My Lords, I do not know why my noble friend Lord Trenchard was let off by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, from declaring who or what he was, but he is obviously a favoured person. I am a life Peer; I do not know whether I should declare—or indeed whether it is too presumptuous to declare—that I am a kinsman of the Earl Marshal, the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. We share the same name and the same coat of arms; I thought that perhaps for the sake of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, I should just mention that.
I should also like to say how much I respect and admire the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. When I first came into this House he was a grand figure, being the Government Chief Whip. At a very early stage I had to act as a teller, and he was my co-teller. He will not remember this, but he was exceptionally kind to me, showing me exactly what to do and stopping me making a complete idiot of myself, so he has been high in my esteem ever since.
I am concerned about the idea of a standard appointments commission. In 1968, when discussing the Parliament (No. 2) Bill and the idea of this sort of appointment, Michael Foot said:
“I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of opinion in the House of Lords is that the powers are to be retained pretty well as they are, but that the possibility of using them will be greatly enhanced because the place will have been made much more respectable. Theoretically, the powers have been somewhat reduced but, practically, they are to be greatly increased, and such powers will be able to be used in circumstances in which they have been unable to be used during the last 30 years—increasingly so in the last five or 10 years. This is the great constitutional prize to be grabbed. This is what they said there, in another place.
I recommend right hon. and hon. Members to read the speech by Lord Butler in another place. Nothing has disturbed me more about this Bill than the bubbling bonhomie with which it was received by him. He could hardly contain himself. I cannot quote him, but I can tell the House the gist of what he said.
Lord Butler told his fellow peers, ‘Boys and girls, this is marvellous, absolutely marvellous. Look at what we are getting. This is the finest thing we have been offered for many a long year and if you do not seize it you will be even bigger fools than you look to me at the moment’. Lord Butler said all that from the cross-benches … He went on, ‘Do not worry about composition, by the way, or about nomination by the Prime Minister. It is all to be done through the usual channels’”—
I remind your Lordships that the usual channels will have a large say in any commission. He continued:
“That is what Lord Butler said. I have it all here. He said that the usual channels would fix up the composition of the other place.
Think of it! A second Chamber selected by the Whips. A seraglio of eunuchs. That is roughly what Lord Butler said about it”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/2/69; cols. 87-88.]
Michael Foot was a great man, and he got it absolutely right: if you start appointing hereditary Peers by any method other than by their electing them, you will get in the same sort of mess as we are in because of the 1999 Act.