In light of David Cameron reinforcing the Lords ranks with a cadre of Conservative friendly new peers, this week’s roundtable sees our contributors tackle the question of reforming the UK Parliament’s much criticsed upper chamber.
As ever, we’re interested in your thoughts, so please make your feelings known in the comments.
“How would you reform the House of Lords?”
Disclaimer: Despite some of the language used, The Scots Perspective and it’s contributors are not seriously advocating arson or terrorism against the institution, building or members of the House of Lords. Such language is used to convey depth of feeling and for lyrical effect.
Alan Stares – Blow it up!
Abolish the whole process at least, there is zero need for it and put the money into the million other things that apparently we don’t have cash for. £300 a day could feed and clothe a lot of refugees without any hassle and that’s just one Lord’s daily payment. Besides, the old bastards look like they could miss a dinner or two and they don’t exactly ‘need’ the money for anything else bar maybe the monthly subscription to their child porn sites
The situation that it’s starting to be a bunch of old Tories and unionists is bad enough but the fact they can have influence over issues without any form of democratic election process and dress it all up as ‘tradition’ deserves a slap in itself.
Mark McNaught – Burn it to the ground, with the ermine in it.
Chris Napier – I would abolish the House of Lords at the first opportunity as it is an expensive, undemocratic anachronism which attaches Britain to its feudal past in a way that is unsupportable in the modern age.
Turn the building into a tourist attraction or even better, convert it into 650 one bedroom, en suite flats, akin to student accommodation to remove the need for MPs to have second homes at all…
That said, I believe that the concept of a second chamber to act as a restraining hand on the House of Commons is a good one, but such a chamber should be democratically elected and ideally not subject to party loyalties. As to how that would look, I think that’s worth an article in it’s own right…
In any case, I believe that a complete break with the feudal past that the Lords represents is necessary and the UK’s democracy would benefit from a fresh slate with an all-new second chamber.
Louise Wilson – At the risk of incurring the wrath of my Scots Perspective colleagues, I do not support the abolition of the House of Lords. Rather, I support radical reform.
My reason for this is because I believe that a democratic, properly functioning second chamber should exist. Looking at democracies around the world, many have a second chamber of some kind. And whilst there is much wrong with the House of Lords, its general principle to scrutinise government legislation is sound.
Our second chamber is rightly restricted in what it can do – it cannot stop any Bills regarding taxation, nor any piece of legislation that appeared in the elected government’s manifesto. It can only slow down the process of passage by one calendar year for all other legislation. Whilst it can make recommendations to the House of Commons, elected MPs have a right to ignore any veto from the Lords. And finally, though Lords can introduced their own pieces of legislation, these must also be agreed by the Commons. Essentially, the buck stops with those whom we elected, not those appointed.
These are the strengths of the Lords, but of course it would be remiss of me not to mention its weaknesses. As mentioned, Lords can bring forward their own bills and there are questions around the legitimacy of this given peers are not elected. Even if Commons can stop such items passing into law, there is a question of whether it is right that policy can stem from an unelected, undemocratic and unaccountable body.
Further, the sheer size and subsequent cost of keeping the Lords is not insignificant. The Lords is the largest second chamber in the world, and there really is no need for such a body to outnumber their elected colleagues. A part of this is because Lords are Lords for life (barring any scandal). Relatedly, at £300 per day for expenses, these peerages can cost us over £237,000 each day – not including the complimentary champagne nor the pay received by office holding Lords. Aside from it not being necessary to have so many peers, the cost of keeping them all is difficult to justify.
So, with all these things wrong with the House of Lords (and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t addressed), why do I not support complete abolition? Well, I don’t think starting from scratch is totally necessary. The restrictions on the peers are reasonable, and many of those that sit just now actually do a good job. Yes, I would like to see Lords elected and reduced in size – but this can be dealt with simple reform, rather than getting rid of the thing as a whole.
Siobhan Tolland – Scrap it and salt the earth, gentlemen! Abolish it now. Create a second chamber with elected people who are not of any political affiliation.
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