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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:48 pm on 19th December 2017.

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Photo of Lord Geddes Lord Geddes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 5:48 pm, 19th December 2017

My Lords, like all who have spoken, I warmly congratulate and thank the Lord Speaker for taking the initiative, and the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his committee for taking that initiative forward. I agree with virtually everything that the committee has come up with, not least on the size at 600; the two out, one-in principle; the 15-year term for new but not existing Members; and the Cross-Benchers staying at the same percentage as at present in the House. I also agree that there should be no age limit. Here I cross swords with the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. As I said in the debate at this time last year, it would be a tragedy to throw brains and experience out with the bathwater.

I have two proposals for future consideration regarding the hereditaries and the Bishops. If the House were to get down to 600, that would mean the hereditaries going effectively from 90 to 80, and the Bishops from 26 to 23. Just how that is done—because it will require primary legislation—I know not; it is beyond my pay grade, but I have a feeling that it could be done.

The third proposal, where I warmly endorse what my noble friend Lord Forsyth and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, said, concerns non-attendance. I cannot see the justification for noble Lords who are presently in the House remaining in it if they cannot be bothered to turn up. The problems are obviously the primary legislation, to which I have already spoken, but also the Prime Minister’s consent. Many noble Lords have spoken about this. My feeling is that the present Prime Minister might well go along with it, but how could she ever bind her successors? That concerns me. I just do not see how any Prime Minister can bind their successor to something that is not in statute.

I finish as I did a year ago. One of the joys of this House is being able to agree wholeheartedly with noble Lords opposite—in this context, I look at the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra. All the soundings that I have taken, of which there have been many, convince me that when the time comes for our exodus from this building for the R&R—it may be in five years’ time; none of us knows exactly when—there will be a very significant exodus. It will be the tipping point. I can say now that I believe it will be my tipping point. It is not that I do not want to move to the Queen Elizabeth II Centre; it is just that it will be time to go. Those looking at this problem overall might care to conduct a non-binding survey of all Members of the House—could one have such a thing? I know not—just to see how many Peers think that they might leave when we move in, let us say, five years’ time.