reform of the House of Lords, neither of which was Government policy, and given that the Government's policy for a 50:50 split in the House of Lords actually received the smallest number of votes of any of the votes that we have taken, will the Leader of the House be making a statement to this House about where the Government intend to take this issue now?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal

I am delighted to make a statement. Let me say to the Leader of the House—[Hon. Members: "Hooray!"] As well as speaking to myself, let me say to the shadow Leader of the House that she has departed from the normal ecumenical spirit of generosity that she has adopted previously, because the truth is that if she and I and the Liberals had not worked very hard on this, we would never have delivered what is a very positive vote for change—fundamental change—in the way that we order the other place. I am delighted, both by the results and by the fact that at long last this House has come to a very clear decision.

The other place will be discussing this issue next week. I think it is fully accepted on both sides that we are right to take our time to consider the views of the other place. Meanwhile, I shall make arrangements to recall the cross-party working group, and at an appropriate moment after discussions in that group I shall of course make a statement to this House.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I pay tribute to the Leader of the House, who has always made it clear that this was to be a decision for the House of Commons. The House of Commons has not just made a decision; it has made a very clear decision. I am grateful for the indication that there will be further discussion between all the parties in this House as to how we take it forward. I am grateful for the indication that we should communicate our view clearly to the other place. May I ask that we have, before the end of this Session, a commitment by the Government that in the next Session of Parliament they will proceed to implement the decision made by the House of Commons tonight?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal

I think it is slightly premature to invite me to announce an element of the Queen's Speech at this stage; one step at a time. But I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. I repeat the compliment to him. I have always made it clear that the purpose of this process was to test and then to obtain the opinion of this House. We have done so, and I am delighted that I voted in favour of one of the two options that was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), Leader, Scottish National Party

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the House will recall that in the original cross-party discussions he felt that the balance of opinion and temperature was for a 50:50 split. Can we now therefore assume that these new discussions will include some of the minority parties in this House, whose feelings on this matter seem to be more reflective of the votes we have just cast than the Leader of the House thought in the original, restrictive discussions?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall a point of order that I raised on a previous occasion, namely that when a Government Minister rises on a point of order, it is within the discretion of the Chair to treat it as a statement in respect of which he can be asked questions. The Leader of the House has now risen to his feet twice; indeed, he said that he was making a statement. Given that, would you permit hon. and right hon. Members to ask questions?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

At the moment, these are still points of order. I allowed the Leader of the House to speak further to the points of order so that he could provide clarity to the House. Business questions are tomorrow and I am sure that hon. Members will have the ingenuity to put questions on this issue to the Leader of the House then.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the House has voted to abolish the House of Lords —[ Interruption. ] The House has voted to abolish the present second Chamber and replace it with something else. As that would be the most important constitutional change since about 1650, may we have an assurance from the Leader of the House—if he wishes to speak further to this point of order—that any legislation will be taken on the Floor of the House and will not be timetabled?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

We are now getting into a debate about how this matter will be handled. There will be opportunities to question the Leader of the House and that can start tomorrow. It would be inappropriate to have a debate this evening about how to proceed.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek clarification. Two of the motions on the composition of the other place were carried. One of them was carried by an absolute majority of Members and the other by a smaller majority. Which of those motions will be taken forward as the most important?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although the Leader of the House may come to the House tomorrow, the results will be widely reported and it would be useful for him to explain his view of the settled will of the House. Is it an entirely elected Chamber or an 80:20 split? We should know now.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. I can tell the Leader of the House to sit down in the same way as I tell other hon. Members to do so. We have this evening to reflect on the decision and the House will be able to question the Leader of the House tomorrow—

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal

I rise to put on record information that I have communicated already to the shadow Leader of the House, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and the Clerk, which is that I cannot be here tomorrow. I sent a letter to that effect two weeks ago. My hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House will handle business and I will be here the following week.

I say to Mr. Salmond that I will arrange some discussions with the smaller parties in the House. On the bigger questions, we will listen to what the other place says. We have always said that, especially to those who have argued for no change. We will listen, as is our duty, and then we will discuss the next steps in the cross-party group.