House of Lords

31 May 2011 08:29:54

Times survey of peers proves that turkeys won't vote for Christmas

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter.

LordsResults

The above findings come from today's Times (£).

The newspaper sent questions to all 789 voting members of the Upper House and 310 responded.

The results confirm widespread opposition to Coalition plans to introduce democracy to Britain's Upper House.

Even many of Nick Clegg’s own peers are opposed to his plans. 46% of Liberal Democrat members of the Lords oppose "a large elected element" and a majority (54%) believe that "it would be unconstitutional to use the Parliament Act."

MAY-THERESA Interestingly someone close to Theresa May appears to have been briefing. The Home Secretary is reported as being concerned that any trench warfare with the Lords on reforming the upper house will jeopardise the Coalition's bread and butter business. Mrs May is already smarting from Lib Dem peers voting down her police chiefs legislation

The newspaper goes on to quote various peers who oppose the Coalition's plans:

  • Lord Howe of Aberavon: “All three party leaders in the last election declared themselves in favour of transforming the Lords by requiring most, if not all, of its members to be elected. But not one of them has suggested that this change would improve the diverse, independent and largely expert composition of the Lords as it now is. Nor can they point to a single fault that would be corrected by this change.”
  • Lord Pannick: “We don’t elect everyone who performs an important role. We don’t elect the Lord Chief Justice, we don’t elect judges. If you elect the House of Lords it’s going to be more assertive, it’s not going to back down. It’s going to say, we have a better mandate than you. There’s going to be a constitutional dispute.”
  • The Right Rev James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool: “The second chamber should consist of the elders of society who, from their experience and expertise, can shape legislation with its final work coming from the elected House. The political class, important though it is, forms too narrow a base from which to draw the membership of the Upper House. It does not provide the necessary experience so vital to the task of amending legislation.”

27 Apr 2011 07:06:06

Tina Stowell: It's work, but not as we know it: The life of a new working peer

Baroness Stowell of Beeston writes about her first few months as a Conservative peer. Before joining the Lords, in January, Tina was Head of Corporate Affairs at the BBC and ran William Hague's office when he was leader of the Conservative Party.

Screen shot 2011-04-27 at 06.58.43 ‘Who’s the bloke in the tapestry smock?’ is a common question from friends looking at photographs of me with Garter-King-of-Arms taken on my day of introduction and it’s a great excuse for my skit on the discussion with Garter about titles.  Did you know every peerage is distinct so the ones who are ‘of somewhere’ are not the first to carry the title of their surname?  If you’re first, you don’t need to be of anywhere.  That said, everyone is sort of ‘of somewhere’, but if you are of somewhere twice and the first ‘of somewhere’ is before the comma (and by the way, it’s not always the same place as the ‘of somewhere’ after the comma), that’s your title.  Are you with me?!  When the Clerk read out my full title in all its glory during my introduction ceremony he said: Baroness Stowell of Beeston, of Beeston in the County of Nottinghamshire.  I told my Mum that the Clerk said ‘of Beeston’ twice because Beeston is like New York... I know, I know: enough already!

In 2009, after eight years away from front-line politics, I decided to put myself forward as a potential Parliamentary candidate because I wanted to be part of – what I saw as – the Conservative Party’s effort to reinforce, restore (and for some, reignite) people’s belief in the value of doing the right thing.  Like many others, I worried, and still do, about people giving up because they can’t see much point going on and/or because they don’t know how to do it.  I wanted to be part of a team helping everyone in our country to be ambitious for success and to aim high for themselves and for their family.

And as part of achieving this vision, I believe that all politicians, though I say this as a Conservative, need to make the political system we operate within work more effectively and demonstrably for the benefit of the public.

I didn’t get selected, never mind elected, but out of the blue one day last year I received an unexpected phone call.  When the Prime Minister asked me to become a working peer I nearly asked him if he was sure, (as in, “me?”).  But ever since that call what I am sure of is this: my motivation in the Lords is the same as what it would have been had I ever made it to the Commons.  In fact, my motivation is even stronger because it is clear that the Conservative Party still has a lot to do to convince people we really understand what’s behind their concerns and that we are working in their interest, not our own.

So, that’s how I got to the House of Lords and what I hope to achieve, and now I’ve been here three months, Tim asked me to write a post about what life is like as a working peer.

Continue reading "Tina Stowell: It's work, but not as we know it: The life of a new working peer" »

20 Apr 2011 08:58:45

Full House: Cameron warned against appointing more peers

Matthew Barrett

A report (pdf) by University College London's Constitution Unit, featured on BBC Newsnight last night, has renewed concerns about the size of the House of Lords. The Prime Minister has already appointed 117 peers in less than a year. The current number is 831 (792 are entitled to attend and vote), compared to 666 a decade ago.

The high number of Lords is starting to impact the working of the institution. According to the BBC:

"Peers are faced with working in overcrowded conditions, with limited access to computers and telephones, and little or no space for staff," the Constitution Unit report said. "This is far from conducive to effective working. Many more peers are seeking to contribute to debates, ask questions, and become members of committees. This has created a more fractious atmosphere in the chamber, and growing frustration amongst members who cannot contribute effectively."

Tony Blair appointed 70 peers in 1997-8, and after 13 years of Labour government, and the transition from a hereditary Lords to an appointed one, the Lords is currently biased towards Labour to the degree that even after 117 Coalition appointments, the parties in the Lords are nowhere near equally represented. To achieve parity between the parties, Mr Cameron would need to create an addition 269 peers, and bring the total number of Lords to nearly 1150. 

Continue reading "Full House: Cameron warned against appointing more peers" »

15 Mar 2011 11:49:27

Could a future Prime Minister sit in an elected House of Lords?

Tim Montgomerie

LAMONT-NORMAN The question at the top of this blog was asked in the Upper House yesterday by Lord Lamont:

"Does my noble friend accept that in a number of bicameral systems in the world it is possible for a Prime Minister to be in either House? While it might not be acceptable to public opinion at the moment for a Prime Minister to sit in this House as it is presently constituted, if in, say, 10 years' time this House is wholly elected, is deemed more legitimate and is demanding more powers, would it not be appropriate and necessary for there to be more senior Ministers in this House? Would it not be wrong for the Government's legislation to exclude the possibility of a Prime Minister being in this House, as used to be the case right up to the early years of the 20th century?"

Leader of the Lords, Tom Strathclyde responded:

"The fact is that the Prime Minister is First Lord of the Treasury. It would a very strange thing, given the reduced powers of this House since 1911, for the Prime Minister to be a Member of this House. Therefore, we have no plan or proposal to make it so."

The ePolitix website sees these issues as the beginning of a potential power struggle between the Lords and what would be an elected Lords. Many people would start to see the Lords - if elected by PR - as more legitimate than the Commons.

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

In answering another question Lord Strathclyde confirmed that "it was in the coalition agreement that, in the event of there being an elected second Chamber, it would be under the system of proportional representation." My own view remains that Tory MPs won't stomach AV or an elected Upper House but, if AV is defeated, Nick Clegg will insist on Lords reform.

86 MORE TORY PEERS THIS PARLIAMENT?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon for Labour asked if the Government will continue to pursue the coalition agreement's commitment that "Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election", meaning, she concluded, "86 more Conservative Peers and 99 more Liberal Democrat Peers."

Lord Strathclyde responded: "My Lords, over time, we shall certainly wish to produce what is in the coalition agreement."

More in Hansard.

15 Dec 2010 17:15:51

The Lords rebellion on tuition fees that never was

By Jonathan Isaby

Last week saw the crunch votes in the Commons on increasing the upper tuition fees limit to £9,000 and raising the cap on basic tuition fees to £6,000 pass by a majority of just 21 votes. 6 Tory MPs and 21 Liberal Democrats voted against the measures.

Yesterday the House of Lords had to approve the plans and rumours in some parts of the media of a potential government defeat proved completely foundless.

Labour tabled wrecking amendments to two motions which were defeated by 283 votes to 215 (majority 68) and 273 to 200 (majority 73) respectively.

Not a single Conservative peer voted against the Government and only five Lib Dems did so: Baonress Tonge and Lords Cotter, Fearn, Smith of Clifton and Dykes (the latter of whom only voted in one of the two divisions).

The main motions were then passed without a vote.

22 Nov 2010 07:12:00

Despite new Tory peers, Labour remains largest party in Lords

Tim Montgomerie

Paul Goodman published the list of new Tory and other peers on Friday.

I thought it was a very good list. The women on it were particularly impressive...

  • Elizabeth Berridge who has directed the Conservative Christian Fellowship and will become a vital spokesperson for faith communities in the years ahead (she had been one of my tips for the Commons);
  • Anne Jenkin, who has done more to promote women candidates in the Conservative Party than any single other person (except, perhaps, David Cameron himself);
  • Tina Stowell, effectively if not formally Chief of Staff to William Hague until 2001, and a formidable advocate of common sense conservatism;
  • Patience Wheatcroft, brilliant journalist and former advisor to Boris Johnson on cost-cutting.

One woman missing from the list was Ann Widdecombe. Is she missing because she hasn't been a yes woman to David Cameron? 72% of Tory members hoped the former Shadow Home Secretary would be put in the Lords. The list is certainly light on people of strong conservative ideology. I would have liked to have seen more enoblements from think tanks.

The list also saw three injustices corrected...

  • Notably the enoblement of Howard Flight who lost his seat when Michael Howard lost his temper, before the 2005 election, and (unconstitutionally) fired him as MP for the seat now represented by Nick Herbert;
  • Bob Edmiston, one of the country's most generous Christian philanthropists, finally gets his proper recognition; and
  • George Magan, businessman, philanthropist and the only recent Tory Treasurer not to be put in the Lords.

Screen shot 2010-11-21 at 18.55.33 Labour complain that the Tories are stuffing the Lords but the graphic on the right shows that Labour still have more peers (and their average age is younger). To hide the extent to which Labour attempted to pack the House of Lords when they were in office, there are also suspicions that left-leaners were appointed as Crossbenchers. Lord Birt of Blair's Blue Sky Thinking Unit being just one example of this phenomenon.

28 May 2010 16:40:36

Michael Howard, John Maples, Shireen Ritchie are among new Tory peers; John Prescott, Sue Nye and Quentin Davies become Labour peers

10 Downing Street has just published the list of 56 new peerages.

Highlights:

  1. John Maples and Shireen Ritchie win peerages for their work in the candidates department. I regard Maples' elevation as an insult to grassroots Conservatives for the reasons stated here.
  2. Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive of Next.
  3. Former Tory leader Michael Howard.
  4. Guy Black of Telegraph Media Group.
  5. John Gardiner of the Countryside Alliance.

For Labour, Gordon Brown's long-suffering assistant Sue Nye is enobled. Quentin Davies - the Tory MP who defected to Labour during Gordon Brown's honeymoon - gets the reward of a seat on the red benches. And also class warrior John Prescott joins the Upper House.

Tim Montgomerie

5pm: Full lists of working peers

  1. Guy Black
  2. Margaret Eaton
  3. Edward Faulks QC
  4. John Gardiner
  5. Helen Newlove
  6. Dolar Amarshie Popat
  7. Shireen Olive Ritchie
  8. Deborah Stedman-Scott
  9. Nat Wei
  10. Simon Wolfson
  1. Floella Benjamin
  2. Mike German AM
  3. Meral Hussein Ece
  4. Sir Ken Macdonald QC
  5. Kathryn Parminter
  6. John Shipley
  1. Sir Jeremy Beecham
  2. Paul Boateng
  3. Rita Donaghy
  4. Jeannie Drake
  5. Dr Dianne Hayter
  6. Anna Healy
  7. Roy Kennedy
  8. Helen Liddell
  9. Roger Liddle
  10. Jack McConnell
  11. John Monks
  12. Sue Nye
  13. Maeve Sherlock
  14. Robert Stevenson
  15. Margaret Wheeler
  16. Michael Williams

Dissolution peers

  1. Tim Boswell
  2. Angela Browning
  3. John Gummer
  4. Michael Howard
  5. John Maples
  6. Michael Spicer
  1. Richard Allan
  2. Matthew Taylor
  3. Phil Willis
  1. Hillary Armstrong
  2. Des Browne
  3. Quentin Davies
  4. Beverly Hughes
  5. John Hutton
  6. Jim Knight
  7. Tom McAvoy
  8. John McFall
  9. John Prescott
  10. John Reid
  11. Angela Smith
  12. James Touhig
  13. David Wills

In addition:

  1. Ian Paisley, DUP
  2. Sir Ian Blair, Crossbencher
More information on the Downing Street website.

23 May 2010 22:31:22

What will happen to the Salisbury Convention under the Coalition Government?

The constitutional and parliamentary questions continue to arise on the back of the new arrangements we have in place with the Coalition Government.

I still don't have an answer to my last question (Will Conservative and Lib Dem MPs refer to each other as "honourable friends"?) so here's another poser, which I raised during my interview on tonight's Westminster Hour:

What will happen to the Salisbury Convention under the Coalition Government?

That is of course the convention which states that the House of Lords will not vote down the governing party's manifesto commitments when put before the Upper House.

But what will happen now that both governing parties' manifestos have been cherry-picked?

Will peers accept that anything in the finalised Coalition Agreement should not be voted down? But then how does that fit with the fact that this programme was never put in its entirety to the electorate?

Jonathan Isaby

11 Apr 2010 09:17:42

Lord John Prescott?

Tory MP Philip Davies has attacked the idea of John Prescott going to the House of lords:

"The House of Lords is the last place John Prescott should be going. Apart from his hopeless record in office, he is the world’s leading class warrior with a chip on his shoulder so big it requires planning permission. Mind, I suppose his famous episode of playing croquet at Dorneywood was all just preparation for donning the ermine."

Mr Davies makes the case against Mr Prescott within a Mail on Sunday story about likely nominations to the Lords by the party leaders.

John Reid and Ruth Kelly are likely to be among the Labour nominees but more controversially Sion Simon is also tipped for a seat in the Upper House. He made way for Jack Dromey, Harriet Harman's husband.

John Gummer, Michael Ancram and Sir Michael Spicer are among the Tories likely to be enobled by David Cameron.

Tim Montgomerie

2 Dec 2009 15:25:48

A hung Parliament is certain after the next election...

If the Tories win the next General Election it will be the first time that they control the Commons without controlling the Lords.

Radio 4's Westminster Hour discussed this reality on last Sunday's programme.  Listed below are some of the key observations made during Mandy Baker's fascinating eight minute package:

  1. Not only have the Tories lost their Lords majority during the Labour years they have ceased to be the biggest party in the Lords. Labour peers currently outnumber Tory peers by 22.
  2. David Cameron would need to appoint about 250 new peers to have a Tory majority in the Upper House. While this is legally possible there would be outrage from the media and political opposition if attempted quickly.
  3. The number of Labour peers will also probably increase somewhat after the election as it is accepted that an outgoing Prime Minister is permitted to enoble a certain number of people who have served him (or her).
  4. It is not just a numbers game. The Tory benches are full of much older peers. Two-thirds of the Labour and Liberal Democrat peers have been appointed since 1997.
  5. And who will Cameron appoint? There is no pay for being a member of the Lords and the expenses do not compensate high-earners.
  6. A lot of Labour peers may stop attending the Lords once they become the opposition. It is very different from being ministers to being opposition peers. Even if their level of attendance drops, however, they'll still be available for big votes on, for example, any Tory attempts to dismantle the Human Rights Act.

ConHome produced this graphic at the start of the year to illustrate the composition of the Lords:

Lordsstats

5 Aug 2009 18:48:20

Should the House of Lords leave moral issues as the unique preserve of the Commons?

An editorial in today's Telegraph raises the issue of which chamber should take precedence on moral issues in the context of the debate about assisted suicide:

"It might be thought that MPs who have shown that they cannot behave morally when it comes to their own expenses will struggle when debating one of the burning moral issues of the day. But they must at least try. Capital punishment, abortion, in vitro fertilisation – all have been decided in the House of Commons. It is an abdication of responsibility to leave such "difficult" issues to the House of Lords – or, far worse, the judges."

By convention, the Lords will not overturn manifesto commitments made by a Government, but would it be desirable for there to be a new convention stating that the Upper House would not reverse the will of the elected House on moral issues?

I'm not sure that such a convention would even be feasible to enforce, since everyone would have a different definition of what makes an issue a matter of conscience. What do you think?

Jonathan Isaby

1 May 2009 11:08:25

The appointment of a new Black Rod is a reminder that this is a great country

Black Rod The House of Lords announced the appointment of a new Black Rod yesterday, Sir Freddie Viggers. He replaces Sir Michael Willcocks (right).

The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is responsible for the daily management of the House of Lords and summons MPs to the Lords for the Queen's Speech.

Lord Strathclyde spoke for the Conservatives, citing Downing Street's revolting attempt to muscle in on the Queen Mother's funeral, which Black Rod saw off:

"My Lords, I wholeheartedly associate myself and this side of the House with the tribute that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has just made in welcoming Lieutenant-General Sir Freddie Viggers and with her tremendous expressions of gratitude to Sir Michael Willcocks.

I would like to speak particularly of Sir Michael's role in ceremonial. Need I say more of Sir Michael's conduct than that it was masterly in every sense of the word? After all, he is one of the few to come under attack from that notorious network of spin doctors and not only to survive it but, with characteristic tenacity and courage, to teach those who tried to bully him a sharp lesson or two.

Ceremony is an expression of the roots and the continuities that are needed in a fast-changing modern world. It is an affirmation that institutions are greater than those who temporarily embody them and it is something that I believe we in Britain do better than anyone. Day in, day out, in small things and big, Black Rod has unfailingly seen that we put our feet in the right place—and he has never put a foot wrong either.

Sir Michael's place in the history books is assured, when all is said and done, for his conduct of, and in, that immense and moving event of the lying-in-state of a greatly loved Queen. No one who witnessed that event will ever forget it, or the fact that Westminster Hall was open 24 hours a day for people to pay their respects. It was largely thanks to Sir Michael that it was a unifying ceremony of state and nothing more.

In that great work of literature, the Alastair Campbell Diaries, Sir Michael is described as “that little ... (expletive deleted)”. That accolade alone shows that he must have done something right. I am told that Black Rod's reaction, with that typically pithy sense of humour, was, “How dare he call me little?”

Sir Michael was a big man, in a great office, that he carried out with exemplary loyalty and devotion to this House and, above all, to the Crown. We will all miss him. We thank him sincerely, and we wish him well."

Traditions like these make Britain special. And no, it is not an unnecessary diversion to talk about such things in a recession. David Cameron's Government should be sure not to take a wrecking ball to our structures. Nor should it be afraid to put back together the bits that Labour have broken. Respect for well established institutions is as crucial an element of Conservatism as belief in free markets.

Tom Greeves

22 Apr 2009 13:18:14

Conservative peers take apart the Government's economic policies

Lord Lawson Conservative peers shone during questions on the economy yesterday. They sparred with Lord Myners, who was made Financial Services Secretary in October 2008. To his credit, he has a varied CV - having been a teacher, journalist, business leader, banker and academic.

The Earl of Caithness put an elegant boot into the Government:

"My Lords, given the complete mess that the Treasury made of last year’s forecasts—it expected a budget deficit of 2 per cent of GDP when it is more likely to be 10 per cent, and expected economic growth of at least 2.5 per cent when in fact it is likely to be minus 3.5 per cent—would the Minister agree with the OECD that half of our problems were structural and related to government policy and nothing to do with the worldwide recession? What are the Government going to do about that?

Lord Myners: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give a detailed analysis of the situation in the world and domestic economies when he makes his Budget presentation tomorrow. We are in the midst of a truly extraordinary global recession. For the first time in 60 years, the IMF has forecast a net reduction in added value for global economic activity. This problem is not confined to one country; it is a global problem. That is why the Prime Minister, in his chairmanship of the G20, led a global solution."

Former Chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby (above right) did the same:

"My Lords, will the Minister explain to simple-minded folk like me how it is that when the British economy was expanding, at a time when the whole world economy was expanding, that was entirely to do with the success of the British Government; but now that the British economy is contracting rather faster than most of the world in a contracting world economy, it is nothing to do with us but is entirely to do with the world?

Lord Myners: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, knows that I am new to the world of politics, so it is perhaps harder for me to find an easy answer to that question than it would be for many others who have come to this House from the other place. But let us look at the facts. Over the 10 years to 1996, GDP per capita in the UK was the lowest in the G7. Over the following 10 years, it was the second highest in the G7. Since 1997, which was an important year, as no doubt the noble Lord remembers, UK real GDP per capita has increased by more than any other G7 economy. That was a tribute to the masterful management of the economy by my right honourable friend who was the Chancellor in those days, who is now our Prime Minister."

Continue reading "Conservative peers take apart the Government's economic policies" »

3 Apr 2009 12:17:23

Baroness Neville-Jones says that surveillance has gone too far

Pauline Neville-Jones The House of Lords debated the retention of personal data yesterday. Shadow Security Minister Baroness Neville-Jones spoke for the Conservatives:

"As the contributions to the debate have already shown, all sides of your Lordships’ House are well versed in and understand the argument that the collection and retention of personal data are necessary for the efficient running of public services, and to aid our security services and the police in the fight against terrorism and serious organised crime. However, as has also been said, unchecked this justification is leading to an exponential increase in the amount of personal information that is collected, retained and accessed by all manner of different bodies. The Information Commissioner has said that personal information has become the “lifeblood” of government and business, and that is certainly the case, but it is also true that this can be tolerable only if the information is used properly and intelligently.

My noble friend mentioned the report produced by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust called Database State. It assessed 46 of the UK’s national databases and found that fewer than 15 per cent of them were effective, proportionate and necessary with a proper legal basis for any privacy intrusions. That in itself seems to be quite a statement of the rocky basis on which a lot of present practice now sits. Tellingly, it also found a quarter to be,

    “almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law”,

because of problems with privacy and effectiveness. These included the National DNA Database and the national identity register. The report recommended that many centralised databases be scrapped or substantially redesigned—again, another point about the basis on which we are operating being rocky.

Continue reading "Baroness Neville-Jones says that surveillance has gone too far" »

26 Mar 2009 12:00:57

What is the state of Armed Forces accommodation?

Lord Taylor of Warwick Lord Taylor of Warwick has received a written answer that got me thinking:

"Asked by Lord Taylor of Warwick

    To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will increase funding for upgrading and refurbishing army family accommodation; and, if so, by how much. [HL2342]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The Government attach a high priority to the needs of service personnel and their families. For that reason we plan to spend in excess of £3 billion on improving and upgrading Armed Forces accommodation over the next decade. Included within this sum is over £600 million for upgrading and refurbishing family accommodation. We are having to make good decades of underinvestment and the process will inevitably take time."

Would readers care to shed some light on the true state of the living quarters in which we expect our service personnel to live? Are there marked differences between the Army, Royal Navy and RAF? Did the low quality of family housing lead anyone to expedite their departure from the Forces?

All input gratefully received!

Tom Greeves

Update: The Armed Forces Families Continuous Attitude Survey 2007-08 showed that 45% of Army officers' spouses and 69% of RAF officers' spouses said that they were dissatisfied with their living quarters. The other ranks weren't too happy either.

Thanks to CCHQ for the figures.