CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS – HOUSE OF LORDS – 6 March 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: ... Accepting that this Chamber may have more power than the other Chamber, how would we cope with a situation in which the other Chamber had, for example, 80 per cent. elected Members who had less power than us but had been elected more recently and took a different view, or had been elected under a different system and took a different view? If this Chamber were divided, and that Chamber relatively united, would not that be a recipe for tension that can only weaken the democratic process? Why is it that more than 70 per cent. of people think that the other place is doing a good job, but a rather smaller proportion think that this place is doing a good job?

Mrs Theresa May: I have no difficulty with the concept of tension within the democratic process, as it leads to better legislation and the right challenge to Government. However, my hon. Friend also referred to the possibility of a different electoral system for the upper House, which might somehow claim greater electoral legitimacy. I do not agree that proportional representation provides greater legitimacy, but I fear that a PR system in the upper House would lead some in this House to claim that it had greater legitimacy, and lead to pressure for PR in this Chamber, which I would reject.

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Mr Richard Shepherd: ... I want a House whose Members are chosen by their people. That is why I think that something along the lines of the first European electoral areas would be satisfactory, with two Members who are elected “a third and a third” over six years. It is nonsensical for someone to stand for election for 12, 14 or 15 years with no possibility of ever being re-elected. There is no accountability in that. I can tell any lie to an electorate to be voted in –

Dr Lewis: Once.

Mr Shepherd: But they cannot get back at me, because I can stand only once. No: accountability must mean a regular appearance before our peers, the electorate.

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Pete Wishart: ... I believe that the House of Lords is an unnecessary, underworked, overpriced institution whose standing in the eyes of the public, contrary to what has been said here, has never been lower as a result of how the public have observed the House of Lords in the past year through the cash for peerages scandal.

Dr Lewis: How does the hon. Gentleman account for the poll showing that more than 70 per cent. of people think that the House of Lords does a good job, and how does he account for the fact that the people who seem to be taking the blame for cash for peerages are Members of this House, not least the Prime Minister?

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Dr Lewis: In light of the hon. Gentleman's earlier remonstrations about the problems of making appointments, how would he recommend that the 20 per cent. be appointed?

David Howarth: That is a good question; it shows the fundamental weakness of any appointments system, which is why I do not want many such people. Perhaps at some point random selection might be used.

[For Julian's speech in this Debate, click here.]