Democracy activists keep up second chamber reform push

Democracy activists keep up second chamber reform push

By staff writers
31 May 2011

The political reform group Unlock Democracy is maintaining grassroots pressure for thoroughgoing second chamber reform at Westminster.

"We have had a great response so far to our petition calling on David Cameron to ensure that the government's proposed legislation for a mainly or wholly elected second chamber is enacted before the next election", says director Peter Facey.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that the public want Lords reform. All three major political parties promised it in their manifestos at the last general election. But there are still obstacles to overcome, say campaigners.

The Lords itself has been riddled with scandals, from the "loans for Lordships" outrage five years ago, through to the controversy over peers selling their influence and access to the highest bidder, points out Unlock Democracy.

"We've won the moral and intellectual argument, and so the defenders of the status quo are depending on public indifference to let them delay reform still further. We mustn't let them get away with it," declares Facey.

He adds: "There are a lot of myths being peddled about Lords reform. The current House of Lords is filled with party appointees, and is no more 'independent' than the House of Commons: members of the Lords vote on party lines just as much as MPs. There are far more effective ways of getting expertise into the legislative process than giving a scattering of retired specialists life peerages who will then be given a say over legislation they have no knowledge about. And the proposed voting system would mean voters, not party leaders, get to decide which candidates got elected.

"If we want an effective second chamber with democratic legitimacy and whose members aren't all establishment figures appointed by party leaders, it simply must be elected. Parliament committed itself to reform 100 years ago this year; it is long past time it fulfilled that promise," concludes the Unlock Democracy director.

Unlock Democracy (incorporating Charter 88) is a leading UK campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms. It is also successor to the New Politics Network.

The UD petition can be found at: http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/elect-the-lords

[Ekk/3]

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