Reforming the House of Lords


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Reforming the House of Lords

  1. 1. Reforming the House of Lords
  2. 2. Learning Objectives • To understand the reforms implemented under Tony Blair • To understand the reforms implemented under Gordon Brown • To understand the reforms proposed under the Coalition
  3. 3. The House of Lords • Probably the most debated aspect of parliamentary reform is that of the House of Lords, which remains a totally non-elected second chamber. • What changes have been introduced so far and what are the main arguments surrounding the second chamber becoming elected or partially elected?
  4. 4. Reforms so far… • The Labour Party has long called for reform of the House of Lords. Labour MPs particularly have resented their legitimate authority being challenged by non-elected peers who are accountable to no one. • The Blair government moved to cut the number of hereditary peers down to 92 as part of a reform bill introduced in 1999, but many Labour backbenchers expected much swifter and more decisive measures and were disappointed by the governments response.
  5. 5. Future plans for the House of Lords • Stalling of Reforms • Criticisms of the Lords Reforms • Should the Lords be elected? • Abolishing the second chamber • The Coalition & the HofL
  6. 6. Options for Reform • Why is reform still necessary? • Reforms stalled after stage 1 – House of Lords is still undemocratic and lacks authority No Change Remove the House of Lords An All Elected Chamber An All Appointed Chamber Partly Appointed-Partly Elected Chamber
  7. 7. No Change Those who advocate no change argue that the House of Lords has proved to be effective as it is (see list of recent action) - it would be unwise to make reforms which may have unknown consequences. Those who argue against this point to the fact that the HoL is unrepresentative and it is no longer tolerable to have such an undemocratic institution legislating in this modern age.
  8. 8. For Against The current HoL compliments the HoC as it has a different composition It remains undemocratic and lacks legitimacy and accountability The expertise and experience in the HoL is essential for scrutiny There is less party influence - this is crucial for scrutiny The problem if it were elected at general election time under same voting system = likely to have same composition = no conflict and would become a rubber stamping institution HOWEVER if elected at a different time with a different system = likely to be stalemate because both houses have democratic legitimacy
  9. 9. Remove the House of Lords • It would be possible to remove the HoL altogether and to have a Unicameral system as they do in Denmark and in New Zealand. • The House of Commons has already demonstrated that they are not in favour of a unicameral system (2007 votes = majority of 253 in favour of retaining a second chamber.
  10. 10. For Against A second chamber is not needed in a unitary system and anyway it can only delay UK has too big a population for a unicameral system - New Zealand has less than 10 million A reformed House of Commons could be given more time for scrutiny Scrutiny needs to be carried out by a second chamber with less party control/influence and it needs more time It works efficiently in countries like Denmark and Sweden, New Zealand and Israel There is little support for theis option
  11. 11. An All Elected Chamber • Those that argue for a fully elected chamber point to the fact that this would be democratic and therefore more accountable. It would act as a more effective check on the Executive • Those who argue against it state that the new HoL might simply mirror the HoC and therefore it would serve no purpose - if a Govt. had a majority in both houses it would have far too much power.
  12. 12. For Against Democratic legitimacy - it would be more democratic -It is the only way to guarantee that the HoL would be accountable to the people – this is the only basis for legitimate rule. Specialist Knowledge - Advantage of appointed 2nd Chamber = people can be chosen because they are specialists/have experience Wider representation - 2 elected chambers would widen the basis of representation (different voting systems/terms/election dates/constituencies) = strengthen democratic process Gridlocked Govt - Two co-equal chambers = paralysis. There would be rivalry between them and between the Executive and Parliament. Better Legislation - non elected basis of current HoL restricts its role as a revising chamber. If elected – popular authority would enable it to exercise greater powers of scrutiny Complementary Chambers - 2 chambers = advantage because can carry out different roles - only one of these chambers needs to be popularly elected for this to work Checking the Commons - Only an elected body can properly check another elected body Dangers of Partisanship - Any elected chamber will be dominated by the Party ‘hacks’ - an appointed 2nd chamber would have reduced partisanship Ending Executive Tyranny - Exec dominates HoC. If HoL = elected (especially on basis of PR) it would be more powerful/have greater authority = better check Less Decisive Govt. - an elected HoL with more authority might impede decisive Govt.
  13. 13. For Against Elimination of any corrupt practices/cronyism in appointment of Lords Descriptive Representation - Elected Peers might have popular authority - but it would be hard to ensure that they reflected society as a whole - this could be done through appointed Peers Move with the times - a fully elected chamber could be changed at election time Voter Apathy - Too many elections might lead to voter fatigue/apathy elected on a regional basis = If this were the case it would enable the regions to have more representation Composition - if elected at same time as HoC and using same voting method = likely to be the same composition = will become a rubber stamp HOWEVER if voted by different method at different time = different composition = likely to be stalemate Another way of seeking redress for citizens - if their ‘Lord’ was democratically elected Primacy? - If both chambers are democratically elected - which takes primacy? More Responsive to public mood - therefore may increase public support for the govt. and faith in our system after recent scandals
  14. 14. An All Appointed Chamber • Those who favour this option argue that it would help to bring high quality members into the legislative process and avoid giving too much power to the second chamber (as this would obstruct effective government) • Those who argue against this option state that it would merely preserve the undemocratic nature of the HoL and would also extend the patronage of party leaders
  15. 15. For Against Opportunity to bring people into political process who would not otherwise want to stand for election Could put too much power into the hands of those who appoint the Lords - could lead to corruption Membership could be controlled to ensure that all major groups/associations in society are represented It is undemocratic and holds back progress towards a modern system It can bring more independents into the political process it might lack legitimacy and public support because the people have no part in its composition
  16. 16. Partly Appointed-Partly Elected Chamber • Those who argue for this option claim that it would combine the advantages of the two systems • Those who argue against it state that it would only be a compromise - the system would be only partially democratic and it would reserve the power of patronage
  17. 17. For Against Legitimacy and democratic representation would be provided without losing expertise Still undemocratic and therefore lacking in legitimacy and accountability It would ensure a good gender/ethnic mix of Lords It would retain the primacy of the HoC
  18. 18. Q2 Parliament White Paper on reform of the House of Lords This White Paper sets out the government’s proposals for a reformed second chamber of the UK Parliament. The proposals are based on the House of Commons votes for an 80% or 100% elected second chamber and follow cross-party talks on how this could be achieved. The White Paper makes proposals for reform in a number of areas: Role and composition The House of Lords plays a valuable role in holding the government to account and revising legislation. The reforms would strengthen those roles and make the second chamber more accountable. The House of Commons would continue to be the primary chamber in the UK legislature. Membership of the chamber The proposed reforms would create a second chamber with directly elected members, which would be smaller than the House of Commons. The remaining rights of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the second chamber would be removed. Powers of the new chamber The government proposes no changes to the powers of a reformed second chamber. The possible role of appointed members to ensure independence If it is decided that there should be a 20% appointed element, the government proposes that its key purpose would be to provide a significant independent element in the second chamber. A statutory appointments commission would seek nominations and applications for membership. The government is also proposing changes to the arrangements for eligibility, remuneration and accountability. Source: White Paper, An Elected Second Chamber, July 14, 2008.
  19. 19. EXAM FOCUS Question 2: Parliament a) With reference to the source, what changes to the second chamber are proposed? (5) b) With reference to the source, and your own knowledge, explain the arguments for a fully or partly elected second chamber. (10) c) Make out a case against an elected second chamber. (25) (Total for Question 2 = 40 marks)