My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the wise remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston. I join other noble Lords in congratulating the Government on making time for this debate today and my noble friend Lord Cormack on securing it and on the content of his remarks, which, as usual, I find myself in substantial agreement with. I salute, too, the work of the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, which he and my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, together with others from all sides of both Houses, have worked hard in for a number of years. They have done extremely valuable work, which we are beholden to build on.
The Leader’s Group, chaired by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral, set out the various options for reducing the size of the House of Lords. Most noble Lords have their own views on their preferred choice for how that should be achieved, as does almost everybody in the country. They are not of one mind—“quot homines, tot sententiae”. The Second Reading debate on the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Elton—a Bill which he imaginatively and wisely designed, after very wide consultation, to be uncontentious, proved beyond peradventure that there is at present no consensus in this House, far less unanimity, on the best way forward. If proof were needed, the remarks of my noble friend and chieftain Lord Caithness would underline that.
As the old saying goes: when in doubt, set up another committee. I do not think that on this occasion there should be a collective sigh of resignation. Select Committees in this House have a record of coming up with recommendations and, as others have said, I hope there will be recommendations that lead to practical outcomes. The basis for such recommendations is already there: a House no more numerous than the other place; no party or grouping to have an overall majority; a substantial proportion of the seats to be Cross-Benchers; and the primacy of the other place to be preserved.
The very welcome decision by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the other place to take evidence and produce a report on this subject suggests that it might be timely to consider setting up not only a Select Committee of this House but a Joint Committee of both Houses to make recommendations about the best way forward, because we have to take the other House with us and it might save time in the end. Still, that is perhaps for another day; I would not expect my noble friend the Leader of the House to respond to that. Either way, a decision to establish a Select Committee of this House or indeed a Joint Committee would have my wholehearted support.