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.
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.
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.
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