Clause 1 — Expulsion and suspension of Members of the House of Lords

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:26 am on 6th March 2015.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 11:26 am, 6th March 2015

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Sir George Young, who, with typical modesty, suggests that he has been unable to handle the Bill effectively in the Commons. He has handled it highly effectively, as one would expect from somebody with such distinguished service in the House and such an expert knowledge of the procedures. In the discussion on the Bill, we have shown that we need to ask questions of private Member’s Bills, and particularly constitutional ones. He has been eager to answer those questions.

The Bill would have taken a slightly different form if there had been more flexibility on the Government’s part, and if they were willing to accept amendments. That is the nature of the problems we have at the moment, with a Government of two parts. The Liberal Democrats seem to have a veto on everything and are rarely represented in the Chamber on a Friday, and they often say one thing to one group of people while doing something completely different. I am sure they will be here to defend themselves when the House is no longer sitting.

One good thing about the Bill is that it will enable a period of suspension to go beyond the end of one Parliament. I made it clear at the outset that that is a good idea. In answer to my intervention, my right hon. Friend said that 1954 was the last time we expelled anybody from the Commons. I hope that it will be 60 or 70 years before the other place has to expel anybody.

The other place has not been able to sort itself out in terms of numbers, largely because of the patronage of the party leaders. I am concerned that the numbers are so large that they will try to find any excuse to reduce them. I fear that the Bill could be a Trojan horse for reducing the numbers, whereas a much better way forward would be to adopt, for example, the House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill, which is on the Order Paper for later today, but which I am sure will be blocked by the Government, as it has been on so many previous occasions. Let us hope that the Bill will make the House of Lords concentrate on how it can possibly limit its numbers, not by expulsions or suspensions, but by genuinely recognising that we cannot have the second Chamber of this country being the second largest legislature in the world, after that of the People’s Republic of China.

If we had a House of Lords that was reformed in terms of numbers, many of the problems would be solved, but I know that some people, who would like a complete change in the other place, see the lack of ability to suspend Members as a reason to attack it. I think that we should leave it as it is at the moment, as an appointed Chamber. We should reduce the number of peers, but we should not interfere in a part of our democracy that seems to be working well. I am assured by many of my noble Friends that the Bill will give more power to the elbow of those who want to maintain the status quo in the other place. If the Bill will deliver that, it deserves a Third Reading.