House of Lords wish list

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m in favour of a reformed House of Lords.  I support a mainly elected upper chamber, but with some cross-bench, independent peers.

So, here’s my wish list for the Lords.

1) Long, single terms of service. It’s vital that peers are practised at scrutinising details. Equally, I think it important that peers should see this as a one-off service to the country; a part rather than the whole of a career.

2) Proportional representation. Peers need to be independent of constituency pressures in order to focus on the broader well-being of UK legislation. Therefore they must either be indirectly elected, or elected from large constituencies in a similar manner to MEPs.

3) Elections by thirds.  As in many local councils, this ensures a certain continuity of experience and collective memory.  It also means that fewer peers are elected at each election, resulting in practical elections.  Which brings me on to the next one…

4) Fair elections. A closed list system puts the power straight into the hands of those ordering the list. Besides, I might support Helen Grant but not Nadine Dorries, or support Oliver Letwin but not John Redwood. I’d suggest a semi-open list, or even STV.

Here’s hoping I get at least some of my list by the next general election…

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About feminismfortories

Moderate Tory, Liberal Feminist. Based in the UK.
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2 Responses to House of Lords wish list

  1. Electing the Lords may seem the easy & popular move, but before it can happen something needs to be done to introduce a better mechanism for resolving conflicts between the Lords & Commons than the current system of all-night sessions testing stamina or waiting a year (and the Lords having an effective veto for the final year of a Parliament – something advocates of fixed term parliaments have not addressed).

    The Lords still have quite strong powers because the parliamentary timetable is congested and so often governments will accept amendments or even decline to continue the fight rather than risk losing other legislation. It’s quite a strong power but the Lords exercise a degree of restraint precisely because they are unelected and “illegitimate”, lacking a mandate.

    But whenever any reform happens to the Lords, it tends to take the new situation as a mandate to be more confrontational. It’s no coincidence that more than half the times the Parliament Act has been used were either in the parliament that passed the Parliament Act or the one that threw out the hereditary peers.

    Give an electoral mandate to the Lords and they will start to exercise it and go for gridlock. Without a change to the system for the Commons to challenge the Lords you will get endless conflict between the two chambers and even more pressure on the parliamentary timetable. It would be nice if the result was a benign decrease in legislation, but it’s more likely to result in ever more rushed Acts that have had limited scrutiny, and major set-piece battles.

    • Indeed, the relationship between the two chambers is vital. The House of Commons should be the creator of legislation, the Lords the proof-reader. Reform to the Lords must assert the more restrained nature of the Lords.

      I also think that before reforming either House we need to consider the role of central vs local government. Much of the work done by MPs would be more appropriately performed by (better paid and more powerful) local councillors.

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