» Wednesday, February 7, 2007

House of Lords Reform

Asked of the Prime Minister had a favoured option from those put forward by the Leader of the House Jack Straw, the PMOS said the first thing was probably to let the Leader set out what the options are, but what the Prime Minister did believe was that the Leader had done a very good job at sounding out opinion and working out where the centre of gravity is, but it would be better for the Leader to set out the options.

Asked despite the Prime Minister’s views would there be a conclusion on the issue, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had always said that he wants to try and achieve a consensus and to move forward. This is a way of trying to reach that consensus. But in a situation where there is a free vote, and where different members of the Cabinet had hold different positions on it, it is not in the Prime Minister’s gift to deliver that consensus; that consensus has to emerge through the usual processes.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed in a 50/50 solution, the PMOS said first and foremost that he should observe the proprieties, particularly on an issue on which Parliament is supreme and let the Leader of the House set out his proposal and then it can be raised this afternoon. Asked twice what the Prime Minister’s preference was, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister believed that the Leader of the House had done a very good job at identifying where the centre of possible consensus might be and he fully supported the Leader in his efforts to achieve that.

Asked as the Prime Minister had previously criticised the possibility of a hybrid House over an appointed House, had the Prime Minister’s views changed, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister recognises that the debate on this has moved and is moving and therefore you have to recognise where the centre of the gravity has moved to and that is the task he has charged the Leader of the House with was to reach that point.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought there was enough time to get this through the Commons in this Parliament, the PMOS said it would be best to take it one step at a time and the first step was that the Leader of the House publishes his proposals today, then we see what the House mood is. Asked if there wasn’t time did that mean that the white paper would have hit the spike, the PMOS said the question came under the heading of hypothetical and he only dealt with the reality. The reality is that there is a white paper going to be published today, there then will be a free vote in the House, everyone will be in a much better position to make prognostications about the future once we have gone through that process. Let us get there first and then the Lords have to speak.

Asked if the Prime Minister would give his indication once the Leader of the House has spoken, the PMOS said that he would hate to take away any element of surprise from the lobby so suggested that things be taken one step at a time.

Asked if there was any precedent for the Government to give the House an offer they can’t refuse, in as much as they have to come up with an answer, the PMOS said that he wasn’t an expert on the House and therefore he was the wrong person to ask about precedents and that the Prime Minister was fully in agreement with the process as going to be outlined by the Leader of the House.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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