Amendment 12

Part of House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 15th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Conservative 12:30 pm, 15th March 2019

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising for reminding us of what happened in 1969 in the House of Commons and the argument that took place there that any change to your Lordships’ House would ultimately mean that it would demand more authority and be able to use its powers more vigorously. To some extent, this argument was made again, not nearly as effectively, during the passage of the House of Lords Act 1999, and proponents of the Act said, “No, it won’t happen”, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, who was then Leader of the House.

I wonder whether the House agrees that while initially that was the case, as the years have rolled by the House feels itself even more legitimate, being shorn of hereditary Peers. The automatic right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords came to an end in 1989. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said some time ago—that we are all equally legitimate or illegitimate in this House—but the 1999 Act changed something. Therefore, the Bill, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, will also change things and allow people to take even greater authority than they would otherwise have done.

I agree with the noble Lord about the status quo. This is not a satisfactory place: I have argued that consistently over the past 20 years. I understand why my noble friends Lord Northbrook and Lord Trefgarne have proposed the amendment. They have tried to solve the conundrum expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, and find a different way to honour the promise made in 1999, which my noble friend Lord Elton spoke so eloquently about before he had to leave, and this is their solution.

I must say that I am not entirely convinced, but it is a good effort. To return to a previous debate, a proper statutory appointments commission could also look at questions such as party balance, age, interests and expertise, commitment to participate and regional distribution, which I think is increasingly important. Of course, if we had an elected House, we would have solved all those problems, because people would decide. It is therefore unfair to accuse my noble friends of trying to overcomplicate matters. The system we have at the moment is actually very simple and straightforward. It is not adequate or perfect in any way, but it is at least an attempt to try to solve the problem that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, is trying to solve through his Bill.