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Monday, July 27, 2015

Should we cull the House of Lords?

For those who read my views on the UK Government's badger cull, this particular conundrum is of a totally different order.  The Times reports that a group of MPs and peers have set up an inquiry into reducing the size of the House of Lords amid fears that the upper chamber is too big.

They say that a cross-party panel will report later this year and could recommend cutting the numbers or introducing compulsory retirement:

David Cameron has faced warnings that the Lords could swell to more than 1,000. He is expected to ennoble a number of new Tories in his dissolution honours list, and Liberal Democrat and Labour peers will also be added.

The Conservative leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Stowell of Beeston, has promised to listen carefully to the recommendations of the review by the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber.

The Conservative election manifesto effectively ruled out an overhaul of the Lords. It said that the party could see a strong case for introducing some elected peers, but this was “not a priority”. A Tory government would seek to ensure that the upper chamber “continues to work well by addressing issues such as the size of the chamber and the retirement of peers”.

Speaking in the chamber last week, Lady Stowell said: “While we cannot continue to grow indefinitely, the measure most relevant in my view is the average rate of attendance.”

I have read elsewhere today that the House of Lords is the one of the largest second chambers in the world but surely talk about reducing its size is missing the point. The problem is not a surfeit of ermine, it is the absence of accountability.

So why set up a committee to look at membership and not one concerned with finding a consensus on how to get an elected second chamber?  If the obsession of the British establishment with peripheral issues like these is a survival tactic then it serves us ill. We need radical reform not tinkering at the edges.
How can we think of HoP being democratic when the elected chamber is smaller than the non-elected chamber?
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