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House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:41 am on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 10:41 am, 13th March 2020

He said that I was irreconcilably opposed to the Bill. I am not at all. He mentioned the Burns report. I have stated on the Floor during our debates that, once the Burns report is implemented, I will fully support the Bill. I added that I agree that the number of hereditary Peers should reduce, to reflect where we are now rather than go back to the number in 1999 before the life Peers were appointed—when, of course, it was a higher proportion. So, to say that I am irreconcilably opposed is quite wrong. In fact, he and I agree on the principle of the Bill. I do not want to see hereditary Peers in this Chamber. That is where the noble Lord and I diverge. He does not want to see hereditary Peers in the Chamber because he wants a totally appointed Chamber—a nice cabal, a resting home for former MPs, which 30% of this House are. He wants a nice, cosy place. I want an elected second Chamber, and surely that is what we should have.

I supported the Liberals’ Bill, brought forward by the Government they joined from 2010 to 2015. Sadly, there are three great legacies of the Liberals’ involvement in government: one is their U-turn on student loans; the second is that too many Liberal life Peers were appointed; and the third is that they ducked out of changing the constitution when they had the perfect chance to do so and would have got a lot of support for it. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, was perfectly right to say that Labour played a part in that, and due credit must be given to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, for his role in influencing Labour in that. It is clear that the noble Lord does not want transparency: he wants this House to carry on in its old muddled, unelected way.

There are so many more important issues, as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde mentioned, that the press has picked up on. Of course the press reports were inaccurate—they were bound to be; they normally are with regard to this House—but there was a fundamental element of truth in them that should be picked up on. This House needs to address far more than the question before us again.