Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lords Reform

The Coalition have published their Draft Bill for reform of the House of Lords and, as usual, it contains the elements of a "dog's breakfast", together with a few contradictions of principle. Whilst the Draft Bill has to be read in detail, some initial observations arise from reading the Foreward and Proposals.

The first point to make is that in the Foreward, that section contains a statement that is truly beyond belief when offered as a reason for the reform of the House of Lords. Signed by Cameron and Clegg, the Foreward contains this:
"In a modern democracy it is important that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those to whom those laws apply."
That statement begs the question that if it is important that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those to whom those laws apply, just how the hell can those two apologists for a politician maintain their charade that this country should be a member of the European Union? More to the point - and it is a judgement of their thought processes - that neither of them, nor their advisors which cost us millions in salaries, foresaw the possibility that this would be noticed by those of us who are politically aware.

As with reform of the voting system for the House of Commons, reform of the House of Lords involves a change to our Constitution. The party manifestos of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats contained proposals to enact reform but without specifying how this would be proposed and enacted. Where a change to the Constitution of this country is concerned it must be sanctioned by the people, hence a referendum is required - it is not within the power of those we elect to decide matters on our behalf, coloured as they will be by party pressure and "whip control"-.

Finally, in the Foreward, Cameron and Clegg state that this Draft Bill is a unique opportunity to instill greater democracy into our institutions. If that is true then is it not also true that there is a far greater opportunity to return democracy to the institution called Parliament by allowing our nation to become a self-governing nation once again?

Key proposals contained in the draft House of Lords Reform Bill include:
a reformed House with 300 members, each eligible for a single term of three parliaments elections using the single transferable vote (STV), electing a third of members each time with elections normally taking place at the same time as General Elections

multi-member electoral districts, to be drawn up independently based on national and county boundaries

a continuation of the presence of Bishops of the Church of England in the House of Lords, reducing their number from 26 to 12

a transition staggered over the course of three electoral cyclesThe White Paper sets out three different options for the transition period and acknowledges that the case can be made for other proportional representation systems including the open list.
The Draft Bill leaves two possible option; a full elected HoL or one comprising 80% elected and 20% appointed, however in either case it is proposed that a a single non-renewable membership term of three normal election cycles – in practice (given 5 year fixed term Parliaments) that is likely to be 15 years. It is also noted that members of the reformed HoL would receive salaries and expenses (unspecified) and pension entitlements (again unspecified). 

Yet again it is noted that a form of proportional representation is to be foisted on the electorate, this time that of using the Single Transferable vote (STV); and on this point I make the same objection to that made on the choice between FPTP and AV.  It would also appear that where the size of constitutuencies is concerned, point 40 of the section entitled Proposals will mean that the constituencies will more than likely be the regions imposed on this nation by the European Union and the "NUTS" programme, thus imposing an EU element within our own national system. When considering points 42 and 43 of the Proposal, it is doubtful if much change from the existing 12 EU regions will actually need to occur - and if it does, said change would make minimal difference.

It is also noted that the Sainte Lague method of allocating of seats is proposed and for those who, like me, have never heard of this, might I refer you to this explanation from Wikipedia - one that should get those little grey cells working overtime! Yet again we see that equality has managed to enter the question of the composition of the HoL with the requirement that government and the political parties look at methods to ensure more women are elected. This sexual equality manta matters not as until Open Primaries are adopted, nothing can stop political parties ensuring that a choice between robotic voting fodder is all from which the electorate can choose and it matters not also whether that robotic voting fodder is male or female.

Point 56 of the Proposals shows that, despite the Coalition's promise to cut quangos, yet another is to be created with the creation of an Appointments Commission on a statutory basis which would recommend 20 people for appointment at the same time as elected members are returned and people to replace appointed members who leave the chamber during their term - yet more cost added to the public purse. Point 59 shows also that Prime Minsterial patronage would continue to exist, however point 62 does bring to mind the question posed by "Quis custodiet ipsos costodes". Points 106 and 107 show that, logically, on the basis that the political class show a penchant for looking after their own, whilst the number comprising the reformed Hol may be reduced the costs will probably remain the same.

Turning to the proposals for expulsion and recall (points 134/139), as with the recall system for MPs it is noticed that members of the Hol would have the ultimate decision on both matters, decisions which are a further constraint on the freedom of those who elected their representatives in the first place to register their dissatisfaction with the performance of said representatives.

In conclusion of these initial comments this Draft Bill can but said to be the proverbial "dogs breakfast" which is unsurprising, although par for the course bearing in mind the present incumbents of both Houses of Parliament. Bearing in mind that membership of the European Union means that parliamentarians have little in the way of scope to initiate any new law, having so much time on their hands it is utterly amazing that whatever parliamentary bill is proposed one has to ask why our political class do, in fact, make such a "dog's breakfast" of each and every Bill proposed.

Just a few initial thoughts............................


Edward Spalton said...

The "three parliaments" term of office was given as fifteen years on Radio 4. I hear from other directions that the proposal for FIXED TERM parliaments is due to be revived - another way of making life easy for politicians and for governments. It's not very likely that a parliament would pass a vote of no confidence in a government if it did not result in a dissolution and a new election.

It was also proposed at one point that a no confidence vote would require an "enhanced majority".

This is moving closer to the Northern Ireland system where the main parties are all included in the government - only the allocation of portfolios being decided behind closed doors.

I wouldn't put anything past Clegg nor Cameron's willingness to go along with it.

DAD said...

The majority voting proposal will mean that there can be no independent members.

Surely this will deminish the HoL and will strengthen the political party control.

Or is that outcome that Clegg wants?

Woodsy42 said...

I think your are denigrating dog's breakfasts. At least they do some good for the dog and provide it nourishment!

WitteringsfromWitney said...

ES: You heard right on the 15 years. Re your last sentence, I wouldn't trust those two with or on anything!

DAD: Re your second paragraph - of course it is!

W42: Ha ha!