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House of Lords Bill [HL]

Volume 697: debated on Thursday 17 January 2008

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Viscount Simon) in the Chair.]

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“PART A1The Senate“The Senate

(1) The second chamber of the United Kingdom Parliament shall be called the Senate.

(2) Members of the Senate shall be called senators.”

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 2, 13, 38, 69, 72, 73, 75, 81, 91, 96, 98, 104, 106, 114, 119, 134, 154, 156, 159, 160, 164, 166, 170, 172, 177, 179, 180 and 193.

First, I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, for not being in my place to speak at Second Reading. Like him, I live in Scotland, but a little bit further north than he does. I was not able to be in the Chamber that afternoon. Secondly, I want to pose a question to the Government. Given that this has been a much-discussed subject—there are government proposals; a cross-party group meeting; the Public Administration Committee’s report; and a huge amount of other business that we always say we do not have time for—will the Minister confirm that this Bill is being treated in accordance with the principles and usual procedures of this House and that there is not a special government procedure for this Bill? Will he also confirm, as he did at Second Reading, that there is a binding commitment to the retention of hereditary Peers, as far as the Government are concerned? Will he further confirm that the Government will not be giving time to this Bill, should we not get to the end of the Committee stage today?

If my noble friend Lord Caithness will forgive me, I wonder if he has considered whether his amendment is wise and in the interests of the House, because one of its consequences might be to inhibit debate on Clause 10 of the Bill, which is a most significant clause, and one which I would wish to oppose. I would like to give notice now that I reserve the right to speak on Clause 10 at the time when that Question is put.

I, too, was concerned that I might be preventing a debate on parts of the Bill, but I was assured that I was not, and that this was the normal practice in your Lordships’ House when one wanted to put down an amendment. It happened to be put here, but as my name is also attached to the Motion that my noble friend Lord Denham has just mentioned, I, too, do not want to restrict discussion on any part of the Bill.

There are two main parts to my proposal. Amendment No. 1 would change the name of this Chamber from “House of Lords” to “Senate”. We did discuss this both before and subsequent to 1999. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, has tabled Amendment No. 3 on somewhat similar lines. The reason it is time to change the name of this second Chamber is due to consequential Amendment No. 72. Amendment No.72 gives power to the commission to separate peerages from people sitting in Parliament. That is important. After putting down this amendment, I read the recent report of the Public Administration Select Committee, Propriety and Peerages—its second report of the 2007-08 session. What it says is interesting, because it coincides with my thinking. Paragraph 138 of the report states that,

“a peerage is much more than an honour, not a prize but a duty. A seat in either House of Parliament should be sought for one reason only—to serve the people. It is not always clear whether all putative peers are attracted by the chance to improve the law or provide better scrutiny of the business of government. We doubt it is overly cynical to suggest that some people might be tempted by the title of Lord or Lady. In our view such people have no place in Parliament”.

That paragraph supports my argument that we ought to split the occupants of the second Chamber from the peerage. If that is going to be the case, we need a new name for the second Chamber. Reading on, paragraph 140 of the report says:

“The Government has indicated in its last White Paper not only that it agrees that the link between the honour and the seat in the legislature should be broken, but that this idea had support from the cross-party group convened by Mr Straw before that White Paper was published”.

Could I ask the Minister, rather than the noble Lord, Lord Steel, what the Government thinking is on this? Those two paragraphs clearly recommend a split between a peerage and the right to sit in the second Chamber, and the consequential effect of that is a requirement to change the name. I declare that I am not hooked on the word “senate”. It was the word I chose, but I would not mind something else—I am concerned with the principle. For clarification—not related to the amendment—I will make my position clear on reform of this House. It has not changed at all, and is that the second Chamber should be wholly elected—and if we cannot get to that stage, it should be wholly appointed. I am not convinced that there should be any mix between the two. I beg to move.

2: Before Clause 1, line 7, at end insert—

“( ) This section shall have effect upon the making of an order by the Secretary of State, and no such order may be made unless—

(a) the Secretary of State has published a report stating that the policy of Her Majesty’s Government is that the House of Lords should be renamed the Senate; and(b) the House of Commons has approved the report by resolution.”

The noble Lord said: This amendment would amend the new clause proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. I say at the outset that there is a terrible sense of having been here, not once before, but perhaps 17 times.

Nineteen, is it? My noble friend may well be right. Most of the arguments have been heard. But, as has often been said, all the arguments have been heard, but not yet has everybody put them. I suspect that a certain amount of the debates in Committee will be repetitious. I say at the outset that I propose to be repetitious, for one good reason—because it is important, now that the Bill has been introduced, that the arguments for and against the Bill and its principles are expressed clearly and unmistakeably, so that those who are not in this House may have a clear opportunity to see what these views are.

I turn to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. My amendment to the new clause is simple. It is to say that the section on creating a senate and calling us all senators,

“shall have effect upon the making of an order by the Secretary of State, and no such order may be made unless … the Secretary of State has published a report stating that the policy of Her Majesty’s Government is that the House of Lords should be renamed the Senate; and … the House of Commons has approved the report by resolution”.

However one looks at it, the idea of calling this Chamber a senate and us all becoming senators is a pretty major step. When I was a boy I had four ambitions. First, I wanted to be a senator; secondly, a cardinal—which one could not be; thirdly, a tenor; and fourthly, a jockey. Alas it is the tragedy of my life that I ended up as a double bass and weighing 17 stone. Nevertheless, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, is giving me the opportunity at some point to become a senator.

I cannot help but observe in passing on this issue that senators were usually elected; certainly they were in Rome. They were not appointed, but gained their position as the result of an election. If I were elected as a senator, I would be more pleased than if I were to become an appointed one.

More seriously, the principal argument against the amendment is that the new clause pre-empts the forthcoming White Paper. We all know that the Government have been in intense discussions and that an all-party group has been meeting. We have been assured that the result of those discussions will emerge in the not too distant future, so to pre-empt the result of the talks and the forthcoming White Paper by taking a decision now on whether we should be called senators, is going too far. As I have said, I do not necessarily oppose the principle of calling the second Chamber a senate, but I do object to pre-empting the White Paper. For those reasons, we should not pass this new clause until it has emerged. I beg to move.

I rise to oppose Amendment No. 1 and to speak in opposition to other amendments in the grouping, not as to the merits of any single amendment but to the common factor which relates to changing the composition of your Lordships’ House. That, under the Cranborne deal which was accepted by the Government and thus is to be honoured, is not possible until stage 2 of the reforms. That is because it is a part, but not the whole, of the essence of the deal that your Lordships’ House as constituted shall remain until stage 2. So your Lordships will be relieved to hear that this will not be a long speech on the tangled vineyard in which the grapes cannot even ripen until stage 2. We are not concerned either with the merits of the Cranborne deal.

Amendment No. 1 destroys affinity with the monarch as to the creation of a life peerage under the royal prerogative, which is also slighted by other provisions in the Bill, but I shall not take your Lordships’ time to go through those at this point; there are quite a few of them. The Oath of Allegiance, taken on grant of a written summons of attendance, will presumably go, thus making another change to the composition of the House. It would change it from a wholly appointed Chamber into a wholly elected Chamber, which cannot be achieved under the Cranborne deal.

We enter very choppy seas in this debate in Committee. Is Clause 10, which reneges on the deal, to stand part of the Bill? This was discussed at Second Reading and need not be discussed at this point in the Committee stage. Are Clauses 14 to 17, which foreclose on the peerage for life granted under the Royal Prerogative to stand part of the Bill, albeit, as recognised by Section 2 of the House of Lords Act, no enabling provision as to implementation under standing orders is given to this Act—prime legislation which operates direct? It is contrary to convention as recognised by the House of Lords.

How can we know whether the ship of state will weather these seas today? The Bill has been drafted and brought forward by a series of well-meaning volunteers who really represent no one. One has to take that into account in a venture which is, in essence, not particularly constructive. The Government have affirmed for the fifth time, from 1999 until the Second Reading of this Bill, that they propose to honour the Cranborne deal. Is not the reality of the situation that whatever amendments are made to the Bill, should it reach the other place there will be an objection and the Bill will fail—the fate of any Private Member’s Bill which is not taken up by the Government? I oppose Clause 1 and I shall oppose in due course, for these reasons, many other amendments.

I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I intervene early in the debate to indicate the views of the promoters of the Bill, not only on this amendment but on a whole raft of the amendments which are before us. The point that I want to dwell on very heavily is that there have been two significant events since Second Reading which I believe the House should take into account.

The first has already been referred to—that is, the publication, just before we rose for the Christmas Recess, of the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration. This report originated from concern about the cash for peerages question. I wish to quote two parts of the summary at the beginning of this 85-page report to indicate how important it is to our deliberations. The report states:

“Our main proposal is for an immediate House of Lords reform measure, clearly defined in scale and scope”.

I repeat, “clearly defined in scale and scope”. It continues:

“Its primary purpose would be to put the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission onto a statutory footing, and empower it to take decisions on the size, balance and composition of the House against agreed and explicit criteria. A mechanism is also needed for peers to resign from the House”.

In other words, the Select Committee of the other place is commending two of the three basic principles contained in the Bill.

It further goes on to say:

“Our recommendations build on principles to which the major parties have already signed up. We hope that the experience of the last two years will provide the impetus to make them happen, and with a proper urgency”.

I think that puts the whole of our debate today in a completely different context from that which we discussed at Second Reading because a Select Committee in the House of Commons, which has already voted to have an elected upper Chamber, is unanimously saying that we need to do something now to sort out the current House long before we ever get to the debates on a second Chamber.

The other point of interest is that the Prime Minister himself appeared before the Liaison Committee in the other place and was asked a direct question about his attitude to the Bill. He repeated that he and the Justice Minister, Mr Straw, would look at it. He expressed concern over the legislative timetable in the other place, which is quite natural, but said that the measures in the Bill are not so contentious.

So here we have a Select Committee of the other place urging that these reforms take place and the Prime Minister indicating that the Government would at least be open to considering these proposals if we were to present them to the other place. It is therefore my contention today that, while we are perfectly willing to accept many of the amendments without the need for much debate and to discuss others with their promoters and debate them on Report, there are none the less a raft of amendments—of which this is one—that fall quite wide of the narrow purpose of the Bill. They are what I call extraneous amendments.

Of course, we could debate those amendments ad infinitum. If we were having a debate on the name of the House, I would agree with the noble Earl that it should be called a senate. However, the Bill does not attempt to deal with all these issues. It does not attempt to de-link serving in the House from an honour, nor to deal with the number of Bishops in the House or with those issues covered by some of the amendments on today’s Marshalled List. Given the time constraints in the House, we must decide at the beginning whether we are going to proceed though all the amendments, including those that have nothing to do with the Bill as it is narrowly drawn, or whether we are going to stick to those that relate to the Bill itself and meet the wishes of the Select Committee in the other place. It is my great hope that we will agree to do the latter.

I do not think we will see the debate on an elected or unelected House for many years to come. I am reinforced in that view—we dwelt on this on Second Reading—by the report of the Conservative Party’s task force under Mr Kenneth Clarke. He is a senior and well respected parliamentarian and a strong advocate of an elected upper Chamber, and yet he reported that they would wish to have a statutory appointments commission. When asked why he would do that when he believed in an elected upper House, he said, “Because I don’t expect to see that in my lifetime”. Now, I wish him an enjoyable, cigar-laden lifetime, but I think he may be right. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that if and when I come to his memorial service—which is going to be less interesting than if he had all those other attributes in his life—I very much doubt that we will have an elected House by then.

We are faced with the decision today on whether to go through all these amendments—we will not get through very many of them—and therefore in effect kill off the Bill, because that will be what happens. I would not expect the Government to mess up their legislative programme with endless days on the Bill with all these extraneous amendments. Nor would it be fair to those other Members of the House who have their own Private Member’s Bills if we were to occupy our Fridays with this Bill. I plead with the noble Earl and others to withdraw these amendments so that we may confine ourselves to those that relate to the three main purposes of the Bill. If we did that, we would be doing a service to this House, to the other place and to the country at large.

We have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Steel, a brilliant exposition of the frustration of what it is to be a Minister of the Crown. Any of us who have been Ministers—and in this House there are many who have held ministerial office—know just how often one thinks of a good idea for new legislation that is naturally supported by everyone who is sensible and right-thinking; one then makes a proposal to Parliament, and those wretched parliamentarians have the temerity to come forward with amendments to it. I have known countless examples of Ministers who wanted to bring forward perfectly sensible proposals, only to discover that other people in this House and in another place have an entirely different view and wish to debate the issues. That, of course, is the point of these two Houses of Parliament.

I join the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in this tremendous sense of déjà vu. He and I have been debating these issues for donkey’s years, and I expect that we will continue to do so. In fact, your Lordships have been discussing this issue since the party of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, championed the whole idea of an elected House in 1911. If it was so easy or so obvious we would have solved this problem years ago, but it is not. It is so fiendishly complicated and extremely difficult that, even when the noble Lord and his friends try to promote what looks like a Bill of limited ambition, we create 200 amendments. I do not know whether that is a record; perhaps the Minister can tell us.

To think that I foolishly accepted the burden, as Leader of the Opposition, of leading from the Dispatch Box on this Bill! My dear wife, when she realised that I would have to give up all my Fridays for the rest of the year, was rather appalled; she was delighted, however, when the noble Lord, Lord Steel, decided to bring the Committee forward to a Thursday afternoon. That noble Lord also made an excellent point about the Select Committee report in another place, because something has changed since we debated this at Second Reading. It is an important report, not just because of the difficult issues that it dealt with—the potential scandal of cash-for-peerages, and the workings of the Appointments Commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham—but because it came forward with various proposals for change, some of which I am not entirely sure that I agree with.

What the noble Lord, Lord Steel, did not say is that this report has yet to be debated in another place—I do not think that that has occurred. Given that it affects this House so much, it would be fair to wonder whether there ought to be a debate here as well on the report’s suggestions. However, we should get a response from the Government before we get to that, given the normal practice in these instances. I hope that the Minister can give us an idea of when he believes that a report will be made—whether it will be made in the proposed White Paper, or be separate, or whatever the answer is.

In all this, I have not actually mentioned the amendment itself, which I come to now. That was just a little introduction to all these amendments. Now, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Caithness for having introduced this amendment, and indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, whose Amendment No. 2 is tied to it. It is entirely fair that we should consider the name of the House. In fact, I rather hope that my noble friend will consider accepting the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Richard, which I slightly prefer to that of my noble friend. I certainly hope that my noble friend will not press his to a Division, but will consider the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

The name of the senate conjures up certain important parallels for me. It is not just the Senates of Rome or Venice, which were in their time hugely influential bodies. We also have Senates in the United States and in Italy, and those two chambers have the most significant powers and authority of any Upper House in the world. In the past, my party has advocated the use of the word “senate” to replace a House of Lords. This is not the most essential item that we shall be discussing in this Committee, but it would probably be better to have a senate rather than the House of Lords if we are to change the method of selection to this House. That is partly because it conveys a sense of authority, and what is the purpose of all this disruption and reform if not to create a more powerful House, more able to help the other place to do its job properly, and help it to hold the Executive to account?

It also reflects the fact that the House which we have now is already very different—in many ways arguably better, and in some ways worse—from the House that we used to have. The House that we should want to create will also differ from the House that we have now. What we have now is no longer a House of Lords; it is a House of some Lords, because, in 1999, more than 650 Peers were excluded from the House, so we have Peers outside the House and Peers who are not Members of the House of Lords.

Although it is not grouped with Amendment No. 1, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has tabled a most interesting amendment, Amendment No. 6, which we will no doubt discuss later. That takes the logical step of separating the peerage from membership of this House. The noble Lord does not go the extra inch—or perhaps I should say “centimetre” to the modernising noble Lord, Lord Dubs—and stop calling your Lordships’ House a “House of Lords”. Instead, he suggests that he should be “Mr Dubs ML”, which I find deeply unconvincing, but that is a debate to which we shall come later.

As the hereditary Peers become progressively excluded from this House—the Bill removes the remaining 92, albeit over time—we can no longer reasonably retain the name “House of Lords”.

The point of the Bill is that it removes the ability of the 92 hereditary Peers to continue by removing the by-election. That was the point that I was trying to make, which I hope that my noble friend Lord Higgins has understood.

I suppose that the problem with the “House of Lords” is that it is a 13th-century description in a 21st-century reform. It smacks rather of wanting to throw away your cake and then eating it. If we are to have a reform, it should be based on a new name and a stronger House using its powers to the full, with the full authority and confidence that that would convey. I therefore agree with my noble friend that a senate, a body that can look the other place in the eye, should be our aim, and I hope that we will consider more in debate the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, though I do not know whether he expects to press it this evening.

The noble Earl ignored in his genial remarks that there is urgent need for certain specific reforms in the interests of the dignity, reputation and good functioning of this House. The dignity and reputation of this House are in jeopardy in consequence of events with which we are all melancholily familiar, and, consequently, so is the good functioning of the House. There is widespread consensus on the suitability of the four reforms itemised in the Long Title of the Bill as tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. It would be sensible to get on with implementing those changes. The reforms proposed in the new clause tabled by the noble Earl and the whole variety of amendments that other noble Lords have tabled are interesting and important, but I venture to suggest that they are not urgent. We should get on with those matters that are urgent. We should with reasonable expedition send a properly considered Bill to the other place so that we can offer it a way in which the functioning of this part of Parliament can be improved, and the other great matters on which there is not yet consensus and which certainly will need to be addressed should take their time in due course.

I, too, support what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said, and I hope that the Committee will not be distracted from doing so by what I might describe as a knockabout comedy speech by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in his inimitable manner.

“Knockabout comedy” is very flattering, I hope.

This is a very carefully crafted Bill, which the noble Lords, Lord Steel and Lord Norton of Louth, have prepared with great care to deal with several short-term problems which virtually everybody accepts need to be dealt with now. We do not wish to be distracted from pursuing that useful aim by vast numbers of red herrings, which have to be tackled some time, but which are not apt to be tackled now. One example of how dangerous it is to go down this route appears in Amendment No. 72, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in which he contemplates that the commission will recommend people not only for membership of this House but also for the bare honour of peerage. If so, why does it not do the same for knighthoods and all other honours? A peerage will then become an honour and have nothing to do with the commission or this House. Do let us get back to the bedrock of this Bill. These amendments and a large number of others deal with interesting topics but not with the substance of this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, quoted from the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee report. However, he was selective in his quotes—as I will be too. On page 56 of the report, paragraph 181 says:

“Although we have made legislative proposals, and believe that is the right way to proceed, it would be possible to achieve much of what we recommend without legislation.”

The report makes that entirely clear. The legislation is not actually necessary to implement the majority of the recommendations—and all the important ones—in the report. Your Lordships should not be bounced into dealing with this Bill faster than we normally do just because of a report that does not say legislation is necessary and which has not been considered properly by another place. I remind your Lordships that it is an extremely useful report, but it is only made up by a committee, which includes six members of the Labour Party, three Conservatives and two Liberals. That is hardly a report which has been endorsed by the other place as a whole.

The important question we have to address to the Minister is one that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde has touched on. On Second Reading, the Minister said that the report,

“will inform the basis of a White Paper to be produced by the Government in the New Year”.

Well, it is the new year. He went on to say:

“We also hope to produce draft clauses in some areas for consideration by Parliament as a whole”.—[Official Report, 30/11/07; col. 1481.]

If the Minister had said that they hoped to produce the White Paper shortly, we would know that that was a number of months away. If he had said it was imminent, we would know that it was probably six months away. However, he did actually say it would be produced in the new year. Therefore, it is possible that he meant that. I am sure he thought he meant it, even though events might have thwarted him in the mean time. It is important that the Minister tells us what the Government’s attitude is.

My final point is that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said that there were a number of points that have nothing to do with the Bill. I think that they are all to do with the Bill. It is now extremely difficult in your Lordships’ House to put down amendments that are not to do with the Bill. The Clerks, quite rightly, are very precise on that. All these amendments are to do with the Bill. They may not be in the narrow world that the noble Lord wants them, but they are all part of the debate that we ought to have as this Bill proceeds through Parliament. I am very happy to sit behind my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Steel, every Friday afternoon for as long as it takes, to go through and debate all the issues that are brought up by the amendments tabled today.

I missed, by some accident, the Second Reading of the noble Lord’s Bill. However, I support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Richard, which I like very much. The noble Lord’s Bill has all the makings of what I would call an English compromise, which is one that confronts a major problem and proposes a solution which does not solve the problem but makes the solution to the problem less urgent. Everyone then forgets about it and we move on. That is why I support my noble friend’s amendment.

It is quite clear that the supporters of the Bill are somewhat desperate. The noble Lord, who was a distinguished Member of the House of Commons previously, and a democrat, proposed something in the nature of the guillotine on this Bill. I do not think that that is permissible. Nor do I wish to be told that a Select Committee in another place has told us something which we should stop all other business to implement. They can do their business and we shall do our business.

I like my noble friend’s amendment because it makes it clear that nothing in this Bill should subvert the declared will of the other place, which is for a substantially elected second Chamber.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Desai, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I am delighted to hear that Members on all sides of the Chamber seem to have real concern about the amendment proposed by the noble Earl and the group attached to it.

The noble Earl is in some haste to make considerable progress in a backwards direction. We should be careful about moving as fast as he appears to wish us to do. Some people might say, “What’s in a name?”—but surely in the House it is clear that names are very important. This whole building is about semantics. Sometimes we hear people complain that a matter that we discuss here is a matter of semantics, but words are important. I remind the Committee of the occasion when the Post Office decided to change its name to Consignia, which some of us thought would mean that it would actually modernise its practices and offer a better service to the country: far from it, nothing of the sort. Very soon afterwards, the Post Office had to revert to its previous name. What is serious about the noble Earl’s amendment is that it will give an impression that there has been a radical change in the role and responsibility of the House, when that is obviously not the case. In that sense, it is wholly premature.

Reference has already been made to the report by the Select Committee in the other place, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, rightly drew our attention to a particular paragraph. I endorse a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde: this is an issue of considerable importance to this House. Not only has the other place not discussed this report yet and not only has there been no response to it yet from the Government, but it is hot off the press with regard to this House. I wonder how many noble Lords, if I asked them, could say that they had read all 150 pages of the report and evidence; I suspect that some of us would have to admit that we have only skimmed through it. It is obviously premature that we should look at that issue raised in the report, even when it is not intended that it should comprise legislative proposals, merely small changes. The noble Earl’s amendment, Amendment No. 72, talks in terms of a divergence of the membership of this legislature from the peerage. That is a completely new issue that is totally outwith the Bill proposed by my noble friend Lord Steel, and I very much appreciate what he said just now. It would be extraordinary if we went down that path without a great deal more careful consideration in this House.

Other issues still await the complete and comprehensive reform proposals that we are looking to hear about from the Minister in a few minutes’ time. I take one example, hot from the press today: the Senior Salaries Review Body issued a statement of which I have only the BBC’s analysis and summary, but it is of relevance. It is headed, “Some Lords ‘would like sick pay’”. I do not know which Members of the House made that suggestion to the SSRB, but it is relevant to this debate that the SSRB, as the BBC summary reports, says:

“Any ‘fundamental’ changes to the system of allowances should be considered as part of wider reforms of the Lords and not before”.

That is yet another way in which we in this House must clearly realise that there is no way in which tinkering with the issues will assist the real comprehensive reform to which we all look forward.

There are, in the amendments, some other matters to which the noble Earl may not yet have given his attention. I take one at random; it may interest the right reverend Prelate, who is on the Bishops’ Bench. It is suggested by the noble Earl that, in future, we are all to be called senators in a fully appointed House. Are the Bishops to be called senators? I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Goodhart, who had to leave the Chamber just now. The role of the Bishops in the House is completely missed by the amendments.

Indeed, there are later amendments. I accept the note of caution.

These are premature amendments. I hope that there will be a general feeling throughout the Committee that that is the case. I am relieved to hear that my noble friend Lord Steel and his colleagues who promote the Bill also feel that this is inappropriate for this Bill. He and his colleagues have, on so many occasions, referred to the Bill as transitional, incremental and as dealing with short-term problems. In this House, short-term problems seem to me, as a comparative newcomer, sometimes to stretch over decades. Even given that, it would be wrong to include this amendment in this Bill.

The issue, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has already said, is that we are expecting very soon a White Paper from the Government, after years of digestion of the issues. I hope that the noble Lord will tell us what “the new year” means in this context. Is it early spring, mid-spring or Cornish spring, which is earlier than spring everywhere else in the country? I hope that we will see the White Paper in March. I further hope—I hope that the Minister, when he responds, will give us some indication—that, when it comes, there will indeed be draft clauses for pre-legislative scrutiny. I hope that they will be submitted to a Joint Committee for that pre-legislative scrutiny. In this House, we all recognise that ignorance of the way in which the two Houses co-operate is manifest. It was certainly true when I was serving in the other place. Therefore, it would be really helpful if, when those draft clauses come forward, they are subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by both Houses.

My noble friend Lord Steel thought that the fact that Ken Clarke, with whom I have worked on these issues, did not expect to see the full comprehensive reform in his lifetime was a good reason for making rapid progress in some directions. I would simply say that new Clause 1 is the wrong direction in which to make rapid progress. I hope that the Committee will endorse the general view expressed in Amendment No. 2, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

If a Member introduces a Bill, it should be debated properly. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, has put down an interesting Bill, to which noble Lords are entitled to table amendments. It is wrong for some noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Bledisloe, to try to close down discussion on the issue.

We are dealing now with Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, which are related to each other. In my rather curious position as a recycled Peer in this establishment—recycled inasmuch as I am here by quasi-democratic situation, as an elected hereditary Peer—I support the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. It is interesting that the new body should be called a senate, with senators; he is quite right, and I hope that that will happen in due course. He is also right to say that there should be a de-linking of the peerage and the legislature. I hope that these things will happen in the fullness of time.

By the same token, I entirely agree with the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Richard: it is sometimes entirely for the House of Commons to decide these issues. We wait with bated breath for these famous proposals to come forward. We are, inevitably, a revising Chamber, but we need to change. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, made that entirely clear. He is right to say that we should have democracy. If we believe in democracy in this House, or in this country, we should start to practise it. It is no good us going around the world pontificating about democracy if we do not practise it ourselves. The Bill and the whole reform of the House of Lords are predicated on that, which is why I support also the amendment very cogently argued by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and I hope that the debate will continue properly in the order in which it has been taken. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is right: if the noble Lord, Lord Steel, decides to occupy Fridays on the issue, he is entitled to do so, and it would be a legitimate thing to do. If he does, I shall certainly come here to discuss with other noble Lords, because the future of the House is of great importance to the nation as a whole.

I think that probably inclined in my direction.

The interesting contribution made by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, adds yet another piece of timber to the increasingly complicated pile that is now before us. I think that we should go back to the approach made by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, fortified as it now is by his colleague the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. It has grieved me a great deal to see a great historic party—the Liberal party—diminished as it is, as divided as it has been on so many questions. But it seems to me that we now have the glimmering of an agreement, because they are both saying that propositions of the kind promoted by the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Richard, are running ahead of the game.

We should address the real thing: the four propositions, as summarised in the Title, have an intrinsic merit of their own. They are almost all built on analyses put before the House in a series of reports. None of them can really be challenged on its merits. They are all improvements of an existing state of affairs. As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, has emphasised many times, it is a step forward and, to that extent, it may or may not be a transition. But at least it is something that coherently and comprehensively propounds four changes that would help the House to gain in authority, to work better and to remove certain anomalies that should be removed. We should be delighted to commend the two young and sparkling members of the Liberal party, the noble Lords, Lord Tyler and Lord Steel. I am all for it. Three cheers for this astonishing alliance.

Like the mover of the amendment, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, I was not able to be present at Second Reading, but I read the account of the debate, and I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, has said today.

I note that the noble Lord has said once again that this is a limited Bill and a sensible measure. While there are many things with which I agree, I remain somewhat suspicious of the description of it as a limited Bill. That is partly because of the distinguished career of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, himself. He has not really been well known for introducing small, insignificant Bills in his career. I feel that many people who support the Bill do so partly because they agree with it but also partly because they hope that it will kick into the long grass any other reform of the House of Lords, including electing it. For that reason, I remain somewhat suspicious of the Bill, despite the fact that I agree with many points in it.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, also pointed out that many of the amendments seemed to go wide of the Bill. In that sense, I agree with him. When the Bill was put forward, the matters that were concentrated on at Second Reading were more limited than many of the amendments before us today. None the less, the Title of the Bill is the “House of Lords Bill”, and, as has been pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, amendments would not have been accepted if they had not been valid.

Despite the important issues that many of the amendments raise—they should be given an airing—there are in the Bill many aspects that people would want to consider in a lot of detail. It is difficult, on the face of it, to understand the rationale behind many of the details, for example the proposal that at least four of the members of the Appointments Commission should be privy counsellors. I am not sure why that is. Those are the kinds of detailed issues in which people have a valid interest.

The noble Lord appealed to us to be expeditious, and one of the good aspects of this House is that it does not go in for filibustering. Despite the public image at times of elderly Members of the House of Lords wittering on, in fact most Members of the House seem to speak with admirable succinctness. I hope that I shall be one of that number. Nevertheless, there are many details in the Bill that it would be wrong to gloss over in a too-hasty consideration. For that reason, although I understand the noble Lord’s desire not to go too wide and deal with matters that are not the Bill’s main focus, there is every reason to give the Bill proper, thorough scrutiny.

I speak in support of Amendment No. 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and to emphasise that in my experience of constitutional reform there are a number of requirements for such progress. It is never a good case that the constitutional reform is undertaken by those who themselves are to be reformed, because that does not result in an appropriate constitutional context for that activity. Constitutional reform has to proceed by a consensus and understanding of the process. Perhaps the most pertinent point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, who emphasised the importance of pre-legislative scrutiny for any sensible discussion about the reform of this House and the relationship between this House, the House of Commons and other assemblies within these islands.

We cannot proceed effectively through a reform of this House by seeking to produce a Bill of our own making that we then present to the House of Commons as a package and say, “This is what we want done to ourselves; please can we have your support?”. That seems to be a totally impossible avenue, especially given the history of the issue over the centuries, as we have heard.

I therefore support strongly the emphasis in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that a proper report has to come from the Government based on an indication of the policy of the UK Government and the support of the House of Commons. I do not see how it is possible to proceed without that. As part of that, I also argue that the time has come to take the debate into a much more serious pre-legislative scrutiny than perhaps we have normally for legislation in both Houses of the UK Parliament. That is to open up the matter to a proper public discussion of the role of the upper Chamber of the United Kingdom Parliament.

We have had reports from the Government, but we have not had the proper democratic dialogue about what the House could and should do. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, presents us with the opportunity that any report emanating from the Secretary of State should be the subject of a proper public scrutiny. By that I do not mean a No. 10 website into which people send e-mails. I mean proper electronic consultation and debate throughout the kingdom about the role of this House and then perhaps there can emerge a public consensus about what a 21st century second Chamber looks like in the context of the United Kingdom. I hate to disagree among the college of retired or about-to-be retired presiding officers of assemblies in these islands, but the noble Lord, Lord Steel, is premature in the matter.

Colleagues have spoken tonight about missing the Second Reading debate. I go back to the Second Reading debate that took place in 1998. When I spoke on the second night I spoke as speaker 223 out of 240 people and I spoke at 2.20 am.

I have been in this House for 23 years. When I came here I was imbued by my early belief, as a Labour politician, that the solution was to abolish the House of Lords, not fully appreciating that, “It ain't what you do, it’s the way that you do it” that counts. What we and many people in the country really want is a changed Second Chamber. Today we are debating how we get to that situation. I am all in favour of what I call the conspiracy theory. The first stage did not come about as a result of an open, democratic discussion but as the result of a deal done behind the Speaker’s Chair; in other words, the deal was produced from discussions between the Leader of the Opposition and the then Lord Chancellor and led to the Bill.

For the life of me, I have tried to understand the need for urgency in this matter. I do not dispute the motives of anyone, not least, of course, those of my long-time friend the noble Lord, Lord Steel. Many Members have imbued their speeches today with impatience that some things can be done. I simply ask the House to bear in mind the major happenings in the recent past. There were the votes in the Commons, which came out firmly, although not all-party but substantially across the House, in favour of a Second Chamber that was either wholly elected or majority elected.

I thank my noble friend for giving way. It might be quite important early on to nail that point. With the greatest respect to the party of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, it is notable that in that vote a majority of Labour MPs voted against 80 per cent election and even more remarkably, considering it was in their election manifesto, a majority of Conservative MPs voted against it. So the idea that somehow the House of Commons has given a clear signal is very wide of the mark.

I hear what my noble friend says. That is his interpretation of the vote. In a democracy, it is the vote that counts and on that night the vote in the Commons, on the options available, turned out that way. I understand the mess they got into the previous time when they had seven options and did not agree with any of them. I am not making a meal out of the Commons’ decision but let us envisage that this Bill, either as it is or when it is amended, goes to the other place. What kind of reception will it get? We are talking about valuable parliamentary time. Looking the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and others in the face, I believe that we are being very indulgent. I believe that we all know that this will not be resolved unless and until we have, from the Government, after open or secret discussions, something that they believe has the chance of being carried.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, with support from other Benches, is talking about cutting out from our debates extraneous matters. However, for those who table them, they are not extraneous; they are absolutely central to what they want, although I do not want them. Quite frankly, my experience tells me that we need to await the next time, which I hope will not be too long—I think it will be in not this Parliament but the next—when all parties nail their flags to a combined mast and they go to the country and the issue is carried. When that comes to the Commons and to the Lords, I hope that there is agreement. It will not be easy or quick.

This House has the opportunity—I hope it is not futile—to examine ways in which the House might be improved. I support my noble friend’s amendment but I am pessimistic enough to believe that nothing we do in this Chamber will achieve anything until we get the Government—after full discussion, whether secret or not—to say, “This is the considered view of both Houses”.

I do not often agree with the noble Lord, Lord Graham, but I do on the limited issue that this is neither the right time nor the right place to start monumental alterations to the constitution. When I saw the list of amendments, I thought, “Goodness gracious, here we go again”. It is fine for the noble Lord, Lord Steel, to ask, “Do we want to discuss all these extraneous items?” but he only wants to discuss the things he would like. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, is quite right—these are not extraneous items. When I first saw these amendments I thought that my noble friend Lord Caithness—I regret to say that I was absent during his speech—had taken leave of his senses. I do not know whether his senses have caught up with him—I think they probably have. Then I saw what he meant; if you remove what used to be called Peers and you are left with an appointed Chamber why should you call it the House of Lords? There will be no Lords there. This perfectly good argument is particularly germane to this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, said that we need change in order to preserve the dignity of the House. That is the most absurd suggestion. You have only to listen to what was said about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill—it was absolutely amazing. The standards of debate here exceed those in any other Chamber in the world. To say, therefore, that we need to increase our dignity is absurd.

We are in danger of forgetting that the dignity of the House of Lords is very high. Some people get injected with the idea of change—that we must have change. In order to find a reason for change they say, “Let’s improve the dignity”. I do not support that argument.

This is not a suitable subject for a Private Member’s Bill. I have always thought that. It is all very well the noble Lord, Lord Steel, saying, “Let’s decide the amendments we would like to decide”. That is not the way to handle Bills—heaven knows, he ought to know that. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said we were looking forward to reform and that the promoters do not like some of these amendments. It does not matter what the promoters like. Once you let this cat out of the bag it attaches itself to all sorts of things and other things get attached to it. If this Bill were ever to get to the House of Commons, it is open season for anything to get changed there.

I do not like either of the amendments and I do not like the substance of the Bill. I do, however, think it is wrong to introduce this Bill in this way; it ought to be a government Bill.

I want to respond in one sentence to the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, who spoke of the desire of some of the promoters of the Bill to extend the long grass. A growing number of us believe that this government White Paper is already in the long grass and that it will never happen. Increasing numbers of us want limited and radical reform and they simply do not believe anything that the Minister is about to say.

I have never been opposed to reform of the House of Lords. In fact, my views are not far removed from those of my noble friends Lord Strathclyde and Lord Caithness. However, the Bill sets in place an appointed House for many years into the future, and we are therefore entitled to consider how the appointments might be made and whether the Bishops might all be Members of the House in the future. Therefore, I am very sorry to have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, that I have no intention of withdrawing my amendments; indeed, I must warn him that I have many more to table if, as I expect, we do not reach the bit on Bishops tonight. That would be a very important change to the composition of your Lordships’ House. I happen to be in favour of the leaders of other religious faiths becoming Members of the House, together with various other people, so I am afraid that I can offer the noble Lord, Lord Steel, no comfort in that regard.

As my noble friend Lord Ferrers made clear, once the cat is out of the bag, we can, and should—it is our duty—seek to amend the Bill if we think that it is right to do so. I think that it is right to amend it if it is to go forward, and I should also be in favour of ensuring that the Government honour the undertakings that they gave about the by-elections for hereditary Peers. However, although that is important, it is not the main issue for me. The Bill sets in place and enshrines an appointed House. That may be what a number of noble Lords want. If so, so be it, but in that case let us get the arrangements for the appointments right.

So far as concerns this amendment, I am rather in favour of calling the House a senate. I am much attracted to the United States model and this might be the first step in that direction. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord’s amendment will be considered carefully and perhaps agreed.

I sympathise with the frustration felt by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, who wants to proceed very quickly with his Bill. I certainly recall sitting up at two in the morning, next to my noble friend Lord Ullswater, trying to do exactly the same with government employment Bills but I found that several noble Lords, including two very distinguished members of the party opposite, took up many hours of your Lordships’ time expanding the Bill into areas that they thought were highly relevant.

Therefore, I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Steel, but I cannot in any way agree with him. He has reopened Pandora’s box for the nth time in terms of House of Lords reform, which, as we know, is an immensely complex area. He cannot expect the House to concentrate on the areas that he wants to see advanced quickly. Here, we are talking about an attempt to decouple or remove certain very important areas from the overall subject of House of Lords reform to produce a special Bill and advance those areas. I do not believe that it is possible to do that without considering the other, wider issues. The House is being tolerant in considering a Private Member’s Bill on a matter of extreme importance to the overall constitutional settlement of the country, and it is entirely appropriate that, if the tabling of amendments is allowed by the Clerks at the Table, they should be considered fully.

I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Richard. Being in the business broadly known as communications and PR, I can say to the noble Earl that it is a rule that you do not rebrand something unless you fundamentally change the product in a way that matches the rebranding. That is why I support my noble friend.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde; I do not think that I have ever previously uttered those words in your Lordships’ House. He said, in what I thought was a witty speech, that we need to discuss the report of the Select Committee in another place and, more importantly, another place needs to discuss that report. I am fairly sure that Members of another place, particularly honourable friends of mine, will be as pungent in their remarks and as determined in their views as they have already been about the need to reform this House.

I agree with the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, who said on Second Reading at col. 1438 that a Private Member’s Bill is an unsuitable place to discuss such a grave constitutional matter. I agree with that. The number and range of amendments tabled on this Private Member’s Bill completely bears out what she said. However, I want to record my support for my noble friend's amendment. We need to wait for the White Paper and take time to consider those very important matters before we reach a view.

I am conscious that the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, will not believe a word that I am going to say, but I shall plough on none the less.

I shall respond to a number of questions that noble Lords have asked me. On the question of the Government's attitude toward the Bill, there is nothing more that I can say than was said at Second Reading: this is a Private Member’s Bill; it will proceed through your Lordships' House as would any Private Member’s Bill.

I also refer to the report of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, to which several noble Lords have referred. It is a very interesting report. It proposes an interim measure, including, as I understand it, changing the name of your Lordships' House and detaching membership from the peerage.

The position is very clear. The Government have a responsibility to consider the report and respond. We will do so in due course. I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, an exact date by which we will do so, but I assure him that we will do so as soon as we can.

That is a very clever question from a very clever Member of your Lordships' House. Of course, I am not going to answer. I was just about to come onto the question of timing. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked me to define the new year. All that I will say about the Select Committee report is that discussions are going on within government about our response. We will respond as soon as we can. On the definition of the new year, I concede that, in my previous incarnations in both the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, the definition of the new year was somewhat elastic. I am now in the Ministry of Justice, where, as yet, I do not think that we have come to define the new year.

I can talk in general about the progress that has been made within the Joint Working Group which has been established in the light of the votes in both Houses last year. I believe that good progress is being made. We intend to meet several times over the next few weeks. It would be very foolish of me to give a definite date as to when the White Paper will be published but, obviously, we want it to be done as soon as possible.

Before my noble friend leaves the subject of the Joint Working Group, will he indicate whether the Government are prepared to reconsider their decision not to publish the minutes of the meetings that have already been held so that this debate can be held in a much more open way and we know what our respective Front-Benchers are saying?

I think that my noble friend has made a number of requests to my department on this matter and they are still being considered with great care. On the question of the work of the working group, it is comprised of the leadership of the political parties, with representation also from the Bishops and the Cross-Benchers. As for the intense discussion about the development of a White Paper, that is best done within the confines of that working group. As regards a dialogue between me, the group, and other members of the Government who are on that group, we are always willing to discuss with Members of your Lordships’ House, and with groups of Members, the whole question of the White Paper and the reform process. We remain able to do so. However, given all that has been said about the inevitable challenge of Lords reform, it is important that, within that group, there can be discussions that enable us to come to as wide a consensus as possible.

Given what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was just saying about his search for the widest consensus possible, can he reaffirm what he said a moment or two ago, that the working group is considering this matter in the light of the votes of both Houses? Will he give some kind of assurance that the votes of this House, not wholly represented by the leadership serving on the committee, will be taken fully into account? Probably the most important proposition he has spoken so far is “in the light of the votes of both Houses”.

Of course the working group is considering the discussions on reform in your Lordships’ House in the light of the votes of both Houses. However, I have to say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, for whom I have great respect, that the critical vote took place in the House of Commons, which all noble Lords in discussing Lords reform in general have acknowledged in terms of primacy. We are moving ahead in those discussions—and, eventually, I hope in the White Paper—on the basis of an elected second Chamber and of the two options for which the House of Commons voted: 80 per cent and 100 per cent.

I have been asked about the commitment made by my noble and learned friend Lord Irvine of Lairg. He said that until the second stage of House of Lords reform had taken place, the amendment that he was addressing,

“reflects a compromise negotiated between Privy Counsellors on Privy Council terms and binding in honour on all those who have come to give it their assent”.

He later went on to say:

“But the 10 per cent will go only when stage two has taken place. So it is guaranteed that it will take place”.—[Official Report, 30/3/99; col. 207.]

I might add that because this matter was debated in the other place on 7 March 2007—

The Minister has given the commitment in government terms, which was to preserve the 10 per cent. It was not to preserve a by-election option.

There can be argument about whether an amendment that in time reduces that 10 per cent is actually a departure. It would be interesting to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Steel, when he winds up this debate, about his own attitude to what has come to be known as the Irvine agreement. I shall repeat what my right honourable friend, now the Lord Chancellor but then the Leader of the House, said in the other place on 7 March 2007:

“For the avoidance of doubt, I spoke to my noble Friend, the former Lord Chancellor, this morning, and he authorised me to say that the passage in the White Paper, at paragraphs 3.27 and 3.28, is a correct summary of the position. He went on to say, and I am authorised to repeat, that what was agreed in 1999 implied no guarantee of any particular stage 2. It was just a guarantee that there would be a legislative stage 2. Before the Front Benchers jump up, the reason for that is that the commitment was made even before the royal commission had reported”—

that was the royal commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham—

“and still less before there had been White Papers, Public Administration reports and so on. We are not seeking to play a trick on hon. Members; we accept that the removal of the hereditaries should take place in the context of a Bill that reflects the views of this House, as expressed in the votes today, the views subsequently expressed by those in the other place, and any agreement that we can reach. As a matter of historical record, it is simply not the case that what was said in the other place was linked to the inclusion of elected Members in the House of Lords”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/3/07; cols. 1597-98.]

I think that that states the position clearly.

I will make one or two comments on the specifics of the amendments that we are debating. I have always looked forward to being the senior senator from Birmingham. As far as the Government are concerned, the February 2007 White Paper, in paragraph 9.42, states:

“For the time being, the future House of Lords will be referred to as the ‘reformed chamber’ but we will consult on the name in the lead up to legislation. Decisions on the name will partly depend on what final decisions Parliament reaches on composition. That was the approach adopted by the Wakeham Commission”.

That remains the position.

The debate on whether “senate” is an appropriate name is interesting and very helpful in terms of what the eventual decision would mean, but I would caution the House about senates. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, wished to use the Senate of the United States as a model. There is general consensus that the primacy of the Commons should remain and that the second Chamber, whether 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected, should be a revising Chamber. One should adopt a degree of caution in choosing a name that appropriately reflects the fact that it is a revising Chamber. I say that not to preclude any wide debate about the name in future.

Does the noble Lord agree that if you have an 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected second Chamber, you cannot tell it that it will be subservient to another place?

Now we are into an important debate. It is entirely proper for the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, to raise that, and there will be different views. It is entirely proper for the working group to discuss this, and one hopes that the conclusions will be in the White Paper. But I say to the noble Earl that the Parliament Acts themselves are the enshrinement of the primacy of the Commons.

The last White Paper clearly says that in the event of reform, Members of this House would not be allowed to stand for membership of the House of Commons. It is silent on what Members of this House would be allowed to do in a reformed Chamber. Will they be able to stand as senators, or whatever we call them, in a reformed Chamber? Will my noble friend make sure that something like that is put clearly in the next White Paper?

The establishment of a committee is entirely in the hands of the House and individual Members. If a committee—or committees, given that there is more than one view on Lords reform—is established, the Government have said that they are happy to come before it. I enjoyed a very engaging interrogation by Sir Patrick Cormack’s committee just a few weeks ago. I am entirely relaxed about going through that again and appearing before any committee established in your Lordships’ House.

Before the Minister sits down, will he respond to the specific point about pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed draft clauses? I accept the point that this is to an extent up to the business managers of both the other place and your Lordships’ House, but I do not think that the Minister is so naive as to suppose that they might not be influenced by the attitude of the Government. Is the Government’s intention that the draft clauses might be given pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee so that both Houses could contribute to the process at the same time?

We have said that we hope it will be possible following the White Paper to produce some draft clauses. That is as far as we have gone. I take the helpful suggestion of the noble Lord, which can be considered, but no decision on this has been made. However, I am sure that publishing draft clauses at some stage would be helpful. Further, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, that frustrating as these debates may be, the fact is that whatever progress his own Bill makes, teasing out some of these matters could in itself be seen as a form of pre-legislative scrutiny.

I confess that I am a little lost so far as the procedure is concerned at the moment. Normally, once the Minister has made his views clear, the Committee can proceed to a decision or not as the case may be. I have tabled an amendment to a new clause to the Bill proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and I assume that I should now sum up my views on the amendment, and then the noble Earl will sum up his views on the new clause.

Would it not be a good idea for the noble Lord, Lord Steel, to comment on these amendments? I do not think he has yet done so. He has talked generally about the group of amendments, but he has not spoken specifically to either the noble Lord’s amendment or mine.

If the noble Earl is asking my view on that, the answer is no, quite firmly and definitely no. There is one simple reason for that response. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, intervened in the debate. He was entitled to make a speech and he did so. If in the course of that speech he did not see fit to address the amendments before the Committee, with great respect, he cannot now come back on them.

Of course the noble Lord, Lord Steel, can come back and speak to the amendments. This is the Committee stage and anyone can speak as often as they like. Incidentally, they do not always have to say, “Before the noble Lord sits down”.

I stand corrected. The noble Earl is absolutely right. This is a free-for-all where anyone can speak as often as they like until, I suppose, the debate expires.

It might be helpful if anyone speaking in this debate were to speak to the amendment, which I thought my noble friend Lord Richard was inviting the noble Lord, Lord Steel, to do.

It is a pity that my noble friend Lord McIntosh was not here a little earlier on. If he had been in his place an hour and a half ago, he would have heard the speech that I made proposing my amendment in which I made the enormous mistake, as it turns out, of speaking to the amendment and not to the generality of the argument. This has been a fascinating debate on the general arguments, which we have been round and round and round, and we will go around them again in this Bill.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, that he cannot have it both ways. If he produces a Bill that was bound to be controversial, and which he knew would be once it was in the public domain, any noble Lord would be entitled to table amendments to it and to have them discussed. If the amendments were not in order, I have no doubt that the excellent Clerks at the Table would not have allowed us to put them down. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, cannot now say, “Oh gosh, isn’t it terrible? You want to discuss things which I don’t want to discuss. I merely want to discuss the things that I want to discuss”. That is not on.

In the circumstances, I have considered carefully what to do with the amendment. It is a clear and simple proposal that there should be some input from the Secretary of State and the House of Commons before we move to a change to the name of this House. On any view of the matter, that is a sensible way to proceed. I have thought very hard about whether I should seek a vote on the amendment, and in the end I have decided not to. But I give warning to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and the promoters of the Bill that I shall return to this subject at a future stage, if there ever is one. But I do not think that there will be.

Is it your Lordships’ pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

On Question, Amendment No. 2, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, negatived.

I am now totally confused. There are some Members who desperately do not want me to speak and others who are desperately urging me to speak. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, understated the issue when he said that I had let a cat out of the bag. It would appear that I have let a whole herd of cats out of a whole lot of bags this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, chided me for not addressing the amendments, but I return to the point that I made at the beginning: the Bill is not a whim of mine. Various people have said that I want the House to debate the things that I want to debate. Not at all. The Bill, which has very narrow and specific purposes, is the result of work done by many Members of the House, of whom I am merely the spokesman. Way back in the first Second Reading that we had in July, people thought I was making a joke when I said that the reason I was the spokesman was that I missed the meeting at which that decision was taken. It was not a joke; it was absolutely true. I am simply the servant of a large group of Members who feel that there are four issues which do not brook further delay.

In light of the trouble that we have had recently on cash for peerages—a problem which has afflicted all three parties for a very long time and about which the public are extremely annoyed—the first issue is whether we should deal with the creation of a statutory appointments commission. The Conservative reform task group has said yes, the Government have indicated that they are in favour of it, the Select Committee in the other House has now said it is in favour of it, and on that narrow point we have put this forward in the Bill to deal with the cash for peerages question.

The second issue is the hereditary by-elections and I shall respond immediately to what the Minister asked me. I consider that the undertaking given about retaining the hereditary Peers is important, but I do not think it applies to the amendment. I think the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, was correct when he said that it did not apply to the issue of the by-elections. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, referred to the dignity of the House. I do not see how it impresses the public or increases the dignity of the House to have people coming into the House because they are hereditary Peers elected by two or three other people. That simply will not wash in this day and age.

I wish to make what I understand to be the position on the by-elections absolutely clear. In 1999 an agreement was reached by the present noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—the then Viscount Cranborne—and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg. The agreement was that there would be 92 hereditary Peers in the House until such time as stage 2 of the reform was complete. In order to ensure that 92 remains the correct number, there have to be by-elections for that purpose. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, has confirmed that the by-elections were part of the agreement.

I am attempting to reply to Amendment No. 1. I am explaining why I invite the House to reject Amendment No. 1 and to reject all amendments which fall outside the narrow scope of the Bill. That is not to say the amendments are improper or in any way unconstitutional; of course they are not. They all have interesting topics and, as I have indicated to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, I am in favour of many of them. But they are not within the narrow confine of the Bill, and if the Bill is to have any chance of succeeding we have to restrict ourselves to the subjects of the Bill. If we go wider, frankly, the Bill is dead in the water. It will not go anywhere. We are not going to come here every Friday for the whole of this Session to discuss this issue to the exclusion of everything else; that is simply unrealistic. We have to decide this in facing this first amendment, which falls outside the narrow purposes of the Bill.

I was in the middle of describing what those narrow purposes are and reminding the House that the hereditary by-elections came into being as a result of an amendment—the Weatherill amendment—to the agreement that had been made. It was not part of the original agreement to retain the hereditary Members, and the by-election system has been crude and unacceptable. It has lasted much longer than was foreshadowed at the time.

The third part of the Bill—

I am grateful to the noble Lord. Does he agree that it might reasonably be argued that the measures in his Bill would constitute stage 2 of reform, which would not be to preclude a further stage 3?

That is a very fair point, but the issue of the hereditary by-elections is quite an important one. The question is whether we still believe that Members should enter this House by virtue of heredity. I do not believe that in this day and age public opinion believes that is right, and the other Chamber of Parliament certainly does not. It is an important issue.

The third part of the Bill deals with the ability of Members to retire from the House permanently. It deals with both reducing the numbers of the House, which is desirable, and reducing our average age. The fourth and minor part, which no one has touched on today and is not all that important, is simply to bring this House into line with the other House in saying that those who transgress the law, to the extent of suffering a year in prison, should not be lawmakers.

Those are four very specific, narrow, limited points, on which there could be many amendments. Amendment No. 1, however, like many others, falls well outside the Bill. For that reason I beg the House to reject it and all others like it, otherwise the Bill will be going nowhere.

Will the noble Lord accept that the amendment cannot fall outside the Bill? It has been accepted by the Clerks and put before your Lordships.

I have already dealt with that point. I am not suggesting that the amendments are in any way improper or that they are out of order; I am simply saying that they are outside the narrow scope of the intention behind the Bill. If we go on pressing those amendments—

Let me just finish the sentence, then I will give way. If we go on pressing such amendments, the Bill is not going anywhere. That is the point.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, has probably not yet realised that the scope of a Bill in this House is wider than it is in another place. The scope in this House is whether an issue is covered by the Long Title of the Bill. Anything that is within the terms of the Long Title is within the scope of the Bill.

I could not disagree with the noble Lord. It is exactly the same in the House of Commons. “For connected purposes” covers everything. A herd of cats could run through this Chamber for the whole of this Session if noble Lords wanted, and there is nothing we could do to stop it. All I am saying is that the reality is that either we confine ourselves to the four purposes of the Bill or we do not, and if we do not the Bill is going nowhere. For that reason, I oppose the amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, said in his opening speech that it all depends on whether we are going to confine amendments to the four purposes of the Bill. He has now said it again with great emphasis. I think he is wrong. As has been said by many people, if the Bill is put down then amendments can be put to it and they are perfectly justified. If you take the noble Lord’s view, who is going to decide what is within the narrow confines and what is just outside them? I suppose it would be the noble Lord, Lord Steel—but that is a very bad way of conducting a Committee stage.

I think it is perfectly obvious which amendments fall within the scope of the four purposes of the Bill and which are new matters that have been brought in. Those new matters are certainly connected to House of Lords reform in general, I do not dispute that, but the minute we go wider than these four points, the Bill cannot realistically proceed through to the other place. That is what I hope to achieve. If the House disagrees, we can go on discussing amendments about the number of Bishops, separating peerages from honours and so on for ever more.

Earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Steel, argued that the change that had taken place since Second Reading was the Administration Committee’s report. Would he not agree that that report goes wider than the four issues that he is endeavouring to ensure that we stick to within this Committee? Therefore, if he calls that report in aid, surely he should be prepared to accept that we go wider than the four issues.

I quite accept that the report deals with issues other than those in the Bill. All I am saying is that it gives support to the issues in the Bill, and is thus quite a hopeful sign.

If the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, will forgive me, it may be the feeling of the Committee that, although we are in Committee and the noble Lord is absolutely entitled to intervene, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, should tell Members what he intends to do with Amendment No. 1.

I am sorry, but may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Steel, something that arose the last time around that I do not really understand? Does it come to this? The noble Lord said that the Bill will go nowhere if we do not do something. That “something” was to deal with a series of amendments that the Table has accepted as relevant to the Bill. Well, we cannot do that.

It is entirely up to the Committee, as I have explained over and over again. Either we stick to the four purposes of the Bill, or we enlarge it on to other areas, which is perfectly proper. I am not saying that it is improper. The noble Earl is perfectly entitled to put forward an amendment to change the name of the House, but it is not part of the original purpose for which I was asked to speak in putting forward this Bill. If we go on addressing amendments of that wider kind, then we are simply not going to get the Bill through.

Can I take the great risk, as a really non-procedural character within the House, of recalling that a feature of which we are most proud is that we are a self-regulating House? I think that what the noble Lord, Lord Steel, is really saying is that he cannot challenge the fact that the amendments are all there. They are within the connected purposes, and the Clerks have allowed them to be tabled. If we deal with them all as a mountain of additions, which they could be, to the Christmas tree that we are already considering then it is quite clear that, in reality, the Bill will get nowhere. It will not finish within the time available.

What happens depends on how the Committee regulates itself. If everybody responds that way to the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and refrains from discussing all the amendments on the Marshalled List, then we might have a chance of making it. I get the impression that it is fairly unlikely that all those who put their labour into drafting these amendments, and putting them on the Marshalled List, will wish to restrain themselves in that way, but the noble Lord, Lord Steel, is probably quite right to say that the Bill will get nowhere. It depends entirely on how we all behave, which is the thing that we are most proud of.

I first thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, but I will pose one question to the Minister. He needs to answer the question absolutely clearly, and on the record, that his noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport posed to him. Does the Minister consider this Bill to be a stage 2?

As I said when I repeated my right honourable friend’s statement, no definition has ever been given of stage 2. What is clear is that last February’s White Paper led to votes in both Houses. The Government then decided to go through a procedure of establishing a joint working group that will lead, we hope, to the publication of a White Paper and an expectation that party manifestos at the next election will reflect as broad a consensus as possible. There would then be legislation. That is the best definition that I can give of stage 2.

I am grateful for that, as it comes as close to being a yes as the Minister can give without saying so. Unless he wants to contradict me, I take it that this Bill is not a stage 2 in the eyes of the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, who withdrew his amendment, was absolutely right: he did not like my amendment, because my new clause would pre-empt the White Paper. However, this Bill pre-empts the White Paper—that is what is so utterly wrong. I would not have an amendment if we did not have the Bill. I therefore understand his amendment and rather support it.

The nub of our debate is the point of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. He did not like Amendment No. 1, because the composition of the House was being challenged, which broke the spirit of the Cranborne deal. A lot has been said about the Cranborne deal. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, supported by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, said that the election for hereditary Peers was not part of the original deal. In the very short time since he said that, I have tried to do some research. I happen to have with me a Library Note on the Weatherill amendment. It quotes Viscount Cranborne—now the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—who said that,

“if events prevented stage two from coming about, at least the noble Lord’s amendment would have made stage one a marginally better change than the Government’s original proposal. In that context, I have to say that the outside chance—I hope that it is only a very outside chance—that stage one may last rather longer than the noble and learned Lord and I would like means that by-elections after the next general election would be an extremely helpful reassurance for those of us who would like the Government to get on with stage two”.—[Official Report, 30/3/99; cols. 221-22.]

It was therefore clear that he saw the by-elections as binding.

In the same debate, the noble Lord, Lord Steel, said that,

“if, as we fear, the effect of the amendment is simply to give further entrenchment to the Conservative peerage, then we see little reason to be sympathetic to it”.—[Official Report, 30/3/99; col. 417.]

That underlines one of the main planks of the noble Lord’s Bill: he does not like the elections, whether or not they are binding, which I believe they clearly are. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway is absolutely right. However, my amendment would not challenge the composition of the House; it is the Bill that challenges the binding agreement, reaffirmed by the Minister today, that there would be no alteration to elections of hereditaries until stage 2 came about.

It is important that we get this clear. The noble Earl quoted from the speech of the then Viscount Cranborne. Can he say what the reply of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine, was to that specific point?

I cannot, because I have not done that amount of research; I just happened to have the note beside me when the noble Lord, Lord Steel, raised that point. It has certainly always been my clear understanding of those debates in 1999 that the elections for the hereditary Peers were designed to keep 92 hereditary Peers, for better or for worse and whether one liked it or not, until there was a stage 2.

Would it not be rather bizarre, considering that this House has on several occasions, by majorities usually of three to one, pronounced itself in favour of an all-appointed House, if we did not regard an all-appointed House as a legitimate stage 2? Surely the problem is that some people think that stage 2 must be the last stage of reform, whereas anyone with any sense knows that every human institution is in perpetual need of reform. Stage 2 need not preclude a stage 3 or a stage 4.

Until the Government say that this is stage 2, I am working on the basis, with a White Paper coming up, that a further stage is coming along which will be stage 2. I agree with the noble Lord: I do not see that being the end of the story. I am sure that, in due course, there will be further Bills reforming the second Chamber. As I said at the beginning, I hope that it ends up a totally elected one.

This Bill is breaking that fundamental principle. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that however carefully this Bill is drafted and whatever the dignity and respect in which this House is held, it would be held in considerably less respect if it broke, by a Private Member’s Bill, one of the binding agreements of the Government and the Opposition of 1999. That is why the 1999 Bill succeeded in the way that it did and was allowed to go through the House. If a lot of us had not believed that the election of hereditaries was part of the binding agreement, our debates and reaction to the 1999 Bill would have been very different.

Surely by any reasonable definition the reforms that would be enacted by this Bill, if it became an Act of Parliament, represent a substantial instalment of reform and could only be regarded as stage 2?

If the Government decide that it is stage 2—and they are the same Government who made the binding commitment—that is a different story. That will be debatable when that comes along. We will have to agree that. My memory from the 1999 discussions is that there was going to be a major stage in situ. I see the noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Richard, nodding because we can all recall those long hours spent into the night.

On his first intervention, the noble Lord, Lord Steel, quoted as support for his Bill a couple of paragraphs from the summary of Propriety and Peerages. I will also quote a paragraph from that summary so that I am consistent with him. Last year, the report argued that,

“the link between the honours system and the award of seats in the legislature—already significantly weakened—should be broken for good. Honours and titles should be for past service; a seat in Parliament for potential future service”.

That is exactly the basis behind Amendment No. 72, which is grouped with Amendment No. 1. I hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, would welcome this amendment. After all, he set the precedent by dropping his title when he was Presiding Officer in the Scottish Parliament and then came back here, while Presiding Officer, and took his title back.

In support of my amendment, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde has said that we must not forget that there are a lot of Peers outside this Chamber who are not Members of this House. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, in the wonderful way that he does, has said that this is a wonderful English compromise. I like the idea of an English compromise proposed by a Scot against a Scot who does not like it, but, besides that, let us call it a British compromise. It does not solve the problem but makes it less urgent. That is another reason for me putting down the amendment against some points in this Bill.

I fear that this Bill will delay stage 2. It might be a useful hook for the Government to use to say that, actually, there has now been a little reform of the House of Lords, that the hereditary Peers are going to wither, that there are no more elections, and that we do not need to do anything very much in a hurry. That worries me. It is a fundamental flaw of this Bill.

From my own experience, when I was a Minister sitting where the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is now, and having suffered yet another defeat at the hands of your Lordships—

That is true, not as many, but things have changed. However, we did suffer defeats and I had to go back and see my fellow Ministers—representing constituents in another place. I got a severe earful the following morning as to why the House of Lords was behaving so badly.

I am glad that it has not changed. It just shows that Ministers in another place have no idea of the relevance of this House or how it works. Those Ministers gave me such a hard time; it was their Bill that we, the unelected House, were destroying, their Bill that we were amending—their Bill. Now an awful lot of those Ministers with whom I served and for whom I have huge respect are sitting in this House supporting this Bill. We should not stand back and say, “Now that we are here we are good enough”. This Bill is to perpetuate the House. We have today the House of Lords trying to perpetuate itself and next week we have the House of Commons trying to increase its salaries, and neither of these two days in Parliament is any good for the political process.

There is a lot more that I would like to say but it would be wrong for me to say it now. I repeat that I am extremely grateful to all your Lordships. I shall consider what has been said. I like what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, suggests. However, I shall just say to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, that I have had to alter a lot of my amendments and not table some of the amendments that I wanted, but I shall speak to the amendments tabled in my name, as they are relevant and it is important that they are discussed. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Perhaps I could make it clear, as the Front Benches agree that it would be helpful, that Amendment No. 2 was an amendment to Amendment No. 1. Leave to withdraw was sought but was not unanimous. Therefore, the amendment was negatived.

3: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“PART A1Second chamber of ParliamentCommittee to determine name of second chamber

(1) There shall be an independent committee which shall prepare a report setting out at least three options for the naming of the second chamber of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and its members.

(2) The committee shall be chaired by the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords.

(3) The remaining members of the committee shall be appointed by the Lord Speaker who shall ensure the representation of—

(a) Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Crossbench members of the House of Lords; and(b) independent experts who are not members of either the House nor of any political party.(4) The committee shall report within six months of the coming into force of this Part.

(5) The report shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament.”

The noble Baroness said: Some of the ground in my amendment has already been covered, so I hope to be brief. Following the interesting debate that we have just had and consistent with the points made by my noble friend Lord Richard, my amendment is not intended in any way to pre-empt the White Paper but to encourage a debate on an important aspect of reform—a debate which I hope will continue during the life of the White Paper. Nor is my amendment intended to undermine the aristocracy or do away with the time-honoured titles of the nobility; it is aimed simply at severing their link with the legislature, as the noble Earl said, in name as well as in function. It would also apply in the case of a wholly or partly elected Chamber.

The amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Dubs might achieve a similar aim. However, in so far as it contains the name “Lords”, the same confusion is perpetrated, which I should like to avoid. Some may say that once all vestiges of the hereditary principle in membership of your Lordships' House have gone, my purpose would be achieved, as the British political genius would enable any arrangements, no matter how contrarily named, to be pragmatically and effectively operated. But our constitutional arrangements are a part of our culture. They are for all our citizens to understand and value, and are of particular importance in the current climate of disaffection with politics. They are taught in schools. There is widespread confusion about what the House of Lords is all about, neatly encapsulated in the typical cartoon of the ermine-clad, coroneted old buffer, which is of course completely inaccurate.

I am for a much more transparent and intelligible name for the second Chamber. The amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, might fit the Bill. When the matter was canvassed during Harold Wilson’s Government, the most popular name was “senate”. As noble Lords have said, it is a common name for a second Chamber in francophone countries and in the USA. But a change of this nature happens only once in a very long while, and we should apply ourselves to seeing whether there is not a feasible British term. I propose that the Lord Speaker should set up a committee; then we can see what British constitutional genius can come up with. I beg to move.

The noble Baroness’s amendment is certainly intriguing, because it suggests that the report should set out at least three options. We have heard about the obvious one, which is a senate. There are different senates in different countries around the world. The American Senate is a very powerful institution, while the Senate in Canada is less so. A senate can be powerful or not.

That may, indeed, be the case, but I was referring to the fact that senates have differing powers. They can be appointed or elected. In different countries around the Commonwealth there are different ways of doing it.

One concern is that the amendment suggests that there should be three options. If we are going to appoint a committee, it ought to come up with a recommendation, rather than a number of options. Part of the reason for that is to do with the composition of the committee. The noble Baroness includes no Members of another place automatically on her committee, as far as I can see, although there can be independent experts. At the same time, the committee will produce a report to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Who will decide which House will vote on the right name? What happens if another place votes for a different name, out of the three, from your Lordships’ House? It seems to be a recipe for constitutional muddle—even more so than some other parts of this Bill.

While it may be a good idea—and I think it is—for us to discuss what this House could be called in the future, to do so by way of this amendment will produce a number of confusing options and no certainty or agreed way forward. According to the amendment, the committee will be appointed by the Lord Speaker, which is, I am sure, a good idea, but it seems not to take any notice or cognisance of what the Government or, indeed, what any White Paper might say. While the idea is intriguing, the amendment does not make any sense in the context of the Bill, and would need radical reform before it could be considered for inclusion.

I would like to make two brief observations on my noble friend’s amendment. I remind the House that the founding fathers of the American constitution engineered the US Senate as a device to restrict the skittishness that they predicted would characterise the House of Representatives. That seems to sit a little oddly with the proposition, which we hear on all sides, that we must respect the primacy of the House of Commons.

My other observation is that, while the model of a committee to determine the future name of a second Chamber may be, as proposed by my noble friend, appropriate when the time comes—and I do not think that the time has yet come—it does not need to be established by statute. It can simply be done by any of the normal devices for setting up a committee.

I have some other concerns about the amendment. It is suggested that the Lord Speaker should chair the committee. I confess that I was not in favour of appointing a Lord Speaker to your Lordships’ House, but the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has filled the position with considerable dignity and skill since she was appointed. However, if she were to take over the chairmanship of this committee, she might run the risk of getting into quite serious controversial difficulty, which would detract from the important independence attached to her present position. Therefore, to appoint the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords as the chairman of this committee, as is proposed in subsection (2) of the amendment, would be a mistake.

I would like to support my noble friend, but I, too, have my doubts too about the wisdom of this course. In 2002, I was on the Joint Committee on the future of the House of Lords that produced seven options. We had seven “No” results in the other place. The question that came to my mind immediately was what we do if we produce three options and at least one of the Houses decides that it does not want any of them.

I have two points on which I should like clarification. First, if this was enacted as printed, presumably that Chamber would come into existence before a name for it was chosen. How would you refer to it in the interim? Secondly, the position regarding Members of the other place is rather more stringent than my noble friend has suggested. The only way into this committee would be through subsection (3), which is divided into two paragraphs. Under paragraph (a) all have to be Members of this House and under (b) none of them can be a Member of either House. I wonder whether the exclusion of Members of the other place is deliberate or accidental. If it is deliberate, I wonder why it was done.

The amendment says that the committee should consist of,

“Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Crossbench members”,

but there are no right reverend Prelates. Is that not an omission? They form a very distinct and distinctive part of the House.

Many people have made interesting suggestions about the amendment of my noble friend. My feeling is there are, after all, not that many names that one will be able to put forward. The Witenagemot is the only one I can see which will be a winner if we do not have a senate. But we are missing a great chance. This should not be done just by Members of the House of Lords or just by Members of the House of Commons. We should consult the people. We should bring in outside opinion and consult the nation to see what they would like us to be called. Why should we decide? At least a lot of people would find out what we do and how we should do it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, is less prescriptive in this amendment than my noble friend Lord Caithness was in his. That makes me wonder exactly what sort of House the noble Baroness would like to see. As is well known, I favour a stronger House, which is why I rather like the idea of a senate. At least, I did until the noble Lord, Lord Richard, reminded us that the Senate of Canada is an appointed House. But I like to think that the name “senate” is authoritative, which is one of the reasons why I favour it.

The noble Baroness is right that we have to consider a new name as this will no longer be a House of all Lords, as I explained in the earlier debate. But I cannot follow her, and neither have other noble Lords, in suggesting that the right place to decide on a future name is on some committee. I should like to see us being more confident than that. Parliament already gives far too much responsibility to other bodies and takes on far too little for itself. If there is to be a new name, surely, we should not be afraid to debate it, to decide on our own name and to include that in legislation. The difficulty of identifying a committee to do this foreshadows some of the debates that we will have later when we discuss the appointment of the nine immensely powerful figures that the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, wants to appoint to decide who will make up half our Parliament.

The noble Baroness also says in her amendment that we need experts to decide on a name. I was hoping that she might tell us who those experts might be. Will they be lexicographers, experts in all languages? We could be the Athenian boule or the Indian Rajya Sabha or even our own medieval Great Council. In fact, the Great Council is not such a bad name. How many undiscovered terms are there in the dictionary for a Chamber of Parliament? Those experts could be historians or constitutionalists. Even people such as Professor Vernon Bogdanor or Dr Meg Russell could decide for us. No doubt being eminent historians, they would tell us of the difficulties they had in the 1650s when the House of Lords had been abolished and his Highness Lord Protector Cromwell decided that the Commons needed a balancing Upper House to stop it running amok. A written constitution could not help as much against abuse of the primacy of the Commons in those days. They had to turn to a reborn House of Lords.

They did not decide a name in 1657 before the House was created and summoned. Then the Commons spent weeks debating whether to recognise it and what it should be called. With masterly originality the House of Commons eventually concluded that it should simply be called the other House. I hope that no one here would advocate a repetition. Under Protector Richard Cromwell it became the Upper House, but that too lacks a little in style.

In other words, I am not sure what these proposed experts could bring to the table that we could not do perfectly well for ourselves. Some terms are too foreign for some; for the rest, the choices are limited. Either we stay where we are with the House of Lords or, if we reform the House and exclude classes of Lords, I do not see why we should look much further than a senate, although I know that even to say that would be controversial in this House.

My noble friend supports a senate. Would I be Senator Lord Astor, or would I be Lord Astor, a member of the Senate?

I believe that my noble friend would be Senator Viscount Astor; there is nothing wrong with that. He would have to be elected, though, under my scheme.

Very possibly; it would be difficult for all of us.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Ferrers about the exclusion of the Lords Spiritual from membership of the committee. Perhaps the noble Baroness had a specific reason for excluding them, but I think that we should always hear from them. In my experience, theologians are without parallel in finding words to bridge gaps.

I, too, am convinced that the Lord Speaker should not be the person to choose the committee. I would be prepared to agree that she could chair it, but to give the chairman power to appoint his or her committee is not good practice. How large should this committee be and who would decide on behalf of each party group who should be the members? The noble Baroness suggests that the Lord Speaker should decide, but the Lord Speaker is not intimate in her knowledge of the Conservative or Liberal Democrat groups, or even the Cross-Bench group in this House. A Conservative or Liberal Speaker would have exactly the same difficulty with other groups in the House. Should the names come from leaders, chairmen or convenors of the groups, having consulted with their members as appropriate? In short, the amendment seems to set up an elaborate machinery involving people from outside Parliament over whom your Lordships’ House will have no control either as a House or through party groups to do relatively little. If we need a new name, the field of choice is relatively small.

Surely when the time comes we should grasp the nettle, debate it and decide it ourselves. I hope that the noble Baroness, when she sums up, will withdraw her amendment; and, if she wishes to proceed, she should consider further how it might work, taking into account the points raised in this short debate. I am happy to join her and others in coming to a finer conclusion as to how this could be moved forward.

Before my noble friend sits down, will he consider the use of the Committee of Selection to select this committee? We have that machinery already.

It is an eminently good idea to use the Committee of Selection, which already exists in this House. We should not go around reinventing the wheel when the machinery is already here.

I would like to say a few words in support of my noble friend’s amendment. The thrust of it is right because, as other noble Lords have said, we need to decide ourselves; we have been discussing on the Back Benches what we might be called, and other noble Lords have also done so. There is a range of names, other than senate, that we could consider. It is important that the discussion starts in this House and that the suggestions for our new name should come from this House. The thrust of this argument is the right way to go.

Earlier the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said that she found herself in the unusual and uncomfortable position of agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I find myself agreeing with him as well. I do not believe I have ever said that before either. I entirely understand the thinking behind the amendment, but it needs some more thinking. I have joined your Lordships’ House relatively recently, but people at the other end of this building will think that this is an important issue in which they should be involved. I would be speaking on behalf of former colleagues in saying that although it may well be that your Lordships’ House should take the initiative and should narrow down the suggestions, nevertheless, the whole of Parliament should discuss it.

I have been very taken by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Desai. It may be that one of the television channels would like to open up the issue in the way in which they are so adept. They might even make some money to help towards the costs of running this place. As long as the matter was up front, and they explained precisely the cost of all the calls, I am sure that your Lordships’ House would receive such funding with enthusiasm.

It is important to narrow down as widely as possible—if that is not too complicated a phrase—the number of options. I am very sensitive and sympathetic to the suggestion that in this country we should have a senate. I think that the examples in other parts of the world are not to be taken as gospel in this matter. We certainly do not have to follow anyone because, in any case, there are so many different versions. A senate gives the impression, which is important, that we are an integral part of the decision-making in Parliament. We will not be just a debating chamber at the other end of the building that occasionally becomes difficult and stroppy and has a different view. We will be an integral part of the legislature of this country. The word “senate” would give the Chamber that status. I say with all humility, as a recently joined Member, that there will be Members of the other place who will think that they should be consulted on this matter too.

Perhaps I can intervene with one sentence: the more we seek to achieve, the less we shall achieve.

I support the thrust of the noble Baroness’s amendment. I suggest to her that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde is an ideal person to sit on the committee. He made a very interesting speech which made me think how much we still miss the late Earl Russell. He would have been an excellent person to have on the committee. Indeed, I think his comments on this Bill would have been quite interesting too and perhaps different from those of the rest of his party in many ways.

What the noble Baroness sets out, I think, is right. Thought needs to be given to this. I came forward with the idea of a senate but, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, rightly reminds us, of course the Senate in Canada is appointed. Having been to Canada and America, it is interesting to see the difference with which the Senates are regarded in both countries as a result of that, including the powers given to a second chamber.

On the powers, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, “Do not for one moment believe that when we have a 100 per cent elected Chamber that there will be primacy of the House of Commons”. Can you imagine the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, in his former incarnation as the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, going to his constituents in Stratford and then to Newport, saying, “Please elect me, there is actually nothing I can do for you; you might want me to oppose the Government but I’m not going to because I am not allowed to”. No one will get any votes on that basis. The only way you will get votes is to canvass and say, “The reason I want to be elected is because I want to stand up to those people in the other place”.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said to the Minister that he would not believe anything that the Minister said, even if he did not say it. I am certain that the noble Earl will agree with me that the House of Commons will not want for one moment to think that its primacy could be challenged. However, it will have to be, and it is right that it should be.

I like the idea of some form of committee but fear that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, is right. There is no way in which the other place will not put its sticky mitts on to this in some shape or form. It is more than likely that it will want to dictate to us what our name should be. That is why I think the idea of us starting at this end of the corridor is a very good one, so that we have the initiative. I am grateful to the noble Baroness.

The real problem with the noble Baroness’s amendment—this is a serious and not frivolous criticism—is that it takes from Parliament a decision on the name of what will become the second Chamber. She says in her amendment that the report should be laid before both Houses of Parliament but not approved by them, by which she means the decision should be made by the committee which she proposes. This place will have difficulty with that concept and so would the other place. Other serious detailed difficulties have been referred to, such as exactly what the independent experts would be expert in and why there are no representatives from the other place. There are a lot of difficulties with the noble Baroness’s amendment and I think it would be better if she did not press it.

I have found this debate most interesting; there has been not a moment of boredom in it, and one cannot always say that. We are not here to entertain ourselves but it has been a fascinating afternoon. I have a later amendment, and I fought shy of incorporating the concept of a senate into it because I was not sure that there would be enough agreement. The combination of my noble friend’s amendment and the noble Lord’s Bill has brought out a broad measure of support for the word “senate”.

It would be dangerous to say that we are all agreed on the proposal because many would say that we are not. However, one thing that has come out of the debate so far is that the terms “senate” and “senator” are strongly in contention. Having said that, I understand what my noble friend is seeking to do in her amendment. I do not agree with the thrust of it, but she has probably achieved her aim in airing the issue. I suggest that if we are going to have any change to the name of ourselves as individuals or to the name of the House, then senate would be the odds-on favourite, provided that the change of name occurs when there is a change in the composition of the House. If we do it without changing the structure of the House—and this is not the amendment on which to debate that—it will be silly. When we come to changing the way in which the House moves to stage 2 or stage 3, I think the title “senate” will be a good one.

This has been an interesting debate and my noble friend has done a great service to the House. This is not the first time that your Lordships have debated the title of this House. I recall an amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in 1999 on the question of the name of the reformed House. He made a number of suggestions and I think his amendment proposed that it should be the House of Peers and Peeresses. That was anticipated by Gilbert and Sullivan many years before in the alternative title to “Iolanthe”: “The Peer and the Peri”. The definition of “peri” is those who are descended from fallen angels who have been denied paradise until they have done penance. We are indeed doing penance today.

I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord but I am deeply flattered that he should remember what I said long after I had forgotten. I am sure he will agree that anything I have said has always been correct.

The noble Earl will recall that I was the government Whip on the Bill and that I was allowed to deal with only one amendment, which happened to be his. That is why I remember it but, alas, the Government were unable to accept it.

The name of the reformed Chamber is a very important matter. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that we want a good debate on this and that Parliament should decide, although it would be quite proper for a committee of this House, the other House or both Houses jointly to consider these matters and give advice to Parliament as a whole. Indeed, that is a very useful suggestion.

I urge one point of caution. There seems to be an emerging consensus that senate may be the appropriate term, and I understand that. It is a very grand—indeed, comforting—title, but it is very important that the name reflects the status and responsibilities of a reformed Chamber. Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, I believe that it is perfectly possible to have an elected second Chamber—an assertive Chamber, as undoubtedly it will be—which still respects the primacy of the Commons. Personally, I would hesitate to use the word senate in that context but, in the end, happily it will be Parliament that decides.

I expected a bucketload of cold water to be showered on the name senate, but can the noble Lord tell us—he must have given this a great deal of thought—what name he would like a reformed House to be given? He has a choice of perhaps three and, if he likes, he can phone a friend or even ask the opinion of the House.

While the Minister is thinking of his answers, perhaps I could again draw his attention to the Public Administration Select Committee report. Paragraph 141 says:

“One of the simplest ways to reduce the potential market value of peerages would be to separate the honour and the title from the seat in the legislature. The Government has already indicated it supports this”.

Does the noble Lord think that that is correct?

The principle is supported by the Government, as we have said, but we would prefer to see it within the overall reform proposals that we would bring forward through a White Paper. As I understand it, the Select Committee argues that the matter could be dealt with in an interim Bill. I do not think that I should comment any further than that because the Government owe it to Parliament as a whole to give careful consideration to the recommendations, and we shall do so in due course.

I have to say to the noble Earl, Lord Strathclyde—

He jolly well ought to be and perhaps one day he will be. Alas, I confess that I have not given as much time as perhaps I should have done to thinking about the title of a reformed second Chamber. I shall go away and give it earnest consideration. I do not seek to pour cold water on the word senate; I simply ask the House to exercise some caution and to choose a title that reflects the responsibilities that the revising Chamber will have in the future.

I wish to pose a question to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Does the historical tour de force that he treated us to earlier have any implications for the Commons? In a sense, I suppose that it could be argued that the House of Commons defined itself as a House of Commons as against the House of Lords. That is why I say to my noble friend that, whether she pushes this matter at this or a later stage, the representation of Members of the House of Commons will be very important.

I rise to speak briefly on behalf of the sponsors of the Bill. I recall that when my noble friend Lord Waldegrave was sitting in the Commons and was replying to Questions at Question Time, far more rapid progress was made than expected. They got to about Question 21 but he rose to his feet and called attention to the fact that the notes in his folder stopped at Question 20. I suspect that I shall not have that problem this afternoon.

I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that the value of this debate is that the noble Baroness has given the topic an airing. That is quite justifiable. We are quite sensitive and amenable to the point underlying her amendment. The problem that we would have is twofold—I shall be brief because those points have already been drawn out in debate. One is about composition. The other is about process; whether it is appropriate to be embodied in legislation. The point about composition has already been well rehearsed. Speaking for myself, I have no problem with experts being drawn on for such a purpose, but I take the point about the membership of this House being exclusive for parliamentarians.

There is a much broader issue, to which we shall return in later amendments, not least relating to the composition of the Appointments Commission. I know that some Members would like to confine that to Members of this House. That is entirely inappropriate. We should not be too precious about the method used for membership of this House. Others should be involved in that process. We should not try to keep it within ourselves. I accept that, if we are going to discuss the name, it is quite appropriate that others should be involved.

However, as has been identified, the danger is in doing it too prescriptively through the form of an amendment to the Bill. It is most unusual for committees of this sort to be set up by statute; it is normally done by another method. That allows flexibility to have discussions to meet the very points that have been raised. So I revert to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs: it has been very valuable rehearsing the case. I am quite sympathetic to the noble Baroness's point. There is a case for looking at the name. I am one of those who would be wary about calling it a senate, so I think that there is a case for having considered reflection on that, not rushing into it, which is why I was opposed to the earlier amendments, but I am sympathetic to the core of the point made by the noble Baroness.

I intended to stimulate debate and I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have entertained and enlightened us by joining in the debate. I agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Hunt said in response. I should just like to clarify that the amendment was not intended to pre-empt the White Paper. Therefore, the composition of this House would have been settled before we debated the name.

I had originally intended that we should choose our name, but I take very well the points made by several noble Lords that another place has a right and expectation to be involved with choosing the title. When I take my amendment back, I shall take that into account. Consulting the people is also an extremely interesting idea. Noble Lords will have grasped from that that I intend to read extremely carefully everything in Hansard. I do not think that I would be inclined, however, to include the right reverend Prelates. It seems to me that they do not have a place in a modern second Chamber in that way.

Therefore, apart from willingly taking up the offer of help from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde—

Surely one cannot let that pass uncommented on. Many of us think that the right reverend Prelates add a dimension to our debates without which they would be vastly impoverished. It is wrong to ignore that aspect when deciding how to compose the committee.

I could not agree more with the noble Lord about the valuable contribution made by individual Members on the Bench of Prelates. However, it seems to me not appropriate—although this is an initial point in the debate—that they should take part in choosing the name. That is what I meant.

The noble Baroness must agree that she is being highly discriminatory, because this place is the House of Lords Temporal and Lords Spiritual. They ought to be just as well represented as anyone else.

I am putting a point of view at the beginning of a debate, which I think is worth considering. However, it is not the end of the debate and I hope that the noble Earl will accept it in that spirit. I am flattered by the offer of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to help me draft an amendment. It may well come to that. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 7 pm