New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: Before my hon. Friend [Sir Edward Leigh] leaves the question of how well the House of Lords does its job, will he cast his mind back to 1984, when he had been in this House for a year and sought to move a sensible amendment to bring in postal ballots for trade union elections? That amendment could get nowhere because it was heavily whipped against, and it was defeated. But in the other place, where people listened to reason, that amendment went through, and so when the legislation came back here, the Government had to listen and take some parts of it on board, which they did, with very beneficial effects over the years that followed.

[Sir Edward Leigh: I agree with that point, and I think the House of Lords performs that function excellently. Those who believe that the House of Lords can have legitimacy only if it is elected forget what the result of an elected House of Lords would be: it would filled with elected politicians. We are called “politicians” because we are elected and too many of us believe that we can feel justification in our life only if we become Ministers. That is why on dozens of occasions, including the one to which my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) alluded, reason has come to see light in the House of Lords, whereas in this place it is almost impossible to defeat the power of the whipping system, because most politicians are naturally ambitious. So let us not focus on the structures or on creating an elected House of Lords; let us focus on the small and necessary steps that this Bill can take, and which a Bill next year might take one step further forward. ... ]