LibLink: Nick Clegg: Kick the crooks out and drag the Lords into the 21st century

Nick Clegg has written about the need to reform the House of Lords in today’s Mirror in response to the latest mini-scandal concerning Lord Hanningfield. When I read the first sentence, my blood pressure hit the roof:

What’s worse than a greedy Lord clocking in to work for just a few minutes a day to pocket hundreds of pounds from the taxpayer?

What’s worse is when the same peer – caught red handed as a result of the Mirror’s excellent investigative efforts – shrugs their shoulders and tells you: everybody’s doing it.

But there are lots of good ones who work really hard, on all sides of the House, I raged. Well, if I’d just waited a second, I’d have seen that Nick thinks that too.

Thankfully, Lord Hanningfield is wrong: there are plenty of hardworking men and women in the House of Lords doing a brilliant job.

Tireless public servants, who arrive early, stay late to vote, and spend hours poring over the detail of legislation. They feel honoured and privileged to be serving the public in this way.

There’s only one solution that’s going to properly work – elect the Lords:

That’s why last year the Liberal Democrats tried to drag the House of Lords into the 21st Century. We pushed to introduce elections for the Lords, rather than peers simply being appointed by party leaders as they are now. It would be far better to have Lords who have to earn the support of voters and who are answerable to the people.

And he’s clear where the blame for that plan’s failure lies:

Yet when push came to shove, it wasn’t enough. Tory backbenchers were determined to protect the old system of patronage. The Labour party saw an opportunity to score a point against the government. So they teamed up and killed off our plan for elected Lords.

He believes we’ll get there in the end, though:

The British people deserve better. This latest scandal must re-energise our call for change. At the next election, my party’s manifesto will once again contain a clear commitment to an elected second chamber. I accept that, in this parliament, the Liberal Democrats have lost the battle for an elected House of Lords.

But we haven’t lost the war. Reforming our parliament has always happened bit by bit. Most of us can still remember the days when hereditary peers would pass away and their place in the House of Lords would simply be taken by their children, no questions asked. If that can change, with enough grit and determination, we can finally get to a democratic system too.

But, in the meantime, there are other useful steps we can take:

I have also signalled that the Government will support moves in parliament to kick out crooks and create sanctions for Lords who barely turn up.

Let’s get on with these changes, but let’s not take our eye off the bigger prize. I remain convinced that no amount of housekeeping or tinkering will bring about the fundamental change needed to clean up the Lords for good.

The only long-term antidote to dodgy office holders taking taxpayers for granted is simple: elections. In other words, making sure that peers know the people are their boss.

You can read the whole article here.

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8 Comments

  • Well at least Viscount Falkland has left the Lib Dems and now sits as a crossbencher.
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-peer-admits-exploiting-expenses-loophole-16761.html

    But he seems to have stayed in the party for a couple of years after admitting in 2009 that he had “exploited a loophole” to claim £140,000 by stating that his main residence was a converted oast house which belonged to his wife’s aunt. Did Nick Clegg ever take any action against him?

  • Richard Shaw 18th Dec '13 - 1:38pm

    @Caracatus

    Of course he did – why would he support the Steel Bill (which had already been gutted of the more ‘radical’ proposals before it got to the Commons anyway) when he was pressing for his own reforms? The reforms also proposed STV (to which the joint committee added an above the line party list option). As for the somewhat stale anti-PR (and anti-democratic) argument of “Lord Griffin of BNP” – if the BNP polls <8% nationally, what makes you think they can get the ~20% required under a regional-based PR election?

  • Passing through 18th Dec '13 - 4:14pm

    “We pushed to introduce elections for the Lords, rather than peers simply being appointed by party leaders as they are now. It would be far better to have Lords who have to earn the support of voters and who are answerable to the people.”

    In which case why did he push for a reform where Lords would be appointed from a party-list for 15 years with no option for re-election? How does that make them “answerable to the people”, or require them to “earn the support of voters”? What you would have ended up with was a chamber of toadies and failed career politicians representing the electoral support of the parties a decade or more ago.

    I’m all for an elected House of Lords but you have to admit the actual system on offer in 2012 was a dog’s dinner barely any better than the existing system and deserved to be rejected. Here’s hoping next time they come back with something halfway decent.

  • ‘Recipe for Lord Nick Griffin’

    We may not like the BNP but if people want to vote for them then of course they should be in parliament. Its called democracy. As long as they’re not breaking the law then their views and opinions are entitled to be heard no matter how abhorrent we think they are.

  • Electing them won’t stop this kind of “clock on and clear off” fiddle. Look at Brussels.

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