Debating the Lords

The House yesterday and this morning debated the report of the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill.  In practice, the report was somewhat overshadowed by the Alternative Report, signed by twelve of us who served on the Joint Committee, which attracted fairly strong support from around the House.  I spoke early in the debate (column 1958) and was able to draw out the extent to which the Joint Committee was hampered in its work, first, by the failure of the Government to identify the criteria by which it should be assessed, and, second, by limitations of time.  The report is as notable for what it omits as much as for what it includes.

The debate was noteworthy for Lord Ashdown losing the House and coming out with contradictory claims, not to mention demonstrating rather slight knowledge of second chambers.  He maintained that the first chamber would retain primacy even though he wanted the second chamber to be able to block the country going to war.   He didn’t see any contradiction in these claims.  However, the prize for really losing the House was won this morning when the minister, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, wound up (in more senses than one).  He failed to respond to the debate, delivering instead a general speech on the need to restore trust in politics, much to the annoyance of the chair of the Joint Committee, Lord Richard.  He quite reasonably thought that in replying to a motion to take note of the report of the Joint Committee, the minister should at least have commented on the report.  Members of the House are not best pleased…

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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6 Responses to Debating the Lords

  1. ladytizzy says:

    Lord Ashdown seems to be happy, living the dream, remembering his swash-buckling times, ensuring the few who might not know that Oscar Wilde and St Augustine are his current amis du choix. Is it just coincidence that he chooses to sit where the sun would hit the red leather?

  2. JH says:

    Lord Wallace noted that the House has seen many more interventions in recent years. Is that the case? (I heard Lady Farrington dispute this but her reference to Lady Scotland and her own time in government suggests her examples fell within ‘recent’ times rather undermining her argument.)

    • Lord Norton says:

      JH: I would need to do some research to determine the extent to which interventions have increased. Even if they have, it is not necessarily a bad thing. We are still rather restrained. On reflection, I should have intervened in one or two speeches yesterday. I had the same thought as you regarding Lady Farrington’s intervention.

  3. Neil M says:

    If we are awarding prizes, one wonders into what category Lord Higgins might be nominated for his contribution
    “The reality is that the public are unbelievably ignorant about this House and are not likely to understand the way in which we work or the good work that we do. Certainly if you had an opinion poll asking how Members of the House of Lords normally dress, they would reply very simply by a large majority, “They all look like Father Christmas”. ”
    As a fully paid up member of “the public”, it may be true (and one of its problems) that the value we get from the current system is not very visible but there is a difference between making that point and doubting our capacity to understand it. Equally, I think he can rest easy that any comparison to Santa stops at the robes.

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