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My Lords, I start by declaring an interest. I am an excepted hereditary Peer, and the position of those such as me and my noble friend Lord Caithness is an issue when it comes to the size and composition of the House. I also declare a disinterest, given that, whatever happens, this is almost certainly my last Parliament and I think I shall do well to last until the end of it. I speak, therefore, with a certain amount of dispassion.
My noble friend the Leader of the House suggested that we were here to complement the House of Commons, and there has been a discussion about the meaning of that word. My view is that we are here to balance it as much as to complement it. One of the changes during my parliamentary life has been the change in character of the composition of the House of Commons. When I came in, it was largely composed of people who had long experience in either a trade or a profession, one to which they could count on returning. Therefore, they were independent, to a much greater extent, of government or party control—because Governments alternate between parties—than a House that is now composed much more largely of people without a trade or profession to return to and without the experience gained from that. In this House, we have a diminishing but still significant proportion of people who have professional lives outside the House—rather fewer have a trade—and who bring a relevance of experience that is sometimes lacking in the other place. The more it becomes professionalised, the less it will balance the House of Commons in that respect. I also agree with my noble friend that the more Peers are paid, the more that will happen.
That tempts me to go on to a review of the extent to which the Crown, which is now largely the Government, has retrieved from Parliament the powers that it lost when Parliament was invented. But that is another issue.
What we are facing now is a moment of both crisis and opportunity. Am I not speaking into the microphone or is there some other difficulty?