openDemocracyUK

House of Lords elected? Tarts delight.

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
25 November 2009

Tony Blair once described Jack Straw as a "tart". Takes one to know one? Anyway, there seems to be nothing a tart delights in more than teasing us about than the House of Lords. Straw has been at it again pledging an "elected" upper house. To which prospect Gareth Young once wrote, back in 2007:

As you will know Westminster is a bicameral parliament which means that legislation is scrutinised by a secondary revising chamber. Due to our skewed constitution this set up results in English-only domestic legislation being scrutinised by Scottish and Welsh Lords – people like Neil Kinnock and Lord Falconer for example. Scotland, by contrast, has a unicameral system, meaning English Lords do not get to subject Scottish legislation to scrutiny.

In the past this glaring constitutional anomaly unfairness has been dismissed by Government ministers and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. They tell us that although the lower chamber is elected on a territorial basis the upper chamber is appointed and full of individuals rather than representatives of particular nations, regions or territories. By this logic there is no comparison with the West Lothian Question that occasionally bedevils the House of Commons because the House of Lords has no territorial basis and their Lordships are not territorial beasts. Complete bollocks of course, but that’s their logic.

However, this logic could fall down with an elected House of Lords. Why should Lords elected by Scots get to vote on English legislation? That’s the question that I will be asking.

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