House of Lords Reform

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:39 am on 31st January 2006.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Chair, Tax Law Rewrite Bills (Joint Committee) 11:39 am, 31st January 2006

I am not sure that the late Robin Cook would have agreed entirely with that. I think that the proposals are in the best Conservative traditions, although Robin obviously thought that they were in the best traditions of the radical elements of the Labour party as well.

Robin and I always got on well personally, but I thought we were politically like chalk and cheese until we suddenly found ourselves in total agreement on House of Lords reform and, as it happens, on the invasion of Iraq. The fact that people such as Robin Cook, my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham and I could be brought to such close agreement shows that the time is right for such reform.

Finally, I should say that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham has chosen the right day to raise this issue. Later today, we shall discuss a highly controversial Bill on the Floor of the House. In my opinion, views on that Bill cut across parties, because it raises all kinds of ethical and legal issues in such a way that one cannot automatically assume which way a member of the Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative parties will go on it.

In the heat of publicity, we are being made to think again about and take a final decision on the content of that very difficult Bill. That has been an achievement for the upper House; over and over, the House of Lords has made us rethink things during the lifetime of this Government.

However, if the Bill had been sent back in its amended form by a House of Lords that was largely elected and able to thunder that, like the Commons, it had democratic legitimacy on its side—although of a different type—the prospects of that Bill's being rewritten in a sensible form would have been hugely improved. The public would benefit from a House of Lords that had its present powers but was genuinely able to amend, scrutinise and put the Government's feet to the fire, even when the Government had a majority in the House of Commons.

This is a good day for us to talk about how our upper House should be made more legitimate and more influential.


Posted on 1 Feb 2006 8:33 pm (Report this annotation)

yes the lords should be able to have more powers absolutely