The chamber has become too big, and the patronage enjoyed by the Prime Minister is indefensible

Meg Russell’s letter in The Times

Sir, Lord Steel of Aikwood (“Clegg will look petulant if he walks away”, Aug 8) has suggested that the Constitution Unit might assist in finding the long-term way forward on Lords reform. We would of course be happy to do so. But he is also right that Clegg and Cameron should now be pressed to put through lesser but essential reforms, having abandoned their more ambitious Bill. The chamber has become too big, and the patronage enjoyed by the Prime Minister is indefensible. He still decides how many peers are appointed, when, and from which party. Also indefensible is the absurd system of “by-elections” to replace the remaining hereditary peers when they die.

As David Steel has emphasised, all agree that reforms to end these anomalies are necessary and would strengthen Parliament. The only disagreement is over whether they are sufficient. Nick Clegg told the Commons on May 17 last year that “the key thing is not to make the best the enemy of the good. That approach has stymied Lords reform for far too long”. He was right, and he should remain true to that principle now.

3 thoughts on “The chamber has become too big, and the patronage enjoyed by the Prime Minister is indefensible

  1. Is there any need for a lords at all? Scotland Wales and Norther Ireland Parliaments do not seem tot need it,does England need it?

    • Given the vast amount of good job the House of Lords does, I would say that England needs the Lords, perhaps in different shape or form. HoL Committees do a great job and a job that politicians can not do or do not have the political will to do. As long as we have a first chamber that does not take its responsibilities seriously we do need the second chamber. We may think of abolishing Lords once we have stronger first chamber.

  2. ‘The patronage enjoyed by the Prime Minister is indefensible’ I absolutely agree, but current proposals do not seem to solve this issue. Prime Minister will still be able to exert political pressure on the Second Chamber. I don’t buy Nick Clegg’s argument that democracy is all about electing, election is only a part in it. Second Chamber is crying out for reform, but radical reforms like this might not work. Moreover historically no radical proposal has succeeded; there must be a reason for this. I think Lord Steel’s Bill must be taken more seriously and similar Bills should be encouraged.

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