Thursday, November 25, 2004

Lords reform campaign launched

A group of MPs including Robin Cook MP, Kenneth Clarke MP, Sir George Young MP and Tony Wright MP headed by Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler MP have formed a cross-party group to draft a Bill on House of Lords reform.

The group's new proposals include:

* A "significantly smaller" second chamber with about 70% of its members elected

* Elected and appointed members to serve roughly 12-year terms - with one third removed every four years

* Elections to take place region-by-region on the same day as a general election

* An appointments commission to choose independent peers to add expertise, with the prime minister able to appoint a small number of peers specifically to serve as ministers

I like the sound of a smaller House of Lords the current chamber with some 695 is too big. What is more annoying is that some of these Peers have attendance records which are appalling and if a student or worker had a record of that sort for their School/College/University or place of work they would either be fined by the government or sacked by their boss.

Even if we take out the 74 Hereditary Peers elected by party, 14 Hereditary Peers elected office Holders, 2 Hereditary Royal Office Holders and 26 Bishops the House Lords would have 579 members, which by me is still too many. I hope that a new House of Lords has something like 400 members.

I'm not too keen on 12-year terms. I think that they are far too long and would prefer terms of 6 years. I would prefer a system whereby a hundred Peers were elected every two years to serve a six-year term. They would be elected using the single transferable vote in constituencies based on Metropolitan Councils and Unitary Authorities areas. This would ensure that Peers are not spread too thinly between constituents, as is a problem with MEPs. As there would be fixed terms I would prefer that they were elected in May when local elections take place across the country but start their term as Peers when the next parliamentary term starts in November.

I would have a committee chaired by the speaker of Commons with one MP and one Peer from each political party with a presence in either Chamber to recommend a certain number of people to the Peers who would then elect about 75 independent Peers. I would have 25 Independent Peers elected every two years to serve a six-year term. I would have the remaining 25 Peers who would be Independent nominated by the government to add expertise to the House of Lords. They would be nominated by the Prime Minister on behalf of the government and approved by both the House of Commons and House of Lords. However I would have these 25 elected together to serve their six-year terms

In accordance with the principle of separation of powers, I would prefer a totally independent House of Lords one free of Government spokespersons and ministers and judges. I would not have any Bishops in the House of Lords however the Committee chaired by the Speaker of Commons or the government would be allowed to nominate Bishops and retired Judges.

I would also like to the reformed House of Lords work more closely with the House of Commons to do this I would have the House of Lords and House of Commons form joint committees to scrutinize Bill's before they are presented to the House of Commons, scrutinize government departments and Quangos & Agencies and to consult the Scottish Parliament and the London, Northern Ireland Welsh Assemblies if necessary. I would also allow joint sittings of the House of Commons and House of Lords in Westminster Hall for votes on rolling Bills over to the next session of Parliament, Prime Minister’s and Cabinet question times and for votes on whether to go to war, confirm the Prime Minster’s Nominees for House of Lords, Judiciary, Civil Service etc.

I hope that the government will include a Bill on House of Lords reform in the first Queens speech (November 2005) after the General Election. It would take one year for the Bill to be passed so I hope that an elected House of Lords is in operation by November 2007.

I doubt I will see all that happen but almost anything is better then the current House of Lords.

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