Lords reform

 

             The last Conservative manifesto said Conservatives would seek a consensus on Lords reform in the present  Parliament. It did not promise to enact any particular version of Lords reform. It recognised the complexity and variety of opinions. Indeed, when I was asked about it during the election campaign I drew attention to Mr Cameron’s remark that it was a “third term priority” and said I myself did not think it was a priority for the current Parliament.

             Mr Clegg thinks otherwise. His party is more firmly pledged to Lords reform. He has come up with a scheme which proposes 360 elected Senators, each elected for a single 15 year term. These would be supplemented by 90 selected Senators, 12 Bishops and 8 Ministers, producing a total of 470 members of a new upper house.

             I have various misgivings about this scheme. Electing another 360 politicians is not an immediately popular answer to our current difficulties. It is even worse if they can never be re-elected, never have to stand the electoral test for what they do and say. It is difficult to see how they can ever be accountable once elected.

             I have difficulties with mixing elected and non elected members in the same House. There is a danger of two tiers emerging, with the elected ones claiming greater authority than the non elected. The elected, being more normal party politicians, are likely to want to intervene in MP constituencies politically. They will be able to cherry pick cases and causes they think will help them or their party, without being responsible for all the case work in a given area in the way an MP is.

               As a contentious constitutional matter Lords reform is bound to generate a lot of debate and argument at Westminster on an issue which is not currently a central topic of concern or debate for electors. Whilst governments and Parliament can do more than one thing at a time,  it runs the risk of giving a distorted view of Parliament’s priorities at a time of economic and EU crisis.

                Tomorrow I will talk about the kind of reforms I would like to see for the Lords, which would be I suspect less contentious and easier to achieve. I will not be voting for the second reading of this Bill. Jesse Norman and Nadhim Zahawi, two able Conservative MPs from the 2010 intake, are leading the opposition to this proposal. What kind of Lords reform do you want, if any?

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121 Comments

  1. Posted July 8, 2012 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Also, there might be pressure put on parties to support measures whereby MPs sat for longer than 5 years. bad for democracy. But so is Nick Clegg’s Lords vandalism.

  2. Brian Taylor
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Leave it as it is for the moment, you could cut down the attendance allowance to £200 per day from £300,what ever the percentage of attendance at churches should say how many bishops can attend.

    If you get a chance would you please discuss Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty as the only way to get powers back from the EU.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Do you wish that to be discussed just in legal terms, or also in political terms?

      Because just in legal terms Article 48 TEU is the one which would allow the UK government to propose EU treaty changes designed to return powers to the UK, while Article 50 TEU is the one to leave the EU entirely and have a new treaty with the other countries which remain in the EU.

      For example, if the UK government decided that it wanted to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy while remaining in the EU then it could use Article 48 TEU to propose the addition of a UK fishing “opt-out” protocol to the EU treaties, rather like the present UK euro “opt-out” protocol.

      Of course in political terms if EU treaty changes proposed by the UK government through Article 48 TEU were rejected by other countries out of hand then it might rapidly move on to Article 50 TEU, which would involve negotiating a new treaty which would apply once we’d left the EU.

      • Chris
        Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        What do you make of Christopher Booker’s article and his comments on Article 50 D Tel. 7 July?
        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9383356/Britains-only-EU-hope-lies-hidden-in-Lisbon.html
        “….The project’s core doctrine has always been the acquis communautaire: the rule that once powers are handed over to Brussels they can never be given back. That is why it is futile to talk of Britain negotiating a “new relationship” with Brussels involving repatriation of powers. It cannot happen, because it would be in breach of the project’s most sacred principle.
        There is only one way in which we could force the other EU states into negotiating a new relationship for Britain. If our politicians, led by Mr Cameron, were actually to read the treaty, they would find this power under Article 50, inserted at Lisbon: such a negotiation can only be triggered if we notify the EU that we wish to leave it. Then, and only then, would our EU colleagues be compelled (rather than “persuaded”) to enter into the negotiations necessary to establish our “future relationship with the Union”.
        As I have said before, the very last thing Mr Cameron could countenance is notifying the EU that we wish to leave it – even though the alternative is that, under a new treaty, we would remain impotently in the outer ring of an EU wholly controlled by the eurozone. But unless all the Tory MPs clamouring for the “repatriation of powers” grasp the crucial importance of Article 50, talk of a referendum on a “new relationship” with the EU is just self-deceiving fluff…”.

        Reply: I do not agree with Mr Booker’s view. If we ever have a government here with political will, then of course we can negotiate a new relationship. Whether we want to have anything more than a new relationship like other countries who are not members at all is a matter which has to be put to the voters as soon as possible.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

          Well, he’s right that if the UK gave notice of its intention to quit under Article 50 then the other EU member states would either have to negotiate a new treaty between themselves and the UK, or see the present treaty simply cease to apply to the UK after two years with all the chaos that would mean for everybody.

          However Article 48 would be the obvious starting point.

          If the other EU member states then rejected the UK proposal out of hand then it could rapidly move into Article 50 territory, but so far there has been no UK proposal for them to reject out of hand.

  3. Julian
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Under the new proposals, all the elected senators will have been through a party selection process, which means the voters will have no choice but to accept who we’re given. Combined with the point you mention that they can never be voted out, means it’s a politician’s idea of democracy. i.e. One that has no interest in giving real democratic power to the people.

    Now is not the time for major, expensive reforms. They best that can be done should be to reduce the numbers.

  4. Richard Ede
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    In the Federal Republic of the British Isles the Upper Chamber of the present Parliament for the British is abolished. The Senate of the Republic to be established in Liverpool will follow the example of the Irish Senate and include an element that is appointed, but not with voting rights. The Senate of the Republic of the British will be one that includes all the Irish and in which the judgement of the English will not be the defining one. Any proposal for Constitutional Reform that does not address the Question of the English Ascendancy in the Islands is pointless.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Considering the English make up over 75% of the population of these islands, the question of them not having ascendancy is also pointless. If you want a few examples of many that prove the judgment of the English is not dominant in British politics, see below:
      a) the partition of Ireland
      b) the Barnett formula
      c) devolution for Scotland and Wales
      d) tuition fees
      e) business rates
      f) restructuring of the armed services and location of bases, airfields etc
      g) allocation of government contracts
      h) representation in the House of Commons
      … the list goes on and on and on…

  5. colliemum
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    In the first place, I think it is ridiculous to savage an ancient institution which has worked satisfactorily over centuries – satisfactorily as far as any human institution can. It is ridiculous to savage such institution for the sake of, or in the name of spurious ‘modernity’. As for calling the HoL undemocratic – well, in that context what do the critics actually mean by ‘undemocratic’? Mostly, I suspect, that their particular flavour of political party politics hasn’t been granted access.

    I think the one ‘reform’ of the HoL the huge majority of people do not want to see is an House where ever more good old boys and girls from political party backwaters find a trough to feed out of.

    To keep the HoL to its role as scrutineer of HoC work, I’d suggest that future “Lords and Ladies” be nominated (and checked out before) by the entity which checks and proposes who gets a gong.
    One set of people which should be kept out are professional politicians – in fact, anybody who is member of a political party should be disqualified.
    Let them sit for 7 years only, with one third to be replaced every three years – to have continuity. No second term.
    And let there be no more than half the number of MPs – I’m not precise because I still hope that the number of MPs will be cut.
    Travel costs and a small stipend only for the Lords and Ladies – people have had enough of ‘troughers’.

    Actually, I think it would be excellent if Lords and Ladies were to be recruited from the ranks of the retired and pensioners only!

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      It would be better to have a bigger pool of talent, that turn up when they have something useful to contribute, than a small pool of full-timers, who turn up even when they have nothing of use to offer. Presenteeism can be as bad as absenteeism.

  6. Andy
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Dear John,

    I don’t want unelected bishops in the house of Lords. If they must be there, it must be on the condition that half of them are women.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      If any of them are women in this supposedly Christian country I don’t want them

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      I do not want left wing loons of any gender who claim to believe in stories in dusty old books so often full of horrendous violence, racism and sexism.

  7. lifelogic
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Lords reform is clearly not a priority. The system does not work that badly, or did not, until it was mucked about with by Labour flooding it with loons. The LibDems just want a system to give them the balance of power there. That would be a disaster as all LibDem policies other than Civil Liberties are simply mad. Clearly Bishops usually seem to have mad lefty policies in general (and give absurd credibility to irrational historical belief systems) and so should not be there but in a museum. They do however amuse me, every time they make their (usually self contradictory) and plainly silly pronouncements.

    Clearly the electorate need to approve any new system for it to have credibility and they would not approve of much that the LibDems were pushing. Without a referendum would be like selling the nation to the EU without a fair referendum as the parties have colluded and done.

    I rather like the fact that they are old, from a variety of areas (and sometimes even wise), have little to loose, cannot be kicked out and so can occasionally do the right think even if it is unpopular. A few more scientist and engineers and fewer lawyers and green quack tv evangelists would be good.

    I see we have weather prediction of rain until September. I assume, given the earlier duff predictions from “experts” on the summer drought and global warming (no significant increase since 1998), we will now have a very good summer.

    Anyway you just need the right clothes and the right attitude to have a good time.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      I see the government still has money to burn:

      Speed humps have been torn out of a residential London street so that Olympic dignitaries can be chauffeured across the city in comfort.
      When the Games are over, the humps, which were installed more than 15 years ago, will be put back – at a total cost to the taxpayer of at least £50,000.

      • alan jutson
        Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        lifelogic

        Yes I wonder what ambulance drivers and their patients think.

        Comfort ok for the Games officials, but not for those with broken limbs.

        I see that one lane of the A30 at Runnymead roundabout to Egham has the Olympic rings on it, and cannot be used by normal traffic for 4 weeks.

        Given that is the only stretch of dual road for very many miles (where you can overtake in a safe manner) this will cause some tailbacks as traffic follows behind the slowest vehicles.

        Pray tell me what closing one lane is going to do to benefit anyone given it is a about 5 miles away from the nearest area of competition at Dorney Lake, just south east of Maidenhead.

        • alan jutson
          Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          See Wokingham Council (council tax payers) are going to have to fork out £27,000 so that the torch can be on Wokingham Borough soil for 4 mins on 10th July on its way to Ascot.

          Henley bridge is also due to close for 5 hours from 6.30 in the morning until 11.00 and the bloody torch is crossing the river by boat. !!!!!

          You could not make this up.

          When I spoke to the Council about this they said they had no choice, as they were mandated to accept the torch in our Borough.

          A329 also to be closed on the same day in evening rush hour, when the torch travels by CAR from Bracknell to Reading.

          Unbelievable.

          Does anyone know how much this torch parade nonesense is costing in total, it must be £ millions with huge disruption.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      I also see the police have found a new way to pay the gold plated state sector pensions:-

      Driver fined £60… for admiring a pretty girl: Police insist motorists must not be distracted by ‘gorgeous people’.

      Do the government not allow posters like the, Hello Boys Bra Adverts, all over the road network – but then I suppose they generate tax income, so that is fine?

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      The current House of Lords is broken because politicians keep stuffing it with their supporters as soon as they get elected (Cameron created 150 new Lords). Setting a maximum number of Senators and having the people elect them will prevent politicians rigging the upper chamber in their favour.

      Bishops are included because historically they have been part of the House of Lords (Lords spiritual). I suspect allowing them to remain is a sop to critics of the bill.

      • John Wrexham
        Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        History has shown that most Lords show very little gratitude to the person who ennobled them as Cameron, like his many predecessors, will soon discover.

        Religious leaders add to the expertise and you could always make Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and the top dog at the National Secular Society lords to provide some balance.

  8. Mick Anderson
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I’m one of those who wants fewer politicians and less politics. We certainly don’t need an elected HoL, even though the leaders of the three significant Parties prefer it. I would prefer a fully hereditary system to one made up of more failed politicians and their buddies.

    I propose a type of jury system where you have to opt in to be considered. There would be a fairly high bar to entry – continuous residency for a minimum of the last ten or twenty years, no ex-politicians or party members, a minimum age, and either a higher education or proof of success in running business. Perhaps a “Britishness” test, too. Each would only serve one full term of a few years, with a generous hand-over time to their successor – ideally the changeover should be at the halfway point between General Elections.

    The lucky (?) few would scrutinise all legislation passed up from the HoC with the aid of civil servants, any pertinant experts, and any input they might request from the general public. They would be “real” people, rather than party placemen, and would have a better understanding about how new legislation would affect people. EU legislation and directives would not be given an automatic bye, and they could bounce anything that was simply badly written. The HoL act allowing the Government to force legislation through would be abolished, and these new scrutineers would be allowed to criticise existing laws as well as new ones.

    They should be given at least the same salary as MPs plus expenses, with draconian penalties for corruption. There would be no requirement for them to attend SW1 frequently – it’s a new system, so let’s set it up so they can work from Council offices close to their homes. Indeed, we want them to be scattered around the nation so that they can stay close to their roots – a proper feedback loop.

    Government is meant to be for the benefit of the people, and it is now only for the politicians, paid for by the people. That’s why this will never happen. The pigs have control not only of the trough, but the entire farmyard.

  9. A.Sedgwick
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I used to favour the Senator approach but now agree that it is seriously flawed, another layer of unnecessary government and likely to create more political difficulties.

    The present setup has become farcical, a terrible example to us present and past workers, largely uncontrolled and an unjustified reward for old politicians and party supporters and donors.

    The solution is to abolish the Lords altogether.

    I suspect most of the revising of Bills is done by or prompted by legally trained civil servants. A lot of their own input is politically driven with efforts being made to thwart the decision of the Commons and not about the workability of the eventual Acts. This has visibly become more evident with the tactic of filibustering. The whole procedure could be passed within the Commons and maybe the quality of the Bills would be improved without the revising chamber.

    • Publius
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      “I suspect most of the revising of Bills is done by or prompted by legally trained civil servants.”

      What? The same ‘legally trained civil servants’ who draft the faulty bills in the first place perhaps? Or a different set of ‘legally trained civil servants’?

    • Alan
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Having a second chamber in the legislature with no purpose except to check that the first one did its job well is not sensible in my view. I think we should provide the House of Commons with enough resources to do its job properly.

      • John Wrexham
        Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        It is not a question of resources, but of how Parliamentary business is decided and the balance of power between the executive and the legislature.

  10. Mr. Green
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I listened to Norman Tebbit on BBC radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan show last night. He made some sensible points (along with a Conservative PPS whose name I did not catch.)

    I agree that the current proposals for House of Lords reform will be a disaster for the United Kingdom.

    The basic point is that our constitution will be corrupted by the creation of a rival mostly elected chamber. And the new chamber won’t be particularly democratic in selection or representation, as JR points out.

    We should not easily tinker with working constitutional arrangements. The present Parliamentary set-up has evolved over a series of carefully-managed steps, and calls for brute ‘democracy’ will represent an affront to the electorate, as we will have no say over who is a candidate or who is not.

    The PR system of election is contentious, as minor parties like the LibDems will profit out of all proportion to their level of support in the country.

    The candidates will be taken from stitched-up lists of the usual party hack suspects. Their vast appetites will need to be satiated at the taxpayer’s expense – insatiable appetites for lashings of public money, housing, luxury foreign trips, posh food & drink. This is because these many of these people know where the bodies are buried.

    They are widely despised – Blair, Brown, Prescott, Mandleson, Livingstone…shudder. Socialists living high on the hog at the taxpayer’s expense – George Orwell will be smiling knowingly.

    One good side effect of the LibDems’ desperate proposals is that they will wake up the Conservatives, who will realise that these ‘reforms’ are so bad that they threaten the very existence of the Coalition.

    Tactically, if the sky falls in on Chicken Licken and these proposals fail to make it, what’s next – a general election?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      “The present Parliamentary set-up has evolved over a series of carefully-managed steps”

      It has certainly evolved, but not always with carefully-managed steps.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      The PR system of election is contentious, as minor parties like the LibDems will profit out of all proportion to their level of support in the country.

      Care to explain how getting 25% of the senators because you got 25% of the votes is a bad thing?

      • John Wrexham
        Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Because if that 25% are all chosen from a list, then the people with the real powere are those who draw up the list, not those who decide how far down the list the jobs will be handed out.

        Evidence from many other countries proves that minority parties gain ridiculous powers and indulge themselves in pork barrel politics because they have the balance of power.

  11. Steve L
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I think what Clegg and the LibDems are trying to pull off here is outrageous and blatently party political. Forcing such a change through is incredibly dangerous and could irrevocably make the way parliament works even worse than it currently is. Although many people have a mental image of the Lords being full of privileged, doddery old, out of touch people, I suspect that is far from the truth at the working level. It would be foolish to sweep out the wealth of experience and wisdom that is brought to bear on government business.

    How much of this reform that the LibDems want is driven by envy, by a desire for “fairness” regardless of effectiveness.

    Good for you, voting against the bill. I hope many other Conservatives join you in showing some principle and backbone.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

      Given that Lords are appointed by the Prime Minister it’s doubtful how much wisdom and experience they possess.

  12. alan jutson
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    I have to say that I have never really thought long and hard about this subject either.

    I certainly do think we need to retain two chambers, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a second chamber where people were not tied to any particular Party at all, so that they could really hold any government to account without favour when debating new laws regulations etc..

    Pue in the sky I know but at the moment we seem to simply have placemen and women shoe horned into the Lords, to tip the balance one way or another to suit Party leaders.

    Quite why we need so many members as we have at the moment in a second chamber I do not know, just like the public sector it seems overloaded.

    Not sure how much strength was given to this subject in the LIB DEM maifesto, but how about they put some energies into another one of their ideas, an EU referendum.

  13. BJ
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    John, I have grave misgivings on the subject of the unelected LibDems having any say on our constitution, although I do believe that the ability to vote OUT some of the present incumbents would be of great benefit to the people of this country.

    For example – ALL LibDems, who are undermining, not enhancing, the democracy of this country.

  14. Pete the Bike
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Cleggy’s scheme sounds like a typical Lib Dem scheme to allow more unaccountable drones to get paid lots of money for little work. Why bother with reforming it? Whatever is put in it’s place will not reflect the views of the electorate any more than the commons does.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      Given that Clegg is calling for the number of Lords to be reduced there will be fewer unaccountable drones, not more.

  15. Sue
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I’m fine with things the way they are. We just need less of them and the ones that are there, free of corruption. This system has worked for hundreds of years. What on earth gives a jumped up, upstart of a turncoat politician the right to interfere with it? Clegg’s heart is clearly in Europe, perhaps he would be happier in Brussels. We can definitely do without his interference.

    Please don’t allow this to happen without there being a sensible debate on the matter. This just reeks of the EU and it’s NUTS regions and we don’t have senators, we have peers!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I expect that “jumped up, upstart of a turncoat … ” was just a small part of what some people said about Simon de Montfort at the time.

  16. Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Our system works so leave it alone, illogical though it seems. I suggest the libdems turn their attention to the urgent problem of the bumble bee. It is obviously the wrong shape to fly and would benefit from having some of its body filed off and given bigger wings. No wonder it is endangered.

    • Nick
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      They are a bunch of fraudsters. Pure and simple.

      1. They have exempted themselves from money laundering rules that we have to obey.
      2. They have exempted themselves from taxes on their ‘expenses’
      3 They have exempted themselves from inspection by the tax man
      4. When pushed, the person that hands out the cash for them, makes it a state secret what they have been up to .
      5. They accept money and don’t declare it.

      Why not get rid of them, and give us the last say on bills?

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Indeed and some bees have slightly larger wings than others and less acute smell. All the expensive research the government has paid for shows they have lower life expectancies by 20% and get all the lousy jobs. We clearly need some urgent government action to redress this “evil discrimination”.

  17. Alte Fritz
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    It is bad enough that members of the House of Commons are expected to behave like super councillors, without encouraging the sort of cheery picking Mr R so rightly fears.

    • Mark
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Indeed: I’d like to see some separation of the roles of local ombudsman and MP. If people want to elect a head of their local Citizens’ Advice Bureau I’m sure they could if they paid to do so. As it is, pressure of work means that most MPs rely on staff in their constituency office to handle the majority of such work, so voters are effectively electing office workers associated with the MP to the task unseen.

      I’d like to see MPs elected more on the grounds that they are capable of understanding the legislation they pass, and capable of becoming ministers.

  18. APL
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    JR: “Mr Clegg thinks otherwise. His party is more firmly pledged to Lords reform.”

    Yes, he wants to establish a liberal block in an elected Lords, bet he tries to get the proportional vote they failed to get the last time.

    JR: ” He has come up with a scheme which proposes 360 elected Senators, each elected for a single 15 year term. ”

    Not a bad idea, now all you need to do is stagger the election period so for the ‘senate’ there is no general election. The first elections could be for a forshortened period of five years, another group for ten.

    JR: “These would be supplemented by 90 selected Senators,”

    No. We don’t want any selected appointments. Unless the selection is removed from the executive and placed back with the Crown. Otherwise no, no, no.

    JR: “12 Bishops and 8 Ministers, producing a total of 470 members of a new upper house.”

    Who cares about the chief druid?

    Really, the COE is of supreme irrelevance and it’s all their own work.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      We could do with more representatives of the world’s faiths in the HoL. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talks more sense than most secular politicians, and the same is probably true for the top imans, hindus, buddhists and cardinals. Even the chief druid may have the occasional piece of useful advice.

  19. oldtimer
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Clegg`s Bill looks like displacement activity to me. I hope it is defeated. If it brings down the coalition, that would be a bonus. The coalition has run out of steam and, in several important respects, it is on the wrong track. In these respects, derailment is something to be welcomed.

    The House of Lords is now much too big. Each PM seeks to gerrymander his vote after each election by appointing new members. This contributes to the excess. The solution is to cap membership at a level that provides the balance of skills needed or wanted for a revising chamber. Say 500? The way to get there from where we are now is through a cull of the regular absentees, honourable retirement of the aged and infirm and an electoral process for the political appointees (a la the method used to reduce hereditary peers)

    In principle, I do not object to an appointed HoL, holding the role of revising chamber, provided it is populated with members with the appropriate expertise, and not just with political appointees – the obvious risk with the Clegg proposal. For want of a more informed view, I would support a 50/50 mix of political and non-political members. I suggest that the 250 political members comprise 100 each of Conservative/Labour supporters and 40 other parties plus an extra 10 seats reserved for the government of the day to fill ministerial positions. They should be self selected from a cadre of potential, HoL candidate members determined by the political parties and serve for a fixed term – say five years, with the potential for serving a second term provided they are fit and able to do so. The other appointed members should reflect a cross section of public life (as now) but with appropriate elements of professional knowledge and experience to contribute to the role of a revising chamber.

    To avoid wholesale changes all at once, there would be an annual turnover of 100 members. If five years is deemed too short a period, I would change it to 6 year terms and raise the membership to 600 to match this rate of turnover.

    I am unconvinced by the Clegg argument about the legitimacy conferred by elections. We have that today through elections to the HoC. The role of the HoL is to offer second opinions, and to revise ever more complex legislation.

    • Sue
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      …. and if I can suggest, no criminals please. If one of them is caught fiddling or any other serious matter, they have their place in the HoL revoked and their title if it was bestowed on them. In this case they completely cease to be “honourable” and should not be making judgement on our rights and constitution.

  20. Timaction
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I agree with your comments. Leave it as it is with a mechanism to reduce the numbers as it has grown too large.

    A must read is today published by Christopher Booker in the Telegraph concerning existing EU treaties and how powers and competencies cannot be repatriated unless we ask to leave. All MP’s should be aware that they are not being told the truth on all matters EU and the public are now alive to these lies at forthcoming elections.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9383356/Britains-only-EU-hope-lies-hidden-in-Lisbon.html

    • Nick
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      We’re not being told the truth on even bigger things – debts.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      “mechanism to reduce the numbers” – the grim reaper perhaps?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Christopher Booker is usually right about the EU and I hesitate to say that he’s got it wrong on this occasion, but he has.

  21. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    The Church of England is an organisation which is meant to represent Almighty God and the most Holy Trinity to us as a nation under Her Majesty the Queen. You might have thought that it would be more dignified than to spend twenty years discussing without end the thorny question of women and gay people’s rights to wear coloured out of date clothes and go on telly, would’t you.
    Now the House of Commons is just about to make the same mistake.

  22. Leslie Singleton
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    The soaking wet and destructive Liberals want their wretched PR to creep in to the Lords solely because they fancy themselves as a perpetual balance holder in any revised Lords and, correctly, see no other route to ongoing power. Clegg really really wants reform to expunge the memory of his total absence of judgement over AV. More elections and politicians is the very last thing we need. We should get down on our knees to thank the Almighty that we have a system that is acknowledged to work and which unlike almost everything else these days is inexpensive. Cameron should pretend he is a Conservative with a few obvious measures, go along with an election if the Liberals are stupid enough to force one and then, whatever else happens, blow them to Hell hopefully permanently. If change there must be it should be via inclusion of more ex officio Lords.

  23. backofanenvelope
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    If the HoL is unsatisfactory, then politicians like Mr Clegg are to blame. Since May 1997 it has been altered by politicians – it is their creation.

    I would finish the process by creating a senate. Two senators from each county (a link to the past). One of each sex, elected by FPTP (a link to the past) and serving for 4 years. No more than 5 terms, no more than 3 consecutive. Retire at national pension age. Any senator wishing to become a government minister must resign. 25% of senators stand for election each year on the first Sunday in May. Not much chance of any of this, is there?

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      The House of Lords has been altered by politicians long before 1997. The 1911 and 1949 Parliament Acts had a major effect on them.

  24. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The House of Lords seems to work better than the House of Commons so I guess many MPs want to drag it down to their level. Certainly the changes proposed are risible. Leave it alone and concentrate on sorting out the economy – particularly government spending and waste. That was supposed to be the raison d’etre of the coalition not all this meddling.

  25. me
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Fully elected by PR, 100 members.

  26. Nick
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Here is a better solution to the mess.

    1. Abolish the Lords. 600 million over 5 years to play with to get a better system in place.

    2. You nominate an MP, any MP as your proxy.

    3. Proxy votes count for the final say on Bills.

    4. You can change your proxy when you want.

    That’s it.

    Now, if just one MP sets up a system where I can cast my vote and he will act as a true proxy, we have direct democracy.

    The current cost of voter registration – 100 million a year. Add on 20 million for recording the proxy MP name against yours. That’s 130 million left over from abolishing the Lords, so we’ve saved lots of cash.

    The only people who lose out are those who currently dictate to us, MPs. They won’t like it because they want to impose their minority views on people.

    Imagine what happens. We want to raise taxes. Oh dear, the electorate have said no. Bugger.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Who chooses the MPs from which you pick one to nominate? What kind of person wants to be a full-time delegate – ie you have to be there, but you can never think for yourself.

      How is each individual voter going to be able to find out the view of each of the MPs on every issue that comes before Parliament in time to be able to choose the correct proxy?

      More thinking, less writing, please.

  27. NickW
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    What kind of Lords reform would I like?

    At the moment; none.

    If Clegg wants to fiddle while Rome burns; at least make sure that he fiddles with something whose breakage won’t have any serious consequences.

    In the meantime Parliament and the Government need to be doing something about the present and impending economic doom which is rapidly coming our way.

    Prioritisation is urgently needed; Clegg does not need to worry about making sure that he leaves something behind him for the history books to remember him by. Believe me; no one will forget him; we only wish we could.

    • Sue
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      Well said!

  28. Bob
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Don’t we have more pressing problems than gay marriage and Lords reform?

    You can tell who’s calling the shots in this so called government, and it’s not the conservatives. The tail is wagging the dog.

    The Tories failure to win the last election was due to their choice of leader; isn’t it time they faced up to that fact and get on with reform of the Tory Party?

    • Sue
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      “Don’t we have more pressing problems than gay marriage and Lords reform?” – Obviously not, most of the decision making is now in Brussels.

    • zorro
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      I refuse to waste any time on this subject – it annoys me that these matters along with other PC nonsense is given more priority than how we can get out of economic torpour and ensure that we can survive in the world.

      zorro

  29. Martyn
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    The LibDems are clearly aiming to further reduce the powers of the HoC with their insane demands for 15-year in office senators. The HoL may well need a bit of sorting out, but it very ably fulfills its purpose in scrutinising the endless reams of poorly witten legislation (almost all of it these days enforced by the EU) and sending it back to the HoC to hopefully get it corrected.

    There are battles enough already between the two houses, but the HoC remains supreme. But would that remain the case if the HoL is turned into a gathering of senators who will be able to claim that because they, too, were elected by public vote they should have an equal say?

    The LibDems weird and I think spiteful proposals will lead to an even more sclerotic administration/legislation; bearing in mind that the current situation is bad enough, if implemented it will set the nation on the road to damnation. Let us all hope that Mr Cameron can find the backbone to tell Cleggy that it just ain’t gonna happen on his watch!

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      The Lords has the power to amend legislation, though these amendments have to be approved by the Commons. The Lord’s are not an advisory board for the Commons.

  30. John Bracewell
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    The main reform needed is fewer Lords, no more than 300 in total. This would reduce the need for elections since the best would be appointed instead of the many ‘voting fodder’ Lords who are appointed at the moment.
    Lords’ appointments should be renewable every 5 years, to cull the remaining duds and so that they remain accountable. Age and incompetency would be balanced by this also.
    Lords who are sentenced for any criminal action should be immediately sacked. (As should MPs).
    Religious leaders should be appointed only on their own merit, not as automatic candidates to fill pre-determined number of Bishops’ seats. Religion should not be the only criterion for selection.
    A minimum level of attendance for debates should be set and those not meeting that level (except for certified illness) should be sacked. Renewal for those Lords consistently ill should not take place.
    Remuneration for Lords should be around 90% of MPs salary, to reflect that the MPs have the duty and responsibility to enact Law whereas the Lords can only advise and scrutinise.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      Both MPs and Lords are responsible for enacting laws and other than the Parliament Act the Lords have equal power to the Commons. The Lord’s aren’t an advisory board.

      • John Bracewell
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        I have never heard of a law that has been initiated by the Lords and then voted into statute by the Commons, whereas I have heard of a Lords amendment to a Commons initiated law which can only get into statute if the Commons accept it and vote it into law. In my book this means the only law comes from the Commons even if it originates in the EU, it is still voted in by the Commons. The Lords’ ability to suggest amendments does not amount to equal power or enacting law.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      If the Lords are to be valued for their expertise at revising laws, then judging them on how often they attend debates is counter-intuitive.

      Why 90%? The attendance allowance is a sensible way of covering the expenses of attending and it should only increase in line with CPI. If the Lords want to earn a living, then they can go out and get a job like the rest of us.

  31. forthurst
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the recipe, but what are you trying to bake? In the circumstances, arguing over the ingredients and where best to obtain them seems premature.

  32. David B
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The key element to any reform must be:

    1. The new chamber must not be populated by failed politicians this means the exclusion of anyone who has stood for any other election
    2. It should be a non political chamber so that means no party whip and especially no list system for elections
    3. It should be a revising chamber so it cannot delay legislation
    4. ministers are not allowed to vote

  33. David John Wilson
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    The house of Lords needs a completely different way of electing members from the house of commons. To have elections from lists of candidates prepared by the current political parties is a very wrong choice.

    I would prefer a system where members were elected by organisations within the country. This system would allow any democratic body within the country to apply for one or more members. The 200 largest would be given the right to provide a member. The following rules would apply:

    1) The member would either be chosen by the membership of the organisation or by a body democratically elected by its membership.
    2) All organisations providing members must be completely independent.
    3) Where a group of people is twice as large as one lower down the list then it would be allocated two(or proportionally more) members.

    We would thus probably find organisations like the CBI, the trade unions, the co-operative society, the scouts, the churches, the universites etc providing a member.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      The only benefit of this reform would be to encourage all organisations to go on a massive recruitment drive and numerous attempt to falsify membership numbers. There are numerous ways we could choose people:
      a) by lottery
      b) by various means of election, direct and indirect
      c) by various means of appointment
      d) by representing different sectors of society
      e) by birthright

      i am not sure any are a great improvement on the status quo for all its faults.

      however, there are many improvements that could be made to the House of Commons, but they don’t seem to be such a priority.

  34. Old Albion
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Scrap the Lords all together. Remove all Scottish, Welsh and N.Irish constituency MP’s from The House of Commons, in doing so creating an English Parliament.
    The second house then can be used for a federal government to oversee UK policies. Leaving the four national governments to deal with the 70% (or thereabouts) of devolved matters.
    This option will bring democracy back to England and make massive financial savings too.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted July 10, 2012 at 1:40 am | Permalink

      You have this the wrong way round. If you really must turn the UK into a Federation, then make the House of Commons the federal chamber (it is already set up to be that) and convert the House of Lords into an English Parliament. You would still get the Federal government vs States’ rights battles that they have in the States from time to time.

      I still think that a Unitary State and complete abolition of the devolved parliaments would be better but Scotland and Northern Ireland probably feel that Westminster is too far away.

  35. Robert Eve
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Cut the numbers to about 500 – otherwise don’t change it.

  36. Sean O'Hare
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Lords reform is a constitutional matter and should be put to a referendum – full stop! The fact that the masses will not bother to vote and that those that do care seem overwhelmingly against any reform would suggest that it would go the same way as Clegg’s other irrelevant hobby horse AV.

  37. David
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Either (a) leave it largely as it is or (b) get rid of it altogether. The pretence that either house of parliament has any significant role to play anymore, when 80% of our legislation comes from Brussels and all the vested interests will keep us in the EU regardless of what the people think, prompts me to favour option (b).

  38. Acorn
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Frankly, I would think getting the “Executive” out of the “Legislature” was a greater priority. It is worth bearing in mind that the nature of US government changed when they started electing Senators, they gradually gained superiority over the House Reps. They were appointed by the States under the original Constitution.

    Now the two year term MP equivalents in the House of Representatives, move up to be six year term Senators. Some then launch their shot at the Presidency from the Senate. State Governors do similar from State legislatures. House Reps promote the requirements of their Districts to stay elected, Senators think longer term State and National consequences.

    Difficult to see where a UK elected Lords would take us. Could an elected Lord / Senator, launch a campaign to become Prime Minister? The fact that our Prime Minister and his, appointed from elected MPs, cabinet, sit in the HoC would mean the US system of a true Bicameral parliament won’t work. Probably best if we left the UK where it is; half way between a Bicameral and a Unicameral system.

    I used to favour a Unicameral system for efficiency but I would not trust our current HoC, with its party system embedded majority, on its own, to legislate its way to a local Barclay’s Bank.

  39. Mark
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Firstly, it seems absurd to go to great lengths to reform the Lords when we have the possibility that Scotland may leave the Union long before the proposals have taken effect. Devolution is also giving rise to greater pressure for an English Parliament, or at least disbarring MPs from other countries of the Union from voting on English matters. That could confer a rather different role on the Lords as the unifying chamber for non-devolved issues. Until that is resolved, meddling is pointless.

    Secondly, if we look at the current composition of the Lords we see that cross-benchers have a vital role in holding the balance of power. If either Labour or Conservatives can persuade cross-benchers to vote with them, then that will decide an issue – it matters not how the bishops, Lib Dems and assorted others vote: these groups effectively have speaking rights rather than voting influence. Given that the largest electoral group in the population is NOTA, and the desirability of avoiding the worst consequences of elective dictatorship, this structure has much to commend it. The new structure would largely disenfranchise cross benchers as holders of the balance of power, transferring it to minor parties and even to the bishops. The use of PR would see extremist parties get seats and the potential to hold a government to ransom.

    Thirdly, there is a question of the quality and depth of knowledge of the Lords membership. One of the great strengths of the hereditary system is that those selected by birth have a lifetime of education into the values and ways of good government, and they are not beholden to parties for their position. If they have party sympathies, they arise as a result of their wider experiences of life. One of the weaknesses of the party list system and political domination proposed for elections is that it provides sinecures for failed politicians at the expense of people of genuine wide ranging expertise. Numbers are not crucial here for part time Lords: if they turn out when their area of expertise is being debated we benefit.

    Historically there have been several periods when “packing” or selling of peerages have been features of the Lords. Clearly, this is undesirable. Perhaps we should dump Tony’s cronies and Cameron’s friends and replace them with more hereditaries or cross-benchers of real expertise.

    If the Lords is to have a useful purpose as a revising chamber, ensuring the right qualities of the membership and an appropriate balance of power are essentials. What we have at present already wastes seats on political has-beens who have the effrontery to turn up and collect their allowances. At least those hereditaries who were useless mostly didn’t bother, and were therefore not a deadweight or cost on the practicalities of the system.

    There is nothing in Clegg’s proposals worth commending to the House.

    • Mark
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      The sale of peerages was not formally outlawed until the Honours (Prevention of Abuse) Act, 1925, following the actions of Liberal Prime Minister Lloyd George. Before him, Gladstone added large numbers of peers to bolster Liberal Party support, and admitted to selling two peerages in 1895.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Your comments on the crossbenchers are spot on. We need more of them, not fewer. The time for hereditaries is probably over. Of course, inheritance is important – who would take kindly to their own children being swapped for someone else’s and being told that’s democratic? The Right, of course, believes in the family, while the Left has always been suspicious of any organisation that passes advantages onto its offspring, whether that means a seat in Parliament, a decent education, or the countless qualities parents instill in their children.

  40. Matthew
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    For me – the Lords should not be an elected chamber, as its primary purpose is to scrutinise and revise.
    An elected chamber will give us more career politicians and as there would be conflicts with the Commons. Nominate people to the Lords who have come to the very top of their professions as life peers.

    The Lords has many useful peers, members of political parties and crossbenchers. They come from a diverse background, engineering, law, medicine, sciences, business the arts. Many of these peers would not bother to stand for election.

    The only thing is – this should all be for another day.

    Debt likely to hit £1.4 trillion, recession, high youth unemployment, moribund banks, euro crisis unresolved, UK’s relationship with the euro zone unresolved, QE not working, but causing low returns and hardship for pensioners.

    If the government use stacks of parliamentary time to push this through, then they will be perceived to have lost the plot.
    Many people will consider “What is the point of voting?”

  41. brendan
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    John, may I suggest a ‘Council of Elders’ model for the House of Lords, ie:
    1. Minimum age of 60
    2. Closed to former politicians or party activists (whose contribution to political life is already catered for in the Commons)
    3. Membership by appointment only, with appointments made by the Lords themselves on the basis of outstanding career record in all fields other than politics
    4. Advisory body only with all legislative authority remaining with the Commons

    This would create a highly respected body free from party political interference and therefore significantly more independent. Its power would rest in its ability to persuade the public that amendments to legislation are justified, but without violating the principle that elected members of the Commons must have exclusive final control over policy.

    It would also be a significantly more British solution, effectively enhancing that part of the existing House of Lords model (the membership of experienced and wise senior figures) whilst dropping the worst (the rewarding of loyal party stooges with peerages).

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      It is possible to serve your country through being a politician, it is just that we tend to judge them against our own beliefs rather than solely on their competence.

  42. Alan
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I would like the House of Lords to be abolished. That solves most of the questions over what proportion should be elected and for how long, and by what method.

    If we have to have a House of Lords then its members have to be elected. We can’t tolerate a system where the prime minister has the ability to give people a job for life at the public expense. It is corrupt.

  43. Ken Whistance
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir,
    I’m sure you mean well but the whole point of all of this is that there should be NOBODY who is able to vote to decide how I live my life that is not approved and elected by me???

    I am at a complete loss to understand how any of you think that you have the right to tell me what to do.
    Whether the Lords is elected or not is irrelevant surely??

    What is required is that government is reduced drastically and we are all left alone to get on with our lives without interference.

    I respect you. I know you are some way to agreeing with me but you still think for some reason that you have authority over me.

    You do not???

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      If you lived alone on an island in the middle of the ocean and had no effect on anyone else, then you could take that line. However, as I presume you don’t, then you can’t. Get used to it!

  44. Monty
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    First of all, I would endorse JRs comment that Lords reform is not a priority that should even be on the slate for this parliament.

    When reforms are brought in, I would want to see the following:

    1. Term Limits.
    2. No party political nominees.
    3. The definition of a set of occupational sectors, each of which would be granted the right to elect a representative to sit in the Lords, from among their current and retired members. So the Civil Engineers would get one, the small businesses would get one, banking, the construction industry, nursing and midwifery, the farmers, road hauliers, public transport, veterinaries, etc etc. But no politicians from either the commons, or local government.
    4. Definition of a stringent code of conduct, and impeachment procedure for members who have transgressed.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Most of these occupational sectors already have extremely effective lobbyists. Who decides which sectors would qualify and which would not. There should be an Independent Appointments Commission and it should be set the task of ensuring as wide a variety of expertise and society has a voice in the Lords as possible. The parties have to have people to present bills etc, but their terms should be limited to one parliament.

  45. Martin Ryder
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    The present House of Lords reform scheme is simply a vanity legacy project for one of the worst politicians in Parliament today. It should be rejected out of hand. If such a rejection results in the break up of the Coalition then so be it. Let the conservatives, hopefully under a different prime minister, govern as a minority government for as long as they can and then go to the country.

    If Clegg really believes that he and his Liberal colleagues will lose their jobs if they persist with their plans then I believe that he will change those plans. Of course we would need a PM whose word could be believed and who has the courage to tell Clegg that Lords reform will have to wait until the next parliament, or the one after that, which is a problem.

    The House of Lords does need reform but there are so many alternatives, all with unknown outcomes. Personally I would simply cut the numbers down to 600 by letting go the oldest first (I am 71) until the figure of 600 is reached then replace 100 each year after that. The big question is: of course, how are the 100 chosen?

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Why should the oldest get the cull? The old can be wise and considering they are an increasingly large proportion of our society then a fixed retirement age is wrong. They might even prompt the Government to stop the rampant age discrimination in this country, not least by employers. As for their expenses – they should be limited to the median salary per annum.

  46. Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    What we really need is a cull in both The Lords and Parliament. There are far too many MP’s and Lords. Why do we need so many and why do we have Scottish, Welsh and N/Ireland MP’s allowed to vote on matters concerning England. We have never had true democracy. The public are becoming more aware of how useless a lot of Ministers and MP’s are that’s why a third in Camerons case of Tory voters have left and at election time there is a low turnout. We are fed up with being taken for fools. If we had more of the Gallic spirit perhaps there would be a modern version of the Guillotine in Parliament Square.

  47. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    My view on this was formed during the early years of the Blair government, when with a large majority and therefore control of the timetable he could push any rubbish he wanted through the House of Commons, and the only real opposition in Parliament was in the Lords where the government could not whip itself up a majority and therefore it could not control the timetable to curtail debate.

    It seemed to me to be a good idea to institutionalise parliamentary opposition to the government in the second chamber, through a system which ensured that whichever single party had a majority in the Commons would not also have a majority in the second chamber, and the simplest, cheapest and best way to do that was by supplementing FPTP for the Commons with SPTP for the other chamber.

    In other words, there are (say) 650 geographical parliamentary constituencies defined across the country, as now; each elector in a constituency is allowed to cast one vote for the candidate he would most like to see in Parliament to represent that constituency, as now; and in each constituency the candidate who receives the most votes gets a seat in the first chamber, the Commons, as now; the only change being that the candidate who comes second gets a seat in the second chamber, and there are no other members in that second chamber apart from those chosen by the people in that way at parliamentary elections.

    I still believe that would be by far the best solution.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Less writing, more thinking, please.

  48. Baldwin
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I think the current system works reasonably well although the number of lords should be reduced significantly along with the £300 attendance allowance.

    Electing lords seems mistaken. Does the country want an extra tier of elections?
    How low would the turnout be?

    Fifteen year terms is plain daft.

  49. Deborah
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m one of those who wants fewer politicians and less politics. We certainly don’t need an elected HoL, even though the leaders of the three significant Parties prefer it. I would prefer a fully hereditary system to one made up of more failed politicians and their buddies.

    Above all, now is not the time to fiddle about.

  50. Deborah
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    What kind of Lords reform would I like?

    At the moment; none.

    In the longer term (not before the next term) I’m also one of those who wants fewer politicians and less politics. We certainly don’t need an elected HoL, even though the leaders of the three significant Parties prefer it.At all costs we should avoid a system made up of more failed politicians and their buddies.

  51. David Saunders
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    To borrow from the Hippocratic Oath, if you cannot make the House of Lords any better, do not make it any worse. Leave it as it is and stop pandering to the Lib Dems.

  52. Alan Wheatley
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    If one elected chamber is deemed inadequate to achieve what is required of a democratic parliament, then what is there to think that having a second chamber of the same type will make things better? The second chamber needs to be of a different character and composition: simply electing a bunch of second raters will not do any good.

    The method of election being proposed seems to be more to do with giving the main political parties more power in Parliament and has nothing to do with obtaining the optimum parliamentary process.

    Asking electors to choose from people of whom they will have scant knowledge, no affinity and no on-going association is appalling. Trying to hide this nonsense under the banner of it being “democratic” is a load of rubbish. I bet if it ever does come about the turnout will be pathetic.

    Incidentally, what ever happen to the last great idea – people’s peers?

  53. Alan Wheatley
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    One of the arguments being advocated by the political parties in support of reforming the Lords is that there are too many members. As the reason for there being so many members is down to the parties choosing to send so many of their supporters to the Lords, they have no credibility as to what is best.

  54. Alan Wheatley
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I think there is a lot to be said for the Lords to be composed of peers, hereditary and life – not elected. However I would change the way they are allowed to sit in the Lords.

    As to the hereditary , I would follow recent precedent such that the eldest child inherits. I would also make the loss of title more at risk by apply the reveres of the criteria that are used to award the title.

    As to a seat in parliament, I would require peers to declare themselves intending to sit after every general election until the next general election. Those so declaring would be accepting an obligation to a minimum attendance in the Lords and to a declaration of issues there are willing to address on behalf of all electors. Thus, with the privilege of sitting in the Lords comes an obligation to participate fully and not just turn up occasionally to vote.

    Those not wishing to serve further could nominate the person who will inherit as taking the place to which they are entitled. This would help achieve a better age balance.

  55. Patrick Loaring
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    At the present time there are far more pressing subjects requiring Parliamentary time than HoL reform. I agree with the critics that the Lib Dem proposals are likely to undermine the HoP and elected MP’s. The proposals for a 15 year term without being able to stand again is undemocratic. They would be unaccountable.
    I am outraged by the Lib Dems threat that they will block the proposed reduction in MP’s if the Conservatives don’t support this HoL legislation. They got their referendum on PR which was the deal on constituency reform and lost and now want to change the rules. Do we need any further proof what a treacherous bunch of knaves the Lib Deb leadership is.
    The old saying “if it works don’t fix it” comes to mind.
    Mr Redwood, I support your stand against this Lib Dem sponsored reform.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      At present the Lords remain for life and are unaccountable. How is this democratic?

      Also the Lib Dems had a referendum on AV, not PR, which the Conservatives campaigned against. So it’s clear why the Lib Dems are insisting that the Lord’s reform is allowed.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        If there are to be elected peers, they should be elected using the first past the post system – why ever not? The great thing about the House of Lords is that it is not democratic, so is content with limited powers that dovetail well with the Commons. 50% elected is the absolute maximum. If only her Majesty were up to ignoring the executive and running a genuinely independent appointments system, but I fear this is not the case.

      • John Wrexham
        Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        The Lib Dems were the ones who asked for an AV referendum; they could have held out for a referendum on real PR, but the thought of getting their hands on the levers of power was too much!! Even a two stage ballot would be an improvement.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that the because the greatest challenge facing the country – ie getting the country’s economy going cannot be achieved by MPs talking a lot and passing laws. Meanwhile, they have to find something else with which to keep themselves busy!!

  56. David Hope
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    If we must have an elected house of lords why not ban political parties from the process. All candidates must stand as individuals and have had no party membership for 5 years prior. This way they can’t rely on the party machine and people ticking the box next to Labour or Conservative – voters must identify individuals.
    After all the Lords is meant to be a revising chamber so there is no need for a two party system.

    On that point we should ask if we really do need elections at all for a chamber that revises and can be overridden by the commons. We don’t elect the many quangos and EU bodies so loved by left that create far more laws than the Lords (as a revising chamber) ever has! It’s a bit strange to see them so obsessed about the lords and not other undemocratic bodies.

    Finally I would ask what is democratic and morally superior about a party lists system where the least independent candidates get the job who’ve sucked up to party leadership all their life.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      Good points. Look at the sorry way (party lists) we now elect our MEPs has led to even further disengagement with European politics (whether you are for or anti) and who nowadays knows the names of any MEPs, except Daniel Hannan ( because he writes a lot in the press) and Nigel Farage (because of his appearances on BBC ‘s Question Time). Can anyone name any others, please?

  57. JG
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood – I would like to see the following reforms enacted with minimum fuss and disruption:

    1. Life terms abolished and replaced with term appointment (not 15 years!).
    2. Provision for retirement and expulsion.
    3. Separate honours system.
    4. Removable by ballot on sufficient grounds.
    5. Appointment by fully independent commission of non-partisan members with a balance of expertise.

    Some of these are inline with the Wakeham Report 1999, which I think more suitable than Mr Clegg’s d_aft bill.

    I thank you for your diligent representation and hope your fellow Conservatives vote against this bill in support of constitutional stability.

    Yours sincerely,

    JG

  58. wab
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Lords reform is obviously of secondary or tertiary importance. But if Lords reform is to happen then:

    (1) Totally elected (but indirectly, see below).

    (2) Elected by proportional representation (with a minimum threshold of say 5%), via a Party list, with no constituencies (except possibly England/Wales/Scotland/NI).

    (3) Fixed maximum number, say 360.

    (4) Fixed term, say 15 years.

    (5) At each election for the Commons, the Lords members who have hit the term limit or who have died (or gone to prison) are replaced, and none others are, and the replacements are determined by the proportion of the vote of the parties in the Commons election, so there is no additional election and so no additional cost, and also in the long run this produces a stable percentage of parties in the Lords.

    (6) A revising chamber only.

    (7) Assuming 15 years term: For the initial chamber keep 2/3 of the current Lords and add 1/3 by the above rules. Then at the next Commons election chuck out half of the remaining current Lords and add another 1/3 (or more if some have meanwhile died). Then at the next Commons election after that chuck out the remaining current Lords and add the remaining 1/3. Then continue using the above rules.

    This all addresses the issues that Mr Redwood claims he is worried about.

    But nobody in the country cares about Lords reform except a few members of the chattering classes.

  59. uanime5
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Given that the current Lords are unaccountable and can’t be removed replacing them with senators who can only be in power for 15 years is a step forwards. Also the new senators won’t be bullied by party whips because they don’t have to worry about being re-elected.

    I also like that they’re no longer called Lords, which will discourage the wealthy from trying to buy their way in by becoming a Lord.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      The Lords people like the most are the crossbencher experts rather than the party hacks. Why because the former is a measure of merit, while the latter only of popularity. Yet the number of experts would be decreased, while the number of party hacks increased. Perhaps 60% party hacks and 40% crossbenchers would be a better balance or to exactly reflect society at large: 5% party list senators and 95% independently appointed crossbenchers.

  60. Tony
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    The current problems with public finances came about because successive governments have been too happy spending other people’s money. I’d suggest introducing accountability.

    Make the Lord’s fully elected by people paying income tax and national insurance. You could even make it proportation on the amount. Collect the votes as part of the existing tax return process and you will practically eliminate fraud and not have to pay for a whole extra round of elections.

  61. Dr Curtis Saxton
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    The proposed “reforms” are wickedly motivated and technically incoherent. The whole thing is an abomination. I won’t waste my time detailing all the paradoxes and constitutional logjams that it could create (since there are enough historical demonstrations in the Commonwealth and in foreign republics).

    Right now there’s no practical need for an elected Senate. There’s no need to tamper with our effective and respected House of Lords.

    If there were any need for reform, then this fundamental constitutional restructuring would deserve intense study and careful development. It needs full-scale constitutional war-gaming, to eliminate loopholes. The job requires an expert Constitutional Convention to sit every weekday for at least three years. Then, if a consensus model emerges, it should not become law without the consent of the whole nation in a referendum.

    It is not acceptable for political parties to try to reconstitute the entire United Kingdom in a few days of grubby, self-serving, back-room dealing! It is crazy to let politicians rewrite their own rulebook. (The “expenses scandal” taught us that much!)

    We the people trust the House of Lords, just as we would trust our grandparents to intervene and mediate whenever our parents become a bit too wild or arrogant. It is good to have some kind of independent referee or brake on the potential hubris of the PM & Commons. At UK level, we have enough careerist politicians already. We don’t want the political class to capture the Lords. We need the HoL reserved for the most ancient noblemen and the wisest non-politicians. We don’t want a Senate full of glamorous youths and pliable stooges from Party-HQ.

    ….

    If there were a proper Constitutional Convention then I would suggest only a few mild reforms:

    * The by-election mechanism for the hereditary peers should become permanent. Let them continue their service in ongoing generations forever. These are the original type of Lords, and they are vital to give the HoL its authenticity. They are self-consciously rooted in the history of the kingdom. Besides, the hereditaries are a charmingly quirky and diverse bunch.

    * Total numbers of life peers should be capped. New appointments should only occur when natural vacancies occur.

    * Appointments should be freed from the grip of ministers and MPs. Allow ennoblement by the personal gift of the Sovereign (like in the Order of Merit). Otherwise there should be an independent appointments committee to filter nominations confidentially. Finally, the life-peers should vote amongst themselves in by-elections (like elections of the hereditaries).

    * The Commons has slightly too much power, and this has sometimes led to disasters. Neither house should be able to override the other automatically. The Commons can claim authority because it is recently elected. The Lords can claim greater wisdom and long-term perspective. When the Houses clash, the HoL should have the power to submit the contentious bill to a national referendum. The people will have the final say. We desperately need some kind of mechanism to trigger a referendum at times when the Commons acts in arrogant defiance of the national will (e.g. regarding the Europeans). Who better to hold that trigger than the Lords?

    * The House of Lords needs to retain its venerable traits. In an unseemly way, recent prime ministers have invaded the HoL with alarmingly youthful life-peers. Some of them look like they’ve barely finished university. I suggest that nobody who has a living parent or living grandparent should be allowed a vote in the HoL. Reserve the upper house for distinguished elders who are genuinely in a head-of-family role, with long life experience.

    * As I think Lord Steel has already proposed, there should be a procedure for voluntary retirement. However there should not be any automatic age limit. Some people remain lucid (and increasingly perceptive!) till they’re over a hundred years old. This kind of wisdom is valuable in the HoL!

    * There have been suggestions that peers with criminal convictions should lose their seats. I disagree. This would be a slippery slope. Could a lord be struck off if he has too many parking tickets? What if someone were charged with a fictitious crime in another country? We don’t want our Lords depleted by vexatious charges in far-away republics or communist dictatorships. Only “crimes” in the UK should count.

    * Finally, to prevent any repeat of the recent controversy, we need a bare-bones Constitution Act requiring that constitutional changes cannot pass without a national referendum. Parliament must surrender this power forever. According to the best practice in the Queen’s other major Realms, a referendum is essential (in some cases with a super-majority condition). Please secure the UK with the same level of constitutional safety as Canada and Australia.

  62. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    You want me to be constructive? Try 50% elected, 50% hereditory, no place men (just about any appointments system will be influenced by the front benches unless Her Majesty shows far more independence than she has in the past).

    Whatever is done, the House of Commons must remain supreme (or at least as supreme as the EU treaties allow them to be.

  63. REPay
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I am afraid that the Lords Reform is Clegg’s lunge after a place in the history books and the permanent coalition role that third parties often enjoy on the continent. My only problem with the Lords is the calibre of some of the appointees!

  64. Posted July 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    here is my view.

    It is generally accepted that a bicameral legislature provides a separation of powers of government and thus makes unitary dictatorship more difficult. For this reason the vast majority of countries now and at least since the Middle Ages in Europe, have been bicameral.

    The British House of Lords is what remains of Britain’s bicameral legislature but in practice, it has little real power and no democratic legitimacy and thus serves more to create the illusion of such separation than the actuality. This is fairly satisfactory to those in the Commons who have all the power which is why, after more than a century of almost everybody agreeing that reform is needed we haven’t had it. Indeed the MPs are almost unanimous in fearing that a democratic Lords would be a rival for the Commons.

    What should the purpose of a 2nd chamber. It should be an impediment to useless regulation. It should also assist in making government more competent and less parasitic. If we want a government of liberty and democracy I think it should also be representative of the people (ie democratic). On the other hand if elected in exactly the same way as the Commons & with powers either the same or subset of the Commons powers, it would serve no extra purpose.

    I would therefore not give it the power to introduce new legislation. Nor the power to bring the government down through a vote of no confidence. It therefore could not be the primary chamber or indeed any significant influence on the executive part of government.

    Instead its power should be that of pruning useless bits of government. By having only that power it would concentrate on it. I would give the Lords the power to introduce the repeal of laws (I would not prevent the Commons doing so as well but they rarely do). The Commons would also have to debate and pass the repeal initially, as now, but if they did not and the Lords reintroduced and passed it again a year later a Commons veto would have to be passed by 60%. This is roughly the reverse of the power the Commons have now to override a Lords veto.

    I am here lifting from Heinlein’s Lunar Assembly speech though I am afraid I am not being as radical as he.

    1 proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent – the more impediment to legislation the better. But instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a 2/3rds majority … while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere 1/3rd minority. Preposterous? think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command 2/3rds of your consents is it not likely to make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as 1/3rd is it not likely that you would be better off without it?

    I would also add to that the :ords should have power to close down any branch of government found to have lied to enhance its power; produced regulations whose cost/benefit ratio is at least 4 times greater than that of the restrictions applying to a comparable field; or funded a quango/charity which used that money and could reasonably have been expected to use that money, to advertise/”raise awareness” of the need for more government regulation; or which had broken its Charter or articles of association by lying or grossly exaggerating. The Lords would also have the power to permanently exclude anybody involved, or anybody involved in any personal overuse of their powers, from any form of government employment.

    This is again taken from Heinlein

    if his intention is to govern as little as possible-as that means he must keep a sharp eye out and his ear tuned for signs that subordinates are doing unnecessary governing. Half my time is used in the negative work of plucking such officious officials and ordering that they never again serve in any public capacity.
    This would mean that the government parasite who assured us “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” by now because of catastrophic warming would, along with the social workers who kidnap kids for no good reason, the promoters of the evidence free LNT theory and other scares and the BBC, who continuously break their Charter duty of “due balance” would at least have to consider that their jobs could be on the line. Ditto Ed Davy who lied to the Commons that the “experts in the shale gas industry” had told him and Cameron how dodgy their predictions were when in fact it was, quite deliberately, only their competitors he had chosen to speak to.

    To do all that we have to have a chamber with a democratic mandate. I propose that the chamber be made up of 300 Senators. 100 chosen every 5 years at the same time as the general election. The choice proportionately with the entire country serving as 1 constituency, Israeli style. This means that anybody who agree with as much as 1% of the country is going to be represented. I would not go for such a fully representative system for a chamber that was going to form a government, since e it is likely to be so splintered (though it must be admitted that Israel has survived it).

    I don’t think it can be seriously denied that this would serve to, with at least some degree of success, prune our government of the parasitic growths which are directly sucking up half the national wealth and destroying at least as much of the potential economy as actually gets produced. There are a previous 15 such controls over government that I have suggested that could also be considered.

    OK now for something a bit controversial. Limiting the franchise.

    On the one hand the argument that democracy cannot long withstand having the free loaders voting themselves “bread and circuses” and that “every election is a sort of advance sale of stolen goods” (Mencken).

    On the other virtually every proposal to limit the franchise and exclude those unworthy tends, coincidentally, to leave those in the group the proposer is in, whether this means limiting it to the intelligent, the educated, the rich, heads of families, (etc etc) self styled “technocrats”, believers in catastrophic warming, or the urban proletariat.

    So here is something original. Let people sell their votes to the Lords. Let the government offer, say £500 to everybody willing to give up their vote for a 5 year term & sell them on at the same price to anybody who wants to buy, with a minimum of 5 votes per person. Government simply carries out the exchange. Government is instructed to vary the amount annually by 5% (plus growth and inflation) to bring it to a balance of 25% of the population disenfranchising themselves.

    I think it not unreasonable that somebody willing to see their vote is not likely to consider the national interest much when choosing who to vote for. The cynical might think that £500 would have far more than 25% of the population lining up, particularly when it is the 2nd chamber we don’t have any say in at the moment. However I am idealistic enough to think the cynical might be in for a surprise. In any case I am quite certain that it would see a higher electoral turnout. People value what they have paid for (Heinlein again) and I doubt if many who had paid that money, or foregone getting it, for their vote, wouldn’t use it and use it with some thought.

    Finally, the decision to reform the Lords should be by a multiple choice run off referendum, or more likely 2 rounds of such, with proper broadcast debates on each version. I do suspect that my option would be a bit to much for most people but that is how it goes. Another stitch up where the people are simply bystanders in how our “democracy” is stitched up by those already in power, would not have legitimacy, or deserve to.

  65. Barbara Stevens
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with changing the House of Lords has have been proposed. As soon as you have elected peers their aligence will be for the previous party and we will create another power house for policitians. We see enough of that within the Commons. However, we have far to many over 800, I understand; all claiming money from the taxpayer. I object strongly for elected peers for 15 years far to long.
    What would I propose, simple, make all peers retire at 75, allowing them to sit in the House and vote, at their own expense. This would reduce the level we now support and the costs we endure. How many, now, are over that? In fact if this was implemented we would reduce the numbers to by one third on a rough estimate. We would not need the expensive remodeling the Lib Dems are proposing; which is mainly to give them an advantage in the future.
    I notice too, that no proposals have been forwarded to how future peers are elected, political ones should be stopped. That’s how we have the silly numbers now of over 800. If my idea were to be adopted, future alterations of the House of Lords could then be looked at more slowly and more meaningfully. If in fact at all. This house as served this nation well without real heartache or contention, so altering it to suit those who came third in a general election seems a bit rash.

    • John Wrexham
      Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Why a retirement age of 75? What kind of message does it send out to an ever aging society that the house that provides a platform for the older generations should give people the push at 75? So much for the wisdom of age!

  66. Winston's Black Dog
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Why is it that an unelected European Commission, which makes 75% or more of our laws, is no problem whatsoever to the LIBLABCON yet an unelected House of Lords is?

    Just asking like.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

    Promoted by David Edmonds on behalf of John Redwood both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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