Lords reform

I have been in Westminster today for the publication of the report of the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Bill.  It was launched at a press conference this morning.  You can read details and links to the report here.  (In addition to the report, the oral and written evidence has been published.)   It was followed by a press conference to launch an Alternative Report, signed by twelve members of the Joint Committee, supprting some of the recommendations of the Joint Committee but arguing the need for the role of the House to be examined in a wider context.  The Bill, as it stands, is deficient and too narrowly focused.  You can read the Alternative Report hereI am one of the signatories.

The press conferences were interesting and well attended.  The reporters put some very critical questions at the launch of the Joint Committee report: How much is all this going to cost?  How will you be able to stop members of an elected second chamber ignoring conventions?   These pertinent questions highlighted some of the problems with the Government’s proposals.   The Joint Committee was limited in focusing on the contents of the Bill.  It did, though, find significant problems with the Bill.  The Government want to have an elected second but maintain the primacy of the House of Commons, more or less as it presently stands.  It sought to maintain primacy through Clause 2 of the Bill.  The committee was unanimous in finding that Clause 2 in itself was not capable of maintaining the primacy of the Commons.  The committee also concluded that an elected second chamber would be more assertive, but went on to say (at paragraph 34) ‘that a more assertive House would not enhance Parliament’s overall role in relation to the activities of the executive’.

As was widely trailed, the report also recommended that the proposal be subject to a referendum.  If the Government are prepared to have a referendum on a modification of the system of electing members of one chamber, it is difficult to see how they can deny one on the actual system by which members of the other are to be elected. 

The report (and the alternative report) will be debated in the Lords next Monday.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to Lords reform

  1. maudie33 says:

    Referendums have to clarify exactly what they are offering voters. Otherwise, it is another fix.

    I believe wholeheartedly in referendum and this could be the answer here. If the set up is straight.

    • Croft says:

      There won’t be a referendum because the LDs have threatened to block the boundary changes if the Tories don’t back Lords reform.

      Lord Norton, any chance you cold rummage through one of your LD colleagues desks and check their copy of the coalition agreement. I keep hearing them saying the Tories have to back Lords reform as part of the coalition ‘bargain’. However it doesn’t say that in my copy!

      CA: “We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. “

      Bringing forward proposals hardly binds the government to anything. They could have said, as they did elsewhere, ‘bring forward a bill’ and ‘whip both Parliamentary parties in both Houses to support’ it. However they didn’t…

      • ladytizzy says:

        Croft, during his interview with Andrew Neil in yesterday’s Sunday Politics I think I heard Mr Clegg rowing back from Lords Oakeshott’s earlier unilateral threat to keep Nadine Dorries in her seat.

        At the very least, Mr Clegg has recently changed his wording to Lords’ reform rather than Lords’ elections which suggests that, at last, he has read the Coalition Agreement.

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