Appointments to the House of Lords are a matter for the Prime Minister, who will take a range of factors into consideration when making recommendations to the sovereign, including any advice from the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Political peerages for other parties are a matter for the leaders of those parties. The Government’s aspiration is that all parts of the UK should feel connected to government, politics and politicians.
My Lords, I am not sure that they are succeeding in that respect. Can the Minister confirm that the south-east region, outside London, has 100 Peers, which is 20% of the membership of this House? That is more than the east Midlands, the West Midlands, Wales, the north-west and the north-east combined. I would like to see a bit of levelling up. Does the Minister agree that, at the very least, before any new list of Peers is finalised in Downing Street, the House of Lords Appointments Commission should be consulted on how it will affect the present indefensible regional inequalities?
I agree with the noble Lord that levelling up is important, and this Government have many policies pursuing just that. He talks about representation. For me, the House of Commons is about ensuring that every part of the United Kingdom is properly represented in Parliament. There are also devolved Parliaments. By contrast, the House of Lords does not represent particular territories or constituencies; with the help of vetting by HOLAC, it draws on an array of expertise and talent right across the board and from many different sectors of society.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, for asking this important Question. Does the Minister agree that having a non-partisan champion for each county, with both residence and long-term community relations in such counties, offers considerable benefits—not least over 800 years of precedence? I note my interest as the Earl of Devon.
Devon is a wonderful county—I always go there on holiday—and it is very nice to have the noble Earl, Lord Devon, talking it up in our House. The House of Lords has a very important job to do in scrutiny, debate and manning and womaning committees to undertake our painstaking work. That means that the House needs to be drawn from experts across many sectors, whether it is administration, lawyers, bishops, business and services or the third sector.
My Lords, the Bishops do have territorial responsibilities, of course. While I have every sympathy with the thrust of the point from the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, we must bear in mind that a lot of Members of your Lordships’ House have come from different parts of the country but have settled in London—
I could not agree more on this occasion with my noble friend, who does such a good job in the part of the country from where he came—and, of course, in supporting Lincoln Cathedral.
My Lords, the noble Baroness talks about geographical representation, but what is the Prime Minister doing to ensure that this House better represents modern Britain? It is not just about where people come from; it is also about the colour of their skin and their religion. There are different factors that should be taken into account to ensure the broad representation that the noble Baroness is talking about. What is the Prime Minister doing to ensure that this range of factors is properly represented in this House?
There are indeed different sources from which representation of this House can be drawn. That includes, of course, former politicians— I draw your Lordships’ attention to the diversity of the current Cabinet. I also ask noble Lords to look around them. I am glad to be one of many women who serve on the Front Bench in this House.
My Lords, I declare an interest as someone whose registered address is in London but whose allotment is in Saltaire. Pending the introduction of at least an elected element—directly or indirectly—in this House, would the Minister agree that some of the most effective and useful Members are those who have formerly been the leaders of councils all over the United Kingdom, and that greater attention to nominating Members of this House who had local government experience would be a good thing?
I entirely agree with the noble Lord about the importance of the representation —if that is the right word—of people with a background in local government, such as my noble friend the Leader of the House, who has had a distinguished career in local government. Indeed, one thing I have tried to do in this House, across parties, is to promote the importance of local government, because there are many local services that matter so much to people right across the country.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has more or less asked my question, so I am just going to add a little codicil, which is that we should think of including those people who have been elected from the education trade unions and vocational, scientific and other bodies to make for a more representative democracy.
We have to come back to the point that the recommendations made to the sovereign on appointments are made by the Prime Minister of the day. That has been conventional right across the party divide. Clearly, the Prime Minister of the day will take into account the talents, diversity and skills of many different people.
Surely one of the best ways to ensure regional representation is to keep the 92 hereditaries, who come from every single part of the kingdom: that well-known Lib Dem from the far north of Scotland, through Northern Ireland, Wales, East Anglia and Cornwall. That is surely an argument for why they should be maintained.
My noble friend introduces a new argument into this much-debated subject, which is normally, as today, led by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. Hereditary Peers continue to be elected by the different party groups and indeed by the Cross Benches. Changes to that, as we know, would have significant constitutional implications, and as yet there is no consensus on change.
Greens are very good at geographical representation, and when we have 13% in the polls—as apparently we do this week —perhaps we ought to have more representation here in your Lordships’ House. Obviously, if there were more Greens, your Lordships would hear less from the two Greens that you have already. Is that not a win-win?
I have to say that I often agree with the noble Baroness opposite, and I agree with her that less is often more. I am very glad that we have two members of the Green Party in this House, because diversity of thought as well as of other aspects is very important to intelligent debate and scrutiny of legislation, in committees and on SIs, and to everything else that we do painstakingly every day.
We have an established Church, and that is reflected in our Bench of Bishops, who contribute such good challenge to the Government of the day. I have explained the process of putting forward Members of the House of Lords by the main parties and others, and one thing they take into account is religions. Personally, I feel that it is very important to hear from different religions across the country.