Posts Tagged ‘House of Lords reform’

After Clegg’s strop, it’s time for a grown up approach to Lords reform

29/08/2012, 07:00:02 AM

by George Foulkes

When, earlier this month, Nick Clegg announced the demise of his ill-judged and ill thought out plans to reform the House of Lords, he was in a terrible strop. So much so, that he rubbished any proposal to improve the present composition of the second chamber.

David Steel, Helene Hayman and others have proposed a number of measures which would make the current composition and method of appointment more sensible and greatly reduce the ridiculously large size. Hereditary peers could be phased out by ending the laughable by-election provision for so called ‘vacancies’ when hereditaries pass away. Weeding out poor and non- attendees and bringing in a retirement provision could provide the biggest reduction. New members meanwhile could be approved by an expanded and statutory appointments commission and some guidance criteria for appointments published.

Clegg would have none of this. He does not want to add any credibility to what he considers to be a totally discredited House.

In doing so, the deputy prime minister is adopting a typical Marxist/Leninist revolutionary posture: “do not improve the hated institution of government or you will delay the revolution”. But it should be evident to Mr Clegg that the only intelligent way to achieve his goal of Lords reform is through two stage evolution.

Stage one is the kind of tidying up of the present arrangements described above which remove the worst aspects of the status quo – huge size, hereditaries and lack of transparency in appointment.

Stage two however, could be started simultaneously to allay the fears of those who think stage one is a ploy to cast real reform back into the long grass. And this would be found upon the recommendation of the alternative report of the joint committee.


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Getting it right on House of Lords reform

09/07/2012, 07:00:43 AM

by Wayne David

Tomorrow the House of Commons will vote on whether to give the government’s House of Lords Reform Bill a second reading. Labour will vote in favour because we believe in principle that the House of Lords should be democratically elected. This was a commitment we expressed in our general election manifesto and it is a view we still hold firmly.

But this is not to suggest that this is a “good” bill. Far from it. The government’s proposals are poorly thought-out and need to be radically improved.

One of the biggest weaknesses in the bill is its failure to set out how the House of Commons and the reformed chamber will relate to each other.

At present, the primacy of the House of Commons rests upon the Parliament Act, a set of “conventions” and the fact that the House of Commons, because it is elected, has a legitimacy which is lacked by the House of Lords. The government has said that the Parliament Act will remain in force but that it believes that the existing conventions will simply continue and post-reform the relationship will be unproblematic.

This view flies in the face of virtually all informed opinion and it defies common sense: once you have an elected second chamber without clear rules, or explicit conventions, it is inevitable that the members of that chamber will feel that they have a democratic authority to challenge the House of Commons.

The result will be that the two chambers could be locked in endless conflict, resulting in government grinding to a halt.


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They don’t know what they’re doing

25/06/2012, 07:00:05 AM

by Steve Bassam

So this week we finally get to see the Nick Clegg version of Lords reform. Regardless of the merits of progress with this Bill, the  government’s programme of legislation has already suffered because of it. Ambitions have been limited by what ministers can get through in the current session with Lords reform in place. Competing with other Bills for time, Lords reform threatens to dictate the speed at which other measures make it onto the statute book.

The House of Lords currently has six government Bills in play, two of which are described as ‘Lords starters’: Crime & Courts, and Justice & Security.

These two Bills would never have been on my list to start in the Lords. Any amendments we pass will be hard for the government to undo as they can’t use the Parliament Act on either Bill and what emerges from the Lords should as a rule stay. It is also harder for the Commons to claim financial privilege with Lords starters.

Both of the Crime & Courts and Justice & Security Bills have few friends. The likelihood is that both will suffer setbacks and have a round of ping pong with no guarantees. How ensnared they get with Lords reform and other emerging problems is hard to predict.


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The truth about the thinnest Queen’s Speech in modern times

21/05/2012, 06:00:57 AM

by Steve Bassam

Much commentary has already been made about the government’s wafer thin agenda for the 2012-13 parliamentary session. The thing is, it is actually far worse than most observers have noticed, not least because of the uncertainty created by putting Lords reform at the heart of the programme.

The recent Queen’s Speech identified just 15 bills in a programme designed to accommodate the LibDems’ pet obsession. Yet ministers are likely to press through even less legislation, as 5 of these bills have already been identified for carry over until the next session. We are not talking minor matters here, but big issues such as energy, banking reform, children and families, and pensions, as well as an EU Accession Bill for Croatia.

This amounts to third of the government’s new legislative programme to be subject to carry over motions. None of these bills will have been drafted yet, and some may even need a white paper to launch them.

We also know that despite the best efforts of the joint committees on Lords reform, that bill is currently being re-drafted to try and make it more acceptable – the question is for whom?

So, for much of the rest of this calendar year we, we will have just 9 bills in play in the Lords. At this stage in most parliaments, governments are just getting into their stride.

Our analysis of the period since the late 1970s suggests a government in its third year of power can expect to push up to 40 to 45 bills, 30 of which will be part of a core programme.


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Why on earth are we even talking about Lords reform?

26/04/2012, 07:45:35 AM

by Peter Watt

I have been building up to write this for days now.  Because I have been getting angrier and angrier the more I thought about it – House of Lords reform.

What is it that politicians don’t understand here?  Voters hardly hold their political masters in the highest regard.  Not to put too fine a point on it, they don’t like politicians and certainly do not value them.  It may or may not be unfair but they think that politicians are self-serving and live in their own rarefied world.

What voters certainly do not see is a political system that provides a solution to the problems that they experience in their day-to-day lives.  In fact many voters are angry and probably blame politicians for many of the world’s ills.  To be fair, from the voters point of view there is much to feel angry about.  The expenses scandal; an economic crisis that the political class seems immune from; tax cuts for their mates, tax rises for everyone else and ever increasing prices.

And the response of our politicians?  That we need even more politicians!

Apparently we need to expend huge amounts of political energy and effort passing legislation that will create 450 new professional politicians.  Presumably all of whom will need paying, will need staff, offices and expenses.  Who will need to be elected and who will all need to spend their time justifying their existence.


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Let knowledge, not politics, rule the Lords

25/04/2012, 01:30:53 PM

by Jonathan Roberts

For a hundred years discussion of the reform of the House of Lords has provided intrigue, gossip and occasional melodrama.  The outrage at new proposals coming from the government backbenches rightly highlights how ‘out of touch’ this diversion from more pressing matters is (like, you know, the economy), but the depth of feeling some Parliamentarians have gives an indication as to why meaningful reform has never happened.

The most significant improvement in modern times came early in the Labour Government with the removal of the vast majority of hereditary peers.  Even this change, which was so obviously appropriate, caused Tony Blair a huge headache.  To impose genuinely radical reform will result in something closer to a debilitating migraine.

It is easy to forget that the current make up of the House of Lords was specifically argued against in the Parliament Act itself – where it is described that the current regime should be only a temporary measure until peer elections were fought.  Bearing in mind that income tax, introduced by William Pitt the Younger, was supposed to be a temporary measure, one could be left with the impression that there is nothing more permanent in government than a system originally labelled as ‘temporary’.

But the parties should not race towards House of Lords elections.  The UK is not suffering from an absence of democracy – quite the opposite, with parish, district and county elections every four years, European and parliamentary every five.  Soon we will be adding mayoral and police elections to the mix and I have a sneaking suspicion American-style school boards won’t be far behind.  This voting business is really rather regular – and with turnouts being as dire as they are, one has to question whether the public really is crying out for yet another dreary Thursday morning trip to the village hall.


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