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.

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“Publishing a reform White Paper, Mr Straw stressed that it had never been the government’s intention to legislate in this Parliament.”

Ah it must have been a different Labour Manifesto which said:
“In our next term we will complete the reform of the House of Lords so that it is a modern and effective revising Chamber.”

by Hywel Morgan on July 14, 2008 at 8:18 pm. Reply #

LOL 😀 Yeh.

The proposals are quite good though, especially if it’s the 100% elected option. The fact that 80% elected means the CofE bishops get to stay should focus a few Labour MP minds…

by Mark Wright on July 14, 2008 at 8:22 pm. Reply #

If the Lords becomes a fully elected house, would that lead to Prime Ministers from there rather the Commons?

by James Shaddock on July 14, 2008 at 8:35 pm. Reply #

I like the intent, but I don’t like the term length, and I’d be keen to know what the constituency arrangements are – I’d prefer a county/city based system elected by STV as opposed to a regional list.

by Thomas Hemsley on July 14, 2008 at 10:09 pm. Reply #

“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”

A sad day.

Does Magna Carta mean nothing to them?

by Anonymous on July 14, 2008 at 10:36 pm. Reply #

I see nothing in this that wasn’t fairly predictable in terms of headlines.

That said, I remain unconvinced by the notion of one twelve-year term, with a suggested five-year cooling off period before a former Senate member can run for the Commons. It strikes me that this would deter anyone under the age of 50 from running, as their alternatives in terms of career progression would be severely curtailed.

I will be 50 in 2014…

by Mark Valladares on July 15, 2008 at 12:47 am. Reply #

Anonymous, Magna Carta may perhaps be a tad out of date and a little updating might be a good thing. Tough for a Tory to comprehend but work at it.

I still favour the suggestion of professional shouter Billy Bragg that a second chamber could be selected based on the total numbers of votes each party received at a General Election. That way you’d only need one election and you would give each party fair representation. The bar would probably be high enough tho keep out the loons and the racists.

And why, oh why are CofE bishops going to remain?!

by wit and wisdom on July 15, 2008 at 10:32 am. Reply #

(Forgot to say I did get the Hancock reference, it just wasn’t very funny.)

by wit and wisdom on July 15, 2008 at 10:33 am. Reply #

If the House of Lords becomes a fully elected chamber, wont it just mirror the House of Commons? And if that happens the power of the House of Lords to scrutinise the government and hold it to account will greatly reduce. Currently no one political party has a working majority in the House of Lords and for the Labour party to pass any legislation it relies upon the support of the independents of the chamber, or alternativly it works with the other political parties to create better legislation

An independent House of Lords is the best option for parliament as a whole, so that its members are not controlled by a powerfull party whip system, and forced to vote on issues without really thinking about them.

And as for the cost factor, currently the House of Lords, with no elected members is cheaper to run than the House of Commons. Why is this? Because the members of the House of Lords are unpaid, meaning that those who show up to vote and debate in the chamber have a a more vested intrest in the bills being passed, as they’re not simply there to get a pay check.

by Stephen on July 15, 2008 at 10:51 am. Reply #

Stephen raises my favourite point – all the focus is on how we would elect the new Lords. Virtually none is on what they would do. I’d like to see much more emphasis on the Lords scrutiny function and looking at the detail of primary and secondary legislation – in particular EU Directives which seem very badly scrutinised when it comes to incorporating them into UK law.

by Hywel Morgan on July 15, 2008 at 12:01 pm. Reply #

This discussion shows once again that we are seriously interested in constitutional reform. The White Paper shows once again that Straw, Brown and Co. continue to be interested in it solely as a means of distracting people from concentrating on the Government’s real troubles.

It underlines the points that the only way to get constitutional reform is through more LibDem MPs; and that we cannot expect any constitutional reform in this Parliament.

by David Heigham on July 15, 2008 at 12:33 pm. Reply #

Well done Mr Straw, after a mere decade of debate the electoral options are narrowed down to just four options [ has anything been excluded? The drawing of lots, electoral college, trial by ordeal ? ]

by crewegwyn on July 15, 2008 at 4:41 pm. Reply #

If there is a term limit on members of the second chamber AND they are going to be elected at the same time as Members of the House of Commons then that necessarily implies fixed term parliaments. Somehow I think Jack Straw has come up with these proposals in the certain knowledge that a Labour Government isn’t going to be around after the next election to implement them.

by tony hill on July 15, 2008 at 5:38 pm. Reply #

Has anybody noticed how violently in favour of constitutional reform the Labour Party is when it’s position is threatened or at least unsure??

by Darrell on July 15, 2008 at 6:13 pm. Reply #

Thanks hywel 🙂

Robin Cook once said that reform of the House of Lords was “the longest political indecision in our history”, and for those of you who think that this is a new issue; in 1867 Lord Shaftesbury noted that “The people must govern, and not a set of hereditary peers never chosen by the people”

To add to that point on function: the current House of Lords acts as an addition to the House of Commons in terms of the functions it fulfills. For example the select committee’s are focused on different topic areas which go across government departments rather than focusing on one particuler department like the House of Commons committees do.

For instance whilst the House of Commons may look at the EU it will only do this through the foreign affairs committee whlst the House of Lords can look at a whole range of new EU directives and laws through the 7 sub-comittees that it has, that are for the EU.

by Stephen on July 15, 2008 at 8:10 pm. Reply #

I am a Liberal Democrat by choice, and I do not agree with an elected house of lords.

The function of the house of lords is not to create legislation, the function is to revise it and decide whether it’s fit for use. Who do you think is better at deciding what’s good and what’s not, a politician like Blair or Thatcher, or an expert in said field? For example, if bird flu comes and the health secretary proposes legislation, who do you want questioning that legislation, a professional MD, or the former mayor of london? Having the house of lords elected would be pointless, if you want parliament to be full of politicians, why not just have one chamber?

I also disbelieve in the lord spiritual, religion has no place in government.

by Andrew on August 16, 2008 at 3:18 am. Reply #

just because they’re experts doesnt mean they can make the right choices, the reason for having an elected house of lords is that the people who are ruled should be able to decide they’re rulers, or atleast the people who make the decisions……personaly though i favour either not allowing or atleast restricting the number of members of the lords who actually can be in government, if non were allowed in then they would work as a better check, even with whips, although i dont whether this would be actually workable?and also if you are appointing members to be specialists then how do you choose whicvh specialists there should be and how many, even with in professions they’re are many different views,could these really all be given seats?

by Declan on August 16, 2008 at 9:12 am. Reply #

That’s true, but I believe experts would make better decisions than politicians.

I do not believe members of the lords should be in government, it’s not their purpose, but even then, they’re appointed by the PM that the country voted.

What could be possible would be like a constitution or some written document that says what crtieria a peer should meet, I think it’s possible to have enough experts. I’m not entirely sure who would appoint a member though, could be the house of commons, house of lords, monarch or someoneone else.

by Andrew on August 16, 2008 at 10:55 am. Reply #

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