The unfinished business of Lords reform

 

In July 2012 Mr Clegg tried to go  ahead with a wide ranging proposed reform of the Lords without sufficient support in either the Commons or the Lords. His proposal for a mixed House of elected and unelected peers did not proceed.

At the time I argued for a range of lesser reforms to the current Lords which others were also interested in. I explained why I thought his proposals were both flawed and unable to gain  the consent of both houses of Parliament.  I favoured a time limit on a Lords appointment or a high upper age limit on membership of the Lords. I proposed a use it or lose it rule, so non attenders would lose the right to debate and vote, as Councillors do who fail to turn up. David Steel also worked up a reform agenda which sought to tackle some of the anomalies in tenure.

Since then the Lords has made some progress. It has introduced a voluntary retirement scheme so those who no longer have the energy and appetite to contribute can retire. It has introduced a procedure to allow the expulsion of a peer for bad conduct.

Today Lords reform is back on the agenda, both because of the recent misbehaviour of a former Labour peer, and because the Conservatives want to create more peers to deal modestly with the large voting imbalance for the government in the current Lords.

Any suggestion of more peers produces criticisms as there are already so many. It looks as if it is time to introduce some limit on the length of tenure of a newly selected peer, and to engage with current peers to see if more can be persuaded to retire.

What changes would you like to see? Those who favour radical change need to remember that this Conservative government made no proposals in its manifesto, has a small majority in the Commons, and a large deficit of votes in the Lords. Lords reform requires the consent of the Lords, unless perhaps some future government has made a big issue of a scheme of Lords reform in the country in a manifesto, won an election and has public opinion behind it in wanting to legislate for a new Lords or no Lords against the wishes of existing peers. Using the Parliament Act to do so would still be a large constitutional argument.

 

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94 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Lord reform is not a priority given the circumstances and other priorities. Perhaps at least make the daily allowance taxable. I assume the “retirement option” gives members some sort of pay off or pensions? Perhaps increase this “retirement” option to make it more attractive. Cameron needs to appoint more Lords to get a more sensible political mix and get the laws through that need to be put through. The trouble is Cameron being what he is, he will probably just appoint more fake green, pro EU, big state, lefties like himself or worse still lots of token women or other token representatives of religious groups or minorities.

    Getting rid of the lefty dopes from the C of E would be a good. It is indefensible that people are there just due to being a member of one particular (0r indeed any) religion.
    Especially when they nearly all seem so daft, lefty and lacking in any rational thought.

    But non of this is a priority. The priorities are getting the UK government back in control, reducing the size of the state, reducing/simplifying taxes, getting cheap energy, get out of the EU and cutting all the daft & misguided regulations.

    • Richard1
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      I agree this is not a priority. The house of Lords is not a proper House of Parliament since it can neither initiate nor block legislation against a determined House of Commons. It’s more like a quango to review legislation. Apparently it sometimes performs that function well. It would not be acceptable given it isn’t elected if it was to frustrate the will of the Commons. A sensible reform would be to have it elected, with eg a max of 2-3 terms per member, have far fewer members (200, 300?) so as to get a different kind of member – not career politicians. But an elected House of Lords would demand more power vis a vis the Commons. A majority of MPs will never agree that so the issue is a waste of time.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        “The house of Lords is not a proper House of Parliament since it can neither initiate nor block legislation against a determined House of Commons.”

        Of course the Lords can initiate legislation, both primary and secondary legislation.

        Primary legislation, Bills, can just as well start in the Lords as in the Commons; in fact scanning down the list of Bills presently before Parliament, here:

        http://services.parliament.uk/bills/

        the number started in the Lords is comparable to the number started in the Commons.

        Many of those are Private Members’ Bills which have little chance of being enacted, but of the 15 government Bills presently going through Parliament 6 were started in the Lords.

        Similarly the government often finds it convenient to introduce secondary legislation in the Lords rather than the Commons.

        As far the Lords being able to block legislation, under the Parliament Acts the Lords can delay a Bill passed by the Commons by about 13 months, with the exceptions of Money Bills, where the allowed period of delay is much shorter, and any Bill to prolong the life of Parliament beyond five years, where the Lords still have an absolute veto, while the Parliament Acts do not cover secondary legislation where the Lords still have an absolute veto.

        “It’s more like a quango to review legislation.”

        It’s no more like a quango to review legislation than the Commons is like a quango to review legislation.

        “It would not be acceptable given it isn’t elected if it was to frustrate the will of the Commons.”

        Well, in 1911 it was accepted that the unelected, then hereditary, Lords could frustrate the will of the Commons under certain circumstances, and that is not necessarily a bad thing in itself.

        “But an elected House of Lords would demand more power vis a vis the Commons. A majority of MPs will never agree that so the issue is a waste of time.”

        An elected House of Lords could certainly demand more power, but legally the Commons would be in a position to not only veto those demands but also force through a Bill to further reduce the powers of the Lords, if that was deemed necessary because they had become overly obstructive.

        As I recall under Clegg’s proposals the powers of the Lords would have remained as they are, it was only its composition that would be changed.

        • Richard1
          Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

          I dont know what point you’re making other than general pedantry. The House of Lords does not initiate any substantive legislation of its own volition – outside govt business – and is essentially a revising chamber fulfilling much the same function as eg committees of judges in other countries. The constitutional question is whether we want a proper elected second House of Parliament or not. I say it’s a waste of time to discuss it as the House of Commons will never vote for it.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted August 4, 2015 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            I don’t know how you can dismiss the correction of gross factual errors as mere “pedantry”, any more than how you can dismiss the Lords as a mere “revising chamber”.

            As I have pointed out, there are at present 15 government Bills before Parliament, and 6 of them were started in the Lords not the Commons. Perhaps you could explain how the Lords will act as a mere “revising chamber” for those 6 Bills when any “revising” will be done in the Commons after the Lords have dealt with them and passed them across?

            You now say “The House of Lords does not initiate any substantive legislation of its own volition – outside govt business” but insofar as that is true it is also true of the House of Commons. Government Bills are introduced into either House by the government on its volition, not that of the House, and Bills which are introduced by individual members outside of the government stand little chance of being enacted, very often through lack of time for them to progress. Occasionally a Private Members’ Bill does get enacted, and it may be an important law such as that originally passed to legalise abortion, but in principle there is no reason why a successful Private Members’ Bill should not have been started by a member of the Lords rather than by a member of the Commons.

            I agree that the constitutional question is whether we want an elected rather than appointed second chamber, and my answer is that we do and that there is potentially a simple method of election for the Lords which would significantly improve Parliament as the supposed representative of the people while avoiding most of the objections which are perennially raised to an elected second chamber.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I see that Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government wants landlords to hire some heavies and evict tenants (whom the government has decided no longer have rights to live in the UK) and without any court order. This under threat of five years imprisonment for the landlord. I assumes he wants the tenants to be dumped on the pavement with their babies and children dumped around them perhaps. Then the house to be boarded up to stop them breaking in again I suppose. What will happen next I wonder. It should work wonderfully well, doubtless often it will be broadcast on TV, especially as the police cannot even find time to attend burglaries or break-ins any more. Is there nothing the UK government actually takes responsibility for any more?

      An absurd discussion of Obama’s idiotic greencrap energy plans on Radio 4’s today programme no one sensible in the debate needless to day (this being the BBC). If Obama believes in this nonsense why is he only acting now just as he is shortly to leave office?

      A bit like Brown’s damaging 50% income tax – still largely left in place by the foolish Osborne.

      • Gina Dean
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        What a waste of time this is, if children are involved and on the street the council have a legal obligation to put them up.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        Its a lot of hot air. There are millions of Brits without a passport, and having a birth certificate proving you were born here does not prove entitlement to British citizenship. Indeed there are lots who have lost their birth certificate too. Then we have the families with kids, many here on student visas, or work visas, and so on. And plenty of people with old ragged indefinite leave to remain visas which are nevertheless valid. Its all hype and no action. And ignore the vast numbers getting in legally too.

      • alan jutson
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        What the Government is in effect saying.

        We ourselves do not have a clue how many people are in our Country illegally, but the problem we guess is getting large enough for us to start worrying about it.
        But
        Before you employ anyone, or house anyone, (because we have failed in our duty to keep illegals out), you must check that all people you deal with are who they say they are, and are legally entitled to work or be resident here.
        You should inspect all of their documents to make sure they are valid (and not false)
        You should keep a record of all such documents to prove you have inspected them, and if we do find out you have employed illegals,then you will be fined up to £10,000 per person.
        If you house them and we find out, you must pay for their immediate eviction using whatever means you feel fit to get them out.

        Thus we are passing the responsibility onto you, even though you have had no training in the inspection of official documents.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          Exactly and the government will doubtless not even help by providing a register of people you can legally let too. Nor probably will they confirm documents are valid (or they will charge for the service and take a month or two to reply). Then if you do get it wrong for any reason (and thus deny a letting to someone who is legal) you will doubtless be sued, on legal aid, for racial discrimination.

          All of which will push up rents, cause huge distress to tenants and landlords and make everyone poorer (other than the lawyers and the bureaucrats).

        • stred
          Posted August 4, 2015 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          I suppose landlords will find that they are not allowed to copy and share tenant’s passports under the data protection legislation.

      • stred
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        We woke to the interview between Greg Clark and John Humphries, in which he reduced Mr Clarke to a bumbling idiot. My bird asked ‘who is this person ‘and I replied ‘the minister’. I hope the BBC does not retire him soon.

        John H asked why, instead of arresting the landlord -and giving him 5 years in prison- the ‘boys in blue’ could not arrest the illegal immigrant and deport him.. This seemed to cause some sort of cerebral disturbance with the minister, who blathered on trying to show how it was going to work because it would be for persistent offenders. Unfortunately, Mr Humphries did not ask whether he could guarantee that landlords who had made a mistake once would not be jailed for 5 years.

        Thank goodness I did not vote for them this time. It would have been so depressing.

        • stred
          Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

          Having never heard of Mr Clarke ,I wikied him. He used to work for the BBC.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted August 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

            Economics at Magdalene College, Cambridge then the LSE. He certainly does not sound very much like a Tory to me. Rather closer to his namesake Ken Clarke politically I suspect.

            Doubtless why Cameron awarded him the post.

    • matthu
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Cameron needs to appoint more Lords to get a more sensible political mix…

      I could believe that were the end result to reflect the support for UKIP in the last election, but that won’t happen.

      So, no, you cannot continually adjust House of Lords membership upwards to improve the politcal mix. Best find a method of adjusting the exisdting membership downwards to obtain that mix i.e. every new member should require at least one existing member to be replaced.

      Total remuneration should be capped so that if membership is added to then remuneration per head goes DOWN. Perhaps that would affect how keen members are to keep adding to their numbers.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Yes but the political realities of the power structures in Westminster mean this will be very difficult or even impossible to achieve.

        It is far from a priority given all the other pressures. He fist needs to deal with the EU power relationship.

    • sean
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      It isn’t just the Lords that want sorting out, it has to be the ole establishment.
      If you look at Trumps in the USA who not only thinks politics in the U.S. Suck but rotten. He states he isn’t a politician, but he is cheesed of with career policitions.
      You only have to listen to the man to know he has pride in the USA, which puts us in the UK to shame. I only wish we had a Donlad Trump to sort our politics out, let alone stupid lords.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      It seems, according to the Daily Mail, that Cameron has already lined up a female purveyor of lingerie who has always been Labour through and through for ennoblement.

      Sounds right up Cameron’s street.

  2. Duyfken
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    For a root and branch reform, I suggest:

    1. Name changed to House of Review;

    2. 300 members (“delegates”) or thereabout;

    3. Appointments of delegates by responsible bodies;

    4. 5-year term (and no re-appointment);

    5. No peerages recognised;

    6. Putative “responsible bodies” to apply for such role and for the number of delegates each may provide. Examples: judiciary, churches, charities, county councils, trades unions, professional/industry organisations, universities, defence, police, sports.

    You might call this blue sky thinking – or just that I am bonkers!

    • acorn
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Duyfken, vote for Jeremy Corbyn, your suggestions are very much in-line with his.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_of_Britain_Bill

      JR, question please. What happens to Bills that don’t get a second reading, do they just die? Or, can they be resurrected with an EDM or something?

      Reply Bills failing a second reading do indeed lapse. They could be reintroduced as Private members bills by an MP who wins the ballot to do that, if they have lapsed owing to lack of time to debate them previously. If they were voted down it would probably be a bad idea to try again. Government bills by definition usually get their 2nd reading, as the government allocates time to them and has a majority to put them through.

      • Duyfken
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        No, I think not Acorn. I do not advocate a Commonwealth of Britain, but just make a suggestion for second chamber reform.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I don’t think you’re bonkers, I just think you shouldn’t swallow the line that the second chamber of our Parliament should do little more than provide a kind of proof-reading service for the first chamber. My vision is different, of a reformed second chamber which makes a significant improvement to our democracy.

  3. Old Albion
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    There’s only one reform I wish to see. The total scrapping of the geriatric rest home called the ‘house of lords’
    It should be replaced by a UK Federal chamber whose remit would be legislating on reserved matters. Leaving devolved matters to the devolved national bodies. This would of course mean giving equality to England by the creation of an English parliament.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      We already have a federal chamber dealing with reserved matters.

      The problems are a) that it insists on also dealing with matters which should be devolved to a separate and separately elected Parliament for England, similar to the Scottish Parliament, and b) its members are elected by the First Past The Post system so it alone is not a good enough representative of the electorate.

  4. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    I like to think of the Lords as the wise old masters.Unfortunately it is not always the case.Those who have not studied philosophy or ethics should be briefed on analytic methods of argument and standpoint analysis.

    In the commons one expects argument not to be kept in context as those who voted the MP’s into power don’t always do so for their acumen in debate.It is not uncommon for points to be made using examples, which some cannot recognise how they fit into the bigger picture of the argument or how the derivative is pertinent. The public now listen and many understand the sway.In the Lords we should expect clarity and precision which needs thought brought about by experience.

    Although the regular sleepers should be asked to leave it would not be acceptable for all peers to be elected as the skills would mimic the commons and would lead to competitive sessions rather than the steady thoughtful process.There is too much of competition.

  5. Douglas Carter
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Whilst it’s fashionable in some quarters to do so, I don’t see the questionable activities of one individual as bringing the entire edifice of a body into disrepute. There are plenty of offenders in Parliament who have conducted themselves badly, and it would be interesting to cast an eye over senior Corporate staff in Private Businesses which oversee very large Government contracts? And for that matter, how have the public ever been able to hold figures such as Richard Branson to legitimate electoral account for being so utterly wrong over the single currency?

    On the whole I think the Lords are the undeserving recipients of a deal of the otherwise justified acrimony directed at UK Politics. They have a thankless task as a reforming chamber – to attempt to block unwise or demonstrably harmful Government intent. (‘Thankless’ in the sense that their work usually goes unseen and unacknowledged. If the public took a greater interest in the work of the Lords, I suspect they’d learn to have even less respect for the HoC).

    Whilst it’s right they should continue to be denuded any facility of originating policy in their own right, I think there’s an awful lot in the UK Political institutional framework which urgently needs repair or reform before we’d get to the low-hanging (and otherwise fairly innocuous) fruit in the Upper Chamber.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I loathe writing all this.
    Do you know what? I am beginning to think that the opening of parliament and all that stuff is beginning to look ridiculous. I am beginning to think that the Lords is simply a racket – as it once was under Lloyd George. I am afraid that I no longer respect the individual Lords like I once did. I hate that almost as much as I loathe the current state of the Church of England.
    But – hey – what can you expect from someone of 76 years old!

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      Mike

      I may be a little (not much) younger but feel much the same way.

      So Cameron wants more Lords to get his policies through, so next time someone else is in power they do the same, this is a recipe for disaster and a lesson in why we have so many so called Lords and Ladies stuffed into this chamber.

      Those who attend this place suggest it is a revising chamber, but you only need a revising place, if the first place is incompetent.

      Surely if you want advice then you seek it before taking action, of passing legislation.

      You do not have a second chamber in a Company boardroom.
      Can you imagine how this sort of set up would work in a real business environment.

      I honestly can only see a benefit to this chamber if all members had some sort of specialist expertise, a mind of their own, and were non political, rather like cross benchers.

      Their should be an automatic exclusion for past members of the House of Commons, as they have had their turn.

      • alan jutson
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        OOPs

        Their should be There.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I am twenty or so years younger, but I agree.

  7. DaveM
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see true representation at every level. Starting with the appointment of a SoS for England, and, below ministerial level, a Parliamentary First Minister for all 4 Home Countries who lead on EVEL, SVSL, WVWL, and NIVNIL (quite catchy that last one). This implemented in line with the reduction of the current Scottish, NI, and Welsh assemblies to administrative status. Perhaps this would stop them moaning about “2nd class MPs” which they have created themselves by accepting national assemblies.

    As for the Lords, I’d like to see it reduced to a truly functioning body of between 300 and 350.

    1. A maximum of 100 Lords appointed from political parties.

    2. Honorary lordships introduced with no seat in the House in order to keep luvvies and the like out of government business. Likewise hereditary peers.

    3. Perhaps 100 special appointments – experts in their fields which can bring true experience and knowledge to debates and committees.

    4. 100 or so elected Lords, elected on a county basis. (Proportionally elected based on population size – ie, Yorkshire would have more than Rutland). Candidates not sponsored by political parties; I want to see locally respected personalities from all walks of life, such as Chris Dawson who is hugely respected in Plymouth. People who actually genuinely care about and understand the needs of their constituents and county areas. Elections to take place at the mid-point of the current 5-year GE term.

    EVEL, etc, then also applies in the HoL.

    What I want to see more than anything is a government full of people who put constituents and country first, rather than personal enrichment (at any cost) and Party loyalty. That would be democracy, not the self-serving dictatorship we live in now.

    • forthurst
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      What are all these initials? They look like F35 Lightning II variants, but surely they can’t be?

    • William Grant
      Posted August 8, 2015 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      I think that Northern Ireland would have to be treated as a separate case because of the finely-balanced situation there. Sinn Fein, who are expected to provide the First Minister in the assembly one day, won’t sit at Westminster Also, living in Scotland, I don’t fancy Snp rule without virtually any opposition under first-past the-post, even if some functions could be devolved to the administrative assemblies, there not being enough members from Wales, NI and Scotland to run their countries from Westminster representation alone.

  8. eeyore
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    How about chucking out those ghostly old politicos and life-peer placemen, and replacing them exclusively with the descendants of long-dead important people? That way the House of Lords becomes what the Commons never can be, a truly representative cross-section of the nation.

    In the Commons one has only clever, thrusting people with sharp elbows and sharper ambitions. There are very few such weird types in real life. They are deeply unrepresentative of the rest of us.

    In an hereditary Lords there would be men and women, old and young, rich and poor, clever and stupid, greedy and selfless, saints and rascals, chosen not by you and me but by God Almighty. We know it would work because it’s been tried and tested. We also know it would be deferential to the elected Lower House, because it would have no democratic mandate.

    This argument for an hereditary Upper House was put forward by Roger Scruton, the Tory philosopher, in the 1980s. He was joking, but I don’t see why. “The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, the man’s the gold for a’ that.”

    Here’s another thought: we, the commons of England, are exclusively represented in our own place, the Commons House of Parliament. If we are also to be represented in a reconstituted and democratically elected Other Place, our current representatives will have shared – that is, less – responsibility and should take a 50% pay cut.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      On the contrary we know it wouldn’t work, because it has been tried and tested and found wanting. If a Prime Minister with some kind of democratic mandate has to ask the hereditary monarch to consider creating new hereditary peers to outvote the descendants of once-important people who are doggedly obstructing the will of the recently elected representatives of the people, as happened in 1911, then that is not a system to which we should want to return unless we want to set the scene for a similar constitutional crisis in the future.

  9. JJE
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    There’s an interesting summary of second chambers around the world drawn up by some UCL academics at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/spp/publications/unit-publications/40.pdf

    One highlight. Almost all second chambers around the world have less members than the main elected chamber. The House of Lords has an exceptionally large number of members. The only parliamentary chamber in the world with more members is the (unicameral) People’s Congress of China.

  10. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I am much in favour of an appointed second house. MPs need the scrutiny afforded and the electorate do not need to be burdened with more candidates campaigning for our favour. With associated cronyism, party pressure and cost.

    Throughout history the administration has stuffed the mechanisms of government with its supporters and this is unlikely to change, the next administration will take its turn in due course.

    I suggest a fixed number of Lords and an two term limit. No ex – MPs, they have had their chance.

    It seems paying by the hour might be a wise option too.

  11. Ian wragg
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Sounds like Turkeys voting for Christmas. With such a big gravy train for many otherwise unemployable people they will always vote to keep their taxpayer funded perks.
    The present system is a disgrace and anyone with or the potential for a Brussels pension should be barred.

  12. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Moving seamlessly from strident opposition to the EU on the basis of democracy and sovereignty-deficit to proposals of having a debate on minor reforms to the House of Lords says much of why the world laughs sometimes raucously, sometimes squirmingly and sometimes sneeringly at our country and more importantly the people who live on these islands. The genuine seriousness in voices around the debate ( a debate , my word! ) only adds to the unutterable humiliation.

    So only small reforms are likely to gain traction amongst the Lords ( another guffaw ) .And would not meet with agreement necessarily in the House of Commons! ( such splittingly painful laughing should not be foisted upon our fellow human beings on this planet ).

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Correct, up to a point.

      In practice our imperfect system of parliamentary democracy has still been good to prevent us descending into outright dictatorship, which cannot be said for all countries with systems which are or were theoretically superior.

  13. agricola
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Well here we go. A maximum of 250 members in the H o L. Only 50 % of whom can be sponsored by political parties. The other 50% having declared their political position subject to a vote via the internet. Highest number of votes go to the top of the list. No hereditary right to a seat. Selection in proportion to votes caste at previous General Election which today would give us a H o L as below.

    Conservative 92
    Labour 76
    UKIP 32
    Lib/Dem 20
    SNP 12
    Greens 10
    DUP 2
    Sinn Fein 2
    UNP 1
    Others 1

    Not perfect ,but what system is other than an elected chamber.

    Much more interesting today we have an indication of the bribing of None Government Organisations (NGO’s) within the UK by our friends in Europe known as the EU. It is important to realise that this is money taken from our membership fee for the EU and then paid to perceived friends of the EU in the heart of the UK. It amounted to about £2 Billion in the period 2007/2013.

    One World Action Eur0s 407,000
    Action Aid 55, 748 ,013
    Oxfam 326,595 835
    Friends of the Earth. 7,499,196
    Euclid networks 1, 468, 024
    Universities 889, 889 754
    BBC (2011-2013) Sterling £ 3,000,000

    So when you hear arguments coming from any of the above organisation just remember who is paying for their pro EU propaganda.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Here is the composition of the second chamber as it would now be under the simple “FPTP-SPTP” system which I have been proposing, courtesy of CityAM just after the last general election:

      http://www.cityam.com/215414/general-election-2015-results-heres-who-came-second-every-seat-including-120-silver-medals

      Labour 253
      Tory 181
      UKIP 120
      LibDem 63
      Others 20
      Plaid Cymru 6
      Green 4
      SNP 3

      Compared to the Commons:

      Tory 330
      Labour 232
      UKIP 1
      LibDem 8
      Others 19
      Plaid Cymru 3
      Green 1
      SNP 56

      Adding together the elected parliamentary representatives across both houses:

      Tory 511 = 39.3% cf 36.9% of votes cast
      Labour 485 = 37.3% cf 30.4% of votes cast
      UKIP 121 = 9.3% cf 12.6% of votes cast
      LibDem 71 = 5.5% cf 7.9% of votes cast
      Others 39 = 3.0%
      Plaid Cymru 9 = 0.7% cf 0.6% of votes cast
      Green 5 = 0.4% cf 3.8% of votes cast
      SNP 59 = 4.5% cf 4.7% of votes cast

      While this would not produce a perfect proportionality it would still be much closer to that than the unrefined FPTP system produced for the Commons taken alone, and as can be seen from the maps in that article there would be a much more uniform distribution of representatives elected for the different parties across the country.

      Reply It would tend to give the main losing party a strong position in the Lords, the opposite of what electors intended.

      • ChrisS
        Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        An interesting but utterly flawed proposal.

        Who would want a second chamber which has the important role of holding MPs to account whose members were all rejected by the electorate !

        A small prize for the person who posts the most appropriate collective noun or nickname for this chamber of failures !

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted August 4, 2015 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Before you condemn all those who come second in constituency polls as having been “rejected by the electorate” you might like to consider the position of those who come first.

          Only a small minority of the MPs elected in May under First Past The Post actually got more votes cast for them than were cast against them, and an even smaller minority, possibly none at all, got the support of more than half of those eligible to vote. Even the Prime Minister was arguably “rejected by the electorate” in Witney, given that 56% of that electorate declined to vote for him.

          And before you deride all those who come second as “failures” you might like to consider the case of Henry Smith, who became the youngest county council leader in the country in 2003 and was still leader of West Sussex County Council in 2010 when he was beaten by the Labour candidate in Crawley by just 37 votes, but then came first in the 2015 election … perhaps you could say whether he was one of those you write off as “failures” before the 2010 election, or he became one at that election, and has since ceased to be one? Was he in your opinion unfit to be a parliamentary representative in 2010, but has since undergone sufficient personal improvement that it is now permissible for him to be in Parliament?

          Or what about Stephen Mosley, who was the Tory MP for the City of Chester constituency, presumably at that stage not a “failure”, but lost his seat in 2015 by 93 votes when support for the LibDem candidate collapsed and most of it was transferred to the Labour candidate? Presumably making him a “failure” in your eyes, even though he had won the support of 3030 more electors than in 2010? The victorious Labour candidate still being “rejected” by the 69.4% of the electorate who declined to vote for him, but very slightly less “rejected” than Mosley, now a “failure”.

          The First Past The Post system for the Commons is an old, simple, but also crude, system which has its advantages but can also leave significant swathes of political opinion grossly under-represented in Parliament; I am simply suggesting a way in which we could make good use of the second chamber of Parliament to correct for that defect, without having to change the widely preferred method of election for the first chamber or hold separate elections.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted August 4, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Well, JR, from your very last article I thought that you were in favour of a strong opposition to keep the government up to the mark and prevent it becoming too much of an incompetent elected dictatorship, and as you are also in favour of retaining the often highly disproportionate First Past The Post system for election to the Commons – as am I – obviously if there is a need for strengthening of the opposition in Parliament then that has to be centred on the other chamber. Given that the Lords has limited powers and can only delay rather than block Bills, with the exception I have noted above, it is far better to use the second chamber to correct the chronic under-representation of people who did not vote for the party which has won a majority in the Commons, than move to a system of proportional representation just for the Commons. Under my proposal we would have much of the best of all worlds, broader representation of the people in Parliament and stronger and more effective opposition, without increasing the frequency of coalition governments.

        You cannot say that it would be the opposite of what people intended when they voted, when in most if not all cases only a minority of the electorate actually voted for the candidate who was awarded the seat in the Commons and so far no parliamentary candidate has been awarded a seat in the Lords.

        Apart that is from a few cases such as Baroness Warsi, who failed to get herself elected to the Commons, but was then arbitrarily appointed to the Lords as an unelected legislator-for-life … so do you really think that it is a better way to go about it, than my proposal?

        Reply In Wokingham I received 57% of the vote. Labour came second with 14.4% and Liberal Democrats third with 13.5%. I do not see what would be fair about putting the Labour candidate into the Lords on those numbers.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted August 4, 2015 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          There’s no threshold share of the votes for election as an MP under First Past The Post as we have always operated it, and if the trend to fragmentation of the political parties continues then it’s quite conceivable that eventually a candidate with only 14% of the votes cast could come top of the poll and be elected to the Commons, so would you object to that? According to wikipedia the lowest so far has been 24.5%, in the last election of the MP for Belfast South, so we are heading that way and for members of the dominant House of Commons, not the less powerful House of Lords.

          At the other extreme, there are cases such as that of the City of Chester in 2015 I’ve mentioned, where the leading candidate got 43.2% of the votes cast while the runner-up got 43.1%, and yet because of the “winner takes all” nature of the present system only the winner is in Parliament and the alternative views of that 43.1% are unrepresented.

          Incidentally, I find that despite getting a substantial majority of the votes cast, rather just a plurality, you were still “rejected” by over 58% of the Wokingham electorate.

          Reply No, I was not rejected by those who chose to abstain. An MP represents all his or her constituents on election.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted August 4, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

            Well, they declined to vote for you just as much as those who actually voted against you.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 4, 2015 at 2:42 am | Permalink

      It is clearly a total outrage and distortion of democracy that tax payer money is used for propaganda in this way via funding of NGO’s plus they get huge tax concessions too very often.

      So much drivel comes out of Universities nowadays even ones that used to be fairly sound like Imperial College.

  14. Iain Moore
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    There is no point worrying about Lords reform while nothing has been sorted out about English representation, for if and when English people get given a say, and go for an English Parliament, it would necessitate the federation of the country, and so make the Lords an irrelevance.

    • ChrisS
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      I agree that Devolution for England should be a much higher priority but I profoundly disagree with your assertion that this would “make the Lords an irrelevance.”

      Quite the opposite, in fact, unless you want each home nation to be no more than an elected dictatorship which is what Scotland is currently suffering from.

      You do need a second chamber to act as a revising body and a brake on the more extreme policies of a Government. It has worked well for hundreds of years and there is no reason why a more modern solution could not be designed.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Invite the HoL to propose how it should reform itself and see what results from this. In the meantime outsiders can suggest what reforms they think are appropriate to concentrate the minds of the HoL.

    My suggestions include:
    1 a limit on numbers – say 500;
    2 maximum term – say 10 years;
    3 maximum age – say 85;
    4 retirement for attendance below, say, 33% of sittings;
    5 crossbenchers (for professional extertise) – say 150;
    6 political appointments – say 350;
    7 political appointments to reflect average vote of last three general elections with 10% threshold (an interesting idea explored on politicalbetting.com last weekend); this would cause involuntary early retirement for the losers and new appointments for the winners.

  16. Alan
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    A system which allows the prime minster to reward people with a job for life is clearly corrupt in my view. Being granted privileged access to a seat in a legislature by right of birth is obviously nepotism, not to mention farcical. Both practices dishonour our country.

    The relatively few well qualified people who accept seats in the Lords should consider that they are providing an excuse to perpetuate this corruption and nepotism and that this does more harm to our country than the wise advice that they provide does good.

  17. David Murfin
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Lords limited to 300. Appointments allocated to parties in proportion to votes at general election as a proportion of the electorate, with an independent body appointing the percentage allocated to those who did not vote. Expenses from public funds for this last; from party funds for the rest. Does this make it a finance bill which can be passed without the Lords consent? Appoint ministers from the Lords.
    I would also have Commons MPs paid by their constituencies – it’s only about £1 per annum per head to reach the present salary. Make it tax free and cut out expenses altogether. Put a box with a slot for £1 coins and limited capacity outside the constituency office as the only source allowed. A PIN system might be needed to avoid bribery by promise. Some might do very well, others not.
    Outlaw whips and the MPs might represent their constituencies. Back to the old system or beyond it: ministerial appointment means an MP resigns.

  18. A.Sedgwick
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    As you suggest nothing of consequence is likely in the foreseeable future and tinkering is the order of the day. It would be unsatisfactory and unfair for the likes of Lords Lawson and Tebbit to be retired. Ultimately the Lords will sink under its own weight. Significant changes in the UK constitution could hasten its transformation into an elected federal Senate but more likely is its eventual abolition. I have just read Magnus Magnusson’s Scotland, The Story of a Nation.The title is well chosen and the story almost certainly will unfold further.

  19. Iain Gill
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I would reduce the size of the Lords. I would select members like jury service, random members of the public. Get the placemen and women out of it.

  20. Liz
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The House of Lords is a mess and far too large. It is not acceptable that more recent political appointed Lords think that they have the right to stop any legislation from the House of Commons that was in the Government’s election manifesto – not merely to review it. We may see much of that in coming months from the likes of Lords Kynoch,Prescott et al . However that will hasten the calls for reform. . I would favour
    A huge reduction in size – no more than 2/3rds of the House of Commons.
    No automatic right to be there – Bishops, Judges, Herediteries etc.
    No policial appointments – the source of much of the trouble it has got into now.
    Fixed terms or retirement at 75
    Introduction of some democratic element – a representative local councillor from a borough or county might reduce the “Westminster bubble” problem.
    Direct elections would not work as those elected would feel more entitled to challenge the Commons.

  21. Chris S
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Yes, the numbers of regular working peers should be limited to, say, 500 but the knowledge of the other peers on a wide range of subjects is an invaluable resource and should be preserved in some way. This is probably effectively what we have already !

    Whatever is done, one thing must be avoided at all costs : We cannot have another chamber of government filled with professional politicians who have never had a proper job of any kind.

    What is of much higher priority is to sort out the inequality across the UK. I am talking of course, of our scandalously one sided Devolution settlement. This will also effect both the purpose and workings of the Lords so is relevant here.

    We have discussed EVEL here so often yet no party is prepared to grasp this issue and properly solve it once and for all.

    This simply has to be put right. I would move to a full federal system with equal devolution to the lower houses of all four home nations. Simple, fair and equal. There is strong support in England NI and and Scotland for it and probably Wales would go along as well.

    We have to be careful, : do we really want to end up with effectively single chamber government ? This is de facto what they have in Scotland on devolved matters.

    There should be some kind of continuing revising role for members of the Lords of each of the four nations, in the case of three of them, that means meeting away from Westminster. Electing members of a second chamber would not work: looking at the current situation in Scotland, the SNP would easily control both chambers so they would still effectively have an elected Sturgeon dictatorship.

    If parties at Westminster are really so concerned that the role of MPs from Scotland, NI and Wales would be diminished by English MPs sitting as our representatives, we should spend the small amount of money required to establish a separate group of elected English representatives.

    The role and salary of all UK MPs would, of course, be greatly reduced so English MPs would be very likely to chose to stand for election for both jobs but they would be exactly that : two separate jobs. In the case of England, I’m sure we would chose to hold elections for both groups on the same day.

    Members of the Scottish, NI and Welsh assemblies would also, of course, be free to stand as MPs for their home nation as well, if they wish.

    Fair, sensible and everyone who choses to stand for both roles would be equal.
    What is there to argue about ?

    • JoosB
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      “The role and salary of all UK MPs would, of course, be greatly reduced”

      And therein lies the problem. Asking our self serving UK Members of Parliament to surrender their roles in the name of democracy and fairness for England would be like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. In their eyes, fairness for England comes a poor second to the Westminster gravy train.

  22. Bert Young
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Many of the responses so far are sensible . I fully agree that the number of Lords should be limited (300 seems a reasonable number) and they all should be elected by public vote . Those being sponsored for election must have a substantial record of success and thus able to bring to their overseeing role credible experience and expertise .

    The HoLs presently is a huge mistake and the leaked stories of misbehaviour an indication of how the system is abused . Drastic reform has to be on the cards for it to continue . Old men are not necessarily defunct but there should be an upper age limit imposed of , say , 70 years . I am well beyond this point and still able to function as well as and , in many cases , better than most of my juniors , nevertheless I accept there are natural limitations making an upper age limit essential .

    Of course the same restrictions should apply in the HoLs as they should in Westminster concerning EVEL . The sooner this matter is resolved the better .

  23. a-tracy
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    You’ve got far too many problems to be dealing with than the Lords at the moment.

    The Lords themselves should be asked to put forward a proposal to cut down shirkers and people that bring their reputation as a group into question. They should have a budget and stick to it so if they want more members they get less per full session they sit in. Of course people who do nothing shouldn’t get paid and the con artists amongst them should be exposed by each other and its disgusting that these so called pillars of society don’t sort it out internally.

    If they retire do they lose their title or are they a ‘Lord’ to the day they die?

  24. Peter Stroud
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    1. I suggest that the H o L be totally appointed, as now. The number allowed to sit in the chamber, should be in proportion to the number of MPs in each political party. But the total number sitting should be slightly flexible. Numbers should be set by a select committee of MPs.

    2. All hereditary peers should be required to step down. There should be a fixed number allowed to sit, as now, but those putting themselves forward, should be elected by a free vote in the commons. Hereditary peers should have the confidence of the elected politicians.

    3. To begin the process of reform, the voting record of each life peer needs to be examined. Those who have failed to take part in a set number of debates, as determined by the cross party committee of MPs, should be ‘encouraged’ to stand down from government, but be allowed to keep their titles. But they should not be allowed to claim expenses, should they wish to listen to a debate, in the chamber.

    4. The appointment of new peers should be limited in number. But there should be a flexible number of cross bench peers appointed for their specialist knowledge. Such as retired senior military, civil service personnel. And, of course, those from science and industry.

    5. At the beginning of each parliament following a GE, the number of voting peers from each party should be selected by ballot or appointment, whichever the members of each party prefer. The numbers should reflect the numbers of sitting MP s from each party. Those not selected should be retired for the duration of each parliament.

    The above is by no means perfect, and requires a great deal of massaging, but it does, at least, get over some of the problems caused by a mixed upper House.

    • sm
      Posted August 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      I like the idea of a ‘pool’ of Lords available for work perhaps they can parade outside each day until they are selected or sent home without pay/expenses.

      Perhaps larger numbers of Lords means they should be more representative in terms of votes cast – not patronage.

      Perhaps the Lords themselves could discuss how to apply the expertise amongst them more efficiently at reduced cost.

      Any EU or future EU pension entitlement etc should disqualify any Lord.

  25. petermartin2001
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Maybe it wouldn’t be achievable in the short term, but I’d like to see a fully elected “House of Lords”. That wouldn’t at all be an appropriate title, though. Maybe we could call it the Senate.

    We could safely have a system of more proportional representation for the Senate to redress the shortcomings of the FPTP system in the House of Commons and so give some Parliamentary representation to the minor parties. This would be without upsetting the successful way the system usually delivers stable governments.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      That “short term” has already been running for 104 years!

  26. forthurst
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    On the assumption, to which I do not necessarily subscribe, that having a HoL proportionate in Party affiliation to the HoC without creating more Peers, Party Leaders in the Lords could be required to nominate Peers who would be non-voting for the Session where their Party was over-represented; I believe the Peer who recently became more widely known was sitting as a Crossbencher; as Crossbenchers would normally be appointed from those whose expertise is not in Party politics, it is hardly desirable that their numbers should be supplemented by superannuated Party hacks who have elected not to take their Party’s whip.

    Those who do not vote or speak or attend Committees with a pre-determined frequency and those who wish to resign their Party’s Whip should be retired, not be permitted to change Party.

    Having a compulsory retirement age is inappropriate because the age at which people lose their marbles is highly variable, but those, for example, who have been diagnosed by four ‘independent’ doctors as suffering from Alzheimer’s, obviously, should be retired and not be voting on matters that they have been professionally deemed not to be able to understand.

    Reply It is not a safe assumption that all crossbenchers are better informed or make better judgements than party affiliated peers, nor that all cross benchers are devoid of political ideology

    • forthurst
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Reply to Reply: I’m sure what you say is true; however, with the premise of your Blog that Party affiliations in the Lords should reflect those in the Commons, if a particular Party supports the elevation of a commoner on the basis of his specific Party affiliation, how is that compatible with their switching or becoming unaffiliated at will, bearing in mind that if an MP switches sides, his constituency has the opportunity at the next election, at the latest, of removing him?

  27. William Long
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    It is interesting that like so many things that went off at half cock we owe the current mess in great degree to the Blair Government that came along one morning with a fantastic reform that they had not thought through, right to the extent that they abolished the post of Lord Chancellor without realising that the residual system they had left in place could not function without it. Somewhat similar you might say, to conquering Iraq without having given a moments thought to what you would put in the place of Sadaam Hussein.
    The reason that things have gone no further is that when you start thinking it through it is very difficult to arrive at a way of selecting members that works better in practice than the hereditary one that has become unacceptable. Heredity has the great advantage of providing a total and un cheatable lottery of how members are selected. Another, now also unacceptable, advantage was that selection by male primogeniture meant that there was a steady flow of extinction of titles that made room for new creations.
    We should first of all not forget that in the historic scheme of things, endorsed by the Whigs after the ‘Glorious’ revolution, the ‘upper’ House was there to give protection in the tripartite sovereignty of King, Lords and Commons, against the power of the Crown on the one hand, and radical excesses from the elected Commons on the other. Most of the Royal prerogative has now been hi-jacked by the Prime Minister of the day and this makes independence in the ‘Upper’ house just as important as it ever was, if not more so given that patronage is now in the hands of a politician who needs to win votes.
    The power of the Prime Minister to appoint peers should therefor be limited and their term of office must be fixed. I would make it for life, or until such time as they are unable to attend regularly. There also needs to be some appointing body other than the Prime Minister.
    The great difficulty is of course the one that Mr Cameron now faces: he has a clear mandate from the electorate but no majority in the House of Lords. That situation is likely to recur regularly and cannot be solved just by making the House still bigger after every change of governing party. Would a way to solve it be to empower a party coming newly into power to nominate a number of peers to serve for however long that party had a majority in the Commons?
    The House needs to include experts in a great many fields who have the inclination and time to contribute. I would therefor have a list of institutions of which the head was automatically entitled to join the Upper house on retirement if it was not already represented.
    Peers are now appointed to do a job, and paid for it. I would therefor remove any residual connection with the Honours system from members of the Upper House, such as title, entitlement to supporters for their coat of arms etc. This would enable a return as has been suggested above, to the creation of hereditary honourable peerages to preserve the memory of families of someone who had done real and outstanding service to the Crown. Perhaps the peer of the first creation in such cases should have membership of the Upper House.
    I would be against an elected upper chamber. I think members elected on a party ticket would be too obedient to party whips and the pool of potential members under an elected system would be too narrow, apart for obvious questions of power relative to that of the Commons.

  28. Martin
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    The House of Lords appears to be a the ultimate public expenditure spiral.

    Labour in government – need more peers
    Coalition in government – as above
    Conservatives in government -as above

    I’d be tempted to abolish the place were it not for the odd time when some of the dafter ideas get toned down or dumped and it gives the minister cover for belatedly seeing sense.

    This business of landlords being expected to boot out alleged illegals without a court order is an example.

  29. lojolondon
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I like the lords, I like the fact they are people with a stake in the country, and act as a force of stability / balance to the commons. I do not like the fact that Labour flooded the Lords from 1997-2010 in order to ensure they would always have the upper hand in the Lords. Perhaps the current system is good, Lords should be members for life, but the chamber is limited in size, so a place would only be available upon death of another member?

  30. Mockbeggar
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Off topic, but who else saw the short news item in yesterday’s Sunday Times headed ‘HS2 land deal to cost taxpayers an extra £4.4m?

    Apparently they could have bought a parcel of land near Euston Station for £1.6m 3 years ago but ‘didn’t have the money’. Since then a developer has built flats which will have to be demolished.

    Still, if you have a budget of £50bn. you have to find good ways to overspend it.

  31. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Well, JR, since you ask I will offer my usual view on what we should do with the Lords, which I do not expect will be well received despite its impeccable logic:

    1. The UK Parliament is the supreme legal authority for the whole of the UK, but it has delegated certain decisions to devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but not in England. That should be rectified by the establishment of a separate and separately elected devolved Parliament for the whole of England to exert control over a separate devolved government for the whole of England, and the UK Parliament should then normally restrict itself to reserved matters affecting all of the UK. That in turn would make it legitimate to reduce the number of members, to reflect their reduced workload, and therefore make it possible to sell off the parts of the parliamentary estate outside the Palace of Westminster in order to fund the provision of buildings for the new devolved English bodies located outside London.

    2. Because they are subsidiary assemblies the devolved assemblies for the four parts of the UK can be unicameral, like local councils, but as the supreme assembly deciding the most important matters for the entire UK, including foreign policy and questions of war and peace, the UK, federal or Union, Parliament should retain the present safeguard of a bicameral structure, alongside the monarch or Head of State.

    3. Because it has been decided to retain First Past The Post as the method for election of members of the House of Commons that body will continue to fall short of being a fair representative of the UK electorate, and the second chamber of Parliament should be wholly elected by a method which tends to rectify that serious defect in the political composition of the first. The most obvious and simple and convenient and inexpensive method would be to give seats in the second chamber to all those candidates who came second in their constituency polls, a “FPTP-SPTP” system.

    4. The powers of the reformed, wholly elected, second chamber, which for old times’ sake could still be called the House of Lords even though few of its members would be peers, should initially remain the same as now under the Parliament Acts.

    • Duyfken
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      I approve of constructive suggestions (how kind!) and this is one. My own effort further to the top of the comments, may have scant chance of acceptance, and unfortunately this FPTP-SPTP scheme is likely to be disregarded also. It would not be my preference despite of course it producing a goodly number of UKIP persons in the Lords. For this second chamber, either it should mirror party political support in the country or, and this is what I advocate, the membership should be apolitical in the sense of not overtly supporting any political party.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted August 4, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        Or it should attempt to compensate for the fact that the first chamber does not accurately reflect party political support in the country.

  32. Tom William
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Many good suggestions here. The public is ready for reform. It would have to be in stages, pruning before planting.

    One obvious attraction of being created a Lord is that it implies some sort of superiority, entry into a historical elite and an opportunity for many to choose a ridiculous new name. Increasingly the title of Lord Whatever is regarded as less honourable than a knighthood and more a reward for failure or funding.

    Dressing up in pantomime clothes for state occasions for the large number of arrivistes is absurd and should be abolished for all. I realise this would affect the drama of a State Opening of Parliament but there is no need for that to change. Yet.

  33. adams
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Is there anything you politicians have not wrecked ?
    Britain ( devolution , immigration )
    Vast public debt , QE and the robbing of savers .
    Allegiance to the EU disaster “project” .
    Schools ,hospitals
    The Judiciary and Police .
    Free speech .

    Need I go on ?

  34. outsider
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, As a non-radical, I would like to see a minimal reform of the House of Lords that could achieve the maximum impact. And as a citizen I normally find “Government defeated in Lords” a cheering headline, whatever the Government, because all goverments get carried away with their power to be inflexible on matters of detail.

    The problem is that every Government wishes to pack the Lords with new lobby-fodder peers to make its life easier. The result is that there are far too many members and far too many second-raters who just turn up to collect their fees and vote.

    The simpler, more civilised solution to imbalance is for the leader of the House of Lords to be given extra votes to be exercised at her/his discretion. We can all have fun devising the formula to calculate how many extra votes would be in the Leader’s pocket. I suggest that in the current Parliament it should be just enough to give the Government a majority of one over those taking the Labour and Liberal Democrat whips.

    This reform, along with Lord Steele’s retirement reform, also makes it practical to slim the numbers down, say to 500, without cutting the numbers of specialists. In my experience of watching debate on the BBC Parliament channel, specialists and crossbenchers often make the most telling contributions.

    A simple rule would be that only one new peer could be appointed for every two who retired/died. To keep the element of expertise, at least one in three of the new peers should be non-party, either crossbenchers or bishops. Alternatively, the number of new peers appointed between General Elections should be limited to, say, 25 of which 10 would be non-party, until the desired membership is reached.

    Imposing an age limit would be anachronistically ageist. For instance, I would hate to see Lord Lawson (83), the most eloquent exponent of climate realism, excluded on age grounds. And one sometimes sees dodderers finding it hard to stand but saying important things when they do. The retirement system should be able to deal with those who have become mentally incapable.

    Radical reform should only be considered if we need some compelling new function eg English Parliament or when detailed scrutiny of legislation, particularly EU-mandated legislation, is no longer required.

    Reply It is possible to have party affiliations and professional expertise. The problem with some professional expertise is it dates. We do not have the current heads of public services in the Lords, but past ones. Over time it is difficult not to get out of touch as you no longer see and read all the sensitive materials. An immediately retired public sector chief may feel constrained by official secrecy from saying interesting things, or may have scores to settle.

    • outsider
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      Dear Mr Redwood, I fully agree with your reply though I note that in reply to the next comment you also argue against current “independent” professionals.

      If membership of the Lords is to be halved (as seems widely agreed) some expertise is bound to be lost. Since crossbenchers are more likely to have been ennobled for some expertise (blindness, prisons, military, medicine, paralympic sport or whatever) I merely argue that their numbers not be cut pro rata.

      I wonder if you agree with the central point, that it would be better to allot extra votes to the new House of Lords Leader/ Government whip on an agreed formula than to continue with the arms race of appointing large numbers of new peers to the Government side after every change of Government just to make up the numbers.

      PS. It should be easy enough to allow for/discount the false independents by using or tweaking the charity mySociety’s “They Work for You” website to show their voting records.

  35. Observer
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Suitably qualified representatives should be appointed by the various Chartered bodies, accountants, engineers etc., Law Society, CBI & Trade Unions & the various different Church Bodies. This should give a broad range of practical experience. Individual members should only remain for a limited time before they are replaced. A daily rate to be paid for attendance.

    Reply Why? They would have a conflict of interest on anything they knew about.

  36. Bill
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    The only two things I have to add to this interesting thread is that people who have been dismissed from their public sector jobs for wrong-doing should not be eligible for the House of Lords. (E.g. left out ed)

    Given that the House of Lords (or whatever you call it) is essentially intended to be a chamber that checks legislation (though it can initiate it, and should still be able to do so), there is no need for hereditary peers of any kind. The argument put by Gladstone that the removal of hereditary peers is also an argument for the removal of the monarchy seems flawed since the function of the monarch is not to review legislation but to seal it.

    I agree that the size of the HoL should be smaller than the HoC.

  37. ferdinand
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    As a revising chamber it needs intellect and experience. I would not allow anyone to be member of the House of Lords until 55 years old. I would limit service in the Lords to 85 years of age. I would require all members of the House of Lords who don’t meet either of these criteria to stand down.

  38. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    There are too many peers, particularly Labour and LibDem peers with ‘pro-European’ views. Also, the House of Lords is not elected. It would not, therefore, be out of order to ask Her Majesty to balance things up by sacking some of the surplus peers, starting with Lord Kinnock.

    How will the Conservative Party force an EU referendum in 2017 if the Lords vote it down?

    Reply BY the Parliament Act – it was a Manifesto pledge so the Lords will not vote it down.

  39. Edward2
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see a number of peers chosen randomly from the public in the way jurors or magistrates are chosen.
    You might have to put yourself forward and take part in some training but it might bring into the House of Lords some interesting people with different views from the mainly professional politicians and establishment figures currently filling the red benches.

    • stred
      Posted August 4, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Agree with this, but selection from a list of candidates nominated by others rather than themselves. The whole idea of a House of Lords is an anachronism and quite embarrassing as a nation. The name should be abolished along with the present title, allowing anyone to call themselves Lord if they wished. A House of Moderators would sound more like the function. Maximum number 200, no-one who has been a member of a political party for the last 10 years, no more my right honourables or noblenesses or nobbled or lobbied, with a maximum membership of 10 years at a time. And no pay off for those retired.

  40. Vanessa
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I do not agree that the House of Lords should be populated with members from a political party. Ideally, it should have the great and good, meaning the best brains, experience and gravitas to sort out the “toddlers'” idiotic rules from the Commons. I do not agree that each party, when in office, appoints more Lords so that they can vote for that party’s laws. This is a recipe for chaos and disaster, such as we have now.

    Bring back the hereditary peers regardless of which party they support and let’s get some sensible intelligent people into the House. I am sick and tired of hearing about (badly behaved peers ed) and charges us taxpayers for the privilege and then sells themselves to anybody who is prepared to pay.

    The people being “en-nobled” now are some twits who blog and probably collectors of rubbish who have done nothing for this country or its people. (and some talented people who have achieved a lot in their lives so far ed)

    Reply Many Great and Good have political views and affiliations to parties. People who claim to be non party political or apolitical have in the Lords to be pro or anti Conservative and Labour propositions.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 4, 2015 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      I would just point out here that while Heath had problems getting the European Communities Bill through the House of Commons it barely touched the sides as it went through a House of Lords which at that time was still predominantly made up of “sensible, intelligent” hereditary peers. 451 – 58, in one crucial vote.

  41. Colin Hart
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    The Bishops should give up their seats for asylum seekers.

  42. acorn
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Unicameral is the way to go. The UK should reduce the cost of its legislature, in-line with Osborne austerity; it’s only fare surely. On average, the occupants of the HoL, are circa two decades “behind the times” and are irrelevant to the lives of the under thirty-fives.

    The US only has 10o Senators for its upper house, two for each State and a 300+ million population. All Senators do all day is get on the phone raising party donations. At most, the UK need have 406 in the upper house, one for each LG District. Likewise, in the lower house, you could have 406 MPs; or, double up the current constituencies to give 325 MPs. And, we certainly don’t need 120 odd “ministers” of some rank or other. All having to have their own “initiative” to impress the boss.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_legislatures_by_country

    • William Grant
      Posted August 7, 2015 at 2:30 am | Permalink

      The House of Commons should be the English Parliament and the upper house the new elected federal chamber. Between them, the states of California and Texas have the rough equivalent of the population of England, yet have, roughly, seventy state senators and and two hundred and twenty state assembly members alltogether. A unicamaral parliament for England of 300 members would suffice, if Osborne really does want forty percent cuts to government spending.
      The federal chamber would have to have more members than the English parliament for authority purposes and would have to be elected under first-past-the-post. To be like Scotland and Wales, the English parliament would have to be elected under proportional representation. With 600-odd members in total at Westminster, the government could then flog off Portcullis House, futher reducing the bills.

  43. Anonymous
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    If the vote is to remain within the EU then let’s get rid of both houses. We won’t need them.

  44. Mercia
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see more Bishops, proper Anglican ones who believe the Bible is the Word of God, (at least allegorically) and that hold to the Westminster Confession of 1646, although I do not agree with it all, it is the closest organised Christianity has got to Scriptural truth.

  45. Mercia
    Posted August 3, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Getting rid of the lefty dopes from the C of E would be a good. It is indefensible that people are there just due to being a member of one particular (0r indeed any) religion.

    >
    When the Church of England Bishops understood the Bible and Bible prophecy they used to believe the danger was a Jesuit dominated EU, but more recently if you speak to them in private they tell you that they no longer believe the office of papacy is anti Christ but that Hitler was the anti Christ and what followed (the welfare state) was the new Jerusalem or the Kingdom of God on earth.

    This means they sit their in the House of Lords thinking they are the guardians or angels or the Welfare State/kingdom of God on earth. However, there are some Anglicans who still hold to the truth, as revealed by the Holy Spirit and stated in the Westminster Confession.

    • forthurst
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      To my mind the CofE has run its course; it’s structure is anomalous and, most importantly, it’s failing to hang onto its congregation. Isn’t it time for a new dispensation?

      • Mercia
        Posted August 4, 2015 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        To my mind the CofE has run its course; it’s structure is anomalous

        >
        When Church and State unite then the Church become subordinate to the political agenda. Heirachel systems are preferred as the masses can more easily be manipulated by popes or supreme leaders. In the future there will no more more heirachel system and church will be separated from the State. She will be married to Jesus and loyal to Him and not trying to please the political class.

        It should be noted that early Christianity was a subversive movement and in the NT letters they had to speak in code words. For example Rome was often called “Babylon” and on 5 occasions the State or political class were referred to as “Satan” or the “devil”.

        “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name” Rev 2:13

        Pergamum was the seat of political power in Asia Minor.

        See also Rev 2:10, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Samuel 24.1, 1 Chronicles 21.1.

        In the two OT verses above “Satan” is identified with the political class.

        In the book of Revelation the people of the earth only experience 1000 years of peace after Satan is bound so it cannot “deceive the people of the earth” any longer. This is the political class. The Church must be married to Jesus not to Satan and a reformation or a revolution is coming.

  46. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Peers should be created on merit. The voting “balance” should have nothing to do with it: the Commons dominates.

    Election of peers is a very bad concept. If those elected to the Commons are incapable of fulfilling the full task of Parliament, then why should yet more elected people make it any better?

    Age and length of service should not be relevant to Peers continuing to sit in the Lords: what evidence is there that either of these factors is relevant to the quality of their contribution.

    I propose that at every general election a peer can choose to sit or not to sit in the Lords until the next general election, and if they opt in then they accept an obligation to attend and contribute. If they have no legitimate excuse for failing the obligation (e.g. illness) then they forfeit all future right to sit.

    I would like to see all who opt in accessible to members of the public on subjects of their choice (e.g. their particular expertise), in the same way as MPs are to their constituents. If this requires staff to support the resulting workload then this is an expense that should be allowed (and justified, of course).

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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