Reform of House of Lords - 26 July 1956
Reform of House of Lords - 26 July 1956
L.P.Memo. represents results of Cttee's discussions.
Alternatives : i) Bill to create life Peers.
ii) more ambitious scheme of reform.
We prefer ii) because i) wd. be open to serious criticism as doing nil. re b'woodsmen. Risk of Labour boycott – applies to each.
Points on scheme ii).
Bill wdn't go into detail re means of appointmt. of Life Peers. Officials think cdn't be expd. Mght be re-considered. Initial apptmt. of 75 = minimum selection of hereditary Peers – on personal merit alone.
Special problems. Women.
Payment. Exclude fr. this Bill. Don't want rigid statutory salary. But para 3 (a) isn't quite what I meant. Think tht. matter shd. be expld. in public statement before Bill is introduced: a scheme shd. be drawn up & announced.
Right of Peers in reln. to H/C. As in paras. 22-25. There are arguments on both sides. Hence proposal in para. 25. Church of Scotland. Cdn't have Moderator – too busy already. Wd. therefore involve election by Church – a novel principle. Concln. : do nothg. on this or on Anglican Bishops.
Procedure. The legn., on either basis, wd. be short & enabling. Need some opportunity to explain how it wd. be worked. Suggest debate in H/L. on resolution – to explain & give opportunity to debate. Advantage : if re-action v. hostile, cd. fall back on (i). Best opportunity : in spill-over. But means spill-over wd. have to 3 weeks : viz., one week longer than now proposed. Then a refce. in Q. Speech : & legn. cd. start in H/C.
Support these views. Need for real 2nd. Chamber – and prefer (ii) on that a/c. Members of Cab. or former members wd. be included, as hereditary Peers, w'out selection.
Suggest P.M. shd. also have right to appoint supernumerary Life Peer to get him into Cab.
Fear opposn. to manner of selection. Alternative : 2 writs – one to speak & the other to speak and vote. This wd. avoid selection.
Essential to do this reform. But fear scheme wh. appears to create permanent Tory majority. If we start as proposed by S., cd. we not allow vacancies in whole 400 to be filled by Crown on recommn. of P.M. – so as to secure a House representg. all Parties over the years.
Wd. mean gradual extension of hereditary principle. H/L. wdn't accept it. They wdn't even have Sc. system. H.'s suggn. shd. be considered. Diffy : convention on wh. H/L. rests is tht. Queen can't govern w'out peers. Their advice is by speech & by corporate advice (vote). Contrary to original conceptn. to allow individual Peer to choose betwn. functions.
My plan wd. be to leave Peers to choose betwn. 2 difft. writs.
On anythg. beyond i) Labour Party has in effect a veto – because can boycott its opern. What do they think?
Haven't asked them. But scheme cd. be worked w'out them. Selection Cttee. wd. in fact chose Labour Peers. Labour Party wd. then come round.
Wdn't be Tory majority on Sel. Cttee. That is a strong point.
H/l. stands pretty high : doesn't need emergency opern. to make it survive. Doubt if it's wise to tinker with it. Removal of swamping power may not be popular with Labour.
Inclined to support plan (i), & avoid tinkering further.
Doubt if labour will co-operate. They are running equality line. Reform of H/L. will be represented as means of strengthening 2nd. chamber. This will present Labour with chance to argue tht. we are strengthening non-elected side of Govt.
Don't accept W.M.'s premise. H/L. is running on v. narrow margin. Whole Labour Oppn. rests on 2 Peers. Some action is needed.
If Labour are going to be as hostile as suggd., they won't co-operate in i). But doubt if they can afford to appear to be so negative.
Country will support sensible scheme for reformed 2nd. Chamber if Labour haven't a better alternative. I support plan (ii).
Think Peers shd. have a chance to opt for H/C.
Fear Ch./Scotland dog won't lie. Point has bn. raised in Scotland. Wd. prefer to see it dealt with in Bill. But at least don't discard it on basis suggd. in para. 27. We cd. stop at Ch/Scotland because only other established Church. We cd. specify office holders or parsons of specified Churches. Need not have election.
Or Ch/Sc. cd. recommend to P.M. names for 2 or more seats in H/L as Life Peers.
Elders as well as Ministers wd. be awkward.
Favour gradual extinctn. of hereditary Peers. Prefer ii). But shd. be influenced, in choice, by readiness of Labour to co-operate.
Sympathise with W.M. & D.E.
If what we want is more effective Chamber, important thing is to get more people to work the House, not to exclude b'woodsmen.
Therefore prefer i). Or even creatg. more Labour Peers. Wdn't. wish to provoke greater controversies over tinkering.
Swamping. Wd. be ready to consider some plan.
P.M. I still want reform. Must, however, consider attitude of Parties. Wd. come in context of action on c.p. Labour may argue tht. purpose = enable H/L. to do more such things. My guess : H.G. won't want to touch this. Wd. like to keep open the choice between i) & ii).
Sympathise with D.S. view. But fact is tht. S. can't get H/L. to come any closer – and no-one else cd. have done as much.
Doubt if Labour will co-operate, unless C.R.A. takes v. strong line.
Taken from C.M. 53(56) - Meeting held on 26 July 1956.