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House of Lords Reform

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2012

The Government have received more than 200 representations since the publication of their White Paper and the draft House of Lords Reform Bill was published in May last year.

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for that answer. Can it be right that those who break the law should be permitted to continue making the law? Does he plan in the legislation to introduce parity between the two Houses?

One of the many things that would be included in a package of reform of the other place would be precisely an ironing out of some of those anomalies, so that those who had broken the law, who would not normally be entitled to continue to serve in this House, would not be able to do so in the other, reformed House either.

The Deputy Prime Minister rightly said in his new year message that Britain faced great challenges in 2012 if it was to avoid some of the economic problems of our European neighbours. How, then, can the Government justify consuming so much parliamentary time to push forward House of Lords reform at the expense of more pressing legislation?

I would caution my hon. Friend a little on this point. After all, we are going to invest a considerable amount of time on individual electoral registration, as we have in this Session on the plans for boundary changes—things about which he and his colleagues on the Government Benches feel equally strongly. I think it is perfectly possible to do more than one thing at once in government.

When the Deputy Prime Minister talks to the bishops and the archbishops about their futures, will he gently remind them that the overwhelming majority in Parliament, in the country and in the Church of England want women to be able to become bishops, and that it might not be in the interests of the House of bishops to try to amend or water down the current measure before Synod this week?

I am sure that that question refers to membership of the upper House by women bishops. I am sure that that is what the right hon. Member meant.

I was struggling to see what I could usefully contribute to this issue, as I do not think it is a matter for Government, but I admire the strength of feeling with which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed himself on this important issue.

I welcome the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey) to his place as the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. As a fellow south Londoner, I wish him well in his new job.

Since May 2010, 117 unelected peers have been appointed to the House of Lords, at an additional cost to the taxpayer of £63 million during the course of this Parliament. We know that a new House of Lords reform Bill will be the centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech. The Deputy Prime Minister believes that all parliamentarians should be democratically elected and he also believes in cutting public expenditure. Will he therefore confirm that as long as his proposals on Lords reform are in train, there will be no more peers appointed to the House of Lords?

No, clearly—[Interruption.] We have been open in the coalition agreement that, pending wholesale reform of the other place, we will continue to make appointments to the House of Lords in the time-honoured fashion in proportion to the share of the vote won by the parties at the last general election. As with so many issues where the Labour party has become terrifically pious in opposition, this is not something to which the right hon. Gentleman’s party adhered when in government.