House of Lords Reform
Given that the Leader of the House's proposal on reform of the House of Lords was rejected yesterday, Shailesh Vara calls for clarification from the government on how they plan to proceed.
Mr. Vara: My thanks to the hon. Gentleman for those comments. I understand that the Leader of the House is unable to be with us today because he is on an awayday with the rest of the Cabinet. The idea of the Prime Minister, along with the Chancellor and the rest of the Cabinet engaging in team-building exercises is somewhat breathtaking. Perhaps on their return the Prime Minister could give us a statement as to who were the team players—or perhaps more importantly, who was not.
As the Deputy Leader of the House has said, last night was a truly historic occasion. I welcome his preliminary comments. However, there are some detailed issues that need to be addressed. This House voted for a substantially or wholly elected upper Chamber, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), the shadow Leader of the House, said afterwards, it is only a first step and raises further questions. Indeed, two options were approved, there was obvious tactical voting by some hon. Members and there were reports of Government Whips encouraging Members to vote for a wholly elected Chamber in order to wreck the reform. Will the hon. Gentleman make a statement on how the Government interpret what is the settled view of the House?
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): He just has.
Mr. Vara: The hon. Lady says from a sedentary position says that he just has. If she were listening carefully, she would have noted that there were warm words but nothing specific. I am asking for specific responses.
Last night, the Leader of the House gave us his immediate thoughts on the next steps and I am grateful for that, but the next steps for reform of the other place will be complex, controversial and undoubtedly will take time. Will the Leader of the House come to this place and set out a clear timetable for the next steps? Is the expectation of the Government to fulfil their manifesto pledge and to legislate in this Parliament? Now that the Chancellor has finally expressed his views, will he confirm that the Chancellor will drive forward these reforms?
Last night, this House clearly voted against the 50:50 proposal put forward by the Leader of the House and as such the House rejected the White Paper. Will the Deputy Leader of the House confirm that the White Paper is now scrapped? Will there, following the cross-party talks that he referred to, be a statement from the Leader of the House saying that there will be a new White Paper based on the votes of last night? When any legislation is put forward, will he undertake that all stages of the legislative process will take place on the Floor of this House, and not in Committee?
As I said, last night was a momentous occasion but, given the complexity and controversy inherent in this constitutional reform, we must do all we can, working together, to ensure that reform does indeed go ahead. I would be grateful if the Deputy Leader of the House would enlighten us with his thoughts."