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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:09 pm on 5th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 9:09 pm, 5th December 2016

My Lords, it falls to me, briefly, to wind up this debate having introduced the Motion. I begin by thanking, once again, the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip for making this time available to us. I also very much admired the spirit in which both the Leader and the shadow Leader of the House responded to the debate. The Leader, in particular, showed that she has within her the stuff to make a considerable and perhaps great Leader of the House. She clearly understands what the House is about and what its duties and role are. I was encouraged by what she said.

Two things came through this debate very strongly. First, 49 of the 56 Back-Bench speakers backed the Motion, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Some were totally enthusiastic but only seven did not feel able to associate themselves with the Motion. How you define consensus I know not, but certainly that is an overwhelming majority. Secondly, with regard to the second half of the Motion, to which I attach—in spite of what was said by one colleague—equal importance, there was a desire for a Select Committee.

The Leader, in a very constructive way, acknowledged that. The best thing she said was that she clearly wants to continue discussions. She talked about a possible committee convened by the Lord Speaker, and clearly that idea deserves serious consideration. That does not in any sense rule out a Select Committee referral, nor does it mean that we must creep at a snail’s pace. The other thing that came out of this debate was the sense of urgency in many speeches, most notably in the excellent wind-up speech from the Back Benches by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, and in the speech of a man who has more experience of the workings of Parliament than perhaps anyone else—the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane. He said that we are in danger of losing the claim to be seen as an effective second Chamber unless we take some action.

Clearly, throughout the House, Members of all parties and across Benches—two of the five Liberal Democrat speakers were warmly in support of the Motion—recognise that size is an impediment to enhancing our reputation and the understanding of our role, and that we have not got an enormous amount of time. We need in the months ahead not a publicly announced but a privately practised self-denying ordinance on the part of the Prime Minister so that we do not see another procession coming to the Box to take the oath. Everyone who has entered this House since I came here has been made as welcome as I was—and that is our duty always. But if we overload the Benches we create problems for everyone. That has come across time and again in the speeches we heard today.

We are fortunate in having a Lord Speaker who, the moment he took office, made his own concerns publicly plain. We welcome that. We have a Leader of the House, supported by a shadow Leader of the House, who recognises the importance of these issues. I hope that this will prove not just to have been a fairly long pre-Christmas day but the beginning of a campaign that will result, in the course of the next year or so, in concrete and positive steps being taken.

We must show that we have the collective will to take the initiative here. We do not want to have a solution imposed upon us. We do not want a House in which so many of us take great pride to be in any way endangered. I have great confidence in what the Leader of the House has said. In conclusion, I thank everyone who has taken part in a very constructive debate—and it is remarkable that we have got through 61 speeches and it is still only a quarter past nine.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 9.15 pm.