House of Lords: Nomination of Members

– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 4th October 2000.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative 2:45 pm, 4th October 2000

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they consider that it is in accordance with the status of this House that members of the public should be invited to propose themselves for membership.

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, the short Answer is yes, indeed the Government believe that the new arrangements for nomination of Cross-Bench Peers should, by their openness, enhance the dignity of the House. The Government want the process to encourage nominations from all sections of society and clearly self-nomination has a role in opening up the process. I am confident that that will not diminish the quality of membership as the standards for appointment to be used by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, and his co-commissioners are exacting.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer. Is she aware that there is a body of contrary opinion that takes the view that the status of the House would be adversely affected? Can she tell the House why making self-nomination available to candidates for the non-political peerages, promoted on government funding and in implementation of a government policy to modernise this House, would not require the approval of Parliament?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I know that the noble Lord is aware that the process of establishing the non-statutory Appointments Commission to take forward the process of reviewing the nomination procedure for Cross-Bench Peers in the House was part of the House of Lords Act arrangements we dealt with extensively last year. Of course, we must await the outcome of the consideration that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and his commission are undertaking. I believe that it is a little pessimistic at this stage to say that it will lead to a reduction in the quality of membership of the House. It is not a view shared by the Government.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of the most senior and most dignified posts in the public and private sectors in recent years have been advertised for self-nomination, including posts for the higher judiciary? Does she agree that in no way is it abusive of the dignity of such positions that one should have the widest possible opportunity of being able to appoint the widest possible range of people to important posts?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. In relation to other potential criticisms of the outcome of this arrangement, one of the bases for election of Members to the other place and potentially of elections of Members to this House is that people self-nominate themselves and put their names forward for such positions. As I understand it, the party of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, is supportive of the idea that there should be an elected portion of the membership of this House.

Photo of Baroness Platt of Writtle Baroness Platt of Writtle Conservative

My Lords, does the Leader of the House agree that there should be more emphasis on nomination by groups of people, just as in local government people have to be put forward by others? If one wants to be a fellow of a learned society one has to be proposed by other fellows. Does she agree that the people of greatest value to this House are unlikely to put themselves forward?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, the noble Baroness may be under a slight misapprehension as to what is happening. Self-nomination is only part of the process being undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. Obviously, there is capacity to extend the nominations procedure and for people to be nominated by the kind of bodies suggested by the noble Baroness, or indeed by a group of friends. Self-nomination is just one of the paths towards the appointment of Cross-Bench Peers which the noble Lord and his commission will be examining.

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Liberal Democrat

My Lords, as one who had sight of a Prime Minister's postbag for three years, will the Minister accept that self-nomination is not so new an idea as might be thought? Has she also had time to consider an idea that I floated in The House Magazine that, because of the importance of the Cross-Benchers in the House of Lords, it might be as well if the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, ran the ruler over existing Cross-Benchers to judge their suitability as well?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, as always the noble Lord, Lord McNally, comes forward with some fascinating and inventive ideas. I do not believe I break any code of family secrets as I suspect we are speaking of the same Prime Minister, in referring to the numbers of self-nominations, when I say that my noble friend Lord Callaghan always told me, as I am sure he did the noble Lord, that he carried a special piece of paper in his pocket for those who volunteered themselves in this capacity.

Photo of Lord Harris of High Cross Lord Harris of High Cross Crossbench

My Lords, in view of the noble Baroness's reference to the advertising of top jobs, and in view of the discontent some of us still feel about inciting an unseemly scramble for peerages in this way, may I suggest that she considers taking a leaf out of Iolanthe and offers her own exalted station for competitive examination?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, I am happy to do that if that is a proposal noble Lords seek as a way of reform. I am always looking for ways to achieve reform.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that the present system is not without its critics? Does she remember that earlier this year her distinguished predecessor as Leader of the House, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, described one of this year's nominations for a life peerage by Mr William Hague as an affront to the dignity and standing of Parliament?

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, there is the potential to affront the dignity and standing of Parliament in many ways. But I do not believe that the process being undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, will do that.