House of Lords: Size — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:27 pm on 12th December 2013.

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Photo of Lord Norton of Louth Lord Norton of Louth Conservative 5:27 pm, 12th December 2013

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken, and to my noble friend the Leader of the House in particular for replying to the debate. I also appreciate greatly the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who is speaking in her third debate today. I thought that she encapsulated the point extremely well—size matters. Many of the speeches demonstrated concerns felt in different parts of the House.

This House clearly performs valuable functions; I do not think that the functions are in doubt. Nor is the fact that the House fulfils them effectively. I think that we do a very good job indeed; that is the great merit of the House. We tend to do the work extremely well, and I think that we should proclaim that fact. But my point is that the growing size of the House does not facilitate us in fulfilling those functions effectively. As I have said, it is only one aspect that we need to address, but it is an important one.

I say to my noble friend Lord Caithness that we will continue to have these debates until action is taken. He himself went on to refer to the problem of numbers, and came up with one or two ideas, one of which I would fully endorse—it is something that I have supported for some time. We need to think through the implications of the fact that we continue to grow. It is that dynamic element that my noble friend Lord True did not really address. Nor, to some extent, did my noble friend Lord Hill. We need to have a clear view as to what we believe is the optimum size of the House—and then, within that, the distribution among the different groupings. As my noble friend Lord Tyler indicated, we have not really had that discussion. That, I think, should be our starting point.

I endorse the comments of a great many noble Lords who have spoken. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hill for what he said, as far as he felt able to go. However, I am sure that he will understand when I say that we will push him to go further. I end with a quote addressed to those who think that things are fine as they are. Burke said:

“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its own conservation”.

Motion agreed.