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Why does the House of Lords need reform?

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    I spoke to my dad this weekend about the House of Lords and I agree with his main point:

    Keep party politics out of it completely.

    I'd love to see it being completely non-partisan but with "experts" in each field as it is now.
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    Reform is pointless, more-so at this moment in time with a coalition.

    -It's not 'undemocratic' as people believe. Only 92 hereditary peers remain, a far cry from the amount there were before the reforms under Blair. Most are appointed, and subsequently only those whom have completed their (often Bushiness related) careers - thus bringing a high degree of intelligence and experience.

    - The current House of Lords does not have any sovereignty, which would be gained through election and consent of the people. Currently, the House of Commons supersedes the House of Lords on matters if they so wish. I honestly don't know where people get this idea that the House of Lords have significant power. The House of Lords improves legislation and does not change core principles of it - in doing so would have to seek permission of the Commons.

    - Secondly, any reform occurring under this coalition would most likely lead to 80% elected, 20% appointed - not democracy in it's purest sense. Being elected brings a whole host of drawbacks - mainly, Lords will be forced to take actions while always considering accountability and popularity, something that prevents honest and frank discussions. Elected peers are not likely to have the diverse range of experience that would be found within the House of Lords today - instead being younger people from a more narrow background. (Most likely would only have worked in Politics)

    - Most importantly, sovereignty would be disputed. We would get the deadlock as seen the in USA. If they're both elected, then why should House of Commons supersede the Lords?

    Hopefully this has enlightened a few of you as to why reform's not needed, and if it was it's not even practical to implement.

    EDIT: If there's one reform I believe is practical and necessary that has become a recent problem with the introduction of appointment is the size of the Lords. It's simply too large - as Conservative Lord MacGregor told me

    (Also, I suppose the generic argument of 'Conservative Pragmatism' whereby 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' could be applied here. We also have not had major revolutions, coups or upheavals for centuries - perhaps showing the effectiveness of our system as It's adapted to our needs, despite looking convoluted and out of date on paper)
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    (Original post by animus_nocendi)


    I have just watched this, and the lady seems to have put a number of convincing points.
    You've chosen a good person to listen to! That's Baroness Boothroyd, former Speaker of the House of Commons. She's extremely well respected.

    She mentioned "the damage the destruction of this house would cause under the spurious disguise of greater democracy". Isn't the point of having a second chamber to complement the first? And if the house of commons consist of elected members who produce legislation, then surely the second chamber should not be subject to the same admission criteria? Because then it would just slowly transform into a second version of the HOC and negate the whole checks and balances feature. Or am I wrong about this?
    Nope, you're absolutely correct. There are a few countries that end up having two chambers which are quite similar - the Upper House ends up being useless.

    Aren't the specialists needed to provide common sense/real world assessments of legislations before they are put through? Or is it that they mostly operate on bias? To protect those high up on the socioeconomic ladder? Because from my understanding they are expected to (and they do) scrutinise the law instead of issuing or dismissing judgments without care.
    Dyed-in-the-wool politicos are a minority in the Lords, so tum-thumping speeches and platitudes generally don't impress. They need good arguments to persuade Lords to vote in a particular way, not ideology.

    Is it a paid position?
    No, but it is remunerated - £300 to attend one sitting day.

    Who is the onus on to decide whether or not a reform is due? Or does it follow the same process as with legislations in general? And who decides the way in which it is carried out?[/quote

    The government initiates, but it's treated generally the same as other legislation, except for the fact that its Committee stage is held on the floor of the House of Commons. They can divert from this if they wish but it has to be authorised by the House in a vote.

    It's going to be interesting actually: the Government will no doubt try to lay a programme motion before the Commons, which will limit the amount of time the Commons will consider the Bill before sending it to the Lords - there's a high likelihood the Government could lose a vote on such a motion this time round, and if they do lose it, they will lose control of the Bill.

    Will it be done by a committee within parliament?
    Technically; the Committee of the Whole House.

    How is it possible to decide the terms if it consists of the chamber who would normally be involved in amending and overruling legislation?
    I'm not sure I follow what your question is. Could you rephrase?

    With regards to the democratic criteria being fulfilled through "meritocracy", is it not already apparent that the House of Lords members are specialists within their respective fields? Basically what it means then is that they would have to pass an HOC test, wouldn't they? Whereas HOC members are often just MPs aren't they? Or have I got it all mixed up?
    There is no criteria for being a peer, merely the recommendation of the PM to the Queen; but that can be improved upon to make Lords actually, properly meritocratic.

    Doesn't the House of Lords have a history for protecting the rights of minority groups as well? I would have thought something like this would be deemed "democratic", surely? What is democracy to the British? I guess I am unclear on this..
    Democracy famously has multiple interpretations. Some assume democracy means election, which is only half the story. Election of those with sovereign power is election, certainly, but that's all your need. The Lords is neither democratic nor undemocratic, least of all anti-democratic; it is anti-majoritarian.

    Oh, and aren't the bishops a minority...or there symbolically? lol. Or was that reference to the proposed same sex marriage bill which did not go through?
    They sit, debate and vote. However they do not vote as a body and are not whipped - they can vote however they please. There have been a few votes in the House with bishops voting on both sides.
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    The HoL doesn't need reform its just the Lib Dems who are obsessed with constitutional reform.

    However its looking like it will happen anyway in which case the Lib dems shouldn't assume that they will hold the balance of power in a chamber elected by PR. EU Parliament is elected via PR and UKIP beat the Lib Dems in 2004 and 2009. The Green vote would probably be strong as well.
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    (Original post by Bismarck.)
    Reform is pointless, more-so at this moment in time with a coalition.

    -It's not 'undemocratic' as people believe. Only 92 hereditary peers remain, a far cry from the amount there were before the reforms under Blair. Most are appointed, and subsequently only those whom have completed their (often Bushiness related) careers - thus bringing a high degree of intelligence and experience.

    - The current House of Lords does not have any sovereignty, which would be gained through election and consent of the people. Currently, the House of Commons supersedes the House of Lords on matters if they so wish. I honestly don't know where people get this idea that the House of Lords have significant power. The House of Lords improves legislation and does not change core principles of it - in doing so would have to seek permission of the Commons.

    - Secondly, any reform occurring under this coalition would most likely lead to 80% elected, 20% appointed - not democracy in it's purest sense. Being elected brings a whole host of drawbacks - mainly, Lords will be forced to take actions while always considering accountability and popularity, something that prevents honest and frank discussions. Elected peers are not likely to have the diverse range of experience that would be found within the House of Lords today - instead being younger people from a more narrow background. (Most likely would only have worked in Politics)

    - Most importantly, sovereignty would be disputed. We would get the deadlock as seen the in USA. If they're both elected, then why should House of Commons supersede the Lords?

    Hopefully this has enlightened a few of you as to why reform's not needed, and if it was it's not even practical to implement.

    EDIT: If there's one reform I believe is practical and necessary that has become a recent problem with the introduction of appointment is the size of the Lords. It's simply too large - as Conservative Lord MacGregor told me

    (Also, I suppose the generic argument of 'Conservative Pragmatism' whereby 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' could be applied here. We also have not had major revolutions, coups or upheavals for centuries - perhaps showing the effectiveness of our system as It's adapted to our needs, despite looking convoluted and out of date on paper)


    Ok...first of all, there is a lot of Sovereignty in the House of Lords. The NHS bill is a demonstration of power from the HoL. It forces over 2000+ amendments before the bill was passed. It is a key part of the scrutiny process in Parliament. Although there seems to be a lot of scrutinising in parliament, there is a lot less than it seems.

    While the Hereditary peers are a bad idea because all it does is increase right-wing opinions in the House of Lords as many of the peers will be born "with a silver spoon in the mouths" and not necessarily know much about their supposed area of expertise, I agree that the elected peer would largely deteriorate the law-making process. While they would make it democratic, the role of the House of Lords is to safeguard the rights of the citizen, to be a neutral collaboration of the best minds in the country scrutinising bills to make sure they are not detrimental to the country. The elected peer would result in a loss of expertise, and mean that the government would either be blocked as the Lords would be filled with people that disagree with the policies and so would resist on principle. Similarly, it would also be very possible for the Second Chamber to be filled with lords that have views that are sympathetic to the Government, if the elections for the Lords and the Commons are relatively close, which would just create the illusion of scrutiny, but just strengthen the current government as their bills would be scrutinised less and more widely accepted.

    The best bet is to have appointed peers. People chosen by the Monarch, or perhaps a department of Civil Servants that actively search out people that are at the forefront of their particular field. This would increase expertise in the Lords, and improve the Lords making process. Personally, as it is the place of the Lords to be neutral, and use fact to decide whether a bill is a good idea, it should not be democratic, as they should be able to make unpopular decisions, and work for the better of the country. Elected peers would turn it into a popularity contest.
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    (Original post by jkneen95)
    Ok...first of all, there is a lot of Sovereignty in the House of Lords. The NHS bill is a demonstration of power from the HoL. It forces over 2000+ amendments before the bill was passed. It is a key part of the scrutiny process in Parliament. Although there seems to be a lot of scrutinising in parliament, there is a lot less than it seems.

    While the Hereditary peers are a bad idea because all it does is increase right-wing opinions in the House of Lords as many of the peers will be born "with a silver spoon in the mouths" and not necessarily know much about their supposed area of expertise, I agree that the elected peer would largely deteriorate the law-making process. While they would make it democratic, the role of the House of Lords is to safeguard the rights of the citizen, to be a neutral collaboration of the best minds in the country scrutinising bills to make sure they are not detrimental to the country. The elected peer would result in a loss of expertise, and mean that the government would either be blocked as the Lords would be filled with people that disagree with the policies and so would resist on principle. Similarly, it would also be very possible for the Second Chamber to be filled with lords that have views that are sympathetic to the Government, if the elections for the Lords and the Commons are relatively close, which would just create the illusion of scrutiny, but just strengthen the current government as their bills would be scrutinised less and more widely accepted.

    The best bet is to have appointed peers. People chosen by the Monarch, or perhaps a department of Civil Servants that actively search out people that are at the forefront of their particular field. This would increase expertise in the Lords, and improve the Lords making process. Personally, as it is the place of the Lords to be neutral, and use fact to decide whether a bill is a good idea, it should not be democratic, as they should be able to make unpopular decisions, and work for the better of the country. Elected peers would turn it into a popularity contest.
    First of all, you're mixing up the idea of sovereignty with power. The House of Lords are excersising their power by making amendments, although this is arguably illegitimate, as they have not got any sovereignty derived upward by the people. I suppose it could be argued they have indirect sovereignty as they're appointed by the sovereign House of Commons, however this is a bit hazey.

    Also, I will concede that if any reform was going to take place removal of hereditary peers would arguably be the most logical. However, is there any reason for it? It's worked, and is succesful. And please don't give me that's it's unfair because hereditary peers are most likely Conservative, that didn't matter a damn when Tony Blair dominated policy making. Also, hereditary peers are going to be hugely experienced in politics, and thus will be able to help newly appointed peers that lack that experience. Hell, most hereditary peers most likely have more knowledge and experience than any ministers, or even the PM.
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    (Original post by Bismarck.)
    First of all, you're mixing up the idea of sovereignty with power. The House of Lords are excersising their power by making amendments, although this is arguably illegitimate, as they have not got any sovereignty derived upward by the people. I suppose it could be argued they have indirect sovereignty as they're appointed by the sovereign House of Commons, however this is a bit hazey.

    Also, I will concede that if any reform was going to take place removal of hereditary peers would arguably be the most logical. However, is there any reason for it? It's worked, and is succesful. And please don't give me that's it's unfair because hereditary peers are most likely Conservative, that didn't matter a damn when Tony Blair dominated policy making. Also, hereditary peers are going to be hugely experienced in politics, and thus will be able to help newly appointed peers that lack that experience. Hell, most hereditary peers most likely have more knowledge and experience than any ministers, or even the PM.
    First of all, you mispelt "excercising". No, Sovereignty is where power lies. So the House of Lords has Sovereignty because they have the power to prevent the Commons from passing laws.the appointment of power from the Commons automatically means a shift in Sovereignty away from the Commons.

    I agree it has worekd in the past and continues to do so. In fact, I am against Lord reform. However if reform of the Second Chamber must continue, then I think it would be best to remove hereditary and elected peers with appointed.

    Second,
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    Of course they need me.

    Mainly because I provide the entertainment and also because I solve solutions in 25 seconds while it takes them over 6 years.

    In conclusion, :cool:
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    (Original post by Reform)
    Of course they need me.

    Mainly because I provide the entertainment and also because I solve solutions in 25 seconds while it takes them over 6 years.

    In conclusion, :cool:
    "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong" - H. L. Mencken
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    (Original post by jkneen95)
    First of all, you mispelt "excercising". No, Sovereignty is where power lies. So the House of Lords has Sovereignty because they have the power to prevent the Commons from passing laws.the appointment of power from the Commons automatically means a shift in Sovereignty away from the Commons.

    I agree it has worekd in the past and continues to do so. In fact, I am against Lord reform. However if reform of the Second Chamber must continue, then I think it would be best to remove hereditary and elected peers with appointed.

    Second,
    Are you honestly correcting hastily written grammar on an internet forum? Why on earth did you feel the need to bring up an irrelevant spelling issue? Does that make any of our arguments more or less valid, or related at all? Did it impede your ability to understand me?

    In fact, your inability to get facts correct impedes your ability to make an argument. The Commons can supersede the Lords, because the Commons has sovereignty lent to them by the people. Ever heard of the Salisbury Convention? It essentialy states in law that the Lords ultimately cannot stop a bill coming from the Commons.

    Anyway, no. You're wrong. Power and sovereignty are two different things and can be independent of one another. Sovereignty provides a body authority to exercise power. A pressure group can exercise power, but they're not sovereign - are they?

    Now, the Lords don't have sovereignty because it lies with the people and they have not lent it to the Lords through an election.
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    (Original post by Bismarck.)
    Are you honestly correcting hastily written grammar on an internet forum? Why on earth did you feel the need to bring up an irrelevant spelling issue? Does that make any of our arguments more or less valid, or related at all? Did it impede your ability to understand me?

    In fact, your inability to get facts correct impedes your ability to make an argument. The Commons can supersede the Lords, because the Commons has sovereignty lent to them by the people. Ever heard of the Salisbury Convention? It essentialy states in law that the Lords ultimately cannot stop a bill coming from the Commons.

    Anyway, no. You're wrong. Power and sovereignty are two different things and can be independent of one another. Sovereignty provides a body authority to exercise power. A pressure group can exercise power, but they're not sovereign - are they?

    Now, the Lords don't have sovereignty because it lies with the people and they have not lent it to the Lords through an election.
    I'm a grammar nazi and proud.

    Yeah, I've heard of the Salisbury convention, one of the things it hold is the removal of the power of the Lords to veto a bill. The Lords has been weakened, I agree, but power has been lent to the Lords, from the Commons. A pressure group has popular power, not legal power. It needs legitimate legal power to have sovereignty.
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    (Original post by Mr Dangermouse)
    My personal opinion is that it's valuable to have a house of lords filled with field specialists and what not, however the system for appointing them is poor.


    I'd prefer to see a party list PR election in the years between general elections where getting x% of the votes translates to x% of the house of lord seats.
    The issue here is that this new Lords would be more legitimate due to its greater representation of the people. If this system were to work there would need to be a strong appointed element so as not to undermine the 1911 and 1949 Parliament Acts

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