The Daily Telegraph today reported that Labour peers are calling for major reform of the House of Lords which would lead to the expulsion of all remaining hereditary peers and the banning of ceremonial vestments to make it “a democratic chamber fit for the twenty-first century.”
A reform more fitting to the history and traditions of this country would be to expel all but a handful of life peers deemed of “exceptional value” (to use Labour’s term) and, if a smaller House is deemed necessary, provide for the peer-based election of a fixed number of hereditary peers.
The House of Lords is NOT the House of Commons, it is NOT supposed to be representative and it is most certainly NOT supposed to be democratic. It is a *revising* House that is, by its very nature, the balancing antithesis of democracy – a voice of reason against MPs who are all too ready to jump on bandwagons and moral panics as a quick-fix for the electorate and the media.
The hereditary peerage is the best means of facilitating this. It provides the ‘lottery’ element many who favour a ‘jury’ system propose, but in a way that almost guarantees a high standard of education, wealth immune from corruption, leisure to really scrutinise in the long-view and a patriotic duty to Queen and country. It does this while also bringing hundreds of years of history alive and celebrating something absolutely unique on this Earth.
If you want an Upper House which is little more than a rubber-stamp to the House of Commons, packed with party stooges and vulnerable to the same avarice, corruption, ambition and moral panics as MPs, then by all means support Labour’s plans. If, however, you favour a truly independent, experienced and senior revising chamber, support the hereditary peers and the exceptional crossbench life peers we have on the red benches.
Enough is enough. Don’t let the philistines wreck it.
The Daily Telegraph published the following, by assistant political editor Peter Dominiczak, on March 28, 2014;
Labour calls for major reform of the House of Lords
The last hereditary peers would face expulsion under Labour plans to reform the House of Lords.
According to a report by a group of Labour peers, the House of Lords is in need of “urgent reform” and should immediately be made smaller that the Commons, which has nearly 650 members.
The report is endorsed by Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, and comes as peers on Frieday prepare to debate plans to remove members of the Lords who do not turn up as well as giving members the right to retire or resign.
The second chamber is now the second biggest legislature in the world after the Chinese politburo, and has overtaken in size the European Parliament.
There are currently around 780 peers who can attend the House of Lords. However, it is rare that more than 650 attend even the most contentious votes.
The Labour report on the future of the House of Lords calls for the second chamber to have only 450 members.
All hereditary peerages would be abolished and no more should be created, the report adds.
However, some hereditary peers could return to the House of Lords as life peers if they are judged to be of “exceptional value”, it is understood.
The report also calls for peers to retire at the end of the Parliament in which they reach the age of 80.
The use of ceremonial robes in the Lords should also be banned, the peers say.
Baroness Royall, Labour’s leader in the Lords, said that the measures would “improve scrutiny of government legislation by modernising our working practices”.
Mr Khan said: “Labour remains committed to reforming the House of Lords to make it a democratic chamber fit for the twenty-first century. The status quo is clearly unsustainable and a number of short-term pressures have been allowed to build up under the Tory-led coalition.
“Labour will come forward with detailed proposals on our plans for the House of Lords in our manifesto closer to the next election.”
The issue of Lords reform nearly split the Coalition after Conservative backbenchers blocked Nick Clegg’s plans to reform the second chamber.
Labour’s bid to reform the Lords is yet another policy move that aligns Ed Miliband’s party with the Liberal Democrats, increasing the likelihood of a coalition between the two parties in the event of a hung Parliament after next year’s general election.
Peers will on Friday vote on a private members bill from Dan Byles, the Conservative MP for North Warwickshire, which seeks to reform the Lords.
If it is passed, it would bring the Lords into line with the Commons by removing members who are convicted of a serious criminal offence and sentenced to more than twelve months in prison.