Amendments 19 and 21 would prevent a peer who resigns or is disqualified through non-attendance from being elected to the House of Commons during the course of the next two Parliaments, thereby making provision for a cooling-off period. I think we all agree that would not want the House of Lords to become a training ground for a seat in the House of Commons and thereafter provide an opportunity to ping-pong between the Houses. As my hon. Friend Jacob Rees-Mogg said, my Bill does not allow departing peers to return to the House of Lords, so the ponging is gone, and perhaps we are now just discussing the pinging.
I am conscious of my hon. Friend’s concerns, but the likelihood of many of them becoming reality are quite slim. On the first group of amendments, he spoke with great eloquence about how desperate many people are to get into the House of Lords. In my experience and, I think, that of most people in the House, people are very keen to go in that direction but there is not necessarily quite such a large queue waiting to come in this direction. When I have discussed this with colleagues, they have looked at me and said, “Why on earth would somebody want to go from the Lords to the Commons? Most of our colleagues seem to be trying to go the other way.”
On the potential power given to party leaderships, I am not convinced that the party leadership—in our party, anyway—has quite as much control over the candidate selection process as my hon. Friend seems to give them credit for. Whenever the party leadership tries to impose a favoured candidate on a safe seat, the fact that they are known to be the Conservative central office-favoured candidate can at times be the kiss of death with regard to the local association, which usually likes to exert its independence when it come to selecting candidates.
My hon. Friend’s argument needs to be weighed strongly against the very serious issue of barring a British citizen from seeking election to the House of Commons. I take his point when he says that someone will have made this decision when they chose to go into the House of Lords, but it is very large step to say to them, “You, as a British citizen, are one of a small group of people who, through dint of your previous job, are not permitted to seek election to the House of Commons.” We have traditionally prevented people from seeking election to the House of Commons only for very narrow reasons, and I am wary of the amendment for that reason. I am not aware of any widespread desire among parliamentarians to ping-pong backwards and forwards—or ping, at least—and I very much doubt that the party leaderships of all three parties would seek to use that as a method of grooming candidates in future.
Amendment 21 says that any peer who resigned or was disqualified would retain their peerage. That principle is already inherent in the Bill, which does not provide for peerages to be lost, and the amendment is therefore unnecessary. I urge the House not to support the amendments.