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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 19th December 2017.

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Photo of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Judge 5:45 pm, 19th December 2017

I join those who have spoken in expressing my personal gratitude for the outstanding report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his committee, and for the initiative and farsightedness of the Lord Speaker in establishing it. I wholeheartedly—indeed, to use my noble friend Lord Butler’s expression, ardently—support it. I felt that that was all I should say but, having been brought up to give reasons for a view, perhaps I may, even at this late stage in the debate, give three.

First, this House cannot any longer afford to lay itself open to criticism because of its size. The British constitution needs this House, and its power and effectiveness should not be open to question. It is needed to revise legislation, as I have often found. In particular, the House is needed as a protector of the constitution and of the other weaker branches of the state, including the judiciary, when needed.

Secondly, it would be desirable to consider more far-reaching reform, but that requires legislation. It is unfortunate that for one reason or another, whether it be lack of time or of priority, legislation is not, on occasions, an option. Therefore, one has to cast around for an ingenious way in which to reform without legislation. In my experience, that has not impeded reform but furthered it, because it has shown the willingness of those concerned to adopt reform

My third reason is the ingenuity of the idea of a 15-year term. Modern careers are based not on a lifelong devotion to a particular subject but a much more varied career, often with a fixed term. The ingenuity of the report is its adoption of that aspect of modernity. I very much hope that this report can be taken forward as soon as possible.