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Why The House Of Lords Shouldn't Be Abolished But Reformed

07/04/2017 16:34
Doug Armand via Getty Images

A symbol of filthy bureaucracy that is completely abhorrent and incomprehensible in today's society or testament to the history of British democracy, the House of Lords has divided opinions for many years.

Whatever you think of the House of Lords, though, you have to recognise that it has a crucial part to play in the law-making business of Britain. Whenever the government wants to pass a new law that didn't appear in their manifesto, it must go through the Lords who have the power to make amendments and send a bill back to the Commons for further debate. This can go back and forth for a while, delaying the bill itself and also holding the government to account.

The real problem with the House of Lords is that every reform it's had never does the job we need and want it to. The 1999 House of Lords Act intended to remove most of the hereditary peers, also known as those who are only in there because of their rich and powerful ancestors who probably opened their wallets at the right time. Unfortunately, there are still 92 of them remaining. Albeit a small proportion of them, there are 92 people who have done absolutely nothing to deserve getting a seat in the Lords who can claim up to £300 a day just for turning up.

Of course, there are other issues with the House. However, they can be solved with real reform. The problem of the Lords being filled with 826 unelected members (199 of which are female and even less are from an ethnic minority background) and it being packed largely with those who don't represent the people of Britain is very real and must be addressed. However, there are times when they have saved the day. In 2015-16, they defeated the Conservative government 60 times and, as of 5th April, have done so 38 times in the 2016-17 session.

Now, I'm not a particular fan of the current establishment - I am in fact a staunch rebel against it - but there is a necessity surrounding the Lords. When I say that, I don't mean there's something necessary about old, white, upper-class men with entitlement making our laws. I mean there's something necessary about having another entity of our law-making system that has the power to make our MPs think again about what they're proposing.

After all, there has to be somebody to hold the government to account, especially when the Opposition is so utterly feckless at the moment.

In the recent BBC 2 documentary Meet the Lords, one woman told of how a Lord's taxi pulled up outside of the entrance, ran in, got back into their taxi and left. That was so they could claim the money for attending one sitting day. And if you ever happen to turn on your TV to BBC Parliament and the Lords are sitting, you won't be hard pushed to find one of them asleep. Usually they're napping during a debate and getting paid relatively handsomely for it while real people (you may know them as 'JAMs') bust a gut to feed their families.

They nap during debates about bills that might prevent a rise in homelessness; protect children from abuse or that will help struggling families struggle less. It is without question an abuse of power and the taxpayer's money. However, with proper reform done by a dedicated and sensible government, the House of Lords could be a place of true opportunity for ensuring governments don't have too much power and that the people of Britain are listened to.

There should be proportionate representation of the people of this country. There should be no hereditary peers, no pals of Prime Ministers and no rejected politicians. There should be more success stories (like Baron Bird who founded The Big Issue), more religious representation, more real people from real backgrounds who fight real fights put in the Lords.

An independent election body would do the trick, allowing for people to be nominated by governments and people in the country who should be reviewed according to their contribution to society in any form (government, arts, and public services) and appointed where necessary. There should also be a cap on the volume of Lords too - we don't need 826 of them draining the economy. We need at most half of that number and better efficiency could be achieved if all were specialists in their field.

The House of Lords could be something great if governments weren't too afraid or selfish to change it for the better. Abolishing the House would give governments too much power and we would most certainly run the risk of an oppressive - even a totalitarian-like - government.

Real reform could deliver real results. Don't abolish the future, abolish the present holding us back.

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