It is a bit early for Turkey’s to be voting for Christmas, after all it is only April. But yet, here we are once again debating reform to the House of Lords.
Reform in the Lords is a Lib Dem policy, one which I partly support, but many Conservatives do not. In fact, they are already lining up threatening to quit positions over the plans. Any suggestion to remove hereditary peers seemingly doesn’t sit well with the old stalwart Tories, or the far-right back-benchers.
Sadly for them, they are wrong. The House of Lords is in desperate need for reform. As a republican, it will come as no surprise to you that I don’t agree with undemocratic, land owning, hereditary seats in the House of Lords. We still have nearly 100 of these Peers.
The House of Lords is supposed to be a scrutinising body, filled with experts who can look deeply into the details of the bills presented to them. But again, sadly it is not. In one of the biggest debates in years, the introduction of the benefit cap, just under 500 peers voted, out of 788. Some members don’t turn up at all for debates, and many make rare appearances when it suits them. We cannot continue to allow the second House to be missing in key debates. Thankfully, this is one policy suggested by the reform, “lazy” peers will be the first to be booted out.
It is time we move on from the days of filibustering and peerage scandals and have a partly democratic second chamber.
So what do I suggest? I would have a partly elected and partly selected House of Lords. I would start the whole system again, allowing members of the House to stand. For simplicity I’d argue 25%/75%. But this could easily be tweaked in either direction. Anybody elected should serve a 8/12 year term to ensure that they are not worrying about constant re-election, but still allowing them to be democratically replaced. The other 75% I would have specially selected, consistent with the manner that occurs now. The idea of the Lords is to scrutinise legislature and we cannot expect that to happen without a specialised House.
The Lib Dem policy is to have it the other way round, with 80% elected. This would be disastrous in my opinion. The House of Lords has to remain a specialised body, and with 80% of its members elected, I sincerely doubt that we would keep such a high quality standard that we deserve.