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The House of Lords: The biggest quango of them all Watch

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    We're approaching a new year. A new start for many. But the old peers of our famous upper house will once again return for another year of, well... does the average person really know what a peer does?
    And will the peers really be returning? The average age of a peer of the House of Lords is 64 and attendance is often so low as to beg the question as to why we still have this circus of an upper house.

    The truth is, the House of Lords is a problem. It's a massively expensive waste of space. In the financial year 2007-08, the House of Lords running costs were £121.5 million; that's £168 000 a peer. And as we know, the House is already swollen with peers.

    The Lords needs to be abolished. Let me outline why, and suggest its replacement.

    1) The Commons has become supreme in the last century. It is clearly the dominant house and since the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, it can more or less have its way. These Acts allow the Commons to pass on a bill for royal assent, should the upper chamber reject it more than three times (in summary - the real situation is a little more intricate than that). See the case of Pickin v. British Railways Board

    2) Its legislative capacity has been weakened by the strength of the Commons, so its only credible function is legislative review. The Lords does carry out outstanding review of legislation, and of key issues through the House of Lords Select Committees. But this is a function that it can continue to do without its legislative capacity.

    What should the future be then, without the House of Lords?

    When the House is abolished, the United Kingdom will move (with the right constitutional reform as kick started by New Labour in 1997) towards a unicameral system.

    Our devolved friends in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already rely on unicameralism, so let us unify our United Kingdom and have a uniform process of legislation.

    "We need a wholly elected Upper House" I hear you cry!

    - No!

    A wholly elected Upper House would produce pointless and tedious results. It would be a carbon copy of the Commons. It would be a House full of political has-beens. It would not be a House of academics, lawyers etc. because these reticent people naturally would not put themselves forwaqrd for election.

    Please consider your vote in the future; constitutional and Lords reform has been at the forefront of Labour policy for over 13 years; with your help and the right vote, we can make this change a real possibility!

    Thanks!
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    (Original post by lesbionic)
    Its legislative capacity has been weakened by the strength of the Commons, so its only credible function is legislative review. The Lords does carry out outstanding review of legislation, and of key issues through the House of Lords Select Committees. But this is a function that it can continue to do without its legislative capacity.
    What would be the point of just being able to review and make suggestions, if there is no way to actually stop legislation? The point of having a second house is to stop the House of Commons, and in reality the government, having complete control over legislation. At the moment, as you say, the House of Commons is incredibly powerful. That is an argument for having a second house, not against having one.

    The fact that the devolved countries have unicameral systems is not an argument that the UK as a whole should have one. These devolved systems have been round for less than 20 years and for the most part were created because of political pressures. The UK and its legislative system has been around for centuries, and many other countries have copied it around the world. Unless you can come up with a good reason why a unicameral system is better than a bicameral one apart from expense then the UK should not change.

    It's also not true that having an elected second house would lead to identical results. The second house could be elected at a different time to the first. Meaning that together the two houses would better reflect how the public wish to be represented, and could act as an important check on the government stopping them from doing whatever they please (as is currently, or at least was before the coalition, the case).

    Edit: I just realised I didn't say what I think should happen. I think that life peers shouldn't get to sit in the HL. It should be made up of academics, industry experts etc. who actually know a thing or two about what the legislation in question will effect. That way you get the representative function in the first house, and careful examination of whether people actually want what's good for them in the second.
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    What a crock.

    That's an appalling idea.

    Why not just fix the House of Lords? It's a good thing, and is very useful; you just need to sweep out the rotten peers.
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    (Original post by Invictus_88)
    What a crock.

    That's an appalling idea.

    Why not just fix the House of Lords? It's a good thing, and is very useful; you just need to sweep out the rotten peers.
    Can you give some academic arguments for why we need the House of Lords? Are you aware of what the House actually does? The fact it's rather impotent as far as its legislative veto goes? The fact it's wholly unrepresentative, costly and that many, many successful and developed Western countries do just fine with a unicameral system?
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    Most liberal democracies with unicameral systems are smaller countries, where the need for a large number of representatives is small. Countries such as New Zealand, Israel, etc. have single chamber legislatures. However, most EU countries (whether parliamentary like ourselves or semi-presidential such as France) have bicameral legislatures, so I would say that it still is common.

    My own view is that the House of Lords should be an appointed chamber, with no political parties at all, but represented from the public and professions. It also should be able to retain a veto, but the Commons should be free to push laws that were in the governing party's manifesto.
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    The HoL is extremely useful. They provide a useful buffer to the HoC pushing through populist bills that will damage the country in the long term. Their not being elected is a massive bonus too, because they can look beyond 5 years. Many of the members in the HoL are the best our country has to offer, and their viewpoints are finely tuned. To be honest their main role is to stop any one political party turning this country on its head in one 5 year stint, without them with the first past the post system it would basically just be a dictatorship. 100 mil is small fry any way.
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    Gladders is going to kill you.

    But anyways, personally I support reforming the Lords by bringing in a substantial elected element (though not a 100% elected Lords in order to maintain a cross-bench element and to keep the expertise of certain Lords in the house as well as keeping the Commons as the superior chamber) and through extending its powers to those outlined under the 1911 Parliament Act. Thus it'd be able to delay legislation for two sessions (unless the Commons invoked the Parliament Act) and it'd be able to continue its vital role as a scrutinising body-something which the Commons is often unable to do.

    If we went unicameral we'd lose a major check on executive dominance and create an even more omnipotent executive. It'd also require major reform of the commons and an increase in the power of standing and select committees to scrutinise the executive and proposed legislation to repalce the role the Lords.
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      The House of Lords seem to value civil liberties more than the House of Commons does, thats for sure. They're constantly ruling draconian counter terror legislation unlawful. I definitely want them to exist as a check on the Commons. In terms of how it's elected, I'm starting to wonder if a second HoC (i.e. fully elected HoL) is really what we need, I actually quite like the system as it is.

      What I would do is reduce the power that Ministers have, I think our executive is too powerful at the moment. If the number of MPs is reduced, they better reduce the number of cabinet positions.

      (The EU is the biggest quango of them all by the way.)
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      The whole point of the Lords is to scrutinise legislation from the Commons using there wide range of expertise and/or political experience to hold reasonable sensible debates that are so lacking in the commons. This has lead to some good results against the government, there recent defeat over the 42 day detention limit being one. Now the fact the lords can block some legislation really annoys the power hungry government. Now I predict that with an elected upper house the people will simply vote for the same party that they voted in the commons, giving one party power in both houses. And there is the crux of it, politicians want an elected upper house because it would effectively, via the use of the whips and ideological agreement between the houses, become a rubber stamp machine for whatever government is in power. *

      A similar problem arises with the current situation; the PM could flood the house with sympathetic peers. So what I propose is an independent body, free from party politics and headed by the Sovereign, to appoint people to the Upper House who actually truly deserve it rather than the old political hacks we get in the current system or the new brand of faceless politician we would get with an elected house. I would also let the hereditary peers back in, the 300 odd who actively participated were a fine bunch.
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      NO. The House of Lords is a fantastic institution. The House is cheaper than the House of Commons and is far more useful. The only thing that should change in the House of Lords is the removal of the Prime Ministers powers of appointments.

      I believe Shami Chakrabarti and others gave a brilliant defence of the Lords some time ago. Here is a link:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode...ish_Democracy/
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      (Original post by CandyFlipper)
      (The EU is the biggest quango of them all by the way.)
      How is the EU as ghastly and useless as the current House of Lords? I think one of the most outrageous features of the Lords is the presence of the Lords Spiritual in the chamber. To have senior figures from the Church debating in and involved with the legislature is so absurd as to be 'unthinkable' in any country but ours, of course.

      European Union on the other hand is wholly secular. It's a supranational structure of which we ought to be proud. Take for instance the principle of state liability introduced in 1991 in European Union's case law. Before 1991, you would have had barely any remedies available to you in terms of damages for your country's failure to protect your Community rights. Can you imagine our 'representative' and 'society reflective' House of Nobodies ever progressing towards such fundamental protection of your Community rights? No, because the fabric of the House is so palpably at odds with that of the EU. I am personally indifferent to national sovereignty being infringed by the EU where our own legislature is indifferent to our Community rights.

      Anyway, that's going off on a tangent about the EU...

      And another point - you mentioned our executive possessing too much power? How so? Isn't that the point of the executive? What alternative would you have? Admittedly, I would like to see the Speaker of the Commons as the Head of State, replacing the Monarch. This would guarantee an elected and rotating Head of State.

      What exactly is your problem with the executive, and the Commons being supreme? As I wrote in my first entry in this thread, the Lords have no realistic check on power anymore. That power got watered down a very long time ago, so that by 1949 the time in which a rejected bill could be automatically handed for Royal Assent without the Lord's approval was only two sessions. If the Commons want a bill to be passed that they know will attract the suspicion of the unrepresentative and conservative Upper Chamber, with sufficient rejection, that bill can progress for Royal Assent, which by convention will be approved by the Monarch.

      The only real admiration the Lords garners today is that its style of writing legislation is very good; it has been noted the legislation the Commons sometimes drafts is a bit 'dotty' and 'messy' compared to that of the Lords; let's keep them in a capacity of reviewing legislation and continue their Lords Select Committee work. But let their power end there. I believe we need a new House of Lords Act - an abolition Act that will let us start from scratch with this problematic, expensive, messy and swollen Chamber.
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      (Original post by lesbionic)
      an abolition Act that will let us start from scratch with this problematic, expensive, messy and swollen Chamber.
      Since when were we talking about the House of Commons or the European Parliament?
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      juson another point. People say that the house should be elected but surely if this was the case it would destory the whole point of the house of lords? IMO it should be as little politically as possible.
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      (Original post by Renner)
      A similar problem arises with the current situation; the PM could flood the house with sympathetic peers. So what I propose is an independent body, free from party politics and headed by the Sovereign, to appoint people to the Upper House who actually truly deserve it rather than the old political hacks we get in the current system or the new brand of faceless politician we would get with an elected house. I would also let the hereditary peers back in, the 300 odd who actively participated were a fine bunch.
      I absolutely agree with you. Sorry for the snip, but I couldn't really comment on what I snipped as all I could say is "I agree".

      In respect to the quoted extract of your comments above, I think you are absolutely right about the Prime Minister. I believe his powers should be removed in regards to the appointment of peers. I believe that we should have a Royal Appointments Commission; headed by Her Majesty The Queen, to appoint individuals to the upper house who have shown incredible skill and knowledge in their field. So we would have a chamber filled with expertise from doctors, surgeons, barristers, judges, lecturers, researchers, bankers, businessmen etc

      Like you, I have absolutely no opposition to the hereditary peers and I have no opposition for the Church to have representation. I would go one step further and would want to give the Judges of the Supreme Court full legislative rights in the Upper House. Obviously renaming the Supreme Court as well...

      Seriously? Who thought that calling it the Supreme Court was a good name -_- I quite liked the name Appellate Committee [of the House of Lords]...

      Sounds much better.

      With the Law Lords having full legislative rights, we could have a lovely Judicial Committee within the House of Lords to look at the inundated laws in this country and submit reports to the Home Secretary [and the Home Affairs Committee] with the advise of repealing or amending criminal laws...

      The House of Lords is fantastic
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      (Original post by Aj12)
      juson another point. People say that the house should be elected but surely if this was the case it would destory the whole point of the house of lords? IMO it should be as little politically as possible.
      Well, indeed. That it is the problem that we'd face. The Lords would essentially become a carbon copy of the Commons. The only antidote to this would be by having Lords elections at different times to the General Election to the Commons. But I still believe the same problem would arise.

      Even if you had the Lords as wholly elected academics and professionals, would the electorate be able to distinguish EU Lawyer Z from Family Lawyer V or Hadron Collider Scientist X from Stem Cell Research Professor Y?
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      I used the Pickin case in my moot... pow!

      We do need legislative review though...
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      The Lords has a lot of good uses though I do disagree with hereditary peers, they should be appointed by the Commons.
      For example:

      - Provide a check on the Commons
      - They have more time to check/amend bills than the Commons do
      - They are generally specialised in said bills that they take a particular interest in
      - They aren't politically tied to a party

      I understand that they could be considered to be outdated but the positives outweigh negative. (I'd also like to note that its not a pure Labour policy, Blair was against a wholly elected second chamber.)
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      You blatantly just read and regurgitated Bogdanor didn't you?
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      (Original post by Teaddict)
      I absolutely agree with you. Sorry for the snip, but I couldn't really comment on what I snipped as all I could say is "I agree".

      In respect to the quoted extract of your comments above, I think you are absolutely right about the Prime Minister. I believe his powers should be removed in regards to the appointment of peers. I believe that we should have a Royal Appointments Commission; headed by Her Majesty The Queen, to appoint individuals to the upper house who have shown incredible skill and knowledge in their field. So we would have a chamber filled with expertise from doctors, surgeons, barristers, judges, lecturers, researchers, bankers, businessmen etc

      Like you, I have absolutely no opposition to the hereditary peers and I have no opposition for the Church to have representation. I would go one step further and would want to give the Judges of the Supreme Court full legislative rights in the Upper House. Obviously renaming the Supreme Court as well...

      Seriously? Who thought that calling it the Supreme Court was a good name -_- I quite liked the name Appellate Committee [of the House of Lords]...

      Sounds much better.

      With the Law Lords having full legislative rights, we could have a lovely Judicial Committee within the House of Lords to look at the inundated laws in this country and submit reports to the Home Secretary [and the Home Affairs Committee] with the advise of repealing or amending criminal laws...

      The House of Lords is fantastic
      My goodness, you have proved yourself to be woefully ibecilic. Even the most hardened Conservatives and the most simpleton BNP politicians can at least understand the doctrine of the separation of powers.

      Let's look at how utterly chaotic your proposals are:

      (1) A Royal Appointments Commission - you want the Head of State to choose the legislature? :confused:

      (2) You have no objection to hereditary peers - you do realise the House of Lords Act 1999 abolished most of them, right? And the remaining 92 will eventually disappear through 'natural wastage.' Anyway, just thinking that hereditary peers in the legislature is acceptable, is a rather deplorable and archaic thing to say.

      (3)
      You want the Supreme Court 'judges' (they are actually termed Justices, but keep going, you're doing a fabulous job of making yourself seem simple) to have full legislative rights in the House of Lords? What on earth would anyone want that for? The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords was perfectly separate from the House of Lords in its legislative function. Or are you unaware that the House of Lords and the House of Lords Appellate Committee were judicially and legislatively separate?
      So you would like to see the Supreme Court shut down, the Justices moved back into the Houses of Parliament and sit not only on the judiciary but on the legislature too? Do you even understand just how stupid that sounds? That is possibly the most serious breach of democracy one could have - the main theme of the doctrine of the separation of powers is that the judiciary does not sit on the legislature and vice versa.

      (4) Having a Supreme Court and moving into Middlesex guildhall was another piece in the constitutional reform jigsaw that New Labour kick started. The highest court in the judiciary is now physically distinct from the legislature.

      (5) Everything you have said is a mess. You have no understanding of British public law and a very dire understanding of what democracy means.
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      No need to elect the Lords, otherwise it becomes an elected echo chamber - far more of a quango than the present House.

      Simply create a statutory appointments commission which has sole control over appointments, and is made accountable to both Houses.

      In response to the remark that the Lords is pointless as it can't halt legislation but only delay - duh. That is how most second chambers are supposed to operate.
     
     
     
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