Reshuffle and the House of Lords

Lord Norton

imagesSome readers have already begun to comment, in the thread to the preceding post, on the ministerial reshuffle as it affects the House of Lords.

There will now be three peers in the Cabinet, two of them departmental ministers.  The most senior is Lord Mandelson, who now heads a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which brings together the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.   He has also been given the rarely used title of First Secretary of State as well as the post  (previously held by Baroness Royall) of Lord President of the Council.   Baroness Royall remains as Leader of the House but with the formal position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.   The new addition to the Cabinet from the Lords is Lord Adonis, who moves up from being Minister of State to Secretary of State for Transport. 

In addition, Lord Malloch-Brown (Foreign Office Minister) and Lord Drayson (Minister of State for Science and Innovation in the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) will continue to attend Cabinet, and Baroness Scotland (Attorney General) will attend as necessary.

Glenys Kinnock is to join the House, having been appointed Minister for Europe.  So too, I gather, is the new business champion, Sir Alan Sugar. 

It is unusual but far from unknown to have three peers in the Cabinet – it variously happened under Margaret Thatcher and occurred briefly under Tony Blair’s premiership – but it is rare to have a departmental minister quite as senior as Lord Mandelson.  The last at that level of seniority was arguably Lord Carrington as Foreign Secretary (1979-82).  In terms of positions and seniority, though, Lord Mandelson is perhaps more akin to Michael Heseltine under John Major’s premiership. 

We await news of any further changes to the ministerial ranks in the Lords.

15 comments for “Reshuffle and the House of Lords

  1. FinnishCowl
    05/06/2009 at 6:24 pm

    I read in one article that Mandelson will effectively be the Prime Minister’s deputy with his new title. I imagine this will focus a great deal of attention on the Lords and that the Opposition will have it’s hand’s full questioning Lord Mendelson and the other ministers.

    Also, how do peers feel when someone of Sir Alan’s celebrity is added to their number? It just seems so curious. I imagine there will be occasional “you’re fired” comments appearing in Hansard from now on.

  2. 05/06/2009 at 7:28 pm

    Does everyone have incredibly short memories? What is going on in this institution that used to be revered by the rest of the world? Those days are clearly over. Trust has gone.

    • 07/06/2009 at 7:07 pm

      It had not “been revered” for many decades anyhow.It’s make-up must change.Those who were granted stewardship over it have disgraced the very thing you mourn.Don’t you see,these contempory “Lords”are purely shysters and cronies.They represent nobody on this Island nor should they have been allowed to take a seat in the first place.
      Your concluding statement…Trust has gone….merely affirms the naivety of your sentiments.We are in imperial decline and have been all my life(53 yrs)Recent disgrace will only help the business of collapsing the old in preparation of a new,bold 21st Century form of governance,
      yours,Rennie.

      • Len
        10/06/2009 at 8:05 am

        They are not meant to represent anyone on this island. In a representative democracy, the legislature is meant to scrutinise the executive and provide the best check on government it can. Having a House which contains experts as well as party-political representatives ensures that a higher level of debate and scrutiny is had, and most of these experts would not be available for election.

        Personally, I want three things from laws and from government: I want it to be popular, ethical and effective. Popular is already covered (but could be covered better) by the House of Commons; ethical can be covered by ensuring an effective means of expelling those who have acted unethically; effective is best judged by having those who know about the subjects covered by government scrutinise it. That is why I support the Lords – it’s not perfect, but it’s better than any other system I know.

        These contemporary Lords, especially the cross-bench, are very well placed to perform this duty.

  3. 05/06/2009 at 9:02 pm

    There used to be many more celebrities appointed to the Lords, every year in the Honours list! That’s why we have Lord Lloyd-Webber et al. Since the HoL Appointments Commission came into existence, peerages haven’t been given out as honours.

    It does seem the Prime Minister’s intention is to raise his credibility by bringing a popularly known figure into government. No disrespect to Sir Alan, but there must be many extremely successful businessmen who would be at least as suitable for this role, but they aren’t on the telly.

    • FinnishCowl
      05/06/2009 at 9:29 pm

      Jonathan,
      I take your point about other celebrities. I meant to specify that I was talking about someone who has only been recently popular for the most part. This is opposed to someone who has had a lifetime of unique distinction in his or her field. Like you said, there are plenty of other successful business men just like him. His only distinction is that he has a popular show right now, as far as I can tell.

  4. 06/06/2009 at 3:58 am

    I’ll play the part of clueless political pundit for a moment (and if I’m good, I might get an interview on the Today programme! 🙂 )

    Gordon Brown essentially lost the next general election shortly after he took power; when he deferred calling an election because the polls indicated Labour might not win. From that moment on, it didn’t matter what he did, the public didn’t like him and by extension they didn’t like New Labour either.

    People were expecting something different from Brown when he took over, but what we found instead was how much of Labour policy had been coming from him all along.

    As for these appointments, I’m not clever enough to understand why Mandelson keeps coming back (and getting stronger), is he particularly excellent at anything? Sir Alan Sugar is an interesting one though, remember when Tony Blair had all those celebrity parties ’round at Number 10, it’s just like a watered down version of that.

    Frankly though, Brown needs to avoid behaving like a watered-down Tony Blair, that’s one thing the public dislike about him!

    Silly punditry aside; has there ever been a peer from one party brought into the cabinet of a different party, Lord Norton?

  5. Croft
    06/06/2009 at 9:35 am

    FinnishCowl: I think the political consensus has been the Mandelson has been deputy in all but name since his return. Personally I’m much happier with the title First Secretary of State as I believe Deputy Prime Minister is close to if not actually unconstitutional. [Looking at the numbers there has only been one more DPM than FSS so they are both reasonable rare historically though common enough post WW2)

    Jonathan: I rather assumed that the problem is not finding qualified businessmen but Labour supporting businessmen willing to join at the Götterdämmerung.

    Of course some ministers in the Lords do not do a normal working week – perhaps Lord Drayson competing in the Le Mans 24hr Race constitutes part of his duties 😀 That’s not a complaint I think it’s terrific!

  6. lordnorton
    06/06/2009 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for the comments.

    FinnishCowl and Jonathan: On celebrity, I thought I would just make the comment that however much a celebrity someone may be outside the Lords, once they enter the House they find themselves in a very egalitarian institution. Everyone is equal and treated as such. You may be a star outside, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find yourself feted in an institution where you are rubbing shoulders with people who have probably achieved a great deal more than you have.

    Liam: Has there ever been a peer from one party brought into the government of another party? Certainly. This happened most notably when Labour formed a government in 1924. It did not have much option, given the dearth of Labour peers. Among non-Labour peers appointed were Lords Chelmsford, Parmoor and Haldane. As Chelmsford, a Tory (he was for a time chairman of the Dorsetshire Conservative Association), made clear: “When I was approached by the Prime Minister, it was made perfectly clear on what conditions I came in. I came in not as one who took the Labour label. I made that perfectly clear. I came in not as one who had taken the Labour label, but as one detached from politics, who was prepared, as a colleague, to help carry on the King’s Government on a disclosed programme…”.

    Croft: I agree about Lord Mandelson and his current position effectively confirms that. Though listed third in the Cabinet rankings, he is in effect deputy Prime Minister. Given that Lord Drayson is an unpaid minister, he certainly cannot be accused of engaging in extra-curricula activities at the taxpayer’s expense!

    • Croft
      06/06/2009 at 10:27 am

      I seem to remember a number of ministers took ‘non party’ appointments in the immediate post war period (Alexander of Tunis and so on) I’m not sure how that compares with someone like Lord Jones of Birmingham who took the whip but didn’t join the party.

      I can’t quickly re-find the list of the cabinet given out during the chaotic proceedings yesterday but I seem to remember it read Brown, Harman then Mandelson. I can’t quickly think of any logic for that order. Lord President of the Council has precedence over Lord Privy Seal and the fact she is party deputy has no relevance to cabinet rankings?

  7. lordnorton
    06/06/2009 at 10:44 am

    Croft: I was thinking of mentioning Lord Jones of Birmingham as the most recent example of a non-party appointment. Though, as you say, he took the Labour whip, he did not join the party and I would regard him as something of a modern-day Lord Chelmsford. The Cabinet list does indeed put Harriet Harman second and Lord Mandelson third. The ranking is determined by the Prime Minister and is usually seen by ministers as a way of seeing who is up and down in Prime Ministerial favour. Though few outside may pay much attention to it, it has historically been of great concern to some ministers. The logic of the current order, in so far as it has a logic, is a mix of the formal position and the politics.

    • Croft
      06/06/2009 at 12:32 pm

      I’m puzzled as to why it should matter very much; except to the extent that the insecure or ego driven seek small marks of favour no cabinet order conveys any legal value or guarantees for the future. Perhaps though PMs don’t like the legal order much anyway as the S. 10 of Precedence Act (1539) even after the Royal warrant of 1905 puts the Lord Chancellor ahead of the PM 🙂

  8. lordnorton
    06/06/2009 at 2:00 pm

    Croft: I suspect it matters to not much more than twenty people (and possibly their officials as it conveys an indication of the ministers’ relationship to the PM) but is of little or any interest to those beyond that. As you say, it is no guarantee of what the future holds.

  9. Michael Bimmler
    09/06/2009 at 6:32 pm

    It seems that we have the full ministerial list (including PUSS) available now: http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page19564

    What I find rather interesting is that in the new mega-department DBIS, we find that the ministerial team consists of 11 persons (including SoS) and that no less than 6 of these 11 are Peers.
    Surely, that is rather exceptional in recent times, is it not?

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