Memorandum by The Lord Lucas of Crudwell
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
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 electedI 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 worsepeople 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 yearslong
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 membersjust 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 balancesgender, 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
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.