Tag Archives: house of lords reform

Proposals for a Federal Upper House

Our party is committed to numerous constitutional reforms intended to better represent the people in Government and Parliament. A comprehensive and interconnected constitutional reform programme is needed now more than ever, given the damage inflicted by the Conservatives upon our Union and constitutional norms, and the prospect of Labour their own plan this month. Therefore, we should consider developing and reconciling our plans to House of Lords reforms and establishing ‘a strong, federal and united United Kingdom.’

A Senate of Regions would be preferable to the current Lords, over-representative of London, the South-East and the East of England and including members owing their positions to political favouritism or quid pro quos rooted in party donations. However, a fully and directly elected upper house may not be popular. The deliberative role of the current Lords will likely be undermined if all its members were forever bearing in mind re-election prospects. And, with sixty per cent of respondents in one survey believing that the Lords already had too many politicians, support may be found lacking for the establishment of an all-politician chamber incurring the same gridlock that plagues the US Congress. That is why we should consider reforming the Lords into a hybrid chamber, reduced in size to 300 members (for reasons that will become apparent later).

Posted in Op-eds | 24 Comments

Lord William Wallace writes… Working within an unreformed Westminster

The Liberal Government took the first step in reforming the House of Lords in 1910-11. Since then it’s been hard work to push constitutional reform further. Life peerages were introduced in the 1950s, creating a House of over 1000 members in which, as one Tory woman life peer once told me, ‘the hereditaries treat us like day boys’ in a public school.

Tony Blair realised that a frontal approach to Lords reform would tie up his government for months, and negotiated a partial further reform with Lord Cranborne, the Conservative leader in the Lords, behind William Hague’s back (and with Paddy Ashdown’s support). Under this, most hereditaries were withdrawn; the exempted 92 were presented as hostages until a full reform towards a directly or indirectly elected House was achieved, at some point within the next 10-15 years.

When the coalition government was formed, the Liberal Democrats demanded that the next stage of Lords reform should be included. I was the minister responsible for taking the issue further in the Lords, against the resistance of Tory, Labour and many cross-bench peers. Backbench Conservatives in the Commons refused to vote for a timetable motion on the Lords reform bill, threatening to delay other government business for months while arguments rolled on. If Labour had given active support, the Bill would have succeeded; but, as so often, Labour preferred to stick with the old rules of two party politics, and the Bill failed. My hopes of standing for the regional elections for the second chamber as a candidate in Yorkshire sank with it.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | 69 Comments
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