Committee (and remaining stages)

Part of Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – in the House of Lords at 12:45 am on 7th April 2010.

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Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Constitutional Affairs 12:45 am, 7th April 2010

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bach, generously said at the beginning of our proceedings on the Bill this evening, my noble friends and I did not agree to the complete exclusion of Part 5, which relates to matters of considerable concern to this House and to issues on which this House has taken a view on innumerable occasions in recent years, not least when we were discussing the Bill brought forward by my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood, which was supported by many Members on other Benches in your Lordships' House.

Clause 53 deals with the ending of by-elections for hereditary Peers, but also within this group we have Clauses 54 and 55, which deal with the extremely important issues of the exclusion and suspension of Members, which, as many Members of your Lordships' House will recall, caused us considerable concern in recent months when we found that the powers that we had on those matters were not substantial and were not sufficiently up to date in many people's view. We also have Clauses 57 and 58, which are tidying-up matters, and Schedule 8.

At this hour, I do not propose to repeat the arguments that we have advanced previously, not least earlier yesterday-I suppose about nine hours ago-on the issue of the extended discussions that have taken place over a long period about the hereditary principle and what the noble Lord, Lord Bach, as recently as in the Second Reading debate, described as the farce of the hereditary by-elections. We believe that it does this House no good to perpetuate farce of that nature. We believe that the Government were absolutely right to tackle this issue in this Bill and to pick up the proposals put forward so persuasively over many months by my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood. Therefore, we are disappointed that, under pressure from the Conservatives, who seem to think that preserving the hereditary principle is the big issue of the wash-up, the Government have given way on this issue of principle. We imagine that Members of the other place will be equally disappointed when this Bill goes back to them if the Government's proposals go through. On that issue, we are resolute.

However, we also believe that Clauses 54, 55, 57 and 58 have the real merit of simplifying and clarifying what powers we have in this House to deal with the problems that have been so apparent over recent months. This is, if you like, the IPSA problem so far as this House is concerned. The IPSA provisions in this Bill will go through and no doubt will give some confidence-at least, one would hope so-and increased trust in the way in which the other place deals with its disciplinary procedures. However, unless we have Clauses 54 and 55 in particular in this Bill, this will be unfinished business and we will go into the election and into the new Parliament with the House of Lords not having cleaned up its act. There is a real issue of principle, as well as of trust and of confidence in the parliamentary process and in your Lordships' House in particular.

That is enough at this time of night. We will definitely wish to test the opinion of the House on Clause 53 when the appropriate moment arrives.