Electoral Reform Society responds to report on Lords reform

By agency reporter
November 21, 2018

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has said moves to a smaller second chamber “miss the point” unless they are part of a fundamental overhaul of how peers are chosen.  

A new report from the the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) calls for far swifter progress on moving to a smaller Lords, while pointing to a need for “more radical reform to the second chamber, 107 years after the Parliament Act 1911 was passed only as a temporary expedient.”

The ERS is calling for a 300-member, proportionally-elected Senate to replace the Lords.

There is currently a hereditary peer ‘by-election’ underway to replace a retired crossbench hereditary peer. On Friday, Lord Grocott’s Bill to end these by-elections and phase out the role of hereditaries is scheduled to reach Committee Stage. It has previously been ‘talked out’ of time by hereditary peers.

Commenting, Dr Jess Garland, Director of Research and Policy at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“As this report makes clear, reducing the size of the Lords is only one very small step towards the modern democracy that citizens deserve. Voters deserve a 21st Century democracy, with a reformed Senate that fairly represents the whole of the UK.”

The PACAC report recommends "greater diversity" and for "new appointments should be allocated to party groups based on the results of the previous general election".

However, Dr Garland added: “The call for more diversity and commitments from peers to be active would be far better achieved by having a fairly-elected second chamber, not one based on patronage. For too long the Lords has been viewed as a private member’s club.”

PACAC also note: “The issue of the hereditary peers and the Lords Spiritual highlights the fact that the proposals of the Burns Committee cannot be regarded as anything other than a temporary expedient pending primary legislation on Lords reform…

“When the cap of 600 peers has been achieved, almost 20 per cent of the Upper House will comprise of bishops and hereditary peers. Such a House will not be representative of the diversity of the modern United Kingdom.”

Jess Garland said: “Even if peers reach the target of 600 members as set out in the Burn’s report, the Lords will still be the biggest second chamber in the world. And would still include hereditary peers and Bishops.

“The idea of still being governed by hereditary peers and bishops in years to come is beyond absurd.”

* Read A smaller House of Lords: The report of the Lord Speaker's committee on the size of the House here

* Electoral Reform Society https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

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