Straw promises 80-100% elected House of Lords… after the next election

by Stephen Tall on July 14, 2008

The Government has today published its widely awaited White Paper, An Elected Second Chamber: further reform of the House of Lords, with key recommendations including:

• a 100 or 80 per cent elected chamber
• options for direct elections: first-past-the-post, alternative vote, single transferable vote and a list system
• the primacy of the House of Commons must remain in any reform process and the reformed second chamber should not rival or replicate the Commons
• proposals on eligibility and disqualification, including recall ballots for elected members of the second chamber and similar arrangements for appointed members
• members should normally serve a single non-renewable term of 12 to 15 years
• the link between the peerage and a seat in Parliament will be broken altogether
• the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords on the basis of their ancestry brought to an end
• the size of the second chamber should be significantly reduced and should be smaller than the House of Commons and costs should be maintained or reduced
• individuals appointed on their ability, willingness and commitment to take part in the full range of the work of the chamber, if there is an appointed element
• new members of a reformed second chamber elected in thirds coinciding with general elections
• if there is an appointed element in a reformed second chamber, there should continue to be seats reserved for Church of England bishops, with the number reduced proportionally in a smaller chamber
• a transition period when existing members and new members will work together
• proposals to establish a new independent Statutory Appointments Commission, if there is an appointed element in the second chamber.

However, before you get too excited at the end of inherited or appointed privilege in our legislature:

Publishing a reform White Paper, Mr Straw stressed that it had never been the government’s intention to legislate in this Parliament. Instead, a package of proposals would be put to the electorate as a manifesto commitment, he said. “The White Paper represents a significant step on the road to reform and is intended to generate further debate and consideration rather than being a final blueprint for reform,” he told MPs.

Sources have told the BBC there is little appetite for pressing ahead with reform at a time of economic difficulty. There are also several probable obstacles, including expected opposition to elections from peers themselves and the question of how to reduce the size of the Lords.