Memorandum by Andrew F Bennett MP (LR
I read with interest your proposals regarding
an inquiry into House of Lords reform.
I would suggest that you actually need to look
at reform of Parliament, not just the House of Lords. Does Parliament
really need 650 plus MPs and a similar number of Lords? I think
not. It would be far better to settle for 600 plus in total.
I would opt to retain the House of Commons with
600 plus MPs. And make it work effectively. I would also reduce
the House of Lords to six or seven members, with only two residual
functionsthe power to extend the life of the Commons in
very rare circumstances beyond five years, and to ensure that
legislation had been properly scrutinised by the Commons, and
to question whether there really was the need for such short-lived
The problem with the present proposals is that
scrutinising two Houses will be costly, but not necessarily more
effective. There is a fundamental problem with the Lords as proposed,
in that if it is to attract dynamic people, either by appointment,
or by election, it is unlikely they will want to put scrutiny
of either primary or secondary legislation at the top of their
The House of Lords appears to pass huge numbers
of amendments to legislation, but only a handful are inspired
by Lords. In most cases the amendments come from outside bodies,
government revision or promises made in the Commons Committees.
Insofar as it is good at scrutiny, it relies on lawyers and ex-MPs
who have learned the scrutiny process in the Commons.
So, my plea to you is to be really radical.
Start by looking at how Select Committees and other MPs scrutinise
the Executive, and then look at how an effective Parliament ought
to scrutinise legislation.