My Lords, when I was nominated for a peerage in September 2005, the leader of the Conservative Party informed me that I should not discuss the matter with anyone. Subsequently, there were press leaks, and although the attention was uncomfortable, I continued to maintain discretion, which was not easy. Furthermore, I understand that at the time certain nominations were not approved by the Appointments Commission, and the police undertook a thorough investigation to examine if there was any wrongdoing. My appointment to your Lordships’ House was confirmed in April 2006, so there were considerable delays and difficulties. I feel it is important to avoid similar situations in future.
The Prime Minister currently has certain powers in regard to the composition of your Lordships’ House and the appointment of Peers, and it is desirable that reforms are now undertaken in keeping with current thinking on constitutional changes. The Bill provides for the creation of a statutory commission completely independent of Downing Street, which will rectify difficulties that have occurred recently. The commission will be of value to any Prime Minister, as he or she will not be accused of appointing cronies. It will also be of value to Parliament, as the procedures will be clear and independent. I also welcome the proposed membership of the commission, which I believe will be correct and will enable it to undertake its duties fairly. I am satisfied with the provision that proposals for new Peers may be made to the commission by individuals, leaders of political parties and the Prime Minister.
The Bill will ensure that all new Peers are appointed on the basis of merit, that not less than 20 per cent of Members are not affiliated to any party and that no party will have an absolute majority. By adopting these practices, we will ensure that there is a correct balance in the make-up of your Lordships’ House. I am pleased that one of the proposed additional criteria that the commission shall have regard to is the diversity of the United Kingdom population. As chairman of the Conservative Ethnic Diversity Council and the Conservative Muslim Forum, I feel that it is very important there is appropriate representation of ethnic minorities in your Lordships’ House. The present make-up of your Lordships’ House does not totally reflect our diverse society, and I hope that the Bill could be a positive step towards achieving that.
The Bill also makes provision for the removal of any Member of your Lordships’ House who is convicted and imprisoned for a serious offence. I endorse that proposal.
The Bill will enable desirable changes to be effected without disrupting the relationship between the two Houses.