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Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill — Committee (14th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:45 pm on 26th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 10:45 pm, 26th January 2011

My Lords, I would not necessarily compare all Governments with the standard of the previous one. My noble friend has made the case for a reduction in Ministers from the current number. It is most interesting but not one that we find entirely convincing. However, we do find it convincing to reduce the size of the Executive when we get to 600.

We should not forget the purpose of a ministerial presence in Parliament. We need sufficient Ministers to support the essential business of both Houses, to make Statements and answer Questions in both Houses, to introduce Bills and to contribute to debates. In fact, my noble friend Lord Norton made an interesting point when he said that no study has been made of whether there has been an increased workload for Ministers. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Myners, spoke rather well about how unnecessary many of the things that Ministers do actually are. Perhaps there should be a study. I look to my noble friend Lord Norton for that. He will know the kind of people who ought to be able to make that study. I am sure the noble and learned Lord would not wish to rush to legislate until we had at least seen a little evidence from such a report.

There are some entertaining examples in all of this and it is amusing to look at the role of Ministers in each House. But there is a very serious underlying point and that is the fear that the proportion of the Executive will increase as the number of Members of Parliament falls. I understand that there is an impatience in this Committee to know how the Government will address that fact. I am trying to be as helpful as I can but there is a limit to the helpfulness. We have said that we will address this issue and we will, but there is plenty of time to legislate before 2015 if we need to. The Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform told the Constitution Committee, of which my noble friend and the noble and learned Lord are members, that we will bring forward proposals during this Parliament. That is in good time as the reduction in the size of the other place will not yet have taken effect. I hope that is a sufficient reassurance, repeated here, and that it will satisfy the noble and learned Lord enough to feel able to withdraw the amendment.