House of Lords has a chance to stand up for democracy


Today’s vote in the House of Lords on tax credits has rightly attracted much media attention, but tomorrow a further vote on the subject of electoral registration also deserves serious attention.

In an act of immense arrogance the Government is planning to ignore the clear advice of the independent Electoral Commission and remove hundreds of thousands of people from the electoral register by the end of the year, a full year earlier than originally set out in the current legislation.  Young people and people living in private rented accommodation will be disproportionately affected by the Government’s proposals.

While individual registration is right in principle its full adoption should not be rushed.  Ensuring that the electoral register is comprehensive is fundamental for next year’s elections for the London Mayor and London Assembly, and of course to the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and local elections.

Thankfully due to the quick actions of Liberal Democrats in both the Commons and House of Lords key votes will now have to take place in both Houses.  Lord Tyler and Tom Brake really have been brilliant on this issue.

I hope every Peer takes a close look at the advice of the Electoral Commission.  To casually ignore their expert advice would make a mockery of its very existence.

It is ironic, but sadly true, that the unelected House of Lords has a chance to stand up for democracy tomorrow.

* Caroline Pidgeon is a Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee

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  • As I understand it, the real reason for the rush against advice to remove voters from the register, is that the boundary review would then use those figures as their electorate baseline for the redrawing of boundaries, favouring the Tories. A year’s delay would help Labour and Lib Dems by those voters being included in the electorate measures.

    So much for high principle….

  • The whole registration system seems archaic and pointless. Why not have automatic and compulsory registration? Nobody ever asked me to “register” for national insurance – I was simply sent a numer when I became 16. I don’t see why we can’t follow the same kind of process and automatically register everybody to vote at 18.

  • Laurence Cox 26th Oct '15 - 2:16pm

    William Hobhouse seems to think that the only problem is double voting, but both Birmingham and Tower Hamlets have shown that there is industrial-scale fraud in the electoral system. I am sure that all of us can think of other cases that have never got to the courts, simply because of the expense and uncertainty of an election petition. Some of this is a result of the Blair government’s decision to allow postal voting on demand, in other cases ‘ghost voters’ appear on the register who are not resident in the places where they are registered. We need to remember that individual registration was first introduced in Northern Ireland to counter the latter problem. It may not be the ideal solution, but hiding one’s head in the sand and pretending that electoral malpractices do not exist is no solution at all.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Oct '15 - 4:01pm

    You might be right in this instance, but there is still a problem of Lib Dems looking happy as Larry in the House of Lords voting down or saying they are going to vote down whatever they feel like at the moment. Right to buy, tax credits, migrant/refugee benefits, voter registration, all kinds, it’s hard to keep up.

    Even more worryingly, a lot of people’s main justification for the Lords blocking it is nothing to do with democracy but that the policy “hurts 3 million people”. Well, it’s a principle, but it’s not a democratic one.

    It’s a recipe for conflict because on one side you will have the democrats and on the other non-democratic socialists saying that minority rights come first.

  • Dave Orbison 26th Oct '15 - 4:15pm

    Eddie Sammon – what is democratic about both Gove and Cameron lying during the election campaign on the issue of tax credits? I am no fan of the HofL as it currently operates but I think the Govt precious concerns as to the moral authority of the Commons on this matter are secondary to the act that they lied. They lied and deserve to be embarrassed – more importantly children do not deserve to be thrust into poverty on the back of such lies. This isn’t a sterile academic debate – it will adversely affect many people on a daily basis.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Oct '15 - 4:46pm

    PS, I try not to be an “absolutist”, of course minority rights are important too, I’m just saying Lib Dems seem too ready to vote down the Commons at the moment and it is on a whole load of policies with different reasons for each one.

    I think the issue of voter fraud and registration is an interesting one, but one I don’t know much about, at the moment at least. Some interesting comments.

  • Odd that there’s no thread here on the tax credit debate in the Lords, if it’s true that Labour won’t support the LD fatal amendment, I hope that we flay them ruthlessly for it – the SNP will, north of the border!

  • Chris Rennard 26th Oct '15 - 5:34pm

    Caroline is quite right.

    I set out some of the issues on the “Lords of the Blog” site:

  • Chris Rennard 27th Oct '15 - 9:24pm

    Sadly we lost by 11 votes. This is the debate in the overnight version of Hansard, it will have a new link tomorrow for the normal Hansard, but in the meantime:

  • Chris Rennard 28th Oct '15 - 9:24pm

    This is the final version of Hansard with the debate (the overnight Hansard link no longer works)

    There is more discussion of the issues on my Facebook page.

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