The Blog

Reforming the House of Lords

It is difficult to justify such a large body and in an era where there is clearly a desire for increasing democratic accountability and transparency, it is difficult to justify a revising Chamber that is wholly nominated and where no member is elected.

Numbering over 800, the House of Lords is probably the largest legislative body in the world.

Contrast a United States Senate of 100 elected members representing the whole of the United States.

It is difficult to justify such a large body and in an era where there is clearly a desire for increasing democratic accountability and transparency, it is difficult to justify a revising Chamber that is wholly nominated and where no member is elected.

However, arguably one of the strengths of the present House of Lords is that its membership does comprise people such as former Presidents of Royal Colleges, Vice-Chancellors, senior Judges, senior members of the Armed Forces and others who bring specialist knowledge to Parliament.

Hence the suggestion for a mainly elected Second Chamber but a mainly elected much smaller Second Chamber but providing a number of places for a proportion of members to continue to be nominated.

Constitutional Reform may never be particularly high on the immediate political agenda - indeed Lords' reform has been being debated since the Parliament Act of 1911 - but that is of itself not a reason for not doing it.

Does this need a referendum - hardly.

All the main Political Parties had a commitment in their last General Election manifesto to Lords' reform.

In any event the Labour Party's call for a referendum is somewhat self-serving.

The Labour Party do not wish to see either a reduction in the number of Parliamentary constituencies nor an equalisation in the number of electors for each Parliamentary constituency because the present constituency boundaries are skewed in favour of the Labour Party and they would benefit from representing a number of constituencies with small electorates.

You could almost fit two Welsh Parliamentary constituencies into my seat of nearly 90,000 voters.

The Liberal Democrat Party has made it clear that a pre-condition of their support for the new constituencies and even constituency sizes is that Lords' reform should be completed this Parliament.

So an increasing number of Labour MPs clearly believe that if they can thwart Lords' reform, they won't be bothered by changes in constituency boundaries.

Having for a long time campaigned for a fully elected Second Chamber, it is difficult for the Labour Party to oppose the principle of Lords' reform - hence they are resorting to filibustering tactics seeking to delay legislation for as long as possible and hoping generally to gum up the works.