Committee (and remaining stages)

Part of Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – in the House of Lords at 1:15 am on 7th April 2010.

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Photo of Lord Steel of Aikwood Lord Steel of Aikwood Liberal Democrat 1:15 am, 7th April 2010

Before we do that, I register again my acute disappointment that, after three years of debate on what I call running repairs in this House on the four issues, the Government picked up three of those issues in this Bill but, at the last minute, we are not going to get even those. I can say straightaway that the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, and I did not intend to move the amendment on a statutory Appointments Commission, despite the fact that it received universal support at Second Reading, for the simple reason that, although we would have done so had this Bill gone through the normal Committee procedure, we believe that it is not right at this late stage to try to introduce a new measure into the wash-up.

It really is quite extraordinary that we are going to make no progress on the other three issues tonight. I think that I understood the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to say that, if a Conservative Government were elected, they would proceed with the disciplinary measures. If I understood him correctly, it is a pity that he does not go further and embrace all three measures. The retirement provision is surely important for the working of this House. We know that, after the election is over, there will be an influx of new Peers in all parts of the House. We will reach something like 800 if we are not careful. Yet it is seriously suggested that we do not even start to allow a provision for Members to retire from the House when they feel that it is right to do so. That is quite extraordinary.

As for the provision on hereditary by-elections, I remind the House of what the then Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said in the House in 2003:

"It was never our intention that the remaining hereditary Peers should remain Members of the House for ever. When this interim arrangement was reached, as well as the immediate benefit of the agreement, we accepted the argument that the presence of the remaining hereditary Peers would act as an incentive to further reform. That has not happened ... So the context for reform has clearly and significantly changed. The circumstances which gave rise to the original arrangement over the remaining hereditary Peers no longer apply".-[Hansard, 18/9/03; col. 1058.]

If that was the position of those on the government Front Bench in 2003, how can it still apply in 2010? It simply does not make sense. If the Government are saying, "Oh well, we have to agree because the Conservative Opposition do not like this provision", I remind them that it was perfectly clear in all our debates that those on the Conservative Front Bench did not carry all those on their Back Benches with them. Not only are they giving in to a minority, but they are giving in to a minority within a minority in seeking to remove this provision from the Bill. It is deeply sad that this is happening. I will say simply that, if these provisions are not brought back before the House when the election is over, I intend to reintroduce my Bill for the third time.