Wednesday, May 12, 2010

House of Lords Reform

The BBC says that we are to have full Lords reform early in the session, with a move to complete proportional representation. Well, if that turns out to be the case, I think that we should welcome it.

We are almost PR in our house as it is. So there's nothing wrong with the proportions of the party representations of the House of Lords being set in that fashion

We will want to make sure that the House of Lords which emerges is at least as good and effective as the House of Lords that we have now, but given that the reform process is taking place under a friendly government over a decent timescale, and that given the views of backbenchers on all sides we have considerable power to make a mess of the legislation, or of legislation generally, I am sure that we will find that our views are listened to and that the reform which emerges preserves the best of what we have now.

This blog will be full of ideas as to how to achieve this, and I will be listeing for your ideas too. Here is one for starters:

There should be 25% appointed independent members. A coalition government would then have to command two thirds of the party seats in the House of Lords in order to have an absolute majority. I suspect that the five years to come will be a lesson in how the effectiveness of the House of Lords is reduced when the governing party/coalition has control.


Blogger glockenspiel said...

I work here on the threefold principle that:

a) HOL Reform needs to be a reasonably painless, evolutionary process.

b) HOL Reform needs to produce a more effective, 'slim-line' revising chamber.

c) HOL reform needs to produce a chamber which contains a more interesting and varied mix of members.

Taking these three principles together, we need to take steps which will, so to speak, throw out the bath-water, but not the baby ... and, to stretch the analogy a little, create space for some fresh water, too:

Step One:
Retain current arrangements for Hereditaries and Bishops. Automatically grant a life-peerage to all members of the supreme court ; who become entitled to sit in the Lords (as ‘Law Lords’) upon their retirement from the court.

Step Two:
A Bill placing a limit on the total number of peers there can be (whether sitting in the Lords or not), at any one time. I suggest 1750 people.

Step Three:
The Life Peers to select 25% of their numbers to sit in the Lords (the remaining 'pool' of Life Peers could, like the pool of Hereditaries, be voted back into the chamber, upon the death of a sitting Life Peer).

Step Four:
100 New Category Peers, selected entirely at random, maybe by a form of national lottery, phased in 20 per year. Replaced one at a time, on the death of one of their number.

Our main focus should be on the house continuing to do what it does best, and strengthening and improving upon those things. There is no public clamour now for the complete removal of the Hereditaries. It is the number of Life Peers which is becoming unwieldy. Meanwhile, the introduction of Random 'Jury' Peers would be a simple and direct way of engaging the general public in parliamentary business.

It would be good to get a bit more 'randomism' in public life. What a delightful thing it would be, and what a boost to public interest in politics, if, say, the local bin-man was suddenly ennobled, under my system. Certainly, the presence of these 'Jury Peers' would go a long way to making the 'feel' of the second chamber much less elitist.

My hope is that the 'Jury Peers' would come into their own, over time, as guardians of the constitution, of basic liberties, and of common standards of decency ... They would begin as absolute beginners, and end their lives as national treasures.

Some idle musings now on what the approximate 'shape' (using slightly out-dated wikipedia figures!) of The Lords would be, following my slimming down of the number of Life Peers ~

Conservative: 83 (35 Life, 48 Hereditary)
Cross: 71 (38 L, 33 H)
Labour: 54 (52 L, 2 H)
Lib Dems: 22 (17 L, 5 H)
UKIP: 2 (1 L, 1 H)

Significantly, the current (2010) Coalition Government gets a much better 'showing' here ~ but by a process of reduction, rather than addition.

Total: 232 (117 for majority vote, currently Cons plus Lib Dems = 105; which means support also needed from 12 cross-benchers).

Party Percentages:
Conservative: 35.8%
Cross: 30.6%
Labour: 23.3%
Lib Dems: 9.5%
UKIP: 0.9%

[Comparison To Commons:]
[Conservative: 46.9%]
[Labour: 39.7%]
[Lib Dems: 8.8%]
[Others: 4.6 %]

First Intake Of Random ('Jury') Peers: 20
Bishops: 25
Law Lords: 22

Total added on: 69

Total Life Peers: 143
Total Hereditary Peers: 91 (1 replacement pending)

Total House: 301

% Life Peers: 47.5 %
% Hereditary: 30.2 %
% First Intake Jury: 6.6 %
% Bishops: 8.3 %
% Law: 7.3 %

3:51 pm  

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