The Daily Mirror's investigation of Lord Hanningfield has once again shined a spotlight on the sheer dysfunction of the House of Lords. In August, the arrival of 30 new peers showed that our appointed second chamber is not only undemocratic - it's unsustainable as well. And now these latest revelations appear to show how peers are able to go about their business without any accountability to the public. The case for reform gets stronger and stronger by the day.
Our second chamber is a Victorian institution in dire need of renovation. When people look at the House of Lords, they see nothing which chimes with their own experiences. It's no surprise that people feel alienated from politics when they hear of peers clocking on for £300 a day and clocking off shortly after. People are simply unable to get away with that in normal life, and the fact that the payments come from the taxpayer makes the practice all the more galling.
There are currently Lords reform proposals doing the rounds which at least end the absurd situation whereby convicted criminals are allowed to hold on to their peerages. But most members of the public are shocked when they find out that criminals can still be Lords.
Addressing this one aspect of the second chamber is long overdue, but it's still just tinkering at the edges. We need a complete overhaul of the House of Lords. We need to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Since 2012, when the House of Lords Reform Bill was shelved, the conventional view has been that reform is off the agenda. But that doesn't take into account the fact there are already an almost unsustainable number of peers, and their number could rise to as much as 2,000 in the next parliament.
The House of Lords is already the second-largest legislative chamber in the world after the National People's Assembly of China. As the second chamber swells beyond its capacity to do its job properly, reform is coming back on the agenda whether the party leaders like it or not.
The key is to ensure that reform goes deeper than just tackling overcrowding and getting rid of criminals. We need a modern, representative and accountable second chamber. In an era when more and more people are turning away from politics, it's vital that we refresh our institutions so that they're fit for purpose in the 21st Century.
The House of Lords is an anachronism which gives people lucrative and comfortable jobs for life. An elected House of Lords would allow the public to hold their lawmakers to account - and that's what democracy is all about.
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