Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Reform of the House of Lords now!

Some of my best friends are members of the House of Lords. I respect them. But I don't respect a legislative chamber with 800 members none of whom have been elected by popular mandate. The US does with a Senate of just 100 members, all elected. Why can't we?

I am alarmed to find that there are unofficial quotas that no one talks about. So many from Wales, so many from Scotland, a few Catholics and two - yes two - Methodists. So that's me and Terry out of the loop until Katherine or Leslie turn up their toes.

How peers are nominated remains a closely guarded secret. Even my friends in the chamber are reluctant to give away too much. But there have been blatant cases of MPs giving up their safe seats in the Commons to make for a court favourite. If that sounds medieval, it is, because it is medieval.

On top on the nominated peers sit the bench of Bishops. How can we justify the Church of England having automatic representation in a Parliament that legislates for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? And then we have the nonsense of hereditary peers - admittedly less than there were - but still there by right of birth.

The whole place is a mess. It is no way to run a country. Our local authorities, the devolved assemblies, the European Parliament and the Parliaments in many other countries are uni-cameral.

Why not a House of Parliament with just one chamber? Let us turn the Palace of Westminster into museum, hotel and tourist attraction. My friends who work there tell me that it is not fit for purpose.

Let us find a nearby building that could house the new chamber with all the mod cons - it really is a revelation to visit the Welsh Assembly with their high tech facilities. In fact I know just the building across Parliament Square and the owners could negotiate a very good lease, whilst keeping it available on Sundays for other activities.


Robert said...

An elected house is a great idea , as long as we can find a way to avoid their becoming dependent on party backing. The current strength of the upper house is its independence, and I'm concerned that we might just be swapping one form of corruption for another.

Rev Tony B said...

I'd agree with that - perhaps if we got rid of the Whips and allowed everyone a free vote, there would be more democratic balance rather than bulldozing through the lobbies. As things stand, the Lords can be a counterbalance to the influence of Government pressure in the Commons.

Ian G said...

I also agree. An independent reasonably effective review body is needed. We can see what happens to elected senates in the USA. Personally, instead of railing against the bench of Bishops, i think that it provides a model for the future. David has already indicated that there are quotas. Why not a Bench for Medicine, for Law, for Industry, Trades Unions, the Military, the Police, Landowners and Agriculture, The Media, even the political parties etc. etc? We aren't that far way from this. Formalising it and allowing each body to select its own peers, provided certain standards are met and we could a second House full of real expertise and experience. it would be far more credible than politically appointed hacks.

Just a thought.