We don’t need an elected Lords – just a much smaller one

Reform for the second chamber must come from within

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

22 August 2015

9:00 AM

When I took my seat in the Lords as a very nervous 21-year-old, Manny Shinwell, the redoubtable Labour peer, welcomed me with the words ‘I knew your grandmother Nancy. She was a rebel like me. Enjoy yourself. You won’t be here long before they chuck you out.’ Forty-two years later I am still here — perhaps past my sell-by date. The House of Lords is bursting at the seams. The numbers must come down. And yet David Cameron must appoint more peers in the forthcoming honours list.

Every Prime Minister in history, from Harold Wilson with his ‘lavender list’ to Tony Blair with his cronies, has caused controversy when creating peerages. Cameron’s new peers will probably be no different, however carefully the names are chosen then vetted by the Lords Appointments Commission.

Even so, he has a problem, which is that Lords is so stacked against the Conservatives that to achieve anything like a working majority he would have to appoint far too many peers to an already overcrowded second chamber. Peers now overflow into what were visitor seats. Question time is only for those who can bellow the loudest. The House of Lords is second in size to only the Chinese People’s Congress and is the only parliamentary second chamber in the Commonwealth that is larger than the first. It cries out to be reformed.

The Lords has made some reforms. Peers convicted of a criminal offence can be thrown out, as can those who act inappropriately in their parliamentary duties. I did once, slightly tongue in cheek, try to argue that we should welcome them back to rehabilitate them into society. I was roundly attacked by the Lib Dems, who I thought were the caring party.

The coalition government in the last session of Parliament tried to implement the Clegg plan: a bizarre mixture of elected and appointed, with different classes of peers receiving different remuneration, but it was quite rightly thrown out by the Commons before it reached the Lords. It is respectable to argue for either an elected or an appointed second chamber, but Clegg’s plan fell between the two and satisfied no one.

Labour want an elected second chamber, which is not very popular with their own peers. It is entertaining to recall how Labour politicians such as Prescott and Hattersley, who were loudest in deriding the place as out of date, now feel most comfortable on the red benches.

What is to be done? If the House of Lords is to survive it has to come up with its own solution, but one that is acceptable to the Commons and the main political parties. Above all, it must, in time, reduce to about the same numbers as the Commons. The Blair reform of the Lords cut the number of members to 690; that has now crept up to 789, with more to join shortly. One could impose a retirement age of 75, the same as High Court judges, or make it 80, to be slightly more generous. Or one could impose a lifetime attendance limit of 30 years. Wherever one draws the line, there are always going to be a few whose contribution would be sorely missed.

One suggestion mooted was to remove peers who have not spoken. What a ghastly thought. It would mean every peer trying to speak on every issue to retain their seat. I would much rather get rid of the few peers who never stop speaking.

Perhaps the Prime Minister could agree to only appoint one new peer whenever two retire and so, over a period, cut numbers? To make a difference, we would have to persuade many more to retire than do now. A lot will depend on the behaviour of the opposition parties. Not having a majority is not necessarily unworkable. During the Wilson and Callahan years, Labour were outnumbered in the upper house. But the Conservatives, who had a theoretical 484 peers, more than double the 193 Labour peers, were careful never to push too hard, abiding by the Salisbury convention not to vote down manifesto commitments and flagship bills.

The test will come this autumn, when important government legislation starts arriving in the Lords. Will Labour behave? Will the Lib Dem peers try to make up for their lack of clout in the Commons and join Labour to defeat the government, thereby forcing the Prime Minister to consider creating yet more peers? We will see the alternative is either a mass creation of peers or more likely total abolition. Many MPs don’t see the need for any second chamber, a view that may be shared by many of their constituents.

Whatever happens, I would rather keep an appointed second chamber. We don’t need yet another type of elected representative diminishing the role of MPs in the Commons. We do need a second chamber to scrutinise legislation and ask MPs to think again when necessary.

A retirement age of 75 would give me another 12 years in the Lords. A 30-year term or the removal of the last 92 hereditary peers would see me chucked out.

Whatever happens, I’ve had a good run. Manny was only half right.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

William Astor is the fourth Viscount Astor and sits in the House of Lords as an elected Conservative hereditary peer. He is also David Cameron’s stepfather-in-law.

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Show comments
  • Fraser Bailey

    The HoL has long been a despicable and corrupt insult to democracy, decency and the people of Britain. Many of us have been saying this for some years. More or all the political parties have conspired in this state of affairs because more or less all the political parties are vile.

    • The Lords is not designed to cherish mass democracy, no. It’s a revising chamber, not one of origination lobbying constituencies. But: it has passed through itself every human rights bill imaginable and agreed to devolving the Law Lords away into the UK Supreme Court. There’s quite a bit of evidence that the Lords is not this body full of aristocrats looking to assrape the entire country while Baroness Bimbleby bandies about bowling on a Caribbean cruiseliner. If you’re looking for what is unjust and intolerant in the UK (and there is no shortage of that… the UK’s idea of what freedom of speech happens to be is pure laughable fantasy), it’s in UK Law, not so much the body that passed the law. The Commons is still FPTP and any calls for an elected Lords with SVP or some other fairer representation voting system should really be quieted until the Commons reforms itself to make itself more democratic to the people. Stones, glass houses, all that.


    The SNP will see to the end of this affront to democracy that is the house of so called lords.


    • davidofkent

      The SNP will see to nothing. It will become less and less relevant as the Scottish people realise what a con-trick it has been. Every year, we should publish the statistics showing how much poorer Scotland would have been had it opted for independence. Personally I would like you to opt for independence and leave the Union. You certainly wouldn’t be missed.


        SNP 62% …..and rising !

        Whilst on the road to independence the SNP will tear into this undemocratic old boys club…….. Scotland will not recognise anything “decided” in that affront to democracy.

        Oh how we are going to miss you and your BRITNAT like davidofkent …..ha…ha

    • TommyCastro

      Do what you like up there.

    • Gregory Mason

      Democracy – Two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

      Sounds like a great idea…

  • Bodkinn

    Surely it should be easy to introduce a rule which says that
    after five/ten or twenty years a lord is expected to no longer attend. If they wanted to continue then they would
    need to appear before a committee of their peers and prove their worth based on
    both their attendance record and contributions to the affairs of the upper
    house. This should reduce both the cost
    and the overcrowding and get rid of the hangers on. Should they later feel they have a particular
    contribution to make they could always apply for readmission. Anything to save us from even more b-y

    • Callipygian

      Contributions or convenient Leftism? I’m not sure that would work.

    • Gregory Mason

      What if they chose to not speak because they did not regard themselves as experts on the issues being discussed but spoke only on that which they knew intimately? Under your system the cautious would be removed and the loud hotheads remain which is rather the reverse of what is desirable.

      • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

        Yes but very modern.

  • Cymrugel

    No. It needs to be an elected chamber.

    It is quite ridiculous in the 21st century to have an upper house of parliament filled with hereditary member’s of the aristocracy, political placemen; many of whom have never stood for election for anything, and members of the clergy.

    How can this possibly be seen as suitable body to review the work of an elected lower house?

    • jeffersonian

      If the upper House is to be elected, it cannot use the First Past the Post system in the Commons, or you’d simply get a mirror image. Choosing a ‘Senate’ (or Lords) by proportional representation seems a good way forward.

      • Mirroring the U.S. Senate for the Lords is a bad idea since the Lords is not in a real sense a true upper house and it reserves a limited amount of power. In the US the Senate is the dominant chamber with longer term spans (6 years) of seated members, 1/3 of the chamber is elected in a cycle. But because the Senate has cloture rules imposed on itself and it is absolutely required to concur to House bills, the higher standards to pass a bill in the Senate makes the Senate more dominant [which is why the Senate keeps the cloture rules in place, to keep its dominance over the House]. In the U.S. House, 90% of all the members are always re-elected because of gerrymandering, so great emphasis is placed on Senate elections because senators represent whole states, not small constituencies where it’s far easier to dispense patronage and form familiarity bonds with voters. If the Lords were capped to the same size as the Commons and the elections were synchronous, how would you not have many situations where husband-and-wife tickets form in many constituencies where many parties run a ticket for both houses and sell them to the public as a package deal? It will result in two chambers that are still bloated and identical, therefore redundant. The US by contrast is highly asymmetrical. The House might have more members and better proportional representation, but it’s also mostly full of hot air. The US public views the Senate as the chamber “where the adults are”, and it’s vastly less representative of the population than the House. Each state gets two members so thinly populated Vermont has a really loud voice compared to massively-populated Texas.

        • rtj1211

          The Senate also has far higher entry standards. Part of the way to control election to a second chamber are the qualifications required to stand…

      • TommyCastro

        No I’m afraid not

    • Henry_Suffolk

      The part of our constitution that we do elect – the commons – is the most unpopular… now closely followed by the House of Lords, the standards of which has declined since they limited the number of hereditaries and filled it with huge numbers of appointed peers. Whereas the hereditary monarch remains the most popular of all by far.

      Why do you think having a fully elected chamber is going to make things any better or more democratic? Why do you think Tony Blair’s government threw out most of the
      hereditary peers? It certainly wasn’t to make things more democratic. Politicians want an elected or appointed House of Lords because it enables them to control who is in it. Those we will be able to elect will be candidates chosen by the political parties… the same people they are stuffing the lords with now anyway – virtually all self-serving career politicians and party members. Far better to reinstate all the hereditary peers – they would be there solely by the lottery of birth, be far more independently minded and likely to hold governments to account better. Then limit the life peers to something like two hundred working peers, elected from amongst themselves – largely a reversal of the current situation. Also, strict limits on the number of life peers that could be created in any one year (plus far better scrutiny of those that are created) would help and then the vast number of life peers would reduce naturally as they start dying off.

    • Tom M

      I think anybody asking for another elected chamber must have a screw loose. What do you think you would get if members were elected by universal suffrage? Surely nobody wants another layer of political lookalikes.
      Does anybody really think that there is a large reserve of capable electable talent waiting in the wings capable of scrutinising Government legislation (think police commisioners)?
      If members were elected they would have to be chosen from and consequently appear represent an area so why wouldn’t they have to respond to their electors, rather than the country’s wishes?
      I suggest that members are chosen from the institutions by the institutions we have such as engineering, nursing, architects etc etc. Choice would be from those who had reached the upper echelons of their profession and only eligible after many years of working at this level.
      Hopefully this would bring some wisdom and expertise into a political environment that badly needs it.

      • Since congregants at CoE churches is at record lows, maybe the bishops could be cleared away and those seats could be offered up as prizes on a chat show. #Britain’sGotWoolsack.

        • Gregory Mason

          Just because people doesn’t attend the awful services they offer it doesn’t mean they don’t keep to the creed.

          • Waving “hi!” to the church you rarely ever go into save a wedding or a funeral as you drive past it on your way to Sainsbury’s isn’t really a great clutch for ecclesiastical power in the Lords, to be honest.

    • Then what will happen is the Lords will compete with the Commons for its electoral relevancy, especially when empty sets get by-elections and special elections. If the Lords is elected out of sync with the Commons then you get a nasty situation where each chamber pits against the other claiming they have the electoral mandate. The United States attempts to solve this problem with a bi-cameral legislature by cycling which part of the chamber is elected to their allotted terms. Often though interparty conflict is heated and the result is usually a gridlocked legislature. But even that is not helpful, it makes voter education very difficult as voters are often surprised when someone’s election is coming up. Since the Lords doesn’t generally routinely originate legislation unlike other bicameral systems where both houses originate bills then vigorously compete to see which parts of which version survive after each house passes their version, the present Lords isn’t necessarily bad. Clegg is trying to effectively create a unicameral Parliament where the manifesto speeds through the Lords always on a nod with some crossbench bicker here and there. That would be a mistake since maintaining the Lords is an expensive habit and to have it purely as a rubber stamp would just be a waste of funds. Having a peerage frees the members of the chamber from having to have a slavish devotion to their party whips and party leaders (witness the gay marriage bill through the Lords) and gives some onus to some peers to speak their own minds (to the chagrin of Viscount Astor), save for the first front benchers who allot committee assignments and party devotion is necessary to get leadership. There will never be a happy medium. Shameless plug: Betty Boothroyd should be listened to more often.

      • carl jacobs

        Often though interparty conflict is heated and the result is usually a gridlocked legislature.

        You say this like it’s a bad thing.

        • It usually isn’t. Except during the few moments when it is.

          • carl jacobs

            It forces a more moderated politics. The American division of power acts on policy like a low pass filter with a long time constant.

          • I try to look at the House of Lords this way: Parliament tries to be essentially unicameral, but the Commons needs some direct and immediate outside influence as a sanity check against itself, and that is what the Lords provides at the other end of the hallway. It can’t get any better than that. The quixotic nature of how a peer is created is of course antithetical to mass democracy, but the Lords’ reserve powers have diminished to the point where it’s really only a threat to a completely unchecked and unimpeded government. In the politics of extremisms, abolishment of the Lords completely or ensuring a completely unchecked chamber actually raises the possibility of a situation where the Soverign could refuse royal assent. Suppose a huge wave of populism ushers in a government with a clear majority only for fortunes to reverse to the opposite extreme shortly in another year but with the threat of an election far away, the government presses away at some very nasty unjust bill in its manifesto which has become extremely unpopular [didn’t Thatcher have this problem with the rates system and the poll tax?]. The population would then lobby the monarch in such a case to refuse royal assent. To the monarchy, such a situation would be extremely damaging to have itself as a focal point of a major political row that involves the entire country. Sometimes in the past the monarch was able to stop such governments with a threat of a mass creation of peers in the Lords as what happened under Asquith. As the Viscount said, to really reform the Lords, the Lords has to reform itself (and for the Commons to agree). If the goal is moderation, elections to mimic the Commons removes that, and so does abolition of the entire house.

        • Gregory Mason

          Government works best when it does little. I certainly wouldn’t complain if they legislated for a month or two a year.

    • Gregory Mason

      Chronological snobbery.

    • rtj1211

      The question is whether greater deliberative wisdom is found in soap box orators or in those who focus on facts, truth and consequences, rather than the perceptions of the Eastenders crowd…

  • Peter Stroud

    An elected chamber would be ghastly, another refuge for professional politicians who have lost elections or are past their sell by date – a mirror image of the Commons. We need the academics, industrialists, retired military, lawyers and, yes, retired civil servants: people who have the expertise to thoroughly vet, and improve legislation. I suppose we also need politicians, Though I sometimes wonder why. But we need a much smaller number: even less than the Commons. We certainly do not need clerics from any of the major religions.

    • John Carins

      Indeed. The remaining issue would be who appoints these “experts”?. Some method of appointment would need to be found that does not give the politicians the whip hand.

      • Gregory Mason

        Her Majesty?

      • Peter Stroud

        I agree, that is a problem. It should not be left to politicians, though a panel of civil servants might be considered. But that would still leave power in the hands of the Establishment. I suppose there could be some electoral system, though this would be very difficult if the HoL contained more than, a hundred or so members.

      • Tom M

        I see no great problem in selection at all. If the members were selected from our Institutions, engineers, architects, surgeons, nurses etc etc , only after they had reached a certain status in their profession and only by the members of that intitution then they would hopefully be people of some intellect and wisdom.
        This would also avoid ‘tying” an elected member to a geographical area where he might have to take account of regional interests as opposed to the country’s interests and hopefully avoid party politicking in the choice.

        • John Carins

          I have similar thought. Your common sense approach is unfortunately unlikely to find favour..

      • Chris

        Why don’t you let the people select the, they’re called elections.

    • carl jacobs

      We certainly do not need clerics from any of the major religions.

      So I must admit that the HoL has always mystified my American sensibilities. I have never understood why a place in gov’t should follow from the accident of birth or privilege of position. But somehow I suspect you aren’t saying “Bishops shouldn’t be in the HoL by virtue of office.” I get the idea you are saying “We don’t need a religious perspective.” Which is truly amazing thing to say – almost an anti-religious test for office.

      So, are you advocating for an amoral collection of appointed technocrats who “know how to do things” and consequently won’t be troubled by questions of right and wrong? Or are you saying you don’t need any suggestion that the definition of right and wrong is held in any hand besides the hand of autonomous man?

      • The bishops in the Lords are there because Britain is still a technical theocracy with the sovereign as head of a state religion. It’s probably a good idea to put Henry VIII’s philandering delusions out to pasture and give that up, but I’d imagine that lovers of history and people frightened by change would balk at it. History recalls that the reason for all of this was because religion held more power over truth and logic than the sovereign or its laws. So, if you owned not only the bodies of your subjects, but also their souls, you could finally achieve the Royal Supremacy and have it all. American attitudes in the 1700s rejected all of this and there existed a logical problem of colonists being dumped on shore from many varying religious sects with no monoculture. I live in Philadelphia, laid by William Penn on a grant from a sovereign as a “quaint greene country towne” where religious toleration was its key selling point to attract new colonists to live and work there and escape the clutches of the Supremacy. Today in America the delusions of religious supremacy have returned and evangelicals have tried with all their might to suppress elements of the US Constitution and they deny that at the time of independence the colonists wanted little to do with their government meting out Christian fatwahs on its people.

      • Gregory Mason

        I really don’t understand why Americans balk at power being wielded by those, who as you put it, got that power because of an accident of birth. The hereditary peers in the House of Lords were an incredibly effective blocking mechanism that preventing the infringement of our liberties. Since the Edwardian constitutional crisis when their powers were scaled back hugely we’ve become far poorer and less free for it.

        • carl jacobs

          Because there is no necessary connection between virtue and birth.

          • Roger Hudson

            You mean ‘blue blood’ is just like Father Christmas? oh no!

          • Gregory Mason

            On its own no but those who are born into wealthy privileged families tend to be better educated and more mindful of the long term impact of any legislation since they vote on behalf of not just themselves but their families. That means they have a bested interest in the stability of the state and nation which I’m all for. There’s no point rocking the boat unnecessarily which is what the current bunch have done with mass immigration and “multiculturalism”.

          • carl jacobs

            Education is no guarantee. Lenin was a highly educated man. What then should I make of his qualifications? Would you voluntarily submit yourself to the rule of Academia? A more highly-educated quartile you will not find. Neither will you find a collection a gaggle of men less fit to rule.

            And what long-term interest does an educated man serve? I just finished reading a book by a Professor James Pattison. He is a professor of Politics at the University of Manchester studying “humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect (R2P); the use of private military and security companies, and Just War Theory and the alternatives to war.” His long-term vision is for a UN standing Army of 600,000 soldiers and something he calls cosmopolitan global governance. No doubt a highly-educated man. No doubt he believes what he says. But his idea is insane.

            Education is not sufficient. It must be governed by virtue and wisdom. Those characteristics are not born into a man. They are taught.

          • Gregory Mason

            Education isn’t but when that education of you and your children is dependent on social stability and the status quo you’re hardly going to start a revolution like Lenin. How many Lords tried to stage a revolution? Not many. The system worked. I’m not advocating to be ruled by academia but that the aristocracy be returned to their former place so that they can block the tyrannical actions of the Commons. I’m not saying that they should become the legislature.

            It’s not just any educated man that should be in the commons but educated men tied to the land and who have to consider the position of their family before themselves and their ideas. That’s what the Lords did wonderfully back in the day. It’s not just knowledge that a Lord needs but wisdom. The very nature of the hereditary system eliminates idealists.

            Of course his ideas are insane but as I said, he’s not the kind of person I’d ever want in the Lords or the Commons for that matter but it’s not within my power to stop him running nor would I prevent him if I did.

    • Gregory Mason

      What’s wrong with the bishops in the House of Lords? They don’t cause much of a fuss and it’s right that as representatives of our state church they have a say.

    • thomasaikenhead

      “We certainly do not need clerics from any of the major religions.”

      To be credible, clerics from the Anglican Church/Church of England are essential!

      It is, after all, the state religion of England and is led by the Queen.

  • john

    The usual drivel supporting an unelected House of Lords (horrible name). Of course any governing entity must be elected (hello Queenie). Britain has failed to move on democratically for a century and now is the time to thoroughly house clean and put the people in charge of their own country (exactly what privileged punters like Astor don’t want.).

  • john

    “Reform for the second chamber must come from within”.
    Classic elitist answer ! i.e. no reform at all!

    • Where do you think the UK Supreme Court came from? The Lords could have held on to their Law Lords with a tight grip and not let that get through.

  • Gilbert White

    We could cut a trillion in a decade from these and others in the EU.

  • davidofkent

    We actually don’t need a House of Lords at all. I think we still need a second chamber to give extra thought to government bills. The idea of Lords and even Knights (including the feminine equivalents) is out-dated, as, I’m afraid, is the idea of Monarchy. If we are honest, I think we would admit that we only keep the Monarchy for the pomp and tourism it brings in. For more than a century, governments have packed the Lords with their supporters to enable legislation that they want. The result is a second chamber packed full of has-beens and children who have done something quite good like winning a race or two. We need to end all titles and honours (another pointless exercise twice a year designed mainly to pamper entertainment industry egos) and design a new second chamber with people of genuine achievement who know what life is all about.

  • Nigel Farrage

    The house of Lords should be no more than a symbolic nod to our past and culture. A new PR elected second chamber is required. But it is never going to happen. Anything that threatens the Commons is a non starter. Correct me if i am wrong, but I thought the House of Lords was created so it cannot threaten the Commons.

    Suggestion – 1 Lord per MP – 10 year max term – Then back to reality.

    • Gregory Mason

      The point of the Lords was to create a class in government who thought long term. Their main business was scrutinising and blocking crappy legislation.

      • john

        Post hoc B/S. The Lords is there to defend the interests of wealthy land owners and their mates. They have no right to “scrutinize and block crappy legislation” – they aren’t elected.

        • Gregory Mason

          Correction, they were there to defend the interests of the aristocracy who believed in tradition, low taxes, deference to authority and liberty. None of those things I have a problem with. Who cares if they aren’t elected? I’d take an unelected and competent over elected and incompetent any day of the week. Why, just because they are not elected, have they no “right” to “block crappy legislation?” That would imply that all men are sovereign and if you follow that through to its logical conclusion you must be an anarcho-liberal. Thanks but no thanks.

          • john

            “interests of the aristocracy who believed in tradition, low taxes, deference to authority and liberty. None of those things I have a problem with”.

            You should have a problem with this creepy butt kissing point of view. You must have something against democracy.

          • Gregory Mason

            Of course I do. Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Thank heavens that our system has (or rather had) safeguards in place to prevent the tyranny of the majority. I’m in favour of a constitutional monarchy that has a strong Crown, a strong Commons and a strong Lords. We’re all poorer for it if one or two weaken as we’ve seen in recent decades.

            I take it that you have an issue with my regard for the necessity of deference in a society? Pray tell, from where does authority come in your world if not from above? For there is no logical reason it should come from anywhere else.

          • rtj1211

            Defence should emerge due to one trait alone: competence. It comes from arrogance 95% of the time. I have seen so much ignorance in UK power as to remove all vestiges of deference. The incompetent seek refuge in the organised crime of snooping, as they are too incompetent to rule without it. If you approve of that, then shame on you….

          • Gregory Mason

            I absolutely agree. The fools that sit in the Commons are completely unworthy of any deference. The general public has no deference or respect towards the members of the Commons on account of their sheer incompetence.

            What I would like though is a balance between the three parts of government. The judiciary, the executive and the legislature need to be separated out. The executive by all means should be assembled from the Commons majority but the monarch must take a more active role politically by making judicial appointments rather than allowing the Commons executive to wield such power. The legislature should consist of both the official Opposition and the Lords and it is the Lords (which I would return to the hereditary peers) which is most important here since it is they who would have a long term view and would act as the best blocking mechanism. The Lords were not reformed because they were incompetent but because they were independent. If we allow things to go on as they have done we may as well just abolish it since it’s becoming a poor extension of the Commons where the rich donors, sycophants and idiots are “rewarded” for services rendered to any political party.

    • No, the Lords was the original and older chamber of Parliament although if you want to get technical, after the Glorious Revolution both chambers were created at the same time in 1660. What you know as the Lords traces itself back to William the Conqueror because without a council consisting of his most politically influential subjects (which he filled with landowners and bishops, the pillars of the feudal system), he could not legitimize himself as a ruler over all of England. To not have it would have made him just another foreign warlord like others who came before him. The Commons came later after a feudal dispute between the crown and the nobles caused the counsel to drop out, so burgesses were created, two from every borough, which then gave townspeople and villagers a direct representative to the crown rather than a feudal landowner. The word “Commons” doesn’t really refer to common people, but the Norman-French word for ‘community’, as in the community of the realm.

  • Richard Young

    These snouters queue up to appear on the BBC.Unelected they spout off on matters that really do affect the electorate without threat of consequence.Feudal writ large.Lord[call me Dr] Reid a prime example.People remember Afghanistan and his criminal incompetence as defence secretary.But hey ho,he was elected then.What many don’t realise is the unelected old goat sat on the board of G4S during the London Olympics fiasco.Still that doesn’t bar or shame him from guffing off at every paid opportunity on the BBC.One of many.Britain deserves better.

  • 100 elected Lords, sitting for a maximum of two eight-year terms, elected by PR. The right to veto, not just delay legislation. And the cabinet no longer to be comprised of MPs but appointed by a directly elected Prime Minister, with appointments subject to scrutiny and approval by parliamentary committee. Boom, job done.

    • Well done. You essentially just argued for U.S. Congress.

      • Wow, I guess I learned something during all that time visiting and living in the United States…

        That was deliberate. There are some things we would do well to learn from our American cousins.

  • Kohagen

    Reduce the numbers of the peers by letting the members of each party deciding who to kick out. Instead of appointing more Conservative peers the number of Labour and cross-bench lords could be proportionally decresed.
    Peers who do not contribute could go first.

  • Gregory Mason

    Bring back all the hereditary peers and scrap all expenses! The hereditary peers were the defenders of liberty and the same cannot be said for the current bunch.

    • rtj1211

      Defenders of their own Liberty. 900 years elapsed between Magna Carta and universal female suffrage. Great defenders of keeping women in their place, the Hereditaries were…

      • Gregory Mason

        Their defence of their own liberties protected ours. Their argument that the income tax rate would eventually include the poorest on society was absolutely right. Liberty is and always will be freedom from government interference and they did a very good job at preventing the state from overreaching into our lives. The results matter, not their motivations.

        Most women of the day were opposed to women getting the vote. It’s not just their fault for it taking so long but women themselves campaigning against the suffragettes and suffragists.

        Living in a state of liberty doesn’t necessarily mean having the vote. Democracy and liberty are not synonymous and liberty is a far more valuable asset than democracy. I’d trade in my vote if I knew I would be as free as our ancestors were.

  • Roger Hudson

    A well designed unicameral parliament , with a strong constitutional court , can work better than the current mess. Why does Cameron ‘have’ to create more peers in an honours list? The only civil honour i respect is the ‘order of merit’.

  • rtj1211

    A 21 year old should not be in Parliament, let alone the House of Lords as an Hereditary. It is obvious that the author is fatally conflicted on this mater and it says much about the Spectator that it neither realises this nor cares.

  • Iain Paton

    Abolish the House of Lords. There’s no need for a second chamber. There are unicameral legislatures that manage perfectly well with robust committee systems.

    • Suriani

      Also cut the number of mps in the HoC. Require they start work at a time similar to the rest of ‘working people’. Trim the exceedingly long vac they currently enjoy. Limit the length of time they may serve as mps. One for Mr Corbyn? Oops! forgot he too has been around for aeons.

  • Jannerman

    We shouldn’t, and don’t, in my opinion, need a second chamber at all. Certainly not one stuffed full of ex-MP’s rejected by their constituents. We have 650 MP’s in the House of Commons, are we saying that they are incapable of coming up with a decent law between them? If so, I suggest that it’s not just the House of Lords that needs clearing out.

  • Paul Giles

    It would be hard to reform the Lords without making it more democratic than the Commons.

  • R Fairless

    We do not need ANY House of Lords. It should be scrapped in its entirety. It is an anachronism, a relic from the past, a sinecure for corrupt patronage, a haven of power and privilege, a means of paying money to undeserving pseudo aristocrats, a centre of undemocratic influence and political power. Look at a picture of a fully dressed assembly of the H of L and tell me you do not feel a sense of revulsion. How can we claim to be a democracy?