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Queen's Speech — Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:20 am on 27th May 2010.

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Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 11:20 am, 27th May 2010

I suspect that the truth is that we had to start somewhere. We have five-year Parliaments in this country at the moment. I have said to my colleagues down the Corridor-some of whom are younger and more enthusiastic not than the noble Lord but younger than me-that when these proposals come forward we will benefit from the collective wisdom of the House of Lords on these matters, and so we shall.

Furthermore, we will publish a draft parliamentary Bill making sure that the law enabling parliamentarians to do their job is fair and adapted to modern circumstances. A Bill of this type was recommended by a Joint Committee of both Houses, which pointed out that there are a number of areas in which the extent of privilege is not clear. We will also bring forward legislation to implement the Calman commission's final report on Scottish devolution. We remain committed to a referendum on the powers of the National Assembly for Wales. The Government believe strong devolution settlements mean a strong United Kingdom.

This debate would not be complete unless I said a few words about reform of your Lordships' House. The Government's position is set out clearly in the coalition agreement published last week. Perhaps the House might find it helpful if I remind it of the relevant section. Here, some noble Lords might like to adjust their pacemakers. We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper Chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft Motion by December 2010. It is likely that this Bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is likely that there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, the appointment of Lords will be made with the objective of creating a second Chamber which is reflective of the share of votes secured by the political parties in the last general election.

This is the position: we are committed to reform; we are committed to a wholly or mainly elected Upper House. I am well aware that some sitting in this Chamber hearing my words-articulating as they do the collective wisdom of government policy-will think, "Well, that is okay, that is back in the long grass".