Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

House of Lords: Reform — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:02 pm on 5th July 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative 3:02 pm, 5th July 2010

To ask Her Majesty's Government what process will be used by the House of Lords reform committee to give instructions to Parliamentary Counsel for a draft bill.

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

My Lords, instructions to parliamentary counsel will be drafted by officials in the usual manner, based on decisions made by the committee.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that response. The take note debate raised two questions of due process relating to this Question, which, in effect, has not been answered. I am afraid that I cannot answer it; I did not set up the committee. I suspect that the only person in your Lordships' House who can really answer it is my noble friend the Justice Minister. In the mean time, though, there is a problem about this process. There are two aspects.

Noble Lords:

Too long!

Photo of Lord Campbell of Alloway Lord Campbell of Alloway Conservative

I am sorry. I will sit down.

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

My Lords, because, as the noble Lord said, the debate raised the issue of due process, I was very careful to make inquiries about whether it could be suggested that anything that was taking place was not being done with due process. I am advised that parliamentary counsel will draft the Bill, which the Government plan to publish before the end of the year, based on clear instructions provided by the departmental lawyers, and that this is normal practice.

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour

Does the Minister agree that every Minister should be accountable to one House or the other in Parliament and that it is therefore an anomaly that the Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office is apparently not answerable to anybody in either House? Will the Minister ensure, in feeding in to this process, that all Ministers are accountable?

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

I cannot believe that that is not the case. Perhaps the noble Lord will write to me on it; otherwise, I will report what he suggests to the Cabinet Office. I think that I have seen most Ministers up for Questions. If the Minister is in another place, it is open to Members of another place-

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour

It is this House.

Photo of Lord Maclennan of Rogart Lord Maclennan of Rogart Liberal Democrat

Can my noble friend give a little further advice on the status of the committee, which, although appointed by the Government, includes a representative of the Opposition? None the less, the Leader of the Opposition in this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, described it as a Cabinet committee. Does it have that authority and collective responsibility? Secondly, what steps will be taken to enable representations to be made to the committee that are germane to the work of the committee in the form of advice, given that the noble Baroness said to the House that the committee's proceedings could not be made clear or transparent? Are we not all interested in helping constructively? If we are to help constructively, can we be given some greater indication of how we can do so?

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

I am very much aware of just how constructive most of this House wants to be to the committee and I am grateful for that. It is not a Cabinet committee; it is a working group that is drawing up a draft Bill. The reason why the Opposition accepted the invitation to join the group is that, prior to the election, a great deal of the work had been done by a similar committee under the chairmanship of Mr Jack Straw. That committee left a good body of work for this group to get ahead in its work in drawing up a draft Bill.

Photo of Lord Christopher Lord Christopher Labour

My Lords, I understand that the Cabinet rules on legislation require an impact assessment and a cost-benefit analysis. Indeed, the Government were criticised only recently for not producing them. In the case of this government draft legislation, it seems ludicrous that the House should discuss something without knowing what the consequences will be.

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

Those matters can be fully scrutinised by the pre-legislative scrutiny committee when it sees the draft Bill. I emphasise that this committee is working on a draft Bill, which will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny, when there will be a lot of opportunities to look at both the impact and the cost.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

My Lords, as I previously understood it-the Minister has made it much clearer to me now-the agenda and the minutes of the committee could not be made public because the committee was a Cabinet committee. The noble Lord has now told us that it is definitely not a Cabinet committee. Given that this Government have trumpeted their commitment to transparency and openness, on which the Deputy Prime Minister has been in the lead, why on earth cannot the agenda and the minutes be published? If the noble Lord tells me that they cannot be, what offence would be committed if, for example, I were to ask my noble friend the shadow Leader of the House to let me have a copy of them?

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

I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition would honour what has been set out by the committee. This is a drafting committee and we are working with due speed to produce a draft, which will then give the opportunity for the real work that Lords reform requires. I think that the House is getting overexcited about this. We are receiving advice and written submissions and we are working hard to be able to give the House what I have described before as a bone for it to chew on. I think that that is the best way forward for Lords reform.

Noble Lords:

Time.