Labour proposes more reforms for the House of Lords

#1
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6074478.stm
Straw 'planning Lords overhaul'

Ministers want a radical overhaul of the House of Lords, including an end to life peerages and quotas for ethnic minorities, a leaked document says.
The Sunday Times said Commons leader Jack Straw had also drawn up proposals for half of all peers to be elected and half appointed.

The number of peers would also be reduced by a third, it adds.

The leaked proposals come after years of deadlock on the future of Parliament's second chamber.

The spokesman for Mr Straw said: "This document is Jack Straw's attempt to facilitate cross-party discussion and that discussion is continuing. It is not government policy."

Increased costs

The Sunday Times reports that Mr Straw's ideas are to go to a free vote in the Commons before Christmas.

The plans call for elected peers - who would sit for no longer than three parliamentary terms, a maximum of 15 years - to be paid, rather than claiming allowances, as it currently the case.

This, it is estimated, would mean costs rising from £13.1m to £41.27m a year.

The number of bishops in the Lords would also be cut under the plans.

Mr Straw outlined his suggestions in an 18-page memorandum presented to the cross-party working group on Lords reform earlier this month, it is reported.

In 1999, all but 92 hereditary peers were removed from the Lords.

But, in 2003, an attempt to complete the reform process collapsed.

Seven options, from a fully elected to a fully appointed second chamber, were put forward, but MPs and peers failed to agree on any of them.

'MP control'

Labour's former Cabinet minister Tony Benn, who gave up a hereditary peerage in order to remain in the elected house, said a half-appointed Second Chamber was not good enough for a modern democracy.

Mr Benn told BBC1's The Politics Show: "In a democracy you vote for the people who make the laws you are expected to obey.

"No prime minister wants democracy because he depends on patronage to control the MPs and everyone else."

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats want 80% of peers to be elected.

Lib Dem constitutional affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said: "Democracy is worth paying for.

"You cannot justify the Houses of Parliament not having a predominance of elected representatives.

"Jack Straw's proposals are a welcome first stab at a package of reforms which were greatly overdue.

"But [he] has so far failed to grasp the fundamental point - the replacement House of Lords must be predominantly elected."

The Conservative Leader in the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde, said: "We are in favour of replacing Labour's cronyism with an elected House of Lords with more powers which will be better able to hold an over-mighty Government to account.

"This reform process has a long way to go."
This can only be described as a bloody awful idea.

I could rant for hours on the issue, but suffix to say that the power, importance and legitimacy of the upper house is in the fact that the peers aren’t meant to be swayed by knee-jerk politics, especially party relate ones, by making it an elected body you then force these issues apon them. As well as the fact that the upper house takes a long term, nationwide view of the issues, and act as the counter balance to the (insane) lower house, if they are an elected body with constituents and are getting paid a salary then they will no longer be able to do this. It will simply become a second version of the Commons.

Don’t get me wrong, the House of Lords does need reforms, removing the right of hereditary peers for one thing. But these, ... ideas are not only the entirely wrong direction to move in but utter madness. The upper house should be a small, appointed, unpaid body. Peers should be appointed by a independent committee that is chaired with a the parties having minority representation, thus removing these political appointments we have seen so much of under labour. The House of Lords should be filled with Britain’s great people, its finest minds, not who ever gave the ruling party a nice big cheque. It also needs to be given back its legitimacy, whilst the lower house should obviously be dominant, it shouldn’t be able to steamroll over the Lords whenever a government cant get what it wants, it derides the entire point of having the upper house to examine bills.

As it stands today, the Lords isn’t actually that bad, it simply needs some minor adjustments to ensure it works effectively.

These 'reforms' would do nothing but destroy the oldest political institution in the world, to be replaced with mayhem. And all for the sake of party politics :x.
 
#2
It seems to me that any of New Labours reforms end up costing a lot more money and then have a lot of thier friends involved in it at a variety of levels. I agree the Upper House does need some reforming, but a second election for a second house does seem unnecessary, I always saw the Upper House as a moderating effect on the Commons, all it can do is delay or suggest modifications to what was put in front of it, this could be bypassed by the commons in the case of severe national emergencies to push laws etc through, such as the need to push through the anti-hunting vote!
 
#3
The house of Lords as it stands has consistently produced better descisions than the house of commons over the many years this government has been in power. How many times has some piece of legislation passed through the commons in some mangled and twisted form, for the Lords to quickly realise that its a load of b*ll*cks voted it down.

The great strength of the Lords is that it is made of (mainly) proffesionals from various fields, not people whose professional life consists of constantly trying to look good to get elected. Lets face it, elected politicians are not experts in management or any other field(there is the occasional lawyer among them). The only change I would make is to get rid of the remaining Hereditary Peers.

So overall I completely agree with Drago_Drake, good post sir.
 
#4
For the first time in my life, i found myself agreeing with Tony Benn on these 'improvements' to the house of lords!

If Labour have their way, they will use the issue of hereditary peers to lever through their 'appointed' lords, which if the trend continues will be labour cronies who have contributed to 'the cause'.
 
#5
It's purely and simply about breaking the "power" of the second chamber to prevent them making this Government look s**te, which it manages to do so without any help from anybody else. New Labour has forced thro more Bills under the Parliament Act than any other regime. Out of 7 actual uses the Parliament Act has been used 3 times by New Labour, in 1999, 2000 and 2004.

New Labour didn't like the "unreformed" House of Lords because it was too big, uncontrollable, and too prone to do its own thing. The "Reformed" House of Lords has proved even more prone to upset the Government because of the Government's own stupidity, since New Labour "reformed" the House, the remain9ing Lords feel they have more right to correct, amend and reject bad bills, something New Labour is really good at writing, after all It's now a Criminal Offence to express your own opinion within 1 km of the Houses Of Parliament, without some brain dead Copper telling you that you can.

I much preferred the old House of Lords, full of people who’d had real lives to live; unlike the useless political drones and hacks we get as MP’s. This is why the Political class want to reform the Lords
 
#6
I had to laugh however at the Lib Dem idea of not actually having Lords in the House of Lords, they would instead be the Rt. Hon. Members of Lords (ML's). What have they been smoking, and why didnt they offer to share.
 
#7
There seems to be a growing arrogance among politicians that just because someone is elected, he or she makes better descisions than non-elected descision makers, because "they were chosen by the voters".
 
#9
Ah ha......sounds like a cheap attempt to hi-jack the House of Lords for their own means by removing it's independance and effectively turning it into the second tier of the House of Commons. Generally speaking they [the Lords] do a great job in 'sanity checking' bills generated by the Commons who hope to achieve some fashionable or short term political goal. Once Labour have the quotas filled with paid and elected members in the Lords it will descend into that self serving shambles we call the House of Commons.

Why don't you just f*ck off Tony, we can all see that you just want to rid yourself of one of the last enclaves of opposition to your weak and ineffective Goverenment.

.....rant over.
 
#10
Stooge said:
There seems to be a growing arrogance among politicians that just because someone is elected, he or she makes better descisions than non-elected descision makers, because "they were chosen by the voters".

Surely in a democracy that is exactly what is suppposed to happen. If we do not change to a fully elected second chamber then we may as well just give the keys to government to the Tories (if You stand by the original institution) or Labour (taking into account the present debacle).

As for the Lords being a block to bad legislation - some posters have apparently forgotten the law Maggie rought in that has emasculated The House of Lords
 
#12
Stooge said:
Sorry Sven, what I meant was that they actually believe that they make better quality descisions because they are elected.


But they do make decisions which are more in keeping with the the thoughts of the voting public
 
#13
Sven said:
Stooge said:
Sorry Sven, what I meant was that they actually believe that they make better quality descisions because they are elected.


But they do make decisions which are more in keeping with the the thoughts of the voting public
No they make decisions based on knee-jerk reactions, in the vain hope of keeping favour with specific segments of their constituency’s. They very rarely have the best interests of the country as a whole as a concern. Just look at the hospital closures in Tory and Lib Dem area's specifically to avoid jeopardising Labour seats.

This is one of the reasons the HoL is so important, it not only tempers the lower houses knee-jerk reactions, but they also take a very broad national view on issues.
 
#14
But they do make decisions which are more in keeping with the the thoughts of the voting public
What like Terrorism Legislation? Increasing powers of surveillance on the public? Id Cards? Law Reforms?

The lords scrutinised all of these things and sent them back to the commons to make sure they think it through properly. To me they are defending democracy far better than the "Blair Claps and we jump" crowd the MPs seem to form.

They cant block bills from happening but they can raise issues with them and delay bad bills. To me they are absolutely essential to preventing the madness in Commons all being passed into law.
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
How about random selection from the voting population, with a minimum standard of education required, for a period of 3 years with no option to return for 6 years? Like jury service, only longer and with a better bar. Salary to be same as your employment, plus London accomodation, expenses etc. The benefit is that you'd get a cross section of the public and less party political influence.
 
#16
There is a vast difference between a good decision and a popular decision. (Yet somehow the current government manages to fail on both counts.)

And I feel I must apologise for my bad spelling in previous posts.
 
#17
Biggest thing with the "spiritual and temporal" has been the fact that their experience and knowledge comes from areas of true expertise outside of "career politics" - Lord sainsbury being a prime example, who would you suggest were in a better position to review laws and regulations on retail sales ? him or ex-students & failed barristers as in the other place. The same applies to law, religion, armed forces and medicine, all of which are heavily represented in the Lords.

I also always thought the reason for lords being an unpaid position was that you were expected to be in a financially secure and independent position regardless of your membership, and as such less likley to be corruptable - if you get paid then that element is taken away.


fianlly, the nail was hit on the head with the comments about knee jerk politics - exactly why the lords threw back so many bills which seek to undermine our constitutional rights (though clearly the govt still got some of its way) - I'm sure that recent ocurrances have shown that the public hold the HOL in far better understanding & trust than the commons.
 

Mr Happy

LE
Moderator
#18
Bouillabaisse said:
How about random selection from the voting population, with a minimum standard of education required, for a period of 3 years with no option to return for 6 years? Like jury service, only longer and with a better bar. Salary to be same as your employment, plus London accomodation, expenses etc. The benefit is that you'd get a cross section of the public and less party political influence.
Hmm, perhaps rather than a cross-section, why don't we only allow people that have 'served' to take political roles. Doctors, nurses, soldiers and yes, even RAF movers...

Since so much legislation is about spending government money perhaps these people would be able to bring a element of knowledge so far missing.

God bless Starship Troopers.
 
#19
I want to see the House of Lords retained, and I don't want to see them elected by the electorate. Others have made those points far more eloquently than I can manage!

I would like to see a House based on what we have now but with members selected from, and elected if necessary, by the groups of people who make the country work. So, I would expect that the Commons, the Services and the Church would all send members as they do now. Then I would go to all the institutions (teachers, nurses etc), charities (the National Trust and the RSPB anyone?) and such-like for the rest of the members. If, for example, the Womens' Institute cannot decide who it sends, then it asks its membership to vote on the issue. I would also have a proportion of hereditary peers for their experience - and they usually turn up to vote too. The 92 left would be a good start but would reduce over the years as they die off.

I could argue that politicians should be specifically excluded but I accept that some of them are very good at their job!

Totally impractical, I know, but no worse than the current system!

Litotes
 
#20
Actually, something I would get rid of is political parties. (Gasp from the audience.) In the commons, it is so often seen that there aren't several hundred free speaking elected MPs, rather several hundred MPs blindly following their party line (and whips there to make sure the rest follow it too). I would much prefer if all MPs were independants, making sure that acts would only get through if they are worthy.
 

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