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House of Lords Reform

Volume 573: debated on Tuesday 7 January 2014

Order. There seems to be a problem with the microphone. We will try to have the problem solved, but in the meantime if the Minister speaks up we will all be able to hear him.

In the absence of wider reform, the Government have said that they will support the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles), which proposes changes to the rules governing the membership of the House of Lords, including removing peers who are convicted of a serious offence—bringing the rules into line with those of the House of Commons—and removing peers who do not attend.

I am obliged to the Minister for his response. According to the House of Commons Library, the additional costs of running the House of Lords have increased by £42 million since 2010. Will the Minister confirm how much his Government’s policy of stuffing the Lords until it bursts will cost the taxpayer between now and the general election?

I will raise my voice to make the point that the hon. Lady has some nerve to lecture us on House of Lords reform when the Labour party blocked such reform. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) is right to say that some of my colleagues voted against it, but they did so because they disagreed with it; Labour Members voted against it despite the fact that they said they agreed with it.

In the interests of the coalition, the Deputy Prime Minister occasionally allows his coalition partner to answer questions.

I am also surprised that the Deputy Prime Minister is not answering the question. [Interruption.] I have been called to stand up and speak, and I will do so.

Over the past three years, the size and cost of the House of Lords has gone up. Does the Minister realise that the more Tory and Lib Dem peers the Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister appoint, the less effective the House of Lords becomes, because they do as the Government Whips say? Does the Minister therefore agree that, over the past three years, the House of Lords has become bigger, more expensive and less effective?

The right hon. Gentleman does not have a shred of credibility, because Labour voted against the proposals that would have blocked that. Of course, we all know that 408 peers were created under the previous Labour Government.

Does my right hon. Friend have any idea whether the Deputy Prime Minister has adopted a new year’s resolution to stop blocking the eminently sensible proposal of his own former party leader, Lord Steel, for modest but necessary House of Lords reform?

I have a post-Christmas gift for my hon. Friend: the Government are indeed supporting—[Hon. Members: “Hurrah!”] Ah, we are back. The Government, including my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, have announced that we will support the very sensible and modest, common-sense proposals in the Bill proposed by our hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire.