House of Lords: Reform

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Wednesday 1st May 2024

(3 weeks, 2 days ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I pay tribute to the work that the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his committee did, but a number of Administrations have not signed up to those recommendations and have not wanted to move in the direction of a cap. I think I understand why. You want to focus on the number of Peers who attend, not simply the overall figure. As I have tried to explain, we have a mixture of full-time Peers and some who contribute only occasionally but bring unique insights to what they do. It is a little unclear, when people are made Peers, whether they will not come very often—which is certainly what I intended when I became a Peer—or end up contributing in a very substantial way, particularly at different parts of their career.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister talked eloquently about the important role of this House, but why will the Government Front Bench not recognise that public opinion on the role of this House and the quality of its work is diminished badly by the criticisms of its size and the appointments process by which people get here? Will she not reconsider her view about piecemeal reform, which is the only way we ever get anywhere in this House, and look at having a statutory appointments commission with proper scrutiny powers over appointments?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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There were a lot of points there. There are many ideas for reform, some of which have a lot of merit, but to take the final point about making HOLAC statutory, I do not favour that. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister and the sovereign to appoint. We really value the work done by HOLAC and its new chair, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, in ensuring the propriety of proposals that come forward, but we do not believe we should move the composition of the House away from nomination by a democratically elected person to a more corporate model. That would be a mistake. On the popularity of the House of Lords, when you talk to people about the work we do, they are much more understanding. We need to get about and explain the work we do in revising legislation and in helping the country to come to better conclusions on matters of policy.

Vetting Social Media Accounts

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Wednesday 21st June 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I entirely agree with my noble friend. The balance between free speech and Civil Service impartiality is exactly what we are trying to strike.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I am slightly confused. I am no expert on this issue, but am I right in interpreting the noble Baroness as saying that the guidelines in the Library apply only to cross-departmental diversity networks, that diversity network events in a single department are not subject to these guidelines and that a department could decide not to follow them for its internal activities?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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The guidelines apply to cross-government diversity networks and they should follow the guidelines, although, obviously, there can be local interpretation.

Ministerial Appointments: Vetting and Managing Conflicts of Interest

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Tuesday 24th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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Statements to the House are a matter for the usual channels. However, given the interest in this matter it is quite possible for noble Lords to raise Questions, and Statements are often made on important matters of the day. I cannot make a specific promise, of course, but I understand where the noble Viscount is coming from, and that the House wishes to know and to be kept informed.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister said, in reply to an earlier question, that it was a constitutional principle that the ultimate authority for the Ministerial Code lay with the Prime Minister, but in what way would it be unconstitutional for the Prime Minister to give the independent adviser the right to initiate his own investigations?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I think that that would change the set of balances that exists at the moment. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has been very clear on the importance of accountability, integrity and professionalism, and he reissued the code with his own words to encourage that. He has also asked the independent adviser to explore the issues surrounding this particular case and to report the findings to him. I do not think that we need to move as far as the noble Baroness is suggesting, but we need to come to the right answers on these issues. It really matters that people trust our system of parliamentary democracy.

House of Lords (Peerage Nominations) Bill [HL]

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on bringing forward this Bill and his unstinting work on this subject over not years but decades. To follow the right reverent Prelate, I declare that I am somewhat on the provisional wing of the Cross Benches on this subject, in that while I will come back to the Bill, I believe that it is a first step, and that ultimately we ought to regard membership of the House as a legislative responsibility, not as an honour to be bestowed as part of the honours system. I believe that that separation would take away many of the problems that this Bill reflects, in terms of the wish of Prime Ministers or party leaders to recognise service, which is not reflected in the ability or willingness of those who are nominated to take on the legislative responsibilities in this House.

To return to the Bill itself, as I say, I very much support it. Reference has been made to the research that has been done, which echoes my own experience. Over 25 years in this House, I have spoken to many audiences about the work of the House of Lords. Very seldom do you hear criticism of the work that we do, in terms of legislative scrutiny, committees and holding government to account on policy. However, that respect for our work is undermined by a deep concern about the size of the House and the method by which individuals find themselves here. That taints the reputation of many people who come into this House on a list—the majority of whom are absolutely upstanding and appropriate nominations—where there are real doubts about one or two names. I will not go into whether recent appointments and attitudes towards appointments have been merely cavalier or are in fact more sinister; I always remember:

“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”.


Nevertheless, the legitimacy of what we do, particularly the way in which we hold the Executive to account, is undermined when the whole institution is undermined.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, made a valiant attempt to suggest that the Prime Minister was accountable for appointments that he made. I stood in three general elections, and I do not think I ever heard the words “House of Lords” on the doorstep. I think the number of people whose vote at a general election would be affected by the conduct of the Prime Minister in making appointments to the House of Lords is probably limited to Members of the House of Lords—and we do not have a vote. So, I suspect that that is not the way forward.

In Committee, I would like us to look at the issue of appointments after a general election, because I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Burns, that we need a proportionality formula, not just a number. That is a Committee point, but in general I absolutely support the Bill. My contribution echoes many that have gone before and pre-empts many others that will come after, but I do not think that matters. For once, it is important that we are all saying the same thing—or most of us are—because we need the leaders of all the parties to take this seriously, and we need to make progress.

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I thank my noble friend. Clearly, the process of encouraging appropriate resignations, making use of the leave of absence provisions and the various changes that have been made to the way that we run this House in recent years, can indeed be useful. I am sure that, in further discussion of the Bill, some of these possibilities will be considered.

I come to the final point. The Prime Minister is ultimately responsible to Parliament and the people for any nominations that he, or she in the past, makes to this House, and the Government do not see the case for changing this. However, the Government consider that the House of Lords Appointments Commission performs its role well, as it is currently constituted, and is extremely grateful for the work that it does. The fact that Members of this House are appointed from a wide range of backgrounds is testament to its success. It will, and should, continue to advise on appointments in the same way that it does now. However, as will be apparent, the Government have reservations about the Bill we have debated today, and I look forward to hearing further from my noble friend.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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I apologise for intervening, but I cannot understand this point about accountability. Could the Minister explain how the last but one Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, against whom many of the criticisms about appointments have been made, is in any way now accountable to the British public or to Parliament for what he did? We do not have, as a noble Lord said, a presidential system; the Prime Minister is not personally accountable for this. All the Bill is trying to do is to ensure a degree of probity and appropriate scrutiny—a check and a balance, for which our constitution is so well respected—in the process of appointments to your Lordships’ House.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for making that point. Of course, as she says, the new Prime Minister becomes accountable to the monarch for putting forward the names of Peers in the future, taking into account the advice of HOLAC. The same is true of any further Dissolution List that may come from the other former Prime Minister.

House of Lords: Appointments

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Monday 17th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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Obviously, I thank my noble friend for her service on the commission, which is very important. I remember that, before the commission was set up, a lot of questions were rightly asked if you had the honour of having a peerage conferred on you—in my case, by Her late Majesty the Queen. I repeat the point that individuals are nominated in recognition of their contribution to society and their public and political service. Peers are appointed to contribute further to public service, for example, and in this House it is right to have a variety of people coming forward. That helps us right across the House. I often have a number of battles with my good and noble friend Lady Jones in the Green Party—she and I joined on the same day—and I look forward to continuing to have a very diverse House.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister did not address the point put so powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Browning. The Minister said earlier that all appointments went to the House of Lords Appointments Commission, which is absolutely correct, but the degree of scrutiny that the commission can give to nominees is grossly different between political recommendations and appointments to the Cross Benches. Does not she accept that not being able to scrutinise recommendations on whether the people recommended are, first, suitable and, secondly, committed to playing a part in the work of your Lordships’ House is one of the main obstacles to any sort of public trust in the system that we have at the moment?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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It is a very good thing that we have the Appointments Commission. It is an independent advisory committee, which has been set up and does its job. As I said at the beginning of this small debate, I do not think that the time has come to change that arrangement. The Prime Minister is democratically accountable for appointments, and they should not be determined by an unelected body to a greater extent than they are.

Economy: The Growth Plan 2022

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Monday 10th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, it is an enormous pleasure to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, to the House and to congratulate her on that outstanding maiden speech. It was full of fire and passion, and full of many issues that many of us will be happy to follow her on in days to come.

The noble Baroness is obviously a formidable campaigner. She has managed in the past to persuade the Foreign Office to end the dreadful policy of charging the victims of forced marriage for the cost of their repatriation air flights home. I am sure she will bring that campaigning vigour, her knowledge of the health service and her knowledge of community relations to our deliberations in this House. Today, sadly, we heard the last of one very powerful voice from Birmingham; I think we can console ourselves that we have heard the first from another.

I turn to the debate and declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet.

“Growth, growth, growth” is a slogan, not a strategy. To turn it into a strategy, you need some adjectives to go along with that single noun. I offer three: “fair”, “credible” and “sustainable”. In the reaction to the Chancellor’s fiscal event, we see very clearly how the lack of fairness torpedoed the 45p proposal and how the lack of credibility of the unfunded tax cuts created havoc in the markets. But I will concentrate on the third adjective, “sustainable”, and argue that pursuing a growth agenda that also aligns with and will deliver our net-zero and nature commitments is not only compatible with but in fact central to long-term economic growth and prosperity.

In the “growth, growth and growth” speech, the Prime Minister also spoke of the need to build our country for a new era, but that new era is already with us; it is an era of decarbonisation and electrification. We have embarked on a transition which benefits business and society through better health outcomes, cleaner air, skilled and secure jobs, and restored and revived natural environments.

As the Treasury concluded in its net zero review, the cost competitiveness of renewable technologies relative to fossil fuels has fundamentally changed, and fundamentally changed our economy. The Government need to make it clear that they understand and are committed to this future, rather than harking back to the technologies of the past. The UK’s greatest allies and competitors—the US, China and the EU—have recognised the opportunities and are acting at eye-watering speed and scale. The US is committing $369 billion towards emissions-cutting measures. Germany is spending €177.5 billion. China is accelerating investment in solar and other renewables. All, unlike the UK, are also moving decisively on national energy demand reduction plans, informing the public and campaigning on energy waste.

We need to capitalise on UK achievements. The successes in homegrown wind power, solar, PV, and electric vehicles have been driven by government identifying and supporting the technologies needed to drive down emissions and bolster energy security. We need to target specific technologies now to deliver tipping points and unblock barriers such as intermittency. None of this will happen without a clear transition strategy and costed and timetabled plans for the sectors—energy, transport, housing and land—that will determine the success of our economy, underpinned by cross-cutting strategies in enabling areas, such as taxation, planning and training.

Last month, Amazon, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and Sky were among 100 businesses and financial institutions representing £1.8 trillion of market capitalisation that wrote to the Prime Minister. Their letter said:

“As skyrocketing energy bills inflict considerable costs on businesses and push vulnerable households into poverty, we would like to see you prioritise policies that will address this crisis, as part of a robust net zero strategy … Acting now to accelerate the energy transition, could both support UK households with the cost of living and deliver huge economic benefits, unlocking opportunities for the UK to be a leader in clean growth.”


I hope the Government will listen very carefully to that advice.

House of Lords: Appointments

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Wednesday 18th May 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, it is my habit and pleasure always to talk to Members of your Lordships’ House, and that would certainly include my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. If his Bill comes forward then I will certainly respond to it, but the Government have no plans to change the status of HOLAC. We do not agree that it should be placed on a statutory basis. It is an independent committee, and we consider its advice carefully.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, in his carefully-worded reply earlier, the Minister suggested that the present Prime Minister and the previous one were absolutely at one about not imposing a cap on the size of the House. However, is it not true that in fact they take diametrically different positions on reducing the size of the House, and that the previous Prime Minister, implementing the policy set out in the Conservative Party manifesto to reduce the size of the House, took a self-denying ordinance and helped to take forward the Burns review proposals, which has absolutely been turned on its head by the present Prime Minister?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, with respect, I do not agree that if one looks at the historical record one finds that this Prime Minister has appointed Peers at a rate that is, say, faster than that of Mr Tony Blair. I think it is agreed in this House, and it is implicit in some of the comments made by your Lordships with which I agree, that retirement has a place in your Lordships’ House. The corollary of that is that the House also needs refreshment, and that must continue.

Restoration and Renewal: Location of House of Lords Chamber

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Monday 16th May 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, again, I am being invited to stray into questions of parliamentary management, which is not appropriate for a government Minister. However, as always, my noble friend makes a very sensible point on these matters. There are always ways of arranging necessary work.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister would be kind enough to suggest to the Secretary of State, if he is interested in the public response to your Lordships’ House and its work, that he might be better directed at looking at a programme that reduced the size of this House and at a statutory Appointments Commission, putting a rein on the use by the current Prime Minister of patronage in appointments.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, again, the noble Baroness strays slightly from the Question. On the last point, I only say that in a Session following the Session in which there was a record number of defeats for Her Majesty’s Government, it would be surprising if the Government did not reflect on the significance of that.

House of Lords: Appointments

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the House of Lords Appointments Commission performs an important role but, as I have told the House before, there are no current plans to alter its remit. Following the opening Question from the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, one thing I think we could agree on is that the Liberal Democrats are at least very well represented in this House—I do not use the term “overrepresented”, preferred by my noble friend behind me.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister said that neither this Prime Minister nor his predecessors had committed themselves to implementing the Burns report. That, of course, is factually accurate, but what the right honourable Member Theresa May did do was exercise discretion in the number of appointments that she made to take forward what was then an approved government policy of reducing numbers in this House. Do we not need to get back to that situation?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the House today is much smaller than when I first came to work in it in 1997. I think your Lordships’ House works well and should perhaps agonise a little less on these matters. So far as these matters are concerned, another factor is the number of defeats inflicted on the Government. Frankly, they have not been in short supply lately, which does not suggest that there is a great imbalance.

House of Lords: Appointments Process

Baroness Hayman Excerpts
Thursday 18th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, was absolutely right when he said that the work of this House creates great respect both internationally and nationally. But that respect for the work of the House is undermined by the lack of respect for the three areas that I think the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, spoke about: the size of the House; the method by which people are appointed and the lack of scrutiny by the Appointments Commission on political appointments; and the nonsense of the hereditary Peers by-elections.

I know the noble Lord, Lord Hannan, does not agree with any of that, but I suspect that if I looked to my two successors as Speakers of this House—we spent time speaking to the public, hearing, monitoring, and having surveys done on how the House is respected—they would agree with me that those undermine respect for this House. That matters, because respect for this House is part of respect for Parliament. That respect for Parliament is a cornerstone of our democracy and one that we should not take for granted today, or at any other time.

That is why I put my suggestions to the notional committee of the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, which, echoing others, are: divorce the honour of a peerage from working in Parliament, reduce the size of the House, get rid of the by-elections; and give us an effective statutory Appointments Commission.