Against an elected second chamber

Recently some politicians have suggested that they would like to introduce a fully elected House of Lords.

They suggest that each ‘Peerage Position’ could be created through an election similar to that which we will see on May 6th, and that this ‘New’ House will help to distinguish the flames of scandal and sleaze that have recently taken hold in Parliament.

This is a bad idea. I say so, not on party lines but as a personal opinion.

The United Kingdom government in Westminster is by no means perfect. The events of last summer proved that; as did the Bernie Ecclestone, and Cash-4-Peerages scandals. However, to have another fully elected chamber would disastrous. Over 1000 years the British system of democracy has created a unique position by which one House is occupied with the creation of legislation and the other is charged with debating it more fully and checking it.

Currently, the House of Lords, is made up of ex-Headmasters, ex-military personnel, ex-NHS executives, ex-MPs, ex-policemen, religious leaders, lawyers and many other different men and women for numerous professions, all who are able to study legislation with an experienced eye.

They are able to pull apart unworkable laws, combat politically motivated legislation and add their expertise and experience to bills that are sent to them which have been rushed through the Commons without proper deliberation. Were the Lords to be removed and replaced with elected peers, this unique and successful method of law creation would be lost forever. What’s more, the House of Lords may well be filled with career politicians who have stronger political motivations to pass legislation.

To those who say that this is already the case, I would say look closer. More than in any other place in government, the Lords are far less likely to vote along their loose party lines and are more likely to pass or deny legislation according to their expertise and knowledge.

Finally, under a scenario where both the Commons and House of Lords are fully elected, we would have to answer potentially destructive questions. Which House is superior to the other? If it is the House of Commons then automatically the votes cast to elect the Lords become secondary and vice-versa. Who is the PM selected from, the Lords or Commons? Who has the final say on legislation? Where will the role of ‘legislative check and balance’ come from when a party has a majority of ‘career politicians’ in both chambers?

We certainly have to adapt the Lords. We have to get rid of all hereditary peers, scrutinise their expenses and create a new method of selection to make a more diverse and fairer second chamber, but a fully elected House of Lords is a bad idea and those who suggest it seem to be trying to create headlines without thought for the good of the country and 1000 years of historical parliamentary development.

Daniel Cole

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14 thoughts on “Against an elected second chamber

  1. Lords may ‘check’ legislation but any ‘corrections’ (ammendments) may not be accepted by the Commons as it has the power to do so due to being the sole elected chamber. Consequently, this makes the Lord’s job as a check on the Commons’ power completely useless.

  2. sending legislation back to the commons 3 times isnt useless. Max, I cant actually believe you think that the House of Lords is useless as ‘check and balance’ institution. If you look at the number of amendments made to legislation after Lords reviews you would take that back.

  3. I’m not saying it’s useless, I’m saying that if it had legitimacy and proper accountability it could be so much better

  4. An excellent piece Dan.
    So much could be said on this. I’d urge anyone who disagrees with it to (when you’re really desperate for something to do) spend an hour watching and comparing the two chambers in action. It is usually apparent that The Lords does a much better job of scrutinizing both members of the government and legislation. It spends longer doing so than the commons, with fewer procedural restrictions, and isn’t anywhere near as dominated by parrot-like career politicians, who regurgitate the party line ad infinitum, in order to avoid answering anything but the most basic of questions. But, personally, as a Conservative, I have to say, if something works, why radically change it. It might not be perfect, but it’s a far more effective legislative chamber than the Commons. It seems a bit silly to sacrifice that on the altar of one flawed notion of legitimacy. Surely being effective entails it’s own legitimacy?

  5. What about a House of Lords elected from representative organisations: doctors, nurses, trade unions, businesses, lawyers, charities etc, possibly even politicians, the allocation of seats to the organisations decided by an independent body?

  6. Excellent post Dan. My problem with reforming the House of Lords is apart from saying it’s undemocratic, it has no basis. No-one is producing lists of examples where the Lords has been an obstruction to passing good laws, quite the reverse in fact they usually work to refine and improve details of bills. When someone can prove to me otherwise, I will consider supporting reform, but at the moment it serves no purpose. In the old Conservative adage, if it’s not broken don’t fix it.

  7. The problem with having any hereditary peers is that it sends out a message to society that there are certain people who are more important and powerful, not because of what they’ve achieved in life, but because of who their father was. If the Conservatives want to be known as the Party which supports hard-working people, then they should not support a genetic acquisition of power.

  8. Whilst I do value the sentiment behind “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” it’s probably true to say that the public perception of the house is broken, and that in itself is damaging. Steps to make it appear more meritocratic are a good idea, in order to preserve respect for an important institution.

  9. I think the electorate would rather MPs got their own House in order before ripping up what is left of our constitution.

  10. The House of Lords was erected as an institution for the Hereditary Peerage, who governed us expertly for over 1000 years. This is part of our British parliamentary and institutional heritage. Our monarchs gave our aristocracy certain rights and I remain unable to see how Blair and his Class War cronies can supplant them. Who are you to decry the real Peerage and call for their explusion? In favour of who? Some of the scumbag Life Peers which we have in there at present? John Prescott, the four ex-Labour MPS found guilt of taking bribes for askign questions, or those others there just because they were Black or Asian or homosexual? The House of Lords has been shockingly debased.

    The only thing which lends it any credit is the 100 hereditary peers who remain, with the thousands of years of cumulative knowledge of governing handed down from generation to generation. Being anti-hereditary means you are anti the monarchy and anti passing anything on to your family. Maybe you should tell your parents that you are opposed to the hereditary principal, upon which our society was built, and that you want them to leave anything they have to the RSPCA. Not to you.

  11. “Being anti-hereditary means you are anti the monarchy and anti passing anything on to your family. Maybe you should tell your parents that you are opposed to the hereditary principal, upon which our society was built, and that you want them to leave anything they have to the RSPCA. Not to you.”-And there’s something wrong with those principles?

    “The House of Lords was erected as an institution for the Hereditary Peerage, who governed us expertly for over 1000 years.”-What utter nonsense, the 1911 People’s Budget and the 2nd Home Rule Bill just to name two massive failures on the part of the hereditary peers.

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