Lib Dem peer Lord (Paul) Tyler recently took to the Guardian’s Comment Is Free along with Labour’s Lord (Andrew) Adonis with a joint piece arguing that their fellow members of the House of Lords should back proposals to reform the second chamber.
Here’s a sample:
Any objection that reform is taking place with undue haste will not stand up to scrutiny. It is now 100 years since the passage of the Parliament Act, which states the intention to substitute the Lords with “a second chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation”. Committees and commissions have been ruminating on what to do ever since.
The cross-party consensual genesis of the draft bill is clear. The proposals evidently have strong support from the cabinet and the prime minister, promising elections in 2015. An elected second chamber is an idea whose time has come, and if it isn’t enacted now the Lords will remain unstable until it is.
The proposals are about to be examined by a joint committee of MPs and peers that will have substantial options to consider: for instance the size of a reformed house, the form of proportional electoral system, the retention or otherwise of an appointed element. Its role, in the best tradition of that kind of scrutiny, will be to seek definition not outright demolition.
Of 117 peers appointed since the 2010 pledges, 24 are Lib Dems. Given that their party is the most trenchantly in favour of reform it would be a real betrayal if these peers switched sides. Of the 788 peers in the house at present, two-thirds were appointed after the 1997 Labour manifesto commitment to democratic reform. Implementation now is hardly a surprise.
Of course, many of the 39 new Labour peers are more sceptical. A distrust of Nick Clegg and distaste for the coalition are just two reasons for their opposition. There is genuine disquiet about the future relationship between the Lords and the Commons, much of which is based on the belief that a government should be able to “get its business through”. Indeed, parliament is there not simply to facilitate the passage of government business but to challenge the executive. A democratic second chamber will strengthen parliament as a whole. If the charge against a government is that it is doing too much, too fast, then an elected Lords is part of a prescription to slow it down.
The piece in full can be found over at the Guardian.