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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:12 pm on 5th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 6:12 pm, 5th December 2016

Noble Lords should look at the statistics and they will find out that is the case. If we had a criterion of 40% attendance over the past couple of years, that would reduce the number substantially. A criterion of 30% attendance would also reduce the number to well below 600 Members. If we structured the criterion carefully on attendance, we could achieve the requisite number.

It has been suggested that each political group, and the Cross-Benchers, should agree to vote to reduce their numbers by an agreed percentage. I hope that is not taken up by any committee that looks at this issue because it would be both unfair and destabilising. It would cause terrific problems within all our political groups and, I suggest, within the Cross-Bench group as well. If there is to be a group reduction, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, rightly predicted, it should be done on the basis of reducing the number for London and the south-east region. In a Chamber of the UK legislature, London and the south-east, with 27% of the population, has now more than 45% of the Members of this House, whereas the east Midlands, with 7% of the population, has only just over 2% of Peers, and the West Midlands and the north-west of England are equally underrepresented.

If we cannot achieve a sufficient reduction with these measures, although I think that we could, I would agree that we should look at a retirement age of 80 at the end of the Parliament in which the relevant Peers turn 80, as proposed by the Labour working party of which I was a member. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, agrees with that. However, I do not think we should look at that initially. There are other more sensible ways in which to reduce our number.

I note from the number of people who regularly attend the meetings of the group of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that he has very cleverly managed to get a momentum going behind his proposals. I hope that noble Lords will excuse the word “momentum”. Some of my colleagues may not excuse it. I do not agree with all of his proposals, although I agree with some of them. It would be unfortunate if a Select Committee was set up which pursued that momentum and kept it going through to the House. I am therefore a bit worried about a Select Committee of like-minded people. However, if our Chief Whip and the Leader of the Opposition were to twist my arm and say, “We really do need one of the awkward squad on this committee”, I might be persuaded.