A 21st century Upper House?

Jack Straw has published proprosals for the reform of the House of Lords, full proposals here (pdf file). It advocates a 50% elected 50% appointed breakdown (60% political party appointees 40% independent appointments) and a reduction in its size to 540. Elections will be held at the same time as European Elections and on the same regional basis with a third of elected peers, 90 seats, up for election at any one time. Elected and appointed peers will have a 15 year term of office. There may be a new name and members would no longer be called Lords although peerages will continue as part of the honours system. Church of England representation would remain. Hereditary peers to be phased out. The proposals involve no changes to the present balance of powers between the two houses.

If the distribution of new seats between regions follows the distribution of Westminster seats, Northern Ireland would be entitled to 7.5 elected seats. This would mean election of 2 to 3 seats at each election with 7/8 elected positions overall plus an estimated 5 appointees. The likely split of elected members would be 4/3 or 5/3 in Unionism’s favour. On existing political representation at Westminster, the appointees would probably be a 3/2 Unionist-Nationatlist split, although there would be a question whether the SDLP and SF would take up the opportunity to appoint. The combination of European and Upper House elections could make the elections more competitive.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Hereditary peers to be phased out.’

    British emancipation?

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    I hope this will put manners on the likes of Lord Laird and his fellow cronies who use the House of Lords as a platform for attacks on individuals and opponents of vested interests they support that would other wise be liable for libel proceedings (were they not uttered in the ‘privileged’ environment of the HOL.

  • Greenflag

    Get rid of the old farts club house and have a proper elected Senate (US style) . The Irish Republic should do the same .

    Englishmen should get off their knees and stop their pathethic grovelling to these unelected scions of the degenerate remnants of aristocracy and their toadies .

    On to an English Republic 🙂

  • P O’Neil

    I read some posters on here a while back that the Republic has prohibited titles of nobility, unless these previsions were put through in the light of the McCarthy Mor affair that’s not the case. My understanding of the Republic’s constitution is that the Republic would not create or give NEW titles, but would recognise titles that existed before the creation of the Republic in 1922.

    The last time I checked Burkes Irish Peerages there were between 28-40 title holders in the Republic (I presume ‘Old English’ titles) who were also technically allowed seats in the English House of Lords under the Act of Union 1800. However, under the House of Lords Act 1999 all Hereditery Peers were not automatically given seats in the House of Lords but rather had to be elected hereditary peers. The only Irish peer I know for a fact that has a seat in the House of Lord is Lord Brabazon of Tara, but no doubt there are others. There is also still some contention as to whether these peers represent Ireland in the House of Lords.

    Is this whole Irish Peerage thing just innocent titles or is it another stanglehold the English Crown has over Ireland??

  • Greenflag

    Lave the Brabazon’s alone 🙂 I went to school with a Brabazon and now that I recall he was with us for just a year or so before they shunted him off away from us riff raff to Amplefort or somewhere else . A quiet studious lad if I recall. If he was an Irish Peer he certainly kept quiet about it . I believe his nickname was brabzer 🙂

    The Mc Carthy Mor business was a con job extraordinaire . Lord Longford a.ka. Pakenham has written some great books including Scramble for Africa and IIRC still spends his time between the family seat in Longford and London . Lord Dunsaney was a prospective FG candidate for the Dail a few years back .

    Meanwhile back at the ranch the ‘mere’ Irish are busy restoring some of the old great houses to their former glory in consideration of the tourist dollars such restoration invites notwithstanding the aesthethic and pleasant ambience such houses bequeath on the surrounding countryside .

    I’ve no problem with the Irish peerage or the remnants of aristocracy as individuals it’s just that I’d rather not have them as head of Church or State . That time is over.

  • slug

    The PR aspect of the elections means that the Upper House will always be in no overall control, which is good for smaller parties such as the SNP, SDLP, DUP etc.

    With only two or three seats per election it will be hard for smaller parties to break through.

    If Sinn Fein and the SDLP compete in these elections and Sinn Fein win then will that elected politician be able to draw a salary for 15 years without attending?

    If only two seats are up for election won’t that mean that the SDLP are likely to get transfers that could help them win the second seat?

  • IJP

    I daresay I’m out of line with my party here, but electing the Lords (or electing any kind of Upper House) is frankly a daft idea.

    Sometimes “radicals” actually end up arguing for the most conservative things in practice. Elect the upper house, and you just get another bunch of politicians, a Commons Mark II. Is that what we really want in London (or Dublin, for that matter)? If you want more politicians, why have one at all (Netherlands and Norway manage quite well without)?

    Much more sensible to appoint in proportion to party strengths (perhaps taking into account regional elections also), plus others via commission on the basis of expertise. That way, you get an expert chamber which genuinely reviews legislation, not just another slanging match, with reference to the popular will.

    By the way, Scotland should have an Upper House of this kind too.

  • abucs

    I suppose you could criticise the House of Lords for its undemocratic nature, but in truth i have to agree with IJP.

    An elected upper house is just another bunch of politicians with all the cost that goes with it. I think in Britains case with at least 3 major parties, or the Republic with it’s constituency weighted voting system, they have situations where there is ample voter fluidity in changing from one government to another should the present government govern in a way not acceptable to the overwhelming majority. So i don’t think the upper house is needed to keep restraint on Westminster etc.

    Legal and review considerations could perhaps be built in to the system without an upper house ?

    An elected upper house are usually just more of the same type of politicians going along with the party line. Getting rid of the upper house may give a little more power to members of the governing party who are not just ‘yes’ men and open up the chambers for more open and transparent debate.