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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:11 pm on 5th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Hayward Lord Hayward Conservative 7:11 pm, 5th December 2016

I echo comments made on many previous occasions in relation to this debate. I do not intend to duplicate them—at least I hope not to—and shall instead pick on two or three points made during this debate, particularly about the numbers. I ask my noble friend Lady Hooper and others who have made such comments to consider how they would react, from a Tory point of view, if the RMT said, “Oh, we’ve got 800 people, but we actually only need 450”, or the Labour side to consider how they would react if a bunch of bosses said, “Well, we’ve got a board of 800, but we only need 450”. It would be laughed out of court. We have to recognise that we are too big to undertake the role that we do. We are not representative. A lot of change could be undertaken in those fields, but we must, as per the British constitution, do things by stages. If we try to do everything at once, we will achieve absolutely nothing.

I welcome the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth and others concerning the Appointments Commission. There is no doubt that there is a need for a change and it has to be made very clear from this House. Associated with that, everybody has talked about taking people out at the top end. The noble Lords, Lord Morris, Lord Whitty, and others are not here today, but they might give consideration to the suggestion of last in, first out. Rather like the noble Lord, Lord Steel, I acknowledge that that affects me—like my noble friend Lord Balfe, I am one of the most recent appointments to the House, but that idea should certainly be given serious consideration. I say that because of one fact in particular: this House serves a great purpose in improving ever worse legislation from the other end by virtue of the expertise that it can offer. If everybody concentrates on taking people out at the top, one loses that expertise from all parts of society.

I welcome the idea of a Select Committee. Like the noble Lord, Lord Steel, I would want it to be time-limited. As the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, said just now, it may not come to agreement. We should give consideration to how one overcomes a lack of agreement on certain elements at the end of a time-limited Select Committee. I proffer—it is merely one idea and I am an inexperienced Member of this House—the suggestion that if the Select Committee fails to come to a conclusion on certain elements, such elements might be put to a group of the leaders of the different groups in this House, chaired by the Speaker, again with a time limit, at which point it would have to respond. The thought of the leaders of each group being locked in a room for four or five days and being obliged to reach a conclusion may not be greeted by them with great pleasure, but it is one solution that I would offer to finding an end to this whole process, because an end to it is absolutely necessary.

I do not believe that an election process is the right route for us to follow. As I said earlier, we are experts in this House in some field or another. We should recognise that and build on it. I must admit that if the Lib Dems wanted to subject themselves to some form of election, I would welcome the almost Macbethian solution proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit:

“If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well

It were done quickly”.

That view was echoed by a number of other people. I wonder whether we might in modern parlance go down an “X Factor” route, with the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, competing with the noble Lord, Lord Steel, or others in a vote-off every Saturday night on some channel, but I leave it for them to decide.

We are too big; we have to find a solution. We cannot tackle every constitutional problem all at once, so let us tackle the question of size and send a clear message, very quickly, from this House to the other House, to government, to the leaders of parties and therefore to the public that there is need for change. By doing that, we would no doubt enhance the reputation of this House and of government in general.