Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Lord Lucas of Crudwell (LR 22)


  I am happy to see the departure of the remaining hereditary peers in the context of a reform that leaves the Lords capable, independent of government and (ideally) not a challenge to the Commons. The present proposals do not yet match that specification.

  The shape and function of the Lords, and indeed the need for such a house at all, is dependent on the shape and function of the Commons. Were the members of the Commons to become more independent of their whips, and the Commons independent of the executive, I would find it hard to imagine any role for the Lords.


  I feel that the way in which the Lords has lost power in the face of the greater legitimacy of the Commons will apply equally, but in reverse, to the future if we are not careful to limit the legitimacy of the Lords to a greater extent than is inherent in the government's proposals.

  It is crucial to the Lords' function as a revising chamber that politics be kept at a much lower pitch than is appropriate for the Commons. This again requires limited legitimacy.

  I feel strongly that any form of election which conferred legitimacy on even 20 per cent of the Lords would result in the Lords becoming much more of a challenge to the Commons: they would claim the backing of votes proportional to the votes cast in the country, and would from the start feel able to challenge even manifesto commitments.

  The closed list system is anyway as close as you can get to appointment and still be elected—I cannot see how it is likely to lead to more than a different route for the same people to reach the Lords, and may well result in something much worse—people who have no interest in the work of the Lords wanting to use it as a stepping stone to power.

  The appointments system proposed by the Government results in proportional representation of parties anyway, without the risks of conflict that election brings.


  The term of appointment of all political members, elected or appointed, should be three parliaments - with elections taking place within two years of the previous one being ignored. That would give an average parliamentary span of 12 years—long enough for independence but short enough to keep the Lords properly balanced. Independent members should be appointed for a fixed term of fifteen years (renewable)—there's no reason why they should fall at elections.

  20 per cent feels too small a percentage of independent members—just as 40 per cent would seem to be too large. I would recommend 30 per cent.


  The Appointments Commission should be appointed by a committee of both houses of parliament, who should set its terms of reference within the limits of powers set out in statute.

  The Appointments Commission should have additional rights over the lists proposed by political parties to ensure that these lists contributed to the balances—gender, community, geographic - that had been decided upon by parliament, and that the members proposed brought with them suitable expertise and commitment. It might be sufficient if this was limited to a duty on the Appointments Commission to report to parliament on these matters.


  Judging by voting patterns at recent elections, 1.5 per cent of the popular vote would seem to be a better threshold for membership (paragraph 66)—that would represent two members of the Lords appointed per election.


  Would it not be better then to rename the Lords the Senate, and its members senators? That way there would be no confusion, and a clean break with the past and with the plethora of hereditary and honours-list lords.

January 2002

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