House of Lords: Reform — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:36 pm on 27th April 2009.

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Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Constitutional Affairs 2:36 pm, 27th April 2009

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect to publish the planned draft clauses on House of Lords reform in the light of responses to the White Paper An Elected Second Chamber: Further Reform of the House of Lords.

Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Constitutional Affairs

My Lords, I think I am grateful for that Answer. Does the Minister recall that on seven occasions now he has said that pre-legislative scrutiny might be appropriate for draft clauses? Has he noticed that, in recent months, the Conservative leader has announced that he is now campaigning for the same vote, the same value, right across the country—in other words, for proportional representation? Would it not be wise to see whether consensus could be reached on this rather contentious issue through pre-legislative scrutiny, presumably in a Joint Committee of both Houses, so that the Government can build on the consensus arrived at within the White Paper discussions?

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Leader of the Opposition In the House of Lords, Parliament

My Lords, may I assure the Minister that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, is clearly deluding himself? The Conservative Party has no intention of campaigning for proportional representation.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

My Lords, there is clearly consensus between the two main parties on objecting to proportional representation. Will my noble friend take that into account in any further considerations?

Photo of Lord Maclennan of Rogart Lord Maclennan of Rogart Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Spokesperson for Constitutional Affairs, Spokesperson for Scotland

My Lords, whatever differences there may be about the ultimate shape of the House of Lords and how it is composed and elected, do the Government recognise that there is broad consensus that an interim measure, along the lines of my noble friend Lord Steel's Bill, would make a difference and meet the public recognition that change is appropriate now? Will the Government give a lead?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality), Department for Energy and Climate Change, Minister of State (Department of Energy and Climate Change), Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality) (also in the Department for Energy and Climate Change), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, we have had a great many opportunities to discuss the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. Of course, elements in it could be contained in a major reform proposal based on the White Paper's proposal. The Government have said that they are already prepared to move swiftly on matters concerned with conduct and discipline. The fact is that the Government's efforts take forward substantive reform. That is why we established the cross-party groups which led to the White Paper. Let us hope that in the manifestos for the next election there will be a consistency of approach among the political parties on substantive reform. Then legislation could soon follow.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that at the end of March, during the Committee stage of the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, there was unanimity on the four main principles of the Bill and that that should also be taken into account by Her Majesty's Government?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality), Department for Energy and Climate Change, Minister of State (Department of Energy and Climate Change), Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality) (also in the Department for Energy and Climate Change), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, as I said, there are clearly elements within the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, which would need to be addressed within substantive reform. It is worth making the point that, to take the question of a statutory Appointments Commission as an example, the White Paper accepts that if the eventual outcome was an 80 per cent elected House, there would need to be a statutory Appointments Commission and legislation would follow that course. The proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, embraces a statutory Appointments Commission that would decide which party-political appointments could be made. I have to say that that is entirely unacceptable to the Government.

Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative

My Lords, as there is obviously consensus between Conservative and Labour Peers in this House that this is a matter best left alone, can we not achieve some mechanism by which all the Liberal Democrat Peers resign and re-elect themselves in some different form?

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Leader in the House of Lords, Spokesperson for Constitutional Affairs , Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, does not the Minister feel a sense of shame that a Labour Government—a Labour Government—after 12 years and three thumping majorities has left this House a House of patronage quite unrepresentative of the people whom it is supposed to represent?

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Minister of State (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality), Department for Energy and Climate Change, Minister of State (Department of Energy and Climate Change), Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Sustainable Development, Climate Change Adaptation and Air Quality) (also in the Department for Energy and Climate Change), Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

No, my Lords, I do not. This Government are the first Government for many a year to take forward and enact substantive reform of your Lordships' House. It is widely accepted that those reforms have led to this House becoming a more effective Chamber. The whole point of the cross-party working group of which the noble Lord was a very influential member is to continue the process of reform. That is what we are committed to do.

Photo of Lord Boston of Faversham Lord Boston of Faversham Crossbench

My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that his original Answer was most acceptable to many of us in the House and that if it were the intention of Her Majesty's Government to continue in a period of consideration indefinitely, that would be very welcome?

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, is the noble Lord right when he uses the word consultation? He has referred to consideration throughout but now it is consultation. What is the difference?