Constitutional Renewal — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:03 pm on 10th June 2009.

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Photo of Baroness D'Souza Baroness D'Souza Crossbench 4:03 pm, 10th June 2009

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement on constitutional renewal. There have been endless debates, a Green Paper, a White Paper and a cross-party taskforce specifically set up to try to achieve consensus on several aspects of Lords reform, including the composition of this House. The Statement is extremely welcome if it heralds reforms that will add to the efficient working of your Lordships' House.

It is particularly welcome that the Prime Minister, following the initiative that the House of Lords has already taken, has written to the SSRB requesting that it undertakes an independent review of financial support of Members. However, there are one or two small discrepancies between the letter sent by the Lord Speaker and the Prime Minister's Statement. The Lord Speaker's letter to the Prime Minister about the forthcoming SSRB review certainly refers to value for money. However, the Prime Minister's Statement refers on page 3 to ensuring "that Parliament costs less" and on page 4 to the House of Lords costing less. This is not a way of prejudging the outcome of the SSRB review. I would be interested to know if the Statement indicates that such smaller interim reforms, on which there is a wide degree of consensus—such as the freedom of Peers to take retirement, paving the way to a much smaller House; statutory status for the Appointments Commission; and the possible ending of hereditary Peers by elections—will be covered in the forthcoming Bill, which is due to be announced before the Summer Recess.

Finally, the Statement refers to the backing from other parties in both Houses, as well as from the Cross Benches, for the proposals put forward in the White Paper of last July, particularly on the 80:20 aspect. There are many Back-Benchers and Cross-Benchers in this House and the other House who did not back the proposals for an elected House of Lords. Does the Statement therefore indicate that such major reforms might be set aside for later consideration?