Future for the House of Lords
The matter of House of Lords reform may appear to be one that has now passed. News that the Prime Minister is planning to drop Mr Clegg’s sacrosanct House of Lords Reform Bill will give traditionalists and even some reformists the chance to breathe a sigh of relief that the matter is out of the way for another parliament.
I must admit however that I am one of those glad to see the back of this proposed reform bill, but I am also one who wishes to see future reform to the Upper House. Unlike many of other reformists though, I do not wish to see the House of Lords become an elected Senate. The reason I am a supporter of reform is to avoid the House of Commons from brining that noble and illustrious house further down into disrepute.
Since the Parliament Act 1911 the House of Lords has served as a revising chamber without the powers that the elected lower house has to throw out legislation. This aspect of reform I can agree with as the House of Lords at the time was filled with hereditary peers and land owners, vetoing the People’s Budget in order to maintain their own wealth and status. This, however, has drastically changed over the last one hundred years with the House of Lords Act 1999 butchering what was a chamber filled with not only soldiers, doctors and other such professionals but also the hereditary peers who worked without a political salary in order to amend legislation for the betterment of the general well being of the British people rather than to gain opinion poll ratings and follow the party whip to improve their own career chances like those in the House of Commons.
I accept that in my support for hereditary peers I am in the minority, even within the Conservative Party who opposed the House of Lords Act 1999 when it was going through parliament, but I firmly believe that many hereditary peers who have been raised and taught that they are public servants dedicated to the preservation of the state for future generations is paramount. This may be a slightly romanticised and idealistic view of the nobility but it is certainly more the case from the nobility than the career politicians who only appear to look to the short-term electoral victory than the big picture for the future of the nation. The economic crisis we are now facing is a perfect example of how short-term gains by politicians has harmed our country and I fervently believe that the reintroduction of a certain number of hereditary peers, for example 200, and a certain number of life peers of around 200 also would make the House of Lords a much more stable body with a fixed number of members at 426 with the inclusion of the twenty-six Lords Spiritual.
With a fixed number of hereditary peers the same system of election could take place as it does at the moment for a replacement hereditary peer to provide expertise and impartiality from the government of the day who would likely only appoint a member of their own party. The death of a life peer would give room for the House of Lords Appointments Commission to recommend a number of individuals to the government to choose out of for appointment, emphasising expertise over party allegiance to a greater extent than it is today. On the matter of Lords Spiritual I, as a Roman Catholic, do not believe that they aught to be removed but instead maintained to aid in debate and widen the field of expertise that already exists in that House.
A House of Lords composed in a manner such as this would help to give it sturdiness and make it less vulnerable to dissection from the House of Commons and make it a more effective revising chamber than that which exists today by uniting the fields of both expertise in their own professions and the traditional aspect of the House of Lords and, to a wider extent, balancing the democratically elected House of Commons with the intellectual insight of the Lords, hopefully removing the House of Lords present position as a half reformed, make-do chamber.