By Jonathan Isaby
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Yesterday the House of Lords was invited to approve the report from its Procedure Committee, Members leaving the House, which proposes a procedure by which peers would be able, for the first time, to retire from the House.
"What we have come forward with for the first time ever is a scheme to allow Members of this House to retire with honour and dignity… The extensive consultations we undertook demonstrated that there is a broad consensus in this House in support of a provision to enable Members voluntarily to leave on a permanent basis."
"We determined that for a conscientious Member who has played a full part in the proceedings of this House, and indeed in the other place, and who takes his or her commitment to this House seriously, but for whom the practicalities of continued participation might be burdensome, there should surely be an honourable and dignified means of retirement. One noble Lord has given me authority to quote him in this debate. This is not an isolated case but it is one I am able to recite. The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, says, "Please mention me as an example: first elected to the other place in 1951; 36 years in the Lords; now 87 years of age, uncertain health. I wish to retire".
"Until now membership of this House has always been a "life sentence", to quote one of those who gave evidence to our group. We have the opportunity today to introduce a much fairer system. Why? A number of Members who are not motivated by financial reasons might well want, because they find it very difficult to continue to attend, to slowly and gracefully – not retreat, as the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza put it – but resign, retire from this House. We have set out various ways in which we believe that tribute could be paid to the individual Member who so wishes by referring to their distinguished service. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, many of those here will know the noble Lord and the tremendous charitable work he has done. It would be marvellous if I were able to e-mail him tomorrow to say that this Motion had been passed and that he will be able to retire in the way that he wishes."
That email will doubtless be winging its way to Lord Northfield this morning, since the motion was approved without a vote.