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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:19 pm on 5th December 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench 8:19 pm, 5th December 2016

I thank the noble Lord and withdraw what I said, because I understand what the statistics are. However, there is a hard core of Cross-Bench Members who attend very regularly and consider that our duty is to do the work of the House among other Peers.

I have to say that, being now 83, I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Steel and Lord MacGregor, that it would be a very sensible compromise that those who were 80 at the end of a Parliament should go. It would have the effect of immediately reducing the membership to not all that far above 600—so it would be a good idea.

There is, of course, another point: when this House is relocated there will be a lot of retirements, so it may be that by that stage a lot will be done. But this will be in 2022 or whatever it may be, and I entirely agree with other noble Lords that we absolutely have to get on with it now because the suggestion by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, that 800 does not matter is quite simply not true, as many other noble Lords said. We are seen as ridiculous by many people and the word “bloated”, referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and which others have pointed out, is undoubtedly true.

Consequently, we have to move to the next stage, which obviously is the Select Committee. There is considerable unanimity on that. It should take evidence and make recommendations, and it should be done in months, not years. It should and could consider what steps this House could take by resolutions within our own procedures—but I recognise, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said, that at some stage there may need to be legislation.

The Select Committee must identify what it is that we cannot do ourselves. Then, as the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, said, acting together we are actually very influential. We should use our influence, so long as this House is unanimous, to put considerable pressure on the other House to deal with patronage, which is an open sore, and other matters that we cannot deal with ourselves. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler, that we could get a lot done both in our own work and in persuading the other place that we could have a Bill that would start in this House.