Is the Lords system broken or is it fine the way it is?

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The legislative branch of the British government is a bicameral system. This is comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Commons is a wholly elected chamber made up of 650 representatives from constituencies across the UK. Whereas the House of Lords consists of around 800 members who are appointed.

The unelected nature of the House of Lords is a point of great debate. Some argue that it should be amended to make it more democratic and representative. Furthermore, in recent centuries there have been many attempts to reform the house.

A key reform was the 1999 House of Lords Act which removed all but 92 hereditary peers to make the chamber fairer by removing the hereditary privilege. Additionally, the 2005 Constitutional Reform Act removed the judicial function of the house and in 2009 an independent Supreme Court was set up.

There are 3 main views on what should happen to the Lords. Either remain wholly appointed or become wholly elected. Conversely, adopt a hybrid system whereby a proportion of members are elected and a proportion appointed. Additionally, some argue that the House should be abolished altogether. Many countries such as New Zealand and Denmark function with only a single chamber of government.

This week the editors will be debating what changes they feel are necessary to make the House of Lords a fairer and more democratic institution.

Written by POI Correspondent, Emer Kelly

Serious change is needed but I fear it will never happen – Liberal article

As my opposite conservative number will remind me, the Conservative’s currently have a majority. What does this mean? Well, any attempt to reform the House of Lords seems unlikely any time soon. However, some major amendments are needed.

You could take one of two paths. One would be small steps of change. The first thing would be to remove the 26 Lords who are recommended by the Church of England. How the Church of England still has some sort of say on political matters is beyond me. If the Church of England insists on keeping their lords, at the very least others should be invited to take up peerage as well.

Secondly, what we are noticing is a revolving door effect. MPs who leave the House can easily be made peers for a number of reasons. Departing Prime Ministers as well can nominate members of their staff to take up peerage who have severed them well. Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are also both in the process of nominating new peers. 

As we are seeing post-election, a number of MP’s are about to be granted their peerage. We saw both ‘Nicky Morgan and Zac Goldsmith were made peers to continue to serve as Culture Secretary and Environment minister respectively.’ MP’s are simply moving from one house to the other. In response, The Lord Speaker Fowler has called for a ban on any new peers entering the house. 

This is because there are now 800 Lords. The chamber is becoming too large. It is the 2nd largest chamber of any other democracy other than ‘China’s National People’s Congress.’ The Lords are now just losing their relevance, one used to give past MP’s a job. We haven’t even begun to discuss how 115 Lords claimed £1.3 million and haven’t spoken in the last 9 months! 

Instead of small changes, we could completely replace the Lords. I personally see some advantages to only experts in a second chamber. But could we give the Lords more purpose? Some have suggested creating a sub-chamber filled with Scottish, Welsh and Irish electorates, to give the countries more of a voice and perhaps calm claims for Scotland to break away. However this in itself has its problems.

Another is to replace it with a proportional system. To give parties who suffer under the First Past the Post system some relevance and make sure people’s vote’s don’t go to waste, similar to Scotland’s Parliament. Whatever you choose, small or large, the Lords need to be modernised more than what Blair had done before.

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

Point of Information

The House of Lords has become excessive – A Labour Response

Mr Anderson is correct to underline the absurdity of the House of Lords. It has become an uncontrollable mass without purpose that sucks up tax payers’ money.

I applaud the ideas that Mr Anderson has suggested in his argument, however, it feels like he doesn’t actually know what he wants. It’s all very well crying ‘change’, but without a plan, or a clear proposition, the House of Lords will never be effectively transformed.

Mr Anderson is sitting on the fence with half-baked ideas, behind which there is little passion or explanation. To suggest a greater regional representation, then to merely add to the argument, “however this in itself has its problems,” is neither helpful nor enlightening. What are the problems with this idea? If it’s so deeply flawed as a concept, what is your alternative?

Mr Anderson is on the right track. However, he is lacking the direction we need to truly overhaul the House of Lords for the better.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

Strong arguments from Mr Anderson – A Conservative Response

I must agree that Mr Anderson has hit the nail on the head when it comes to former MPs receiving peerages. The revolving door which he describes is a sorry truth and we must make sure that this cycle comes to an end.

I do, however, disagree with Mr Anderson’s point stating that the House of Lords has lost its relevance. The House of Lords is the second chamber of one of the most forward and fair democracies in the world. They pass legislation that affects all of us in our day to days lives and to simply write them off as irrelevant is simply not true.

I do agree with Mr Anderson that 800 peers are simply too many especially with some peers barely turning up for what should be a blessed duty. By reducing this number we will see more balanced and fair men and women entering into the House of Lords.

Written by Conservative Writer, Jack Kane

A few tweaks and a dust down aren’t enough – Labour Article

The House of Lords is out of date. With the planned evacuation of Parliament from Westminster in a few years time, this will also be the moment to reform the second chamber.

In its current state, the House of Lords has taken on purely symbolic importance. It represents a time gone by, and is filled with “worthy veterans and party hacks.” Nothing could highlight this more than Boris Johnson’s decision to elevate Nicky Morgan and Zac Goldsmith to the House of Lords just weeks after losing their seats.

Clearly, it has just become a retirement home for ex-MPs, who are too associated with the Government to ever effectively undertake a scrutinising role.

As such, I support Rebecca Long-Bailey’s radical plan to transform the House of Lords into an entity which can fulfil the role of scrutiniser. Thus, regain the trust and respect of the public. Long-Bailey announced that she supports “an elected senate, based outside of London if she were to win the Labour leadership and then a general election”. In this way, the chamber “would have a new democratic legitimacy and should have new powers to reflect that.”

There are two main ideas to unpack here. Firstly, by making the House of Lords elected, you remove the power of Prime Ministers to immediately pack it full of allies. This removes corruption of the Lord’s ability to oversee the actions of the House of Commons. Long-Bailey has also proposed that the House adopt a proportional voting system. This so that the chamber is more representative and gives a “voice for all regions and nations of the UK.”

Secondly, the idea of moving the House of Lords outside of London would transform the representation of the UK. Our Parliament is utterly London-centric, one only has to look to transport and infrastructure funding of the capital versus the north of England.

By transplanting these bodies into another part of the UK, for example, York or Manchester, the changed environment would spark a change in priorities. I imagine that if a ‘Lord’ had to struggle with the “worst train station in the country” for delays – Manchester Oxford Road – on a daily basis, perhaps they would realise the importance of funding regional infrastructure.

The House of Lords is a decaying institution, much like the Palace of Westminster. If we don’t take time to carefully restore and reform it, we will see the institution descend even further into disrepair. To the point that it can no longer fulfil its function.

I support Long-Bailey’s plan to overhaul the House of Lords so that we can transform our politics. The last election highlighted the country’s desire for change, and for representation, not leadership by unelected Lords.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

Point of Information

My only question is where? – A Liberal Response 

I really looked forward to reading Ms Jewell’s article this week. I knew she would have an interesting take on House of Lords reform and she did not fail. Her idea for a new proportionally represented house makes a lot of sense, especially expanding it outside of London. However, I do fear about certain logistical problems.

Firstly, where would the new assembly seat? I know Ms Jewell you would campaign hard for Manchester, but other places need the representation as well. Scotland, Wales, Ireland, I would even argue little old Norwich need this kind of representation. Is it fair to leave them out in the cold?

Secondly, I fear the proportional system. Not only is it a chaotic system, I fear it could seriously slow government efficiency down. Just look America’s current struggle with two houses before you even add a proportional second house. Also, would this second house have the same power as the House of Commons? Or just the ability to delay laws?

This is not to say I don’t agree with you, Ms Jewell. I understand our articles are limited in the word count so you could not cover it in great detail, but these are important issues that need to be solved first.

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

Silly suggestions from a Labour party which as lost control – A Conservative Response

I firstly do agree with Ms Jewell over the example of Nicky Morgan and Zac Goldsmith being thirsted into the House of Lords having precisely just lost their seats in the commons. It is simply a way of Prime Ministers trying to fill up the second chamber with allies.

If we want to enhance our democracy, then examples like this must end. This is why I argue for limits to be placed on the Prime Ministers power to appoint peers. As well as having a ban on former politicians and civil servants immediately entering the House of Lords.

I do not believe that the British public will want proportional representation due to them rejecting it in 2011. The idea of having the second chamber outside of London is simply Labour trying to regain the floods of voters who voted Conservative.

The Labour party has lost its identity with working-class voters and therefore will do anything to get them back. Bringing the UK’s second chamber away for London simply won’t work. Voters want sensible policies with strong leadership and Rebecca Long-Bailey certainly can not provide that.

Written by Conservative Writer, Jack Kane

Reform is needed but abolition is not the way – Conservative Article

The conversation about the House of Lords all stems from the emergence of New Labour. Under Tony Blair’s leadership, we saw the number of hereditary peers reduced to 92 and this was an important step. If we want to lead the world in democracy, then it was vital that hereditary peers must disappear and make way for more democratic peers.

Reform is a necessity for the House of Lords and that is clear. However, I am far from thrilled when I see radical left-wingers calling for its abolishment. Reform yes, but the left should stop getting carried away.

My first reform to change the second chamber is by limiting the Prime Minister’s power of granting peerages. I believe that once candidates are vetted and approved by the Prime Minister, they should also be approved by the House of Commons. I believe that this would enhance our democracy due to elected representatives having to give there support to those who have been given the opportunity to serve their country in the House of Lords.

The opposition argument to this is that would these votes be on party lines? I believe and hope that these votes can be bi-partisan votes where the candidate is voted for due to there achievements and expertise which can do nothing but enrich our democracy.

My second reform would be to introduce a waiting period on peerages to former politicians and civil servants. In America, we see this when previous employees of EXOP are required by law to wait a mandatory period before working for lobbyists.

I believe the UK could adopt a similar approach as by delaying those who crave a comeback into the political ring. It stops the Prime Minister from simply appointing former close allies to help pass their legislation. Furthermore, it would stop former politicians and civil servants continuing their political work from another chamber in Parliament.

With House of Lords reform comes the inevitable question of should we have two fully elected chambers just like the USA? It is certainly an important question that requires an answer. For me, I would answer no. How come? My number one concern of having a second elected chamber would be due to the way we elect Parliament.

In 2011 the UK in a referendum voted overwhelmingly to stick with the electoral system First Past the Post. The strength of this system is that it overall, the majority of governments it elects are a single party with good to large majorities. I worry that we would see less accountability from the second chamber if it was elected and had a similar composition as the House of Commons.

The House of Lords has the power to reject bills sent to it by the Commons and it does the role well. An elected second chamber might simply be a teacher’s pet chamber allowing anything through. The House of Lords needs reform and this is without question. But, I don’t think scrapping it is the right step forward.

Written by Conservative Writer, Jack Kane

Point of Information

The old House of Lords needs to go and be replaced by something radically different – A Labour Response

I am pleased to read that our resident conservative accepts that the House of Lords needs reform. It will be down to his Government to enact these changes. Mr Kane’s argument about adopting an American-style waiting period for former politicians is a fantastic idea. I am glad that we agree on the absurdity of recent appointments of ex-MPs just weeks after losing their seats.

However, I do wonder if Mr Kane is arguing for a scrapping of the House of Lords without realising it. His vision is so utterly different from the current system. It is effectively an abolishment of the House of Lords making way for an elected second chamber. Perhaps Mr Kane is more ‘radical’ than he thinks…

Finally, I find his proposition that MPs would elect the new Lords a bizarre idea. The House of Lords needs to be suitable separate from the House of Commons so that it can scrutinise and hold MPs to account. Mr Kane’s argument needs some tweaking.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

Tradition is not to die for – a Liberal response

Mr Kane seems to make an interesting case. He makes a number of good points and reforms that need to occur, but I think he almost that he has stopped before it gets to the good stuff.

I feel like he wants to see major reform to the Lords, but his Tory heart is stopping him from agreeing. I feel Mr Kane most of your worries come from what would replace the Lords. There are several models that have been designed so far that can solve a number of the problems that you worry about.

I think, Mr Kane, you should give Lord reform, major Lord reform, a chance. I can see why you worry, I really can. I express the same concerns, but in a number of models you won’t have to worry.

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

Max Anderson
Publisher/founder at | Website

I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.

Isabella Jewell
Labour political writer at | Website

I have just finished my second year at The University of Manchester studying French and Italian and am about to leave the Northern Powerhouse for a year abroad.

Jack Kane
Conservative political writer at | Website

Hello, my name is Jack Kane and I am third year undergraduate at the University of Exeter. I am a studying Politics and will graduate Exeter in the summer of 2020. I have been interested and engaged in Politics since a very young age.

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