Lord Northbrook debates involving the Leader of the House during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 18th Sep 2023
Thu 13th Jul 2023
Wed 3rd May 2023
Mon 8th Mar 2021
Fri 13th Mar 2020
House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Moved by
282: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Control of Pollution Act 1974: publication of notices and consentsIn the Control of Pollution Act 1974—(a) in section 60(2) for “may if it thinks fit publish notice of the requirements in such way as appears to the local authority to be appropriate” substitute “must publish notice of the requirements promptly and permanently on its planning website”;(b) in section 61(6) for “may if it thinks fit publish notice of the consent, and of the works to which it relates, in such way as appears to the local authority to be appropriate” substitute “must publish notice of the consent, and of the works to which it relates, promptly and permanently on its planning website”.”
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, before I withdraw the amendment, I make a small request for a letter from the Minister. My noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook said at Report:

“Legislating for information to be published on a specific platform, when it is routinely made available on local authorities’ websites, would remove their ability to publicise decisions at a local level.”—[Official Report, 6/9/23; col. 543.]


However, these consents and notices are not routinely made available by my local borough, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; they are kept secret and are not published anywhere on its website. I ask my noble friend the Minister to write to me to explain whether he agrees that they should be made available somewhere on an LPA’s website. If not, why not; and if so, what is the objection to having them on the planning website, rather than a separate register, which might be hard to find and the existence of which might even be unknown? After all, the planning website is what everyone looks up to see what conditions have been imposed on an applicant, and the idea that an LPA should be able to hide them on another part of its website is absurd.

Amendment 282 withdrawn.
Moved by
64: After Clause 78, insert the following new Clause—
“Business improvement districts(1) Within 6 months of this section coming into force, the Secretary of State must launch a review of arrangements for business improvement districts (“BIDs”).(2) The review must consider whether the arrangements should be changed so that—(a) local residents are consulted on proposals to establish a BID,(b) local residents are represented on BID proposal groups which prepare the business plan,(c) local residents participate in the vote on the establishment of a BID,(d) local residents are represented on BID management bodies, and(e) local planning authorities may veto BID proposals if there is significant objection from local residents.”
--- Later in debate ---
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Amendment 64 seeks to amend the legislation on business improvement districts—BIDs—so that residents have a say in their establishment, policies and management bodies.

There has been widespread criticism of the undemocratic way in which BIDs are established and operate. The Government website says:

“There is no limit on what projects or services can be provided through a Business Improvement District. The only requirement is that it should be something that is in addition to services provided by local authorities”.


As a result, powerful local businesses can push through projects for their own commercial benefit, for which they are willing to pay. In my area, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is happy to agree to them if they can be described as “improving the public realm”. Local residents may be affected by these projects—streetscape, street furniture, new advertisements and clutter, narrowing of the carriageway, unwelcome new parking and traffic management arrangements and other anti-motorist measures—but they cannot influence them.

I want to say a few words about two BID schemes in the borough in which I live. The Cadogan estate, for which I have the highest regard—it has done some great developments in Duke of York Square and Pavilion Road, for instance—has initiated and established two BID schemes. Following Committee, I have been asked by the chief executive, Hugh Seaborn, to re-examine the comments that I made about lack of consultation during that stage; I am grateful that he is reading our debates. Having reviewed the matter, I have to correct some of my comments. Residents’ associations—Brompton, MISARA and the local society, the Chelsea Society—were consulted by Cadogan but their views do not seem to have been taken into account in the final decision. In fact, they might as well not have been consulted at all.

I believe that the BID legislation should be amended so that local residents, first, are consulted on proposals for their establishment; secondly, are represented on BID proposal groups that prepare the business plan; thirdly, participate in a vote on the establishment; and, fourthly, are represented on BID management bodies. In addition, local planning authorities—LPAs—should be able to veto BID proposals if there are significant objections from local residents, not just if they conflict with a significant policy of that LPA.

The Minister’s response in a letter on BIDs was that

“the majority of BIDs set Baseline Agreements with their local authority to demonstrate the additionality it will provide over the term of the BID. The Government encourages the use of clear agreements and the fostering of strong ongoing relationships between BID bodies and their local authorities, to make sure each is aware of their obligations towards one another and to agree changes to such agreements where appropriate. The BID itself is responsible for deciding on the mix of representatives to ensure their Governance Board is an effective decision-making body with the right skills. The legislation does not preclude local authorities from being represented on the BID board, nor residents or members of the community”.

My reply to that would be that the Minister’s response did not answer the point. Indeed, the legislation does not preclude residents from being represented on the board of a BID, but what happens at present is that BID promoters make arrangements for their own commercial advantage and exclude resident representation as they know that the views of local residents will conflict with those of the business promoters.

My noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook did not explain why she opposed the amendment. She said that local authorities are represented on some BID boards and reiterated that

“the legislation does not preclude residents … from being consulted”.

She also said:

“It is right that the businesses that will be required to fund the BID make the decisions on whether there should be consultations”,—[Official Report, 20/3/23; col. 1645.]


effectively concerning their undemocratic nature.

The Knightsbridge BID board of 19 people has one council officer and one RBKC councillor who does not represent any residents living in the area covered by the BID. I fear a repetition of the damage that has already been caused to Sloane Street, narrowing the carriageway so as to create dedicated parking bays and installing large, ugly planters to prevent ram-raiding. This is why I have tabled Amendment 64.

I also wish to speak to Amendment 65, which seeks to prepare a code of practice for major, non-statutory consultations by local authorities to ensure that they are impartial and not manipulative. Within six months of this section coming into force, the Secretary of State must publish a code of practice for major, non-statutory consultations by local authorities. The code must recommend ways to ensure impartiality, including, first, having a consultation conducted by an independent third party; secondly, having the consultation materials and process pre-approved by such a party; or, thirdly, having those materials and process submitted in draft to the main stakeholders for their review and comments in advance of the consultations. The Consultation Institute commends on its website The Art of Consultation, by Rhion Jones and Elizabeth Gammell, as:

“A unique book, essential to those involved with consultations … There’s a multi-million-pound industry out there, currently asking us what we think. Lots of this is public money and much of it is wasted. Whilst a great deal of consultation is effective, some of it is downright dishonest; decision-makers have already made up their minds. If they then consult, it’s a waste of everyone’s time; they are just going through the motions”.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Baroness Scott of Bybrook) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendment 64 in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbrook concerns a review of business improvement districts. I have listened very carefully to this debate and the debate in Committee. We want BIDs to work with and alongside residents and members of the local community. It is important that the projects and activities that a BID delivers benefit the local area and encourage more people to visit, live and work there. Residents and members of the community are not prohibited in legislation, as I said in Committee, from being consulted on a new BID proposal. I know many BIDs that include many stakeholders, including the communities they serve. There is nothing to stop a local authority doing that.

It is clear that we need to explore how BIDs can work better with residents and communities, but I do not believe that legislating for a review in this Bill is the right approach. I therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw this amendment, but with my reassurance that I will take this away and consider the proposition of a government review of the BID arrangements. I would welcome further conversations with interested noble Lords to take this forward.

On Amendment 65, there is a statutory framework, and clear rules for consultation already exist in some areas, such as planning. There is also a statutory publicity code which is clear that all local authority communications must be objective and even-handed. There is support and guidance for local authorities on how they should do this. As I said, councils also carry out non-statutory consultations to allow residents to shape local decisions and plans.

I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, that this should not be a one-off; it works much better when local authorities have a good ongoing relationship and conversation with their communities. It is then much easier to deal with issues such as those my noble friend Lord Northbrook raised in Kensington and Chelsea, because it is a continuation of an ongoing conversation. I encourage all local authorities to look at how they can do that better. Greater involvement for local people can be only a good thing. We do not think it is for the Government to tell councils how to do it. Most councils know how to do it; they know what works best in their area and get on with it.

I agree with the noble Baronesses opposite that the concern over the requirement for all consultations to be carried out by third parties is that it would impose additional costs on local authorities and may encourage less consultation and engagement rather than more because they just cannot afford it. I therefore hope my noble friend will agree not to press his amendment.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who participated in debates on these amendments. I particularly appreciated the offer of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, to look at the way bids work to ensure better relationships with residents.

On Amendment 65, I appreciated the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, talking about the costs of outside consultants. I was hoping that

“having the consultation materials and process submitted in draft to the main stakeholders for their review and comment in advance of the consultation”

would cover that point.

In the meantime, having thanked all noble Lords, I wish to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 64 withdrawn.
Moved by
311: After Clause 123, insert the following new Clause—
“British standards: publicationWhere legislation made under the Planning Acts, or a local authority planning policy, refers to a British standard, the Secretary of State or local authority must take such steps as are necessary to make the relevant standard publicly available online free of charge.”
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Amendment 311 requires the British Standards Institution, the BSI, to publish electronically the text of at least some British standards without charge to readers. Secondary legislation and LPA’s planning policies frequently require compliance with British standards or employ definitions which refer to British standards. Examples include the building regulations, my local borough’s— the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s—definition of a basement and the Code of Construction Practice which, for example, requires compliance with

“BS 5228: Code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites”.

However, it costs £330 to obtain a hard copy of a BSI document or to download it in PDF format. The cost is reduced to £165 for BSI members, which we imagine includes the council.

A local residents’ association of the RBKC asked the council to reproduce in or attach as an appendix to the code all, or just the relevant parts, of BS 5228 so that neighbours and residents’ associations can see what is required. The council replied that it cannot do so as copyright vests with the BSI.

I believe that all citizens have the right to see the relevant British Standards without disproportionate charge, and that the BSI should be instructed to publish these standards on the internet. The Minister in another place responded in a letter to Richard Drax MP on 31 August 2022, saying:

“The BSI are an independent organisation and we therefore cannot compel them to publish some, or indeed any, of their standards without charge”.


I believe there must be numerous independent organisations referred to in statute whose publications are routinely made available free of charge on the internet. For example, air source heat pumps are legally required to comply with MCS planning standards or equivalent standards. The relevant microgeneration installation standard—MCS 020—is the property of the MCS Charitable Foundation and is published on the internet, available for anyone to read without charge. Why cannot the BSI do the same?

If the issue is one of cost, one solution would be for the Government to negotiate with the BSI and pay it to publish. If this is not acceptable to either party, the Government should take powers to compel publication. As a matter of principle, our citizens should not have to pay to read the text of those obligations with which they are legally obliged to comply. I beg to move.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I rise very briefly to support my noble friend Lord Northbrook. It is a very simple and straightforward amendment, but it raises some important principles. As my noble friend pointed out, the BSI is a well-resourced organisation—a commercial, not-for-profit body established under royal charter. I had a look at its website, although I did not look at its accounts. It would be wrong to say that it is awash with money, but it has plenty of money to carry out the excellent work it does on behalf of many different parts of industry in our society. There is no reason whatever why it cannot publish these matters, and it would make a huge difference to residents to be able to know exactly what is going on.

Maybe the Minister can look at one particular point —my noble friend did not mention this, though he mentioned a number of other bodies that are mentioned in statute and different legislation that do make reports and other information available free of charge. I gather that in Ulster such documents are online completely free of charge, and that is a precedent that our Government could follow.

I hope that if the Minister cannot promise to accept the amendment, she will at least undertake to talk to the British Standards Institution about this, because it is a problem that could be solved very easily.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for her reply. I was interested to hear that in some circumstances the Government have funded the publication of these standards. I am not sure of the total number of standards in this planning area—there may not be a huge number of them—but I do not see why the Government might not extend that action in this area. I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said and will read it carefully in Hansard. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 311 withdrawn.
Moved by
312: After Clause 123, insert the following new Clause—
“Change of use to café etcIn the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (S.I. 2015/596), Schedule 2, Part 3, after Class B.1 insert—“(B.1A) Development is not permitted by Class BB from a use within Class E (a) or (c)-(g) (commercial, business and service) of Schedule 2 to the Use Classes Order, to Class E (b) (the sale of food and drink principally to visiting members of the public where consumption of that food and drink is mostly undertaken on the premises).””
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, Amendment 312 obliges the Secretary of State to amend the general permitted development order to make a change of use from business premises to a café or restaurant subject to planning control. Regulations made in 2020 amended the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 by introducing, in Part A of Schedule 2, a new class E—“Commercial, Business and Service”—covering, inter alia, shops, offices, cafés and restaurants. Change of use from any part of this class E to any other part of class E is permitted development so, for example, a shop or an office may now change its use to a café or restaurant without requiring planning permission.

This will have a number of undesirable consequences in quiet residential areas. For example, planning permission may have been granted for a change of use of a building, or part of it, from residential to office without any objection, and the office may now change its use to a café or restaurant without planning control. On the face of it, there would be nothing to stop, say, an estate agent turning into a McDonald’s, open throughout the night, providing it did not sell alcohol. LPAs would no longer be able to use planning policies to regulate or prevent such activities.

If a café or restaurant wishes to sell alcohol, it needs a licence to do so under the Licensing Act 2003. I take comfort from the ability of local authorities to refuse permission by virtue of the specified licensing objective of the prevention of public nuisance. However, noise nuisance and disturbance from customer parking, loading and unloading, waste disposal and odours can be as disquieting from unlicensed as from licensed premises, and they are now impossible to control by planning policy.

My suggested solution is to amend Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO, entitled “Changes of use”, by inserting a new class BB—commercial, business and service to restaurant or café—with the text as follows:

“Development is not permitted by Class BB from a use within Class E (a) or (c)-(g) (commercial, business and service) of Schedule 2 to the Use Classes Order, to Class E (b) (the sale of food and drink principally to visiting members of the public where consumption of that food and drink is mostly undertaken on the premises)”.


The Minister responded in a letter to Richard Drax on 31 August 2022:

“We have created a new ‘Commercial, business and service’ use class (Class E). This encompasses offices, shops, restaurants and other uses which are suitable in a town centre. Changes of use within the class does not require planning permission. The new class also allows for a mix of uses to reflect changing retail and business models, allowing businesses the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and respond to the needs of their local communities more easily and quickly. However, it remains the case that planning permission is required to change use to or from a pub. This ensures that local consideration can be given to any such proposals, in consultation with the local community”.


I believe that local communities should have a say in the establishment of new cafés and restaurants, not just pubs. I beg to move.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this group of amendments is another indication of why we believe it would have been better to bring forward a dedicated planning Bill rather than trying to amend some of the interconnecting pieces of legislation that have overcomplicated the planning scene in the last decade and have certainly had some undesirable effects because unintended consequences have not properly been taken into account. The noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, has eloquently described some of the impacts of widening the use classes so that local people and local authorities no longer have much control over what takes place in their own high streets. We get a proliferation of betting shops and things that people do not really want to see so much of in their high street.

I will give just two examples of permitted development. In Hertfordshire, over 750,000 square feet of economic and commercial space has been lost to permitted development. These developments are delivered with none of the community engagement and consultation that go on with standard planning applications, and they then often result in the infrastructure needs of the development being ignored. This has had the longer-term impact of alienating communities from development altogether, as they see housing developed in unsuitable locations and with no consideration of the proximity of any local facilities. One of the worst examples of this is in Harlow new town. Harlow, like Stevenage, has a commercial and industrial zone deliberately segregated from its residential areas. This was part of the master-planning for first-generation new towns. A permitted development saw a housing development conversion in the middle of this commercial/industrial area, leaving its residents feeling isolated from community facilities and other neighbourhoods.

The other example has been in relation to the creation of houses of multiple occupation from family homes in residential streets, putting unreasonable extra pressure on local resources and creating often far more transient populations, which has disrupted previously settled neighbourhoods.

There seems to be something very perverse in pursuing this permitted development regime at the same time as withdrawing the requirement to set housing targets. The former allows often substandard housing to be developed without the benefit of infrastructure funding, funding for social and affordable housing, or adequate consideration of the needs of the local area. It can put unnecessary pressure on public services in that area and create further pressures on housing as local people are priced out of reasonable developments or forced into poor conversions that are totally unsuitable for family living.

My Amendment 312F calls for a review of this permitted development regime to properly gather data on what it has delivered in terms of: achieving housing targets; importantly, the quality of housing delivered; the impact on heritage and conservation areas; the overall carbon impact since permitted development expanded to demolition; the relative costs to local authorities of dealing with processing permitted development compared with full planning consents; and how it is intended that permitted development sits within the role of the national development management policies.

We are also interested to learn from the review how the Government assess that a permitted development has contributed to levelling up. The feeling of the local government community is that permitted development has done the exact opposite of levelling up and driven a coach and horses through the rigour of the planning regime. That is why the Local Government Association’s comment on this issue was that

“if the Government is serious about strengthening the role of Local Plans, they should also urgently revoke permitted development rights”.

Amendment 312J refers to the totally inconsistent way in which Article 4 directions have been applied across the country. Such directions restrict the scope of permitted development in relation either to a particular area or site or to a particular type of development anywhere in an authority’s area. They can be used to control works that could threaten the character of an area of acknowledged importance, such as a conservation area. Article 4 directions are not needed for listed buildings, which are protected under different legislation, but noble Lords will remember the Harlow example that I gave earlier. Stevenage, which also has a segregated area for commercial and industrial uses, successfully argued that an Article 4 direction should apply to that area so that we were not faced with permitted development housing there, isolated from all our community facilities.

However, the Government have threatened to remove the provision of Article 4 directions altogether and have applied them inconsistently in different locations. Our Amendment 312J asks that a statement be laid before both Houses, setting out how the Government intend to achieve consistency in the application of Article 4 directions.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is in the current consultation. I assure the noble Baroness that we will be taking account of the consultation responses on this.

I turn next to Amendment 312J, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, which seeks to require the Secretary of State, within 60 days of the Bill achieving Royal Assent, to make a statement on the use of Article 4 directions by local authorities, and to explain the reasoning behind occasions when they may be modified by the Secretary of State and their resulting consistency.

It may be helpful if I briefly explain Article 4 directions. Permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission. These allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without having to make an application for planning permission. Where it can be clearly evidenced that a permitted development right will cause unacceptable harm to a particular area, local authorities can make an Article 4 direction. This stops development proceeding under the permitted development right and requires that a planning application is submitted.

While Article 4 directions are consulted on and made locally, the Secretary of State has the power to modify or cancel an Article 4 direction. He will intervene where he considers that there are clear reasons for doing so, most particularly where he considers that they do not comply with national policy, as set out in paragraph 53 of the National Planning Policy Framework. This policy requires that all Article 4 directions should cover the smallest geographic area possible. Where they relate to a change from non-residential to residential use, they should be made only to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts. All other Article 4 directions should be necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of an area. Local authorities must notify the Secretary of State when they make an Article 4 direction.

When it is considered that an Article 4 direction as made by a local authority does not comply with national policy, officials have worked with the local authority to agree a revised Article 4 direction. Between 1 July 2021, when there was a change in national policy, and 3 May 2023, modifications have been made to Article 4 directions from 10 local authorities to ensure that they comply with national policy. I hope that noble Lords will be reassured that there is consistency in Article 4 directions that is ensured by the statutory process, policy and guidance. The Secretary of State exercises his power to intervene where there are clear reasons to do so, and in a consistent and measured way. With these reassurances, I hope that noble Lords will agree that Amendment 312J is not necessary.

To conclude, I hope that I have said enough to enable my noble friend Lord Northbrook to withdraw his Amendment 312 and for the other amendments in this group not to be moved when reached.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I listened carefully to the Minister’s reply. I should like to say straightaway that I applaud the useful overall relaxation in permitted development rights. I take her point and that of my noble friend Lord Bellingham that there could be problems in high streets with my proposed permitted development BB1. I still believe that in residential areas it is important to propose change. I am noting some support from the Benches opposite. I should like maybe to recraft the amendment so that perhaps residents’ associations could have a say in residential areas.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment—once he has done so, I would be unable to speak again—I was disappointed when the Minister said that the amendment was flawed, whereas Amendments 312F and 312J were fit for purpose but not flawed. Just because she does not agree with it does not mean that it is flawed. The amendment was well drafted and perfectly sustainable.

There is a possible compromise to be had here because we do not, as my noble friend pointed out, want to do anything to curb enterprise investment and wealth creation in the high street, but we want to try and protect those residents in a small number of residential areas where there might be this particular problem. Perhaps some adjustment could be made so that, if there is a potential permitted change of use and permitted development in a residential area that could lead to all sorts of disturbance and people’s quiet livelihoods being put at risk, maybe there could be an argument for local residents going to the council and asking for the proposal to go through the planning system. Perhaps my noble friend and I can come back to this on Report and have a meeting with the Minister in the meantime so we can go through it in more detail.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank my noble friend Lord Bellingham. It may be that we can craft a new amendment whereby, if there is a recognised residents’ association, some consultation process should be able to take place on the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 312 withdrawn.
Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, since we are already diverging from the EU—for instance, with regard to lightening new share-listing rules—does the Minister believe that equivalence does not really matter because Her Majesty’s Government believe that the UK will make up the lost revenue from the passporting system in this and other financial areas?

House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL]

Lord Northbrook Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Friday 13th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] 2019-21 View all House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am in agreement with my noble friend Lord Trefgarne that this Bill is a breach of a promise given in 1999. On 22 June that year, my noble friend Lord Denham asked the following question to the Lord Chancellor:

“Just suppose that that House goes on for a very long time and the party opposite get fed up with it. If it wanted to get rid of those 92 before stage two came, and it hit on the idea of … giving them all life peerages … I believe that it would be a breach of the Weatherill agreement. Does the noble and learned Lord agree?”


The Lord Chancellor replied:

“I say quite clearly that … the position of the excepted Peers shall be addressed in phase two reform legislation.”—[Official Report, 22/6/99; cols. 798-800.]


I also remind the House of the importance of the then Labour Lord Chancellor’s words on 30 March 1999:

“The amendment reflects a compromise negotiated between Privy Councillors on Privy Council terms and binding in honour on all those who have come to give it their assent.”—[Official Report, 30/3/99; col. 207.]


To the hereditary peerage, it was a vital part of the 1999 Act and a condition for letting it have satisfactory progress through the House.

Nothing could be clearer than the former Lord Chancellor’s words; that is why I believe that the Bill does indeed breach the Weatherill agreement and the House of Lords Act 1999. I also believe as a matter of principle that such major constitutional reform should be implemented only by government legislation. I cannot understand why this area of the House needs reform when the by-elections have produced such capable replacements to the 90, such as like the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester, Lord De Mauley, Lord Ashton of Hyde, and Lord Bethell, the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, all of whom are, or have been, on the Front Bench of their respective parties. It would seem more urgent to reform the life Peers system, which of course the Burns report proposes. The hereditary Peers are a strong link with the past, a golden thread that goes back to the first separate sitting of the House in 1544. Until relatively recently, in House of Lords terms, the House was entirely hereditary. By-elections provide a way into this House in a way that is not dependent on prime ministerial patronage.

Also in connection with the Burns report, I note part of the Government’s then response to the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s examination of it, which says:

“The Government does not however accept the Committee’s recommendation that the Prime Minister must now commit to a specific cap on numbers, and absolutely limiting appointments in line with the formula proposed.”


Thus a key element of the Burns report is deemed to be invalid, and the major reform that was promised at stage 2 is just not there. True to that response, it is rumoured that the new Government are proposing 40 new Peers to the House, which totally goes against the Burns report. This is not reform. Why, therefore, should the hereditary element in these circumstances accept a long-term diminution of their numbers?

Reform should include a review of our powers, especially with regard to Finance Bills and statutory instruments, which we should be allowed to amend. We are also promised a constitutional rights and democracy commission, and I believe that we should wait for what this produces before acting on any Private Member’s Bill.

Conservatives have hinted at wanting to reform the House of Lords, but it is not clear how at this stage. It is likely that the new Government will specifically reaffirm the supremacy of the Commons over the Lords in a new Act of Parliament and possibly even revisit the Lords’ power of delay—something that Theresa May threatened during her prime ministership when the Lords refused to pass her Brexit legislation straightaway.

In summary, I believe that significant constitutional legislation to implement phase 2 of Lords reform should be brought forward by the Government rather than by a Private Member’s Bill.