Thursday, 8 February 2007

Reforming the House of Lords - easy?

House of Lords reform is one of those topics that sounds straightforward until you try to do it!

I've always thought that, like most of the rest of the world, we should have a main chamber (the House of Commons) whose excesses are reined in by a wholly-elected second chamber which would exist to revise, to question, but not ultimately to block. The tricky thing is how you get from here to there.

This week in the Commons, Jack Straw announced plans for a half-elected, half-appointed House of Lords. Of the appointed peers, 3 out 5 would be 'political' appointees (ie the sort that has got the Government into so much trouble over 'cash for honours') and 2 out of 5 would be appointed via an independent appointments commission. Existing peers would carry on (the only way to get them to vote for reform) but might well be offered generous redundancy terms.

One of the real complications is over what geographical area peers will be elected. You can't have a local 'constituency' like MPs otherwise the roles of the two houses will be hopelessly blurred. But you don't just want a national vote for parties, otherwise the parties just put people at the top of the list who will toe the party line, which is not what you want! So we are likely to end up with votes over a region, with some choice of individual candidate within party lists, and with elections taking place on the same day as the European elections - which, of course, are run on a different voting system! And this is before we get on to the Bishops...

This is one Bill where you wouldn't want to find yourself stuck on the standing committee!


Up Your Ego (Blogger) said...

I've often pondered the House of Lords and specifically its reform - every time I come away with a headache very quickly.

I DO think the House of Lords should be FULLY elected but as you've mentioned how do you go about it without crossing over with the Commons.

I always thought a county system would work, with Senators (or whatever we call them) elected to represent a County.

However, the concept of YET ANOTHER election system will have only one likely outcome - fewer people turning out to vote over all.

Tristan said...

STV over large regions would work surely?
Then you can still have STV for the commons but over smaller areas.

As for the role of the lords - its function is to revise and ammend, but if its elected, surely it should be allowed to block (with a proportional system there'd be no overall majority anyway, reducing the risk of the battles of the past).

The Lords should be 100% elected, but it should also be able to sit in committee and call experts.

Term limits merit discussion, discouraging careerism in the Lords would be good.