Straw man

February 8, 2007

Jack Straw has published his proposals for reform of the House of Lords but I have some serious concerns about what the government are proposing.

Their proposals are summarised on the BBC site as follows:

  • A ‘hybrid’ of elected and appointed peers
  • Reduce size of House from 746 to 540 members
  • End hereditary and life peerages over time
  • Elected peers to be voted in at same time as Euro elections
  • Maximum time in office of 15 years for elected and appointed peers
  • Appointees a mixture of party politicians and non-party figures
  • Lords may be renamed – possibly ‘The Reformed Chamber’
  • Anglican bishops and archbishops to keep seats

In contrast with this Liberal Democrat policy is that:

  1. The majority of the House of Lords should be elected, with no more than 20% appointed by an Independent Appointments Commission.
  2. There should be no additional political appointees.
  3. No more hereditaries and no more life peers created. Hereditaries should cease to serve at the date of the first elections.
  4. Members should be elected under a system that gives voters real choice (such as the Single Transferable Vote).
  5. Members should serve for three fixed 4 year terms, i.e 12 years non-renewable.
  6. The Reformed Lords (and Commons) should retain its powers of scrutiny over the government.

I support 4, 5 and 6 but quite frankly in a modern democracy the first three are too weak. One hundred percent of the members of the second chamber should be elected. There should be no appointed members whatsoever. Aside from the lack of democracy involved in appointed members it would also help to avoid so many of the questions about cash or loans for peerages. Hereditary and life peers should lose their seats immediately and there should be no places for bishops and archbishops. If they want to take part then they can stand and get elected like everyone else.

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