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House of Lords Reform — Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:23 pm on 15th September 2015.

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Photo of Viscount Ridley Viscount Ridley Conservative 7:23 pm, 15th September 2015

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, mentioned his father. I am reminded that one of my father’s favourite jokes was that when he was in this place he saw a book in the Library entitled The Need for a Second Chamber, by a Liberal Peer. Get it? No? I am sorry about that.

As a relative newcomer to this House and as an elected hereditary—the product of a ludicrous by-election—I hesitate to intervene. There are far more experienced and expert figures than me to listen to and, moreover, a great deal of what I wanted to say has already been said, so I shall cut my remarks very short. I very much follow the same line as my noble friends Lord Hunt of Wirral, Lord Jopling and Lord Astor, and the noble Lord, Lord Desai. By far the simplest, quickest and fairest way to reduce numbers in this House is surely to hold an election among ourselves, by party grouping, as to who stays and who goes: a reduction election. As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor said, it worked well for the hereditaries in 1999, so we have a precedent.

We will always struggle to come up with rules that can command agreement based on age, expertise or attendance. We all know of people who speak very rarely, or have been on the planet for many decades, whose wisdom we would not want to lose. No doubt, each of us also knows people who speak a great deal, or are in the tenderest youth, who, to paraphrase Mr Bennet, have delighted us long enough. So instead of trying to devise rules about when noble Lords have to leave, let us just fix a total number, give each party grouping a quota and hold secret ballots to decide who stays and who goes. After that, of course, managing the numbers to stop it growing again will need a carefully agreed process, but I do not propose to go into that, because I think we have heard enough and I am looking forward to hearing from others. With that, I will curtail my remarks because if I have learned one thing here, it is that brevity is the soul of wit.