PRESIDENT OF COUNCIL – LORDS REFORM – 26 November 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: If he will make a statement on proposals for further reform of the House of Lords?

[The President of the Council (Mr Robin Cook): The Queen's Speech stated that the Government look forward to considering the interim report from the Joint Committee on options for the composition of the House of Lords. I understand that the Joint Committee may reach a view on its interim report before Christmas. The Government have already given a commitment to facilitate the House reaching a decision on the options on a free vote.]

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] Will the President resist the temptation to shelter entirely behind the Joint Committee schedule and now give a firm pledge to this House that House of Lords reform will be implemented by the end of this Parliament?

[Mr Cook: The hon. Gentleman waves temptation in front of me. I am happy to say that I am very able to resist the temptation to shelter behind the Joint Committee. I have said before and am happy to say again that I would like us to take forward House of Lords reform in this Parliament. I would like it to be enforced by the time we reach the end of this Parliament, but whether I can arrive there depends not only on me, but on 659 Members of Parliament, how we vote and whether there is a centre of gravity for reform. I would be very concerned if we fell into the same trap into which the House has fallen on previous occasions, when the inability among those who wanted reform to agree on it left the field to those who were opposed to any reform. We must not fall into that trap this time around.]