Dibattito sulla riforma della Camera dei Lords - 7 Marzo 2007
House of Commons Hansard Debates for 07 Mar 2007 (pt 0004) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm0703...
Question again proposed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): It is something to speak following a speech on
tranquillity, given that that word will probably not be used to describe this particular debate. That said, yesterday’s debate was very entertaining,
and since it took place my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has been described as having the courage of 300 Spartans. W hether that
makes the rest of us part of the 700 Thespian volunteers, I do not know.
Yesterday’s debate reminded me of the football pools: one could perm any eight from 10 in terms of the views expressed in the House. As we
know, this is a debate of two halves, and it falls to me to blow the whistle to start the second half today. The House will forgive me if I express the
hope that the second half does not last quite as long as the first, not least because there is another game of two halves in which I have a great
interest: Celtic versus AC Milan this evening. [Interruption.] I hope that that sedentary intervention was said with the light-heartedness with which
it appeared to be said.
Mr. Speaker, the House will be grateful to you to know that when the votes take place, the monitors will indicate exactly which motion Members are
voting on. That is already a break with the past, and one which I hope will help to steer Members into the appropriate Lobby for each vote.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): If the monitors are going to indicate which motion we are voting on, that will be very helpful to
Members. However, can we be assured that, when reference is made on the monitors to “the appointed House”, the word “reformed” will be
Bridget Prentice: The title given on the monitors will explain exactly what each motion is on. I hope that the situation will be sufficiently clear, but I
am sure that there will be plenty of Members in the Chamber and elsewhere guiding their friends and colleagues into the Lobby.
A considerable amount of work has already been done on this issue. There is the excellent report of the Joint Committee on Conventions, chaired
by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Cunningham of Felling, and, of course, the substantial work done by the cross-party working group,
chaired by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I hope that today’s debate will be another major step in a century’s-worth of steps on the
road to reform. Members will be relieved to know that I will not be giving them a year-by-year account of the history of reform—[Hon. Members:
“Go on!”] Well, otherwise, there will be no time for any of this evening’s votes, and as I have said,
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I must get away in time to see Celtic defeat the mighty AC Milan. However, there are some points along the time line that I would like to highlight.
The first such point was the Parliament Act 1911, which was a response to the crisis arising from the Lords’ rejection of the 1909 Budget. That Act
ensured that money Bills could receive Royal Assent without the approval of the other place, and it shortened the maximum length of a Parliament
from seven to five years. Public Bills, with some exceptions, were to receive Royal Assent without the consent of the Lords if they had been passed
by this House in three successive Sessions. The Parliament Act 1949 reduced that period to two Sessions, and reduced the period between the
first Second Reading and the final passage of a Bill to one year. Those Acts are key pillars of the primacy of this House and they are fundamental to
its relationship with the Lords.
Then there was the development of the Salisbury-Addison convention. The 1945 general election produced a Labour Government with a massive
majority of 156, but of course, at that time there was only a small number of peers—16 out of 831—who took the Labour W hip. That imbalance
had to be addressed. The then Viscount Cranbourne, Leader of the Opposition in the Lords and fifth Marquis of Salisbury, and Viscount Addison,
the Labour leader in the Lords, came to an agreement that we now refer to as the Salisbury-Addison convention. They agreed that, because major
Government legislation had been put before the country at the general election, and the people, with knowledge of those proposals, had returned a
Labour Government, the Government had a mandate to introduce their key proposals, and the Lords should not oppose them.
The Joint Committee on Conventions has given an excellent description of the convention as it stands today and I commend its report to the
House. That Salisbury-Addison convention gives effect to the primacy of this House, and it is vital to how the other place responds to manifesto
legislation. Parliament would be very different without it.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the primacy of one Chamber over the other is as much about perception as
about legislative framework, and that it is for that reason that many of us feel that a largely or wholly elected Chamber would claim a degree of
legitimacy that the present Chamber could not, which could be to the detriment of the Chamber? Does she agree that the Salisbury-Addison
convention was a voluntary arrangement between both Houses, and that a completely different House at the other end of the corridor may wish to
seek another sort of convention?
Bridget Prentice: I have much sympathy with what my hon. Friend says; politics is very often about perception. But I should say to him, as my
right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said yesterday, that should the House decide to go for a partly or wholly elected second Chamber,
whatever it decides it will also decide the rules by which that Chamber is governed, so I hope that my hon. Friend will accept, as I do, that it would
be for the House to decide what those rules are likely to be.
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Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD) rose—
Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab) rose—
Bridget Prentice: I shall give way just once more.
Sir Robert Smith: The hon. Lady said that perception is extremely important. It should be remembered that there is a perception in the country
that gradually over the years—especially in the last 10 years but also before then—the Executive have been seen to grab more powers to the
Executive and become less accountable to Parliament as a whole, and that the reform of the House of Lords is part of the process of giving more
accountability again to the Executive, which in the long run will benefit the Executive as well by keeping them more in touch.
Bridget Prentice: I can agree with the hon. Gentleman in one sense: I agree that making these reforms will make the Executive, and Parliament as
a whole, more accountable. I would say to him too, however, that over the past 10 years the Executive have probably been more accountable in
many ways than any previous one, so I would not accept his point on that.
I want to move on to the third key point along the timeline—the Life Peerages Act 1958 and the Peerages Act 1963. They allowed life peers to sit in
the other place; the Lords would no longer be limited to those with an hereditary title; and they even allowed women to sit there too. The 1963 Act
also famously allowed hereditary peerages to be disclaimed for life or relinquished for a period of time.
Fundamental and far-reaching reform did not come, however, until this Labour Government came to power in 1997. The House of Lords Act 1999
removed the majority of peers who sat in the other place as a right of heredity. It was an absurdity in a modern democracy and it had to go. I see
from yesterday's debate that both sides of the House agree that this should be so, although I do recall the campaign literature for the
Conservative party in 1997, drawing attention to the advantages of the hereditary peers.
Our job was incomplete, however. Running through these parliamentary reforms demonstrates that which is obvious but which may also be so
close to us that we miss it. Those reforms are now embedded in our culture and conventions. The Salisbury-Addison convention, the introduction
of life peers and women peers and the removal of the majority of hereditary peers have all strengthened the other place, and in so doing have
strengthened Parliament as a whole. It is quite clear that where reform is necessary, the Houses do not crumble but are reinforced.
This history demonstrates something else, loud and clear. Reform of the second Chamber has been on the agenda for too long. We must now
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I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Politica comparata e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Milano - Unimi o del prof Giuliani Marco.
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