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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:51 pm on 5th December 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative 5:51 pm, 5th December 2016

My Lords, I want one simple message to go out from the House of Lords today—that it wants to reduce its size so that it is no larger than the House of Commons, and it wants that change to take place no later than the beginning of the next Parliament. The Lords are not the obstacle standing in the way of this essential constitutional reform. That is a message that needs to go to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the other place as it starts its inquiry into the size and composition of the House of Lords.

The Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, with its large and broad representation from both Houses, has during the 15 years of its existence effectively acted as a Joint Committee of both Houses, leading to recommendations that could very easily and quickly be used to prepare a draft Bill ready for pre-legislative scrutiny. I personally am firmly of the view that the proposal for a non-elected House with a membership based on a combination of votes cast and seats won in a general election is the best way in which to ensure the widest possible range of expertise in commenting on the great issues of the day, scrutiny and improvement of legislation and preparing Select Committee reports on many important topics, without challenging the unambiguous electoral mandate of the House of Commons. It is also the best way in which to ensure that parties that gain significant support in a general election are not under-represented in this House, while those that lose support are not over-represented.

However, while the campaign group, led so ably by my noble friends Lord Cormack and Lord Norton of Louth, has prepared the ground very thoroughly, we clearly need a more formal mechanism to initiate the next move, and I therefore support the suggestion that we should appoint a Select Committee to consider the options and report by a specified date. The Select Committee should be chosen and put in place before the end of the year with an instruction to report within three or four months. Speed is of the essence, because we will be told that Parliament will be too busy with Brexit to deal with the Lords; but if Brexit is about taking control and restoring democracy, reform of the Lords should be an essential element. I do not completely agree with my noble friend Lord Wakeham that early reform is impossible. I believe that it should be an essential element of Brexit, preferably by legislation; but if that is impossible, then by change in our statutory rules. We can do that quite effectively and quickly.

Finally, I refer to the crucial point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, that we need to resolve the problem of those coming in and coming out. The report produced by the committee so ably led by my noble friends Lord Cormack and Lord Norton of Louth contains an important proposal—that the right to nominate by the Prime Minister and other party leaders should be preserved, but limited to 10% of seats. The report says:

“In the event of any death or retirement during the parliament a one in, one out principle would apply, any new member being nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the independent appointments Commission. We would favour that Commission becoming statutory and enjoying the same powers for all new nominations as it currently enjoys for cross bench nominations”.

I warmly support the comments made on that topic by the noble Lord, Lord Jay, with all his experience.

I have one point to make to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, who suggested that the Clegg Bill was stopped by unscrupulous action by the political parties in another place. It was not stopped by that—it was stopped because a significant number of Members of the House of Commons realised that, if you had another elected Chamber, you would undermine the authority of the House of Commons. That is the reason for the defeat of the Clegg Bill.