House of Lords: Size - Motion to Resolve (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:31 pm on 5th December 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench 5:31 pm, 5th December 2016

My Lords, as a member of his committee, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for his excellent speech and for his kind words about Geoffrey, who I am quite certain is listening intently to all that is said today.

Change is, of course, inevitable in a parliamentary democracy. From what we have all heard so far, we are all clearly of the view that the time for change to downsize the numbers in your Lordships’ House can no longer be ignored. I arrived in 2001 via a new system for selecting Cross-Bench Members, and we brought with us a slightly extended role for Cross-Benchers. At that time there was ample seating for everyone. Today, though, the relentless—I would even say cynical—increase in your Lordships’ numbers by successive Governments to over 800 has become intolerable. Indeed, if you want to be seated in the Chamber for the start of Questions, you must be there for Prayers by 2.15; no doubt this is good recruitment for the Church.

How best can we achieve this universally desired objective, particularly, as stressed by Meg Russell’s analysis, a total membership of your Lordships’ House no bigger than that of the other place? I suspect we all have our own views of the preferred route to achieve this objective but surely that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack—to appoint a Select Committee for this purpose—is the right one, and I fully support it.

I end with an additional suggestion that the Select Committee might consider alongside other proposals. Today, as your Lordships will have noticed, working patterns have changed considerably. In the past, people often worked for just one employer during their working lives and then retired with their well-earned gold watch, but they seldom do this now. Today during their working lives they often work for a range of different employers. I suggest that, for some of them, one of their occupations could be as a Member of your Lordships’ House.

When everyone has spoken tonight, I hope everyone will support the establishment of a Select Committee—as soon as possible, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, has said.