Not making the case

In Westminster this afternoon to listen to the debate in the Commons on the House of Lords Reform Bill.  The speech opening the debate by the Deputy Prime Minister simply ignored the wider debate that has taken place so far.  He continues to assert that electing a second chamber is self-evidently democratic.  As readers of this blog know, it is no such thing.  He concluded by saying that there are three reasons for passing the Bill: democracy, to make better laws, and reform cannot be ducked.  None of these is an argument for the Govermment’s Bill.  Far from enhancing democracy, the Bill undermines it by fragmenting accountability.  No evidence has been presented to show that an elected second chamber would lead to making better laws – quite the reverse.  And as for reform not being ducked, the Government have continually ducked it by not supporting the Bill introduced by Lord Steel.   The Steel Bill provides for reform.  The Government’s Bill provides for replacement.   No clear or compelling argument has yet been advanced for it.  The Deputy Prime Minister keeps advancing arguments that have already been demolished.  One can only speculate as to why.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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11 Responses to Not making the case

  1. Dean B says:

    I can only assume it’s because he is not very bright, or at least cannot quite get his head around this particular set of issues. The phrase I have most often heard him use on this subject, in the media, is “our argument really is very, very simple”. I agree with him on that – no-one has a problem understanding his case. The problem is, it is over-simple: it is not thought through, no attempt to address the issues that have been repeatedly raised, and he is unable to see the contradictions and inadequacies in the Bill. We understand that it is simple – we would like it to be a little more complicated.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Dean B: The Deputy PM seems incapable of engaging with the argument, the product as far as one can see of an arrogant belief that what he is saying is unquestionably correct. He is the epitome of the emperor with no clothes.

  2. Dean B says:

    I am also thoroughly fed up with this (awful) Bill being treated as synonymous with “reform” – i.e. if you are against this Bill you are against reform, and if you are for reform you should be for this Bill. There are plenty of reforms I would support, and that would probably receive widespread support. Ironically, I suspect one of the least contentious reforms one could make is not in this Bill – to remove the Lords Spiritual. Also removing the remaining hereditaries, reducing the numbers, and getting rid of some of those who have broken the law or fiddled their expenses. All of these are reforms I would support, so please stop telling me I am “anti-reform”.

  3. Tory Boy says:

    Baroness Boothroyd made a v good interview on the Today programme. http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_9735000/9735669.stm

  4. Alex M says:

    After watching Clegg’s part in the proceedings earlier today, it is beggars belief that given the, let’s say, endorsement (?) he received on the floor of the Commons that either the Conservative Manifesto’s or Coalition Agreement’s criterion of “consensus” has been reached. If just wish he would admit to the fact that just because the manifestos of all three major parties had some form of endorsement of elections for the House of Lords, it means that the general public had de facto, no choice. At least then, we could have some honesty and possibly a twisted form of “trust” in him, instead of an almost ritualistic repetition of some holy mantra.
    This bill is the cause of me raising an issue with my MP for the first time – I wonder whether that is a first, considering how few seem to raise it with their own?

  5. Carl.H says:

    Dear old Nick you have to love him, don’t you. Obviously believes in his party and it’s policies which rather comes undone when talking democratic elections. If democratic is right then his party and policies are wrong because they didn’t get voted in. To say the people are far better judges and then fail to win their approval on his party policies seems a bit disjointed.

    We said we would, so we are going to…oh dear…You said a lot of things…..Let’s not go talking University fees again please Mr.Clegg it’s there in black & white..your signature.

    We don’t have a jury and jury, we have a Judge and jury. An expert and a picked (elected) dozen. More people do drugs than voted for this Government, popular doesn’t make it right.

    In my opinion far too much party politics has already entered the Upper House more would be superfluous. The chamber would merely become a clearing house for Government bills, no more no less.

    This bill, in fact the whole attitude of the elected House for years, seems to be to remove all obstacles from it’s path, experts and anyone who may listen to reason so it can have carte blanche with it’s policies. Car Salesman will say almost anything for a sale but are no experts, it is the mechanics who know there stuff and anyone with any savvy will always have a mechanic with them when looking at a car.

    I’m no moron.
    Did I read a manifesto at the last election ? No.
    Did I know what the local candidates truly meant to do ? As opposed to what they said and what they were capable of ? No.
    Did the people all obviously vote Lib-Dem because their policies were right ? Er no….yet Mr.Clegg is seriously under the impression elected people are obviously better…Is he admitting the Tories are far superior ?
    When the common man complains of politicians or is apathetic who is it aimed at ? The House of Commons and elected representatives.

    Yes the House does need reform and some seriously good proposals were put forward in the Steel bill, ignored by the elected House.

    I want a House of experts, a House that listens to logic, reason and evidence. I want a House that is not ruled by the Party, of the Party for the Party who are a minority.

    I do not want a mirror of the Commons.

  6. ladytizzy says:

    “The Deputy Prime Minister keeps advancing arguments that have already been demolished. One can only speculate as to why.”

    Succinctly put. I will meditate upon his career path post-2015.

    On a point of curiosity, I note the Joint Committee Report* recommended 449 transitional members as part of its (recommended) fourth proposal, and it remarked that ” the initial transition element of 449 members is derived from the benchmark figure of the number of members who attended 66 per cent or more of sitting days in the financial year 2011-12 as at 26 March 2012.

    Park the 66% figure, but note the same ratio as used in the Bill’s impact assessment**:

    13. It is therefore necessary to estimate how frequently member of the reformed House of Lords will attend sittings. The current rate of attendance is 63%. However, the Government believes that this figure may not accurately represent attendance in the reformed House. Therefore an upper estimate was calculated by looking at the average attendance amongst high attending members of the current House – those who attend at least two thirds of sitting days – which is 88%. The average of these two figures, 75%, has been used as the estimated level of attendance by members of the reformed House – which equals 110 sitting days per year.

    If one was to read only the latter quote, 75% looks horribly like a figure of convenience with enough surrounding arithmetic to pass primary inspection. So, who first decided that 66% was to be the benchmark and, more importantly, why?

    Also, why did the Joint Committee use figures of the financial year 2011-12 (especially given the Parliamentary year starts in November), while the figure for the 2010-12 session was used in the impact assessment? Lord Lipsey uses yet another dataset in his costings*** but I see no point in looking further at this stage.

    * http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtdraftref/284/28407.htm#a51
    ** http://www.parliament.uk/documents/impact-assessments/IA12-017.pdf (Note 13)
    *** http://fullfact.org/sites/fullfact.org/files/2012/06/lipseyjointcommitteepressreleasefinal21612.pdf

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