Skip to main content

House Of Lords Reform

Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


When the Government will respond to the Second Report from the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform. [121040]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
(Mr. Christopher Leslie)

We aim to reply to the second report of the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform shortly.

Following the very welcome changes to the constitution that the Government have made recently, I hope that my hon. Friend will ensure that we can debate the Joint Committee's report, because there is a real opportunity for both Houses to move forward on constitutional change. While I am not looking for further debates on Putney heath à la 400 years ago, there are significant changes to be made and the House of Lords could start by electing their own Speaker, instead of having its Speaker appointed by the Government. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, would not like the Government to appoint you in this House and we should not accept it in the second Chamber either.

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Conservative party seems keen to defend the appointment of the speakership of the House of Lords by the Prime Minister, which is a rather curious policy to advocate and to put in its future manifesto. I have read the Joint Committee's second report. As I say, we will respond in due course. Some important issues are raised in that but the Joint Committee recognised, not least in respect of the votes in this House on 4 February, that there has not been a massive amount of clarity: hon. Members declined to back any option, whether fully appointed, fully elected or a mixture of the two.

Can the Minister explain why the Government have failed to deliver on an elected House of Lords, which was in their manifesto, but have managed to abolish the office of the Lord Chancellor, which was not in their manifesto? Do they just make it up as they go along?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is advocating the return of the hereditary peerage to the second Chamber. He may not have noticed, but this Government have got rid of the bulk of hereditary peers from the second Chamber. That was a radical step forward and we will continue radically to reform the constitution in the manner set out in the reshuffle.

Now that the Government are very wisely taking the Law Lords out of the House of Lords, could they advance one further step and remove the bishops as well, even if the bishops have in recent days been trying to make themselves a little more representative of the general public?

I cannot say that we have published specific plans in that respect as yet. We will respond to the second report of the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform, but the creation of a supreme court and an independent judicial appointments commission gives us a number of great opportunities to look at some of these issues in the round.