House of Lords: Lord Speaker’s Committee Report - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:08 pm on 19th December 2017.

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Photo of Lord Horam Lord Horam Conservative 4:08 pm, 19th December 2017

My Lords, it is my habit when looking at questions of this kind to look across what is done in other countries. I am afraid that in this particular case it was rather chastening. In Italy, for example, the second Chamber numbers 325 members, while in France it is 321 and in Germany it is 69. In Canada, the second Chamber numbers 104; in the USA it is, of course, 100—and in Australia, rather a large country, it is 76. Admittedly, some of those people are elected under their systems, but some are also appointed and have the same kind of arrangements for remuneration that we do. Even worse, we are of course larger than the primary Chamber. We are only one of three countries in the world where the second Chamber is larger than the primary Chamber, the other two being Kazakhstan and Burkina Faso—not countries that we should be comfortable to be compared with.

As the Leader of the House pointed out, the question of size does affect our reputation. It is damaging and will continue to be so. The noble Lord, Lord Radice, summed it up rather well when he said that he was fed up with the picture of the Chinese Communist Party at play—or at work—which we see every time. I am afraid that that is there and will continue while we are at our present size and nothing is done about it. That is the outstanding issue. All the other points that have been made are secondary to this major one, which we have to address.

It is important that we are seen to address it ourselves, and this is the right report to do that. As has been said, it has the magic touch of the noble Lord, Lord Burns. I was beginning to think he should take charge of our European Union trade negotiations after he completed his stint on this. I am not sure he would welcome that, but his ability to get a consensus in an agreeable and skilful way is widely admired. We would certainly get a better tone than Mr Barnier has injected.

This is a serious, balanced and practical report. The Prime Minister is a serious, balanced and practical woman, and I hope she will respond positively.