House of Lords should be 80% elected - MPs and peers' report

 
House of Lords The House of Lords is the upper chamber of the UK Parliament

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A reformed House of Lords should be 80% elected and there should be a referendum before any change is made, a parliamentary committee has said.

MPs and peers also said there should be 450 peers - down from about 800 - who would serve for 15-year terms.

But the committee was split - nine of the 26 members voted against elected peers and eight opposed a referendum.

Earlier David Cameron said he was not persuaded of the need for a referendum but would not rule one out.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agreed in their coalition deal to set up a committee to examine proposals for a "wholly or mainly elected upper chamber" - but the issue is seen as one that is driven more by the Lib Dems.

The government's proposals unveiled last year had been for a smaller, 300-member upper chamber, with 240 elected peers and 60 appointed peers serving single terms of 15 years.

Too small

But the committee said if there were to be elections it should be to a 450-member House of Lords, with 20% of peers appointed "as a means of preserving expertise and placing its mandate on a different footing from that of the Commons".

The 15-year terms would be non-renewable and peers would also receive a salary of about £50,000 a year, rather than the existing attendance allowance.

Analysis

Reforming the House of Lords is a priority for few voters. And to many it is an arcane debate that rumbles on unresolved decade after decade.

But we have reached another of those moments where the government of the day has scraped together enough political will at least to have a fresh crack at it.

The question of who sits on the red leather benches in the posh end of parliament - and how they are selected or elected - may seem an issue for political obsessives.

And yet in truth the stakes could not be higher. Reform of the Lords raises a fundamental question of where power lies in parliament.

Can the House of Commons remain the supreme authority in parliament with an elected and thus more legitimate House of Lords down the corridor?

It is also a question of political priorities. Should the government spend time and political capital on an issue that is a second-order issue for voters struggling with a sluggish economy?

This is why Lords' reform has set Tory against Lib Dem, and this is why some fear it could tear the coalition apart.

The report said a 300-member House would be "too small to provide an adequate pool to fulfil the demands of a revising chamber".

But some members of the committee released a separate report arguing that the government's draft bill "totally fails" to protect the primacy of the House of Commons and proposing a "constitutional convention" should be set up to consider the issue more widely.

The House of Lords, the "upper house" of Parliament, scrutinises legislation but can be overridden by the House of Commons using the Parliament Act.

Most members, "life peers", are nominated by the prime minister, although some are nominated by other party leaders.

Other peers, the 26 "Lords Spiritual", are drawn from the Church of England, and about 90 hereditary peers remain - 666 hereditary peers lost the automatic right to sit and vote in Parliament under previous reforms.

The committee's report agreed by a majority of just 13 to nine that a reformed House of Lords "should have an electoral mandate provided that it has commensurate powers", although it noted concerns it could mean elected peers would challenge the traditional primacy of the House of Commons.

Graphic showing proposed House of Lords changes

The committee backed the government's proposals that peers be elected by single transferable vote (STV), a form of proportional representation and that the number of bishops be reduced from 26 to 12.

It said the new peers should be introduced in three stages up to 2025 but all current peers who attend fewer than one in three sitting days in Parliament should be immediately removed in 2015.

Heated meeting

A telephone survey of 1,000 British adults by ComRes for BBC Radio 4's World at One programme suggested that 72% backed a referendum on Lords reform, 69% supported electing at least 80% of peers and just 23% supported the status quo.

Committee chairman Lord Richard said the joint committee had undertaken "a thorough and detailed analysis of the proposals put forward in the government's draft Bill" and had decided "on a majority" that the Lords should have a "democratic mandate".

But a dissenting group of 12 committee members, including Labour, Conservative and crossbench peers and MPs, said a wider "constitutional convention" was needed to consider all the issues involved.

One of its members, Conservative peer Baroness Shephard told the BBC research by Labour peer Lord Lipsey suggested there would be a "vast increase" in costs - from just under £19m a year to up to £433m over five years to 2020.

She said it may turn out to be "worth it in the name of democracy" but the public should know: "I wonder if it were put to them in that way whether they would be as enthusiastic as your polling says they are for 450 more elected paid party politicians."

But Constitutional Reform Minister Mark Harper said those costs were "completely speculative" and he did not yet know whether costs would rise, but said a referendum on the issue would cost "around £100m".

Some Conservative MPs are unhappy about the government's proposals to change the House of Lords but Lib Dem Deputy PM Nick Clegg said on Sunday that politicians from all parties should "get on with it now, with minimum fuss".

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while the issue was "not the most important thing this government is doing", it was a "sensible, reasonable" reform and "the right thing to do".

He said he personally was not persuaded of the need for a costly referendum when the three biggest Westminster parties all backed some form of change in their 2010 manifestos, but added: "We don't rule it out."

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan told the BBC Labour wanted a 100% elected House of Lords and a referendum adding: "It's unacceptable that Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg decide who the legislators are, we believe the public should have a say."

He said the party was "very keen" to work with the government on the issue but added that other issues also needed resolving - to decide which chamber had "primacy": "We don't want gridlock, we don't want the House of Lords flexing their muscles more than they currently do."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 352.

    It would be quite nice to have an elected House of Commons, rather than one full of place holders for the Party. AS for the Upper House, the idea of a rolling turnover seems sensible to mitigate the swings in Government that result from our current unrepresentative elections.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 351.

    The problem with democracy is that it encourages left wingers! IF we only had the tory party this countries fortunes would have been much brighter.

    That's one very good reason why we should not elect members of the HoL

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 350.

    House of Lords is one type of promotion for failed Politcians. That and becoming an MEP. Both career routes very lucrative and totally void of accountability, responsibilty and recourse.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 349.

    We don't need a second 'chamber', we don't need a 'queen, a 'king',an emperor,an Il Duce, a fuhrer, a 'father' figure,a strong man or a bleeding nanny !

    These people create problems for us,then tell us they have the answer to those same problems.

    I long for the day when we are a democracy.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 348.

    More stupid american ideas go over there and see how well it doesnt work. I would have preferred a referendum on the NHS changes which were vastly more important. What is the point of House of Lords reform when you ignore the House of Lords anyway Mr Cameron? This is just another inane idea brought to you courtesy of Clegg & Co.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 347.

    Surely the problems stated so far in respect to an elected HoL would evaporate if they were only elected once, when they first got their peerages, and everything else stayed the same?

    They'd still be free from having to pander to popularism and knee-jerk reactions; on the other hand, the electorate would have some way of controlling who sits in these powerful positions in our country?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 346.

    338. Its like all Mori polls. As said in my earlier post a Mori poll says a higher no. of people support subsidies for wind farms, no I dont. If the poll was taken in towns/cities most people will support them as they will not be built in them but people living near them will not. They were opposed here but Labour/council over turned so we now have monstrosities. Also not made in this country

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 345.

    It would seem that the general consensus here is that the unelected peers serve as a much needed counterbalance to those we elect.

    Our elected representatives seem more inclined to legislate based on minority vested interests than the will of those they allegedly serve so it is hard to see how two elected houses would improve the situation.

  • rate this
    -28

    Comment number 344.

    Scrap the House of Lords and if we need a second house then let it be entirely elected. At present it is expensive and useless.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 343.

    The whole point of the upper house is it independance from the house of commons. Yes they may currently have party affiliations but as the recent NHS bill shows they are not subject to a whip and do think and vote independantly of party politics.
    ---------The NHS Bill was passed ,the amendments did little to improve it and the Lords are subject to party control and of course unelected appointment

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 342.

    We spend money on wars abroad. British soldiers die abroad. To free people so they can VOTE for the people they want to represent them. We have 800 unelected people sitting in the House of Lords. Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein would have been very pleased with that set up.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 341.

    329 The Health bill has been quite severly modified during its passage through the lords. yes the HOC has reversed some of the measures, that is its right as the elected chamber. What would have been the result of an elected one, assuming people voted the same way? Lansleys bill would have passed unchanged 1st time. How is that better?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 340.

    For goodness sake, let's not change anything. I mean to say you wouldn't want a free, equitable, democratic country would you? That would never do.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 339.

    The arrogance of those in the Westminster bubble is flabbergasting.

    It is not for that tiniest of minorities to decide "if" and "how" fundamental changes to the governance of our democracy are necessary and implemented unless and until they have consulted us - the electorate.

    That consultation should ask us if we want change, and if we do we should have a menu of alternatives to choose from.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 338.

    Who is this 80%? Some random poll by Mori?

    This is all to distract from REAL problems.................

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 337.

    I'll believe it when it happens. It doesn't go far enough for my liking, but I suppose it's a step in the right direction.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 336.

    Question: Should ex-MPs be able to stand? No.

    Question: Can someone (eg. me) stand as an independent and have any chance of being elected? Maybe.

    Question: Should all those who stand not be affiliated with a party? Yes, but the current parties won't permit that.

    Question: Will it happen? Errr......take a guess.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 335.

    320. Son of Maggie and Norman
    4 MINUTES AGO
    Lord Precott is all anyone needs to know about the Lords..........
    +++
    What about Jeffrey Archer, Lord Hanningfield. lord Taylour, lord Lampton...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 334.

    It is right that the Upper House should represent the people, but I am far from convinced about it being full of politicians. Hence candidates should not be able to declare a political allegiance as independence is needed.
    So how do we choose - this is a dilemma? We will need wise owls to scrutinise the House of Commons and to act as a balance, but how do we avoid populist campaigning? Tricky

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 333.

    Don't they realise the state the economy is in and yet they (Libdems) seemed more concerned with changing the house of Lords. The sooner this disastrous coalition ends the better.

 

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