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Tory proposals on Lords reform

Clare Coatman
20 July 2009

The Constitution Unit published a report on Friday by leading Tories Sir George Young and Andrew Tyrie calling for all new members of the House of Lords to be ‘term peers’, serving a single term limited to three parliaments. The report sets out a series of reforms which they say should be implemented immediately with the ultimate goal of an elected second chamber.

The reforms for immediate implementation include: new additions to the Lords should be exclusively on a term peerage basis and should be there to do a clearly-defined job for a clearly-defined period; standards and sanctions in the Lords should be brought into line with the “tougher regime” in the Commons, starting with the power to expel members and a review of Lords' expenses; a truly independent Appointments Commission should be put on a statutory basis; until comprehensive reform is accomplished, Appointments Commission undertaking the appointment of all peers, and not just “non-political” appointees, to break the link between political patronage and donations.

The long term reforms aimed at an elected second chamber include: a PR voting system using the EU election boundaries (although not the pure list system); shrinking the chamber from 740 to 400 – 450; and a final balance of 80% elected members with a minority appointed element of independent experts.

Andrew Tyrie said: “These are changes that can be made without provoking a constitutional confrontation with the Lords.”

While this report does a good job of setting out the short and long term proposals necessary for reform, it ignores the trickier mid-term: the time when the existing Lords have to put their life-time jobs up for grabs.

It's certainly nice to see a reforming policy suggestion coming from Conservatives as Cameron has gone very quiet on democratic reform since his “power to the powerless” rhetoric that he treated us to when the expenses crisis was at its height.

Tackling Lords reform is long over-due and the Tories should adopt these recommendations as a bare minimum. They should then set out much more clearly their policies for reducing executive patronage and the power of the whips. Only then will I start taking them seriously when it comes to the reform of Parliament.

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