News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Thursday, February 08, 2007

House of Lords Reform "botched"

Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative Leader in the House of Lords, has criticised Jack Straw's proposals forHouse of Lords reforms. He's quite right to do so. Once again it's a story of half-baked compromise and tinkering at the edges. The Conservatives and Lib Dems united in a call for at least 80% of members of the upper chamber to be elected.
This latest phase of Lords reform follows the removal of all but 92 of the Hereditory Peers in 1992. That had the effect of creating an overwhelmingly appointed Lords - effectively Britain's biggest QUANGO. At that time the Labour Government had no idea what it was going to do with the House of Lords, it just knew that it wanted to change it. In 2003 the government published various proposals, but couldn't agree which was the best way forward. The current proposals are a mish-mash of the different ideas. Straw proposes that 50% will be elected, 30% appointed by the political parties and 20% appointed by an independent panel. As if the stench of compromise isn't already hanging over the proposals already, the proposed electoral system will be a "Partly Open Regional List" based upon the EU regions, and you can't get more of a compromise than "Partly Open".

Sadly it's not only the reforms that have been compromised - the House of Lords itself has been compromised by the incessant meddling and gerrymandering by this hopelessly incompetent and corrupt government.

The Government continues to ignore the first and most significant question - what is the House of Lords for? How can you design a chamber that's fit for purpose before you've decided what that purpose is. It's got all the makings of another Home Office.

There's still no consideration of the wider implications of Lords reform either. It's unthinkable that such a change to one component of our constitution can be expected to happen without wider implications for our political and judicial structures.

Over the coming days or maybe weeks, I will be outlining some of my thoughts on the way in which Lords Reform should work.

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