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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:06 pm on 5th December 2016.

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Photo of The Earl of Kinnoull The Earl of Kinnoull Crossbench 7:06 pm, 5th December 2016

It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, who as ever was brimming with logic and wisdom. I too thank the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Norton, who have not only used hard work to get the debate going, but been responsible for educating a very large number of Members of the House in many of the issues around this complex and important problem. I also thank the Leader of the House.

I will make three points. The first concerns numerical facts about the net change in our numbers as supplied by our ever precise Library. I am afraid I do not apologise for repetition because, as others have observed, it is important. In the 16 years between 2000 and 2015 inclusive, the net change was plus 196 in our House in the aggregate, or just over 30% of our House. In the six years between 2010 and 2015 the net change was plus 125 in the aggregate. In other words, about two-thirds of the massive increase in the last 16 complete years has been in the last six. Thus, one could well argue that the rate of growth is accelerating. Certainly there is no evidence from the Prime Minister’s Office to suggest that this is not the case.

My second point concerns the drivers of that growth. Obviously for the Bishops and hereditaries there is no growth. The Appointments Commission, with its wonderful record of success, is now rationed to just two people a year, which is not enough to keep it going. Sixty-two Members have come through that route; people are not going to live long enough. That is a problem. In other words, the Appointments Commission route is in “shrink mode” in the House—something that patronage of Prime Ministers, as so many have observed, is very far from being in. I agree with everyone else about the negative consequences of this enormous growth. I am not going to go into that, but I would ask the Leader of the House, if she were here, whether she might comment on my analysis of the Appointments Commission being in shrink mode.

My third and final point relates to our committee system and builds on a point made earlier by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-Under-Heywood. I had the great benefit of being on the Trade Union Bill committee, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Burns. At the beginning of what would be a very intense month, we had, as one can imagine, a room full of strident people with very strong views, covering all three parties, with two of us from the Cross Benches. I could not have been alone in thinking that we would have quite a problematic time in reaching consensus. However, the process over the month was extraordinary. We took lots of evidence and spend a lot of time chatting about things, sometimes in little corners and sometimes as a team of 12.

A month later, we produced a unanimous report. Later, we persuaded the House of the wisdom of that report and, later still, the Government. That report is now, effectively, the law of the land. Accordingly, I feel very confident that a Select Committee of this House can tackle this area successfully. I sincerely hope that such a committee will be formed in 2017.

I had intended to end there, but I was reminded earlier on by another speaker of an old business adage: if your business is evolving less rapidly than the world outside, then you are a dinosaur and you will be extinct. That is a business adage, but it is something that we might ponder successfully.