Sunday, July 08, 2012

Loyalties Challenged by Lords Reform

House of Commons on Monday and Tuesday will be given over to discussing reform of the House of Lords. I am deeply frustrated that this is so. No constituent has contacted me by letter or email to ask for this. The reason we are going to be so occupied is because the Deputy Prime Minister has decided it should be so. So despite my frustration, and my preference for discussing the appalling treatment being experienced by our dairy farmers, its their Lordship's House that dominates my week. And this blog post.

At 2200 hrs on Tuesday, MPs will be summoned by the division bell to participate in two votes. The first will be on a motion to support the Coalition Gov't's Lords Reform Bill at Second Reading. The second vote will be on a motion to approve a guillotined timetable restricting the extent of debate on the Bill - described as 'the programme motion'.

I will listen to the debate, but I'm inclined at this stage to support the first motion.  Along with most other MPs, I support Lords Reform.  Most peers do also. But we don't agree with all parts of this Bill. In theory, it can be amended at a later date to make it acceptable. A vote in favour does not mean a vote in support of the Bill as it stands. It can be amended in committee. We're told that the Labour opposition intend to support this motion, so its likely to be passed.

The second vote is much more problematic for many MPs. Let me explain why. The Lords Reform Bill involves abolition of the House of Lords as we know it. It will be replaced by a largely elected body which will inevitably challenge the primacy of the House of Commons (even though the Bill is being written to disguise this). The new House of ;Lords will be elected by proportional representation, which means it will always be a 'coalition'. Incredibly its proposed that the new Lords will serve for 15 years and will not be allowed to ever face the voters again to seek re-election, turning the concept of 'accoutability' on its head. There will be lots of other highly significant clauses, but my purpose is to show how the Bill will impact on all aspects of the way we are governed. All 650 MPs have a direct interest in this Bill, and may well want to speak on several of the clauses. There must be a serious question about whether it is right to put a firm  limit on the time allowed for debate. Many MPs across the House will have serious reservations about this. We're told that the main opposition intend to oppose it. Its an issue of concern to me also.

And its not as if there's any evidence that the voters support these changes. They may well support Lords reform. Most of us support that. But do they support proportional representation for example? Last time we asked them, they gave the idea a resounding raspberry - which is probably why a referendum is ruled out. This is a funny sort of democracy. So there are two days of uncertainty ahead. Its just started raining again. I suppose it makes life interesting - or not!


MH said...

When have voters ever been given a chance to vote on proportional representation, Glyn?

Anonymous said...

It's good to see that you will suppor the first vote, I wouldn't expect anything else.

This is an important Bill and at one hand I think it should be given time to be discussed. However already we've had your MPs saying they would try to slow it down to the next Parliament. And what I don't want is this eventually fading out.

We all know the issues we have with the Bill- it has dominated the news for weeks. So (excuse my French) MPs will just have to cut the cr*p and waffle and just say point blank what they want changing.

I'm happy with everything within the Bill. EXCEPT for the terms- you are right Glyn, having a term of 15 or even 10 is far too long for a second chamber to be accountable. I'd prefer something like 7yrs renewable once.

As has already been noted, we don't think the new Lords can challenge the Commons as the house as a single entity will not have one remit:
- The commons is voted in all at once giving the party a clear mandate.
- The new Lords will be voted in "dribs and drabs" so won't have a clear mandate. E.g following a Lords election only something like 20% will be voted in each time (as each Lord will have started their terms at different years).

*Finally on something else Glyn- I find that in your new role as PPS you speak very little. Unless you think you can get a proper role in Government, why are you bothering?

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