Lord Paul Tyler writes…Farce in the Lords

Any interested fellow citizen who was told how the latest recruit to their Parliament was chosen would be first baffled, then outraged.  Is it any wonder that there are more electors who favour the complete abolition of the House of Lords than support retention of the existing arrangements?

The provisions for the replacement of one of our hereditary Peers, when deceased, are confusing, complicated and downright contradictory.

The latest election result, announced by the Lord Speaker on Wednesday afternoon, may seem to be relatively simple:  our new Liberal Democrat colleague will be Raymond Asquith, otherwise known as the Earl of Oxford and Asquith and descendant of the distinguished Liberal Prime Minister.  He was chosen in an AV election, but gained 50%+ on the first count, so no reallocation of the votes of lower scoring candidates was required.

There are, however, two absurdities:  First, by one of the many “charming quirks” of the composition of the Lords, the replacement for Robert attracted 13 Hereditary Peer candidates advertising themselves as Conservatives and Crossbenchers, in addition to the two Liberal Democrats.  Under a special provision of the cross-party carve-up of 1998/9, they were permitted to stand – and all Members of the House were entitled to vote – because Robert Methuen had been a Deputy Chairman.    And yet it was said to be a solid convention that the winner had to be from and for the political group of the Peer to be replaced.  Other groups had to exercise a self-denying ordinance in preferring our candidates!

Second absurdity:  no complaints at all from the arch opponents of the Alternative Vote system during the 2011 referendum that we have the benefit of it here in the House for internal elections.  For them it’s a case of “accept what we say” not “do as we do”.

You can read more about this typical Lords farce on LordsoftheBlog here and here.

* Lord Tyler is the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform.

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10 Comments

  • It was possible for England to abolish the House of Lords in its entirety in 1649. It is bizarre that more than 365 years later, the UK still remains more backward than the Commonwealth in that respect.

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Oct '14 - 9:01pm

    ” … our new Liberal Democrat colleague will be Raymond Asquith, otherwise known as the Earl of Oxford and Asquith and descendant of the distinguished Liberal Prime Minister. He was chosen in an AV election …”

    I would like to float a proposal for discussion. Until such time as the second chamber is elected, future Liberal Democrat Lords should be elected by the party membership and not be subject to the patronage of the party leader.

    Does this have any merit?

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '14 - 9:22pm

    Stephen
    It has enormous merit. Like many excellent ideas it has approximately ero chance of happening — after all, the Leader has pretty much ignored the elected panel of candidate peers (or whatever they’re called) in making appointments up to now; I think we can expect constitutional “experts” to weigh in and explain that it would be utterly wrong for this power of patronage to be subcontracted to unaccountable party members. Someone will no doubt suggest that it could be illegal under the Sale of Peerages Act (or whatever it’s called). Still, it could be fun to get it passed at a Lib Dem conference. This can still be the party with the best policies ignored by its own leadership…

  • Stevan Rose 23rd Oct '14 - 9:36pm

    I’m outraged by the mere existence of the House of Lords and it’s legitimisation by this party and by Labour through participation. Though I expect Tory vested interests to resist. If both parties made a principled statement and withdrew the pressure to replace would be irresistible.

    There was another thread about how to improve posting on this site. Having two threads running on more or less the same subject means double posting or splitting views. This opinion should have been a post in the earlier thread.

  • If Paul Tyler and other Liberal Democrats in the Lords were mounting a consistent and ongoing campaign to get rid of the everyday farce I would have some sympathy with what he has written.

    Like Stevan Rose I am outraged by the very existence of the place.

    I am tired, very tired, of newly appointed Liberal Democrat Lords bleating about how “of course” they are against the whole principle of an unelected chamber and then go on to spend decades there.

    Why are our people in the Lords not making a thorough nuisance of themselves in a campaign to bring the place down?
    Why are they not using every procedural device in the book to undermine the place?
    How about a bit of direct action like refusing to wear the Gilbert and Sullivan fancy dress?
    It is simply not good enough to keep paying lip service to reform and then sit on your noble backsides on the red benches and do little or nothing about it.
    There are over 100 people who “take the Liberal Democrat whip” – I do not know if they are all actually Liberal Democrats because quite a few of them were never seen in the party before they became Lords.
    What have these 100 people done in the last month to get rid of hereditary peers or to promote an elected second chamber?

  • The lords will never be scrapped while party political leaders use it as a retirement home for MP’s, political donors and their mates. Most of the country would prefer it to be scrapped because of them – not the few hereditaries who tend to be looked at as likeable oddballs.

  • Stevan Rose 24th Oct '14 - 7:29pm

    I could become less outraged if, for example, I happen to be invited to kit myself out with a lovely velvet robe and access to the petty cash tin. Plus free foreign fact finding trips, first class all the way of course. Is that how it starts?

    Also how many jobs are there where you can rob the place, be jailed for it, then have your old job waiting for you when you get out. The ultimate in offender rehabilitation.

    If you’re part of it you’re part of the problem not the solution.

  • Tony Greaves 24th Oct '14 - 10:57pm

    Well as it happens I have not got a “lovely velvet robe”. As for “access to the petty cash tin” I don’t know what this means but if it means peers’ allowances, do you think I should be expected to get no remuneration of any kind for working as a parliamentarian (on behalf of the Liberal Democrats) and having to pay for all the costs of doing so including spending several days a week over 200 miles away from where I live? Of course, there is no way I could afford to do so.

    Or should we just appoint peers who live in London?

    Tony

  • Stevan Rose 25th Oct '14 - 1:05am

    Tony, I am sure you work hard and your intentions are genuine. But I dispute your right to do that work and therefore any right to remuneration. You have not been elected to make laws for the rest of us, you were appointed by a self-serving clique. You accepted that appointment and are therefore legitimising an undemocratic institution. Put yourself up for election as a Senator and I’ll come knock on doors with you and stuff envelopes for you. Hopefully you’d have an honest job at the end.

    Should we just appoint peers who live in London is a question that says it all. We should not be appointing peers from anywhere; we should be electing the upper chamber full stop, no ifs, no buts. John Tilley lists a number of things you could be doing. What have you done recently to get rid of the Lords?

    Steve

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