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House of Lords Reform

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2013

We have no proposals for a comprehensive new overhaul of the House of Lords. We tried that once, and did not make the progress for which I had hoped. I remain of the view that the introduction of democracy is the only serious long-term reform that the House of Lords requires, but if any minor technical housekeeping changes that are deemed necessary—for instance, kicking out crooks or people who do not attend, or extending the voluntary retirement scheme—require legislative backing, we will of course consider incorporating them in wider Bills, such as the Bill providing for the recall of MPs from this place.

Given the Deputy Prime Minister’s answer, will he now support Lord Steel’s private Member’s Bill on limited recall of the House of Lords?

I see no need for a stand -alone Bill on House of Lords reform, not least because the real reform—namely, the introduction of democracy —has not made progress. As I have said, however, there are a few very specific housekeeping measures that we could incorporate, and would be prepared to consider incorporating, in a wider Bill if the need arose during the coming period.

Why did my right hon. Friend choose to answer this question and not the question about lobbying, which has been in his in-tray for the last three years?

Owing to the opposition of large elements of the Conservative party, the Deputy Prime Minister’s plans for Lords reform came to nowt. Will he now co-operate with our party to ensure that the excesses and alleged abuses in the other place are tackled immediately?

That is pretty rich, coming from a Front Bencher of a party which, despite its own long-standing manifesto commitment in favour of democracy in the House of Lords, could not even bring itself to support a timetable motion to make that a reality.

As I said earlier, if specific housekeeping measures are necessary—involving Members of the House of Lords who have committed crimes and should not be there, or who have never attended and should not be there, or involving voluntary retirement—and if we can sweep those measures up into a wider Bill such as the one providing for the recall of MPs, we shall be prepared to consider doing so.

While he is in a reforming mood, will my right hon. Friend join me in my campaign to reform early-day motions, which can be used by lobbyists? Will he pledge his support for that campaign?

Obviously it is important for all proceedings in the House to be conducted as transparently as possible, and for the motives of Members to be made obvious to their constituents and to the public.

Order. It is always helpful when Members look at the question on the Order Paper and ask a coherent supplementary that relates to it rather than to something else. That should be a helpful part of the learning curve for the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans).

14. The Deputy Prime Minister may have missed this while dealing with all his other duties yesterday, but his noble colleague Lord Oakeshott suggested that the House of Lords was full up. Does he agree? (157207)

Historically, the House of Lords has been as large as this House, and of course there are—[Interruption.] I will not repeat what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) said from a sedentary position. The question of how many Members of the House of Lords are active is also relevant, and a number of them do not turn up very regularly.