Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How to Make Lords Selection a Fairer Process; Opinion

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How to Make Lords Selection a Fairer Process; Opinion

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Beadle

IN this column I propose a different way to reform the House of Lords. Let's start by restating the issue that will doubtless divide politicians and people alike when the Bill for an 80% elected chamber returns to the Commons this session.

First, a proper revising second chamber shouldn't have most of its members nominated by successive Prime Ministers. At the moment this is the reason why a seat in the Lords becomes a tool of patronage and a retirement home for superannuated politicians. When party leaders want to move a friend into a safe seat, they can simply offer the current MP a place in the Lords in return for standing down from the Commons. This is very useful for Prime Ministers and party leaders but very bad for democracy.

Second, a proper revising chamber should be a seat of expertise. The current proposals suggest 20% of seats will be reserved for this purpose, but 80% are to be elected, so the experts will be a small minority and politicians will run the show.

Third, a revising chamber should not challenge the Commons for supremacy. This is the reason why many Tories oppose majority election for they envision a time when an unpopular Government in the Commons clashes with a second chamber which can also claim electoral legitimacy.

Fourth, a revising chamber should be much smaller and less expensive than the current 850-plus members. The proposal for 450 members would still dwarf the US Senate, which makes do somehow with only 100.

Fifth, the hereditary principle must go. There is no case for involving people in legislating for others on the sole premise that one of their ancestors was close to a long forgotten monarch.

Sixth, as the referendum for the North East assembly so clearly demonstrated, people don't want more politicians and they certainly don't want them elected for a 15-year single term, as currently proposed. …

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