Busy, busy, busy

It may be the summer, but the ‘to do’ list has barely shrunk – hence the lack of blogging. The other problem is that the Olympics seem to have annihaleted the news. Don’t get me wrong, the Olympics are great enternainment – but they’re not news.

Anyway, I thought you might like to see the letter I submitted to The Economist after they published an article on Lords reform. What do you think should be done to the second chamber?

The question of House of Lords reform has naturally formed a major part of debate in my studies of the UK’s constitution – or lack thereof – as the issue has ramifications for the democratic legitimacy of Parliament. When I first came to the subject, I was adamant that a fully-elected second chamber was the only way forward. I have since changed my mind.

I have two reasons for this. The first was the ridiculous goings-on we witnessed between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the US’s debt ceiling. What this showed was that two elected chambers, with equal legitimacy, can become mired in disagreement and cause gridlock in the entire system. In the UK, there is definite supremacy of the House of Commons, which means the business of government can be carried out. This, surely, should be protected.

The other reason to resist an elected House of Lords is that peers do have expertise, which is crucial in making sure legislation is fit for purpose. There is no guarantee that elected Lords would be any more qualified than MPs in the Commons and they may become increasingly partisan – and ineffective at their job.

Nevertheless, something needs to be done. The PM’s power of patronage, the inbuilt conservative bias and the presence of life peers makes the House an archaic and undemocratic institution. The appointment of Lords needs to be the responsibility of an independent committee and a balance of opinion, background and expertise should be priority. Then the House of Lords would be legitimate, effective and no longer a time-wasting issue in Parliament.

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