In Association with the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber
At 3:30pm today debate began on the second reading of the House of Lords reform Bill.
The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister, opened the debate. In his opening remarks Clegg commended some members of the House of Lords but here was where the pleasantries ended….
He said that in it’s present state the Lords was a ‘flawed’ and ‘unsustainable’ institution.
We agree that it is too large, but Clegg attempted to argue that ‘this is the only way to get to grips with the numbers.’ This is simply not the case, there are other options. We are in favour of the Steel Bill, a smaller House and powers for the removal of some Peers when necessary.
As the Bill currently stands, there is no prospect of a referendum, no opportunity for the people to make their feelings known. What was the Deputy Prime Minister’s reasoning for this…Clegg claimed the cost was too high and unnecessary, as the three main parties agree on Lords reform. So is this a reasoned argument? We believe in holding a referendum on House of Lords reform.
The Bill proposes that 80% of the second chamber be elected by regional PR list, 20% appointed and Bishops. Clegg argued that a hybrid House is the best way forward, however we are unsure what effect this would have on procedure,
Elected members would also serve 15 year non-renewable terms. This would offer the public no opportunity to hold members to account.This Bill offers no more democratic value, whilst destroying an institution which serves us well.
The intention – that after the reform, the House will be more assertive, Clegg referred to Governments not being able to ‘ram legislation through the second chamber’ and that it needed to have the legitimacy to challenge the executive more.
Yet, they are intent on the fact that the relationship with the House of Commons will not change, the House of Commons will retain its primacy.
What came across was that Clegg wasn’t sure what he wanted at some points he said he wanted the house to be a more challenge to gov, yet the relationship with commons would not change.
Exactly how they anticipate the reformed Second Chamber to be is not clear.
In all, what can be concluded from the debate so far, Clegg has not presented a sailable Bill to the House of Commons. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and ramming it through by using a procedural motion is not the way to go. .
Whether you believe in reform or not, this Bill is not the way forward!