House of Lords Reform Bill 2012

The British Government is expected to lay its new House of Lords Reform Bill in Parliament today, to elect 80% of the Upper House.

It seems most people aren’t giving it much hope. The Bill was slammed in a joint Committee earlier in the year, and a lot of the strongest criticisms were for things that are inherent in having two elected chambers.

The Lib Dem and Tory backbenchers despise one another and it’s expected that a large number of Tories will oppose the Bill - and now they’re joined by Labour, who say that they will oppose the Programme Motion (which limits the time for debate).

If the Government loses the Programme Motion they will have essentially lost control of the Bill and it could remain on the floor of the House for months - potentially eating up precious time for getting other (more important) legislation through.

So the Government will have to choose between ditching the Bill in order to maintain its legislative programme, or abandon parts of its programme to stare down opponents of the Bill.

It’s going to be an interesting next few weeks!

If the bill were enacted, would the directly elected members of the Upper House still be called ‘Lords’? It would seem rather odd if so.

It’s unclear. Much of the attraction of entering the House would be gone if they weren’t. Actually very few people get in for finding a cure for cancer, or something. Mostly they are just political hacks now.


Did the people crying for reform miss the memo about what the Lords purpose is?

There aren’t any people crying for reform, except for a few policy wonks inside the Westminster bubble.

Interesting - thanks, I hadn’t heard of this.

Is this something the PM has promised to try to do, either out of conviction or because of the Tory/LibDem deal that led to the coalition government?

Has there been any polling? Are most British voters apathetic, or basically satisfied with how things are now, or something else?

It seems weird to me. The lords are mostly powerless. Electing democratically people to a chamber without power is pointless. Or might be a source of conflict, since, being elected, they would have a political legitimacy.

So, how much money are English taxpayers splurging on this group of yahoos? Here I was thinking the Royal Family was the worst waste of resources going.

Here, we have a Senate, with some real powers to REALLY fuck things up.

I would say the most accurate summary is no one is particularly satisfied with how things are, but we also think that reform of this type will make things even worse and in general either hate or mock politicans, usually both.

The only popular part of parliament is the Queen.

Well, Lords aren’t paid; although they do get an attendance allowance for showing up (reasonable - they are meant to be part-time members who turn up when the areas that they are experts in are discussed). I don’t think they’re sure if they want to continue this system if it were elected or salary them all.

I’ll ignore your comments about the monarchy :wink:

Pretty much as you say. The Independent published a poll today: linky, which claims a majority of voters want to elect the Lords. Fair enough, but it ignores how strongly they want to elect it - and it’s far, far, far down the list of people’s priorities.

Furthermore, ask someone if they want to have a referendum on something, or elect something, chances are they will say yes by default - who wouldn’t? It’s not a terribly straightforward claim to say the people want the Lords to be elected.

Funnily enough, the Bill as it stands does not change the name at all! I think it suggests that if they can’t even agree on the name of the House, they can’t be expected to change the composition very well!

Do you really want an elected second chamber? You are likely to lose the advantages of the Lords which is the fact that retired Judges, former military and naval chiefs and captains of Industry and commerce are part of it, that gives the Lords an unparalleled expertise in many areas. The Lords can and has been an excellent check on a Commons gone awry, witness the Lords scurppering of the various illiberal legislation on civil liberties grounds and such legislation was often popular.Would an elected Lords have done that? Or even had such members as I mentioned above.

“I have altered the deal, pray I don’t alter it any further.”

Well, a Lib Dem aide has apparently threatened the Tories’ plans for boundary redrawing if the Lords Bill isn’t passed at Second Reading. Which I think is rich: the original deal was that the Lib Dems would get a referendum on AV (which they did) in exchange for boundary reform. Lords reform was never part of it.

Ironically I think this is a rash act (and I don’t think it’s been countenanced by Clegg), as it will just make Labour even more likely to seek to wreck the Bill at Second Reading - they don’t want boundary redrawing, either. It might anger enough Tories to wreck the Bill out of spite, too.

Would the proposed reform give back to the House of Lords the unfettered power to refuse to pass government money bills (i.e. the power that the Lords lost during the tussle in 1911)?

I really doubt it, but I don’t know.

Realized this hadn’t been answered.

It was actually a pledge in the Conservatives’ election manifesto (see p. 67). So it was easy for them to include in the coalition agreement.

Which has a bearing on the latest argument. Either it was never the quid pro quo for the boundary changes, or, given that the Conservatives had promised to do this anyway, the real concession was over the timing. The Liberal Democrats would have been conscious that the Conservatives wouldn’t regard it as a priority, which is why the coalition agreement included a deadline for the drafting of the proposed scheme. As the bill has now been introduced, the Conservatives can argue that they are pressing ahead with that plan, as agreed. Or, at least, trying to press ahead with it.

The Bill proposes to maintain the Parliament Act in its entirety - even though the original purpose of the Parliament Act (i.e. establishing the supremacy of an elected House over an unelected one) falls away. I don’t see such an arrangement lasting, personally.

APB: the Tories promised to seek consensus on Lords reform, which, frankly, there isn’t. Moreover the Coalition Agreement committed them to establishing an investigatory committee which would bring forward proposals and a draft Bill. There was nothing in there about being expected to support whatever Bill came out of that.

Furthermore, we now know that Clegg’s committee met once, in late 2010, and then never met again, as there was no consensus on how to proceed. So it was wrapped up, and suddenly a draft Bill was produced by the Deputy Prime Minister’s office.

The Tories (much as I dislike them, on the whole), have fulfilled their side of the bargain.