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Parliament Acts (Lords Reform)

Volume 519: debated on Tuesday 30 November 2010

3. Whether he plans to bring forward legislative proposals to amend the provisions of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 as part of his proposals for House of Lords reform. (27058)

I am chairing a cross-party committee to produce a draft Bill on House of Lords reform early next year. The Government believe that the basic relationship between the two Houses, as set out in the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, should continue when the House of Lords is reformed.

I am grateful to the Deputy Prime Minister for that response, but is it not in the nature of elected representatives to seek to acquire more power unto themselves, as has happened in Wales and Scotland and could well happen down the end of the corridor? Will that not bring an elected upper House into direct conflict with the provisions of the Parliament Acts? What does he propose to do about it if that should happen?

I certainly agree that it would be self-defeating if a reformed House of Lords tried in any way to mimic the House of Commons. Most bicameral systems around the world manage a clear division of labour between one Chamber and another. That is why the devil is in the detail—we must consider how long the terms are for any elected Members of a reformed House of Lords and in what manner they are elected in order to create a clear division of labour between the two Chambers.

Will the right hon. Gentleman’s proposals on Lords reform refer in any shape or form to the historic convention on collective responsibility? I note that the new ministerial code of conduct refers to collective responsibility in exactly the same words as the old ministerial code of conduct, namely by saying that all Ministers must adopt the same position in public, but now contains the extraordinary new phrase,

“save where it is expressly set aside”.

There is an extraordinary rumour that the Deputy Prime Minister is thinking of not voting with the Government later today. Surely that cannot be right. Surely he is man enough to stand up and sign up to what he voted for in the general election—or at least to sign up to what he voted for in the coalition agreement. Otherwise, nobody will be able to trust a word he says again.

The hon. Gentleman always gets terrifically excitable, but none the less asks a question that is wholly irrelevant to the subject we are dealing with. That was absolutely nothing to do with House of Lords reform. I think—he was trying to be so clever that it is difficult to tell—he was referring to the coalition agreement and what it says about higher education policy, which is very clear.