Memorandum by Roger Casale MP (LR 54)
Letter to the Lord Chancellor
I am writing to you with regard to the Consultation
Paper on House of Lords Reform.
There are three points that I would like to
Firstly, I believe that the critical issue is
the relationship between parliament and the executive. Changes
that weaken the position of the Commons should be resisted because
it is primarily through the Commons that the Executive is held
to account. Therefore, our approach to parliamentary reform in
general, including reform of the Lords, should be conditioned
by how change will affect the Commons. Specifically, the Commons
should not only remain the predominant chamber in terms of holding
Government and Government ministers to account but be strengthened
in that role. In addition, both Houses need to become more effective
in discharging their scrutiny role over detailed legislation.
Secondly, having rightly eliminated the hereditary
principle, we are now faced with a situation, which in my view
is at best fluid, at worst unstable. We have unleashed powerful
demands for further democratic reform. For example, our starting
position of 20 per cent elected peers is clearly no longer tenable.
I am now in favour of at least a 50 per cent elected element as
the minimum expedient to stem the pressure on us to go further.
Also, we should be careful about suggesting that an end to the
process of Lords reform may be in sight, or even that we believe
we can move to a definitive second stage. Our strategy should
be to continue to lead the process of reform, and if necessary
to moderate the pace of reforms so that they are effective. We
must be careful not to be seen as trying to limit or even to halt
the reform process itself.
Thirdly, if we are to move towards a greater
elected element, we will need to think very carefully about the
method of election, because of the number of competing concerns
that will need to be reconciled. We should seek the widest possible
consultation on this issue.
In conclusion, there is a need to ensure that
the transition to a new House of Lords should be shaped as far
as possible by a public consensus as and when it emerges that
this consultation and in particular, by a consensus view within
our own Party. That may be difficult to achieve without further
clarification of our long-terms strategy. However, it is essential
to shaping a coherent vision for Lords reform.