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Can the politicians put self interest aside on Lords reform?

9th May 2012
9 May 2012
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lords reform
house of lords
constitutional reform
elected lords

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Can the politicians put self interest aside on Lords reform?

The Queen has today announced that reforming the House of Lords will form part of her parliament’s agenda over the coming months but independent campaign group the Electoral Reform Society ask whether self interested politicians are poised to derail a reform that’s been 100 years in the making.

The debate on Lords reform has been clouded by in-fighting between politicians on all sides but polling since 2000 has shown that between 54-82% of the public have supported the need for an elected House of Lords. A recent You Gov poll found that 69% of people supported the principle of an elected second chamber with only 5% wanting the status quo.


Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:

 

We welcome the government’s pledge to legislate on reform of the upper house. But Lords Reform will take more than words; it will require action. 

If you hold the power to help decide how Britain is run you should be elected by us, the British public - that’s democracy. The public know it, so how long can a small privileged clique of politicians afford to fool themselves?’

‘In the current economic climate to be handed a job for life because your father was a lord, and to be able to turn up, claim £300 and go home again, is quite simply an embarrassment.’

Recent discussion has focused on the time Lord reform will take up in the parliamentary calendar. Katie continues

 

Hearing politicians bewailing the time it will take to pass Lords reform, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it is their petty in-fighting that will prolong the process.

There is no reason for this process to be drawn out. MPs from the three main parties were elected on a commitment to Lords reform, the proposals are backed up by consensus from a century of debate and public opinion is behind an elected second chamber.

‘If we blow this opportunity now we’re going to end up spending another hundred years of our parliament’s time trying to undo that mistake. We cannot allow the turkeys to veto Christmas. Politicians’ self interest must not be allowed to waste any more of our time.’

ENDS


Notes to Editors

  1. Since 1999 both chambers of parliament have together spent over 140 hours debating Lords reform
  2. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.
  3. To find out more visit http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk


Queen's Speech Rebels should think about their priorities

6th May 2012
6 May 2012
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lords reform
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The Electoral Reform Society has responded to news of likely rebellion over plans for Lords reform in the coming Queen’s speech.
 
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: 
Rebel MPs need to look again at their own priorities, because sabotaging the coming legislative programme will not magically create jobs or balance the budget.
 
“Of course Lords Reform will loom large over the next session, but MPs who claim they value parliamentary time should think twice before they start wasting it on a personal crusade.

“The government is moving to fulfil a manifesto commitment, and if MPs suddenly don’t like the promises that are being kept, the time for dissent was before the last general election. All parties must remember their pledges and ensure this unfinished business doesn’t trouble another parliament.”

 
News comes on the first anniversary of the AV referendum, as new polling from Populus showing just 1 in 5 voters support the current system.

Katie added:

 
It’s clear the vote against AV was not a vote of confidence in First-Past-the-Post.  It certainly wasn’t a get out of jail free card for the forces who want to keep our parliament stuck in the 19th century.”
 For comment please contact 07968 791684
Poll data: 

A year on from the AV referendum the Electoral Reform Society has commissioned polling from Populus on public attitudes to fair votes in parliament.
 

  • Most UK adults (52%) agree that the UK should use a different voting system that would give parties a share of seats in Parliament that more closely reflects their share of votes.
  • Just 1 in 5 UK adults (21%) disagree
Polling by Populus for the Electoral Reform Society. Fieldwork 2nd May 2012:

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “The UK should use a different voting system that would give parties a share of seats in Parliament that more closely reflects their share of votes”

 
TOTAL
%
Unweighted base
2053
 
Weighted base
2053
 
NET: agree
1058
52%
Strongly agree (+2)
458
22%
Slightly agree (+1)
600
29%
Neither agree nor disagree (0)
666
27%
Slightly Disagree (-1)
190
9%
Strongly disagree (-2)
250
12%
NET: disagree
400
21%

Electoral Reform Society Respond to Joint Committee on Lords Reform Report

23rd April 2012
23 Apr 2012
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Electoral Reform Society Respond to Joint Committee on Lords Reform Report

After weeks of leaks and political infighting the Committee on Lords reform has today released its recommendations for an elected Upper House.

The Electoral Reform Society warns that the Committee’s report risks being overshadowed by the furore created around it and attempts from those who are against the principle of an elected upper house to discredit the process entirely.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:

It is deeply disturbing that the Committee can’t seem to agree on the basic principle that we should be able to elect our representatives. There is a real danger that the political interests at play here will undermine this important reform before it even gets off the ground.

Of course the parties don’t want to lose control over who sits in the House of Lords - politicians are very good at defending the interests of politicians, but we cannot let the turkeys veto Christmas. If you hold the power to help decide how Britain is run you should be elected by us, the British public. That’s democracy. No-one should be able to inherit or buy a place in the British parliament.’

Despite the Joint Committee’s report specifically stating that no minority reports can be published under Erskine May - the Commons’ parliamentary bible- it appears that 12 members of the 26-strong committee (nine peers, 3 MPs) who disagree with the report are producing one.

Katie adds

There is clear public support for electing the Lords. No amount of Minority Reports will change the majority view.’

Despite a You Gov poll published today which found that 69% of people the principle of an elected second chamber, recent disagreements have focused on the calls from Labour and Conservative politicians to put the reform to the public in a referendum.

Katie continues

The call for a referendum looks suspiciously like political game playing rather than an honest desire to know what the public think. In fact between 54-82% of the public have supported an elected upper house since 2000.

‘In these difficult times we need a smaller more effective and efficient House of Lords that when it comes to the economy, jobs and our public services - actually represents British voters.’
 

The Electoral Reform Society welcomes that…

• The Committee supports principle that the Lords should be elected.
“The Committee, on a majority, agrees that the reformed second chamber of legislature should have an electoral mandate provided it has commensurate powers.”
• The Committee agrees that Commons primacy would remain but that conventions would need to be kept under review.
“A majority, while acknowledging that the balance of power would shift, consider that the remaining pillars on which Commons primacy rests would suffice to ensure its continuation.”
“We agree with the weight of the evidence we have received which suggests that the conventions governing the relationship between the two Houses will evolve further once the House of Lords is reformed and would need to be re-defined.”
• The Committee has taken a sensible approach to some of the logistics i.e. the size of an elected upper house and that it will be 80% elected on non-renewable terms and 15 year terms.

The Electoral Reform Society is concerned that

• The Committee is recommending a type of closed list system which brings appointments in through the back door on the patronising assumption that voters would not be able to cope with the original PR system proposed: STV.
“In the Committee's view, the voting system chosen should give voters the widest choice possible of where to cast their preferences, whether that is within a single party or across candidates from multiple parties and yet be as intelligible as possible to the voter. We also believe that voters who wish to simply vote for a political party, rather than individual candidates, should be free to do so.”
This is despite the committee saying:
“We do not support the introduction of a closed list system for the sort of regional elections proposed in the draft Bill.”
• The Committee proposes giving the parties complete control over who of the unelected Lords should remain until 2025, instead of basing this on their record and attendance.
• The Committee has recommended that reserved seats for Bishops are retained.


ENDS

Download the Committee’s report here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtdraftref/284/28402.htm

Full results from today’s YouGov poll can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/lordspoll

Notes to Editors
1. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.
2. To find out more visit http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk

Lords Rebels should remember their manifestos

20th April 2012
20 Apr 2012
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lords reform
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Lords Rebels should remember their manifestos

The Electoral Reform Society has responded to news of likely rebellion and resignations in Conservative ranks over Lords Reform.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society’s said:

We can understand why unelected Lords might have little time for accountability or manifesto commitments. These MPs have no such excuses.

Every one of these wannabe-rebels ran for parliament on a promise of Lords Reform. Now they seem prepared to sacrifice their own government’s entire legislative programme to bury it. It sends a strong signal to their constituents that their manifestos weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.

The government is right to stick to its guns. No party went into the last election defending the status quo, and if Lords Reform is ever to see the light of day it will require all parties to stay committed.”

ENDS

Democrats need to show resolve on Lords Reform

17th May 2011
17 May 2011
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reform
democracy
second chamber
lords reform
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Democrats need to show resolve on Lords Reform

Responding to the government’s announcement on House of Lords Reform Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:

We welcome this government’s first steps on reforming the Upper House, but we have been here before. Lords Reform will remain unfinished business until real determination exists to see it through.

“The last decade of debate has shown cross-party consensus is possible. Certainly all three main parties went into the last general election with manifesto pledges to reform the upper house. Now all democrats must be prepared to show their resolve.

“We can break the deadlock, but it will require concerted action from all parties to bring this Medieval Chamber up to date.”

ENDS