There were some excellent speeches in the Commons on Monday and Tuesday in the debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill. There were also some that left one wondering why the person had bothered to speak. One of the least compelling was by Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. Among the claims made in the speech were:
“As others have pointed out, many important sectors of our society remain under-represented. I am thinking about those from the fields of education and policing, and the lack of people from working-class backgrounds. Diversity is not a quality we could honestly attribute to the other place; it is not great here, but it is improving. Only 22% of the peers are women, ethnic minority representation remains low and the average age in the other place is 68.”
Hmm, this is offered as an argument for electing the second chamber. Only 22% of the members are women. And what is the proportion of women in the House of Commons? Er, 22%. The proportion of ethnic minority members? Significantly higher in the Lords than in the Commons. Apart from the age profile, virtually all the claims are suspect. There are more peers than MPs who have been senior police officers (and, indeed, one peer who is a serving officer) and we have members who not only have been but are in the education sector. When we had an extensive debate on higher education, every peer bar one had an interest to declare.
The one point that clearly appears to be overlooked is that appointment is actually an efficient means of ensuring a more diverse membership and more effective than the current methods by which candidates for the House of Commons are selected. The Independent Appointments Commission appears to be close to achieving gender equality in its nominations for example. I am not sure the parties in their selection of candidates for the Commons have yet achieved that….