A lonely Bill…

Yesterday, as is my usual practice, as soon as I finished teaching I travelled to Westminster in time for the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill.   The Bill has not exactly attracted enthusiastic support.   Few witnesses have offered clear and cogent support.  Last night, we took evidence from two former ministers in the Lords, Lord Carter of Barnes and Lord Adonis.  Lord Carter emphasised the value of having members in the Lords who are experts in their field.  Lord Adonis, a supporter of an elected second chamber, made clear that in the event of election the relations between the two chambers would change dramatically.  He was in favour of that, but it is not quite the line that the Government is advancing!

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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12 Responses to A lonely Bill…

  1. After not having visited for some time — mea culpa, mea maxima culpa — happy to see an e-mail update link on the bottom of the page: wonderful for us of constant heart but absent mind!

  2. ladytizzy says:

    I note the evidence given by the Electoral Commission; not too optimistic about the time frame, are they?

  3. David Morris says:

    Much like the Yes2AV and No2AV campaigns, I feel that the people supporting the House of Lords Reform Bill have not thought things through carefully enough. I think Lords Reform is necessary, but there needs to be a comprehensive look at all the issues before a draft Bill is put together. If that happened, there’s a chance that the process would be moving at a quicker pace.

    For example, the draft Bill states that STV will be used and provides some basic reasoning. However, there doesn’t seem to be any clear examination of other electoral systems. If this method is appropriate for the Lords, why isn’t appropriate for the other place?

    Then there’s the issue about Lords Spiritual. I have previously blogged about the fact that there shouldn’t be Bishops in the Lords. However, this doesn’t seem to have been considered at any point – even though it’s a way of reducing the numbers!

    I understand the argument that people are making about the expertise of the members in the Lords. However, can you honestly guarantee that the present system means that everyone who is appointed is an expert in a particular field? It’s just as easy for a long serving MP to be appointed to the Lords by a government in order to boost support for government policies.

    There needs to be a greater discussion about how candidates for Lords elections are selected. If there is an appropriate process, then many of the candidates could be considered ‘experts’ and then there would be less of a problem.

    • Lord Norton says:

      David Morris: You offer a very pertinent critique of the Bill. Even among those who favour election, it has few friends. On electoral systems, you are quite right and I am pressing for the Joint Committee to extend its examination to encompass other systems.

      On the present system, it does not guarantee that all members are experts, though it is useful to have a mix of experience and expertise. One could, if one so wished, limit appointment to those who are expert in their field.

  4. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,
    I must say that David Morris and the Humanist society certainly put forward some reasons why there should not be Bishops in the House of Lords. But perhaps instead of building on the many efforts which have been made to promote a diversity of religious leaders like the Chief Rabbi (or for example succeeding in promoting a program for seating a Roman Catholic Bishop) one would be able to preserve a bit of spiritual insight if one took a different tack. Consider that much of the problem is that the modern era simply resents the generalist claims of religious leaders. It is their presumption to advise us on how to live with those conditions common to all humans which offend most. So perhaps instead of removing the Lords Spiritual on could be diverse by including a couple of drunkards known for the sketicism who are most successful in holding forth against THE CHURCH at pubs, a couple of jouranlists who have excelled in spouting off absolute claims of science they never studied as proof that religion they do not understand is baseless and a scientist in the physical sciences who is happy to do most of his work in the field of moral philosphy and national symbology. With these people voting equally to all Bishops and rabbis that may remain surely many people will feel more smug and content .

    In more politic terms, people have real reasons to resent any real given religious establishment anywhere. But we live in an age that has let the question pass to many unstudied conclusions from that basic sense of discontent. The Lords Spiritual are at least a reminder of the possibility of a really serious view of the human condition itself. Just in case some people are not content to be the mice of experimental psycology.

    • David Morris says:

      Frank (and Lord Norton),

      In case you didn’t see my full article about the Lords Spiritual, you can find it here:


      What I put in my earlier comment is only part of my argument. I have also noted what the Humanist Society say.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        David Morris,
        You are a reasonable and relatively courteous person from what I have seen. That is in part manifest by your providing a convenient link. Although this has some benefits for you as well that is not atypical of what I would call good behaviour. I will likely read you article (post) again. I value the House of Lords as a battleground in the world of ideas and social change and very likely we would find ourselves on opposite sides of many political contests in every sense in which the word politics can be used and yet both recognize the possibility that there may be times when we would be on the same side. That minority of times would provide a rational and selfish motive to attempt courteous discourse.

        I imagine that our life experiences have also contributed to our views. While, I may try to post a response on your blog in which I attack your positions and analysis I may not do that here. Process is important in its own right. You seem to take reasoned postions subject to real discussion. I think they are wrongheaded, inconsistent and unproductive. I do not think they are bizarre, ridiculous or the spasmodic response of an insanely inflated ego. I do not mean to imply that much modern secualrism is bizarre, ridiculous and the spasmodic response of an insanely inflated ego. Rather, I mean to state clearly and certainly that I believe these conditions to characterize much of modern secularism.

  5. Croft says:

    Interesting competition really between the Joint Committee and the EU summit as to which is less relevant to the important issues facing us.

    • David Morris says:

      I’d argue that Parliamentary Reform and the EU Summit are both incredibly important.

      The latter could have a huge impact on the future state of our economy, trade and the foreign policy between European nations.

      The former affects the way this country is run and the processes that are used to create the laws which govern our society.

      • Croft says:

        I fear you miss my point – neither process is actually going to achieve the aims you state – they are essentially displacement activity confusing action with relavence

    • ladytizzy says:

      “…neither process is actually going to achieve the aims you state – they are essentially displacement activity confusing action with relevance.”


  6. maude elwes says:

    Surely it is as clear as the nose on your face. No one wants this matter to move along. What ‘s in it for them? I believe Lord Norton’s terms it as apathy when it’s the general public he is assessing on matters politic.

    This will sit for years if left to those who claim agreement, simply to be judged as compliant mammals and not for any true interest in ‘changing’ the status quo.

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