lords reform

ERS condemn 'ludicrous' hereditary Peer by-election

3rd March 2017
3 Mar 2017
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house of lords
lords reform
hereditary Peers
hereditary peer by-election
hereditary by-election
Electoral Reform Society
Katie Ghose

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The Electoral Reform Society have described the upcoming hereditary Peer by-election [1] in the House of Lords as a ‘farce’ and ‘the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up’.  

The ‘vote’ will take place in the House of Lords on the 21st March. Peers will decide from a small group of hereditary Lords who will be able to vote in the upper chamber for the rest of their lives – and claim £300 per day.

The vote have been described as ‘the most elitist election in the world’, and follows the passing of Lord Lyell. 

All of the 27 candidates are men and more than half are over 60.

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

“Yet again we are witnessing the farce of a hereditary Peer ‘by-election’ – the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up. There are just 30 voters per candidate in this so-called election. Lords are literally picking their peers from a tiny pool of aristocrats.

“The most bizarre thing is that the electorate of 804 is actually the largest in years – some of the by-elections in the past have had an electorate of three or less [2], a total embarrassment to our politics. Most of the time it is only the handful of current hereditary Peers from each group who can pick a new person to sit in our upper house for the rest of their lives.

“Ending this absurd practice should be addressed urgently. For most people, it is simply astonishing that in the 21st century, a small cadre of hereditary Lords still decide who sits in our legislature and who votes on laws that affect us all.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs that an act to end this ludicrous practice once and for all was dropped by Peers just a few months ago. It was the most modest of Bills, proposed by Peers themselves to end an absurd anachronism. This issue must be revisited and tackled as soon as possible, for the sake of faith in our institutions and democracy. Frankly, it makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’.

“Scrapping the hereditary peer system must be the first step in the process of cutting the second largest chamber on Earth down to size – and replacing it with a fairly elected revising chamber that can represent us all.

“We hope the government now come forward with more substantial reforms to ensure that this long era of hereditary and unelected law-making draws to a close.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk 

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-information-office/2017/Notice-by-election-07-02-17.pdf

[2] See here

'Meet the Lords' documentary lays bare 'astonishing and scandalous' situation in upper chamber, say campaigners

21st February 2017
21 Feb 2017
Tags: 
Meet the Lords
house of lords
lords reform
BBC Meet the Lords

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Statement  from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 21st February 2017

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630


Commenting on revelations [1] from the BBC’s ‘Meet the Lords’ series, which will be shown next Monday, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

We already knew some Peers claim their £300 without speaking or voting, but to hear this from the former Lords speaker herself is astonishing and shows just how severe this problem really is. Baroness D’Souza has exposed a truly scandalous situation.

“Since they’re unelected, there is essentially no way to get rid of Peers who do this. The public are sick to death of the kind of behaviour that ‘Meet the Lords’ highlights.

“Our research at the end of 2015 showed that £1.3m was claimed by 64 Peers in the 2014/15 financial period who failed to speak in that year [2]. And Peers who failed to take part in any votes from 2010-2015 claimed £360,000 back from the taxpayer [3]. The situation with the Lords is spiralling out of control, both in terms of size and cost.

“Rather than spending thousands on Peers who fail to even speak up in Parliament, we need a fairly-elected upper House. That call is only likely to grow after this series looks set to lay bare some of the outrageous abuses of privilege in the upper chamber.

“It’s completely unacceptable that Peers can claim thousands without even speaking or voting in the House, and it highlights the reality that there is no accountability for Peers – the public can’t kick them out if they fail to serve the interests of citizens. Let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse.

“This documentary also highlights the farce that is the hereditary peerage system. The practice of holding so-called ‘by-elections’ for hereditary Peers – with only aristocrats able to vote and stand – is an embarrassment to our politics. Some of these by-elections have had an electorate of three or less, which makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’. Scrapping the hereditary peer system would be a start in the process of clearing out our out-dated upper house and the cutting the second largest chamber on Earth (after the People’s Republic of China) down to size.

“This documentary provides yet more evidence that we urgently need to sort out the House of Lords, and move to a fully-elected chamber where the people who make our laws are elected by the public - and can be kicked out by the public.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630

Notes to Editors

[1] They include the claim from former Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza that a Peer left a taxi waiting outside ­Parliament while he went inside to register for his daily allowance. D’Souza claimed the lord was one of “many, many, many who contribute absolutely nothing, but who claim the full allowance”.

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/press_release/file/House%20of%20Lords%20Research%20PR%20JM%207th%20Sept%202015.pdf

[3] http://news.sky.com/story/peers-claimed-163360k-without-voting-in-lords-10349255

Read the ERS’ ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report on the House of Lords https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/House-of-Lords-Fact-Vs-Fiction-Report.pdf

Dropping plans to end hereditary peer by-elections ‘astonishing,’ say campaigners

9th December 2016
9 Dec 2016
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform
hereditary by-elections
hereditary Peers

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Statement from Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 9th Dec. 2016 

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the House of Lords dropping a Bill to end hereditary peer by-elections today, Will Brett, Head of Campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s astonishing that in the 21st century, a handful of hereditary Lords still gets to decide who sits in our legislature. This was the most modest of Bills, proposed by Peers themselves to end an absurd anachronism. The fact it has been dropped borders on the comical.

“Some of these by-elections have had an electorate of three or less. It’s an embarrassment to our politics, and the sooner this practice is scrapped the better. Instead, let’s have proper elections that involve the whole public, based on a fair voting system.

“We hope the government now come forward with more substantial reforms to ensure that this long era of hereditary and unelected law-making draws to a close.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] The House of Lords Act 1999 (Amendment) Bill 2016-17 was dropped by Peers at Committee Stage, midday today, following the government refusing to support it: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/houseoflordsact1999amendment.html

[2] Since the House of Lords Act 1999, the House of Lords ‘elected’ 90 hereditary peers to sit in the House. When one of these hereditary peers dies, a by-election is held. Fewer than 200 people in the whole of the UK are able to vote in or fill those vacancies - those on the ‘Register of Hereditary Peers’. More info here: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/lords/house-of-lords-external-communications/by-elections/

Too many Lords: these new appointments make reform inevitable

1st August 2013
1 Aug 2013
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lords reform

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Too many Lords: these new appointments make reform inevitable
 
For immediate release, 1 August 2013, 11:15
Today’s appointments to the House of Lords show how the second chamber is approaching an unsustainable number of members, the Electoral Reform Society has warned. The appointments bring Lords reform back on the political agenda – whoever is in power in 2015 will have to deal with the fact that the system for appointing Lords is creating a “super-sized” second chamber that will see elected MPs outnumbered by three to one.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“These appointments show that Lords reform is coming back on the agenda no matter what happens at the next general election.

 “The 30 new members appointed today are the latest additions to an increasingly bloated chamber. Our research[1] shows that the total number of peers could rise to nearly 1,000 by the end of the current parliament, and to an astonishing and unsustainable 2,000 after the next general election."
 

"That represents an awful lot of unelected politicians, outnumbering MPs by three to one."

 
Only China’s set-up competes with the House of Lords in terms of size. And that’s a real headache for whoever is in government after 2015. No matter which party or coalition of parties takes the helm, they will have to do something about the super-sized second chamber."
 
“For one thing, the Westminster infrastructure is struggling to cope with the increase in numbers. Peers were already struggling to find desk space[2] back in 2011, and that was before the last few rounds of appointments."

“Every time the government appoints new peers, it brings Lords reform closer to the centre of the political agenda. We urge party leaders to recognise this time-bomb and get back round the table to thrash out a deal on reforming the House of Lords. If they don’t, this ancient, creaking institution may just fall apart entirely.”

To read the Electoral Reform Society’s full report on the Super-Sized Second Chamber, visit /sites/default/files/SuperSizedSecondChamber.pdf.

For more information, and for interview or comment, contact Will Brett at will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07979 696 265.

 
 

[2] See http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/publications/tabs/unit-publications/152.pdf

Lords Reform: A failure for Britain's political class

6th August 2012
6 Aug 2012
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lords reform

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Lords Reform: A failure for Britain’s political class.

The Electoral Reform Society has responded to the Government’s decision to withdraw the House of Lords Reform bill.

The Society has branded the move as indicative of the failure of Britain’s political class to effectively reform itself.

Given the shared commitment of all three main parties to reform at the 2010 general election – a commitment reaffirmed in the Coalition agreement - the Society has said parliamentarians have “squandered consensus, in the name of cheap point scoring and political games.”

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

This isn’t about the failure of one party, one government or one bill, but of politics itself. What we've seen is the total inability of Britain's political class to get its own House in order.

Our MPs have squandered consensus, in the name of cheap point scoring and political games.All three parties walked into the last election committed to change. Each party has had an opportunity to break the impasse. Each party has chosen not to.

This will be remembered as an inglorious chapter in Britain’s political history. But it carries important lessons on how Britain does reform. Constitutional reform will not go away, but it needs to raised above the petty self-interest of parliamentarians, whether they like it or not."

Katie added:

Today Government rebels will be claiming victory. But let's not pretend Lords reform is dead and buried. Rebels have merely put off till tomorrow changes that could have been done today.

The House of Lords will remain unfinished business that this generation of politicians will have to fix"

The Society has welcomed dropping government plans to reform boundaries. Both the current boundaries – and their proposed replacements - are deeply flawed, failing to keep track of population changes, relying instead on inaccurate or incomplete electoral roll data.

Katie added:

Under any other circumstances it would be good to see the back of boundary reforms which would have bent our communities out of shape. But political boundaries remain a problem that it will take courage to fix.

The current boundary system is flawed. The government’s plans were worse. Change is still required to ensure every citizen is counted, and counted equally.”

ENDS

Is this the end of democracy for the Lords?

3rd August 2012
3 Aug 2012
Tags: 
lords reform
house of lords
second chamber

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Is this the end of democracy for the Lords?

News today that the Prime Minister plans to shelve Lords reform “threatens to make Britain a laughing stock in the eyes of the rest of the democratic world”, says the Electoral Reform Society’s Katie Ghose.

At a time when London is hosting nations from all over the world for the Olympics this is not how we would want ‘the Mother of Parliaments’ to be projected”

Katie argues

“If you hold the power to help decide how Britain is run you should be elected by us, the British public. That’s democracy.”

After 100 years of debate all three parties had finally committed to reaching an agreement on Lords reform, backed up by evidence that around eight in ten Britons (79%) support the idea of reforming the House of Lords¹. However since the bill was announced petty in-fighting has threatened to derail the process.

Katie continues

We live in a country where over half our politicians are unelected. This reform is vital for Britain to hold its head up as a modern democracy but it is being sabotaged by MPs who think it will work against their own interests.

The second chamber makes laws about life in Britain, it should belong to the British public and not be a play-thing for politicians to use in their squabbling with each other.

The constant backroom deals and speculation around what might be traded for Lords reform has a whiff of corruption about it that leaves voters dazed and confused and shows how out of touch our political class has become.”

The debate around Lords reform has been intensely political with the reform being seen as a bargaining chip within the coalition. Talk has already begun on what the Conservatives may offer the Liberal Democrats in its place.

Katie concludes

Talk of trade offs on party funding, jobs in ministerial reshuffles and boundary changes all leave the strong impression that the last group of people being considered in this debate are the citizens these politicians are meant to be serving.

If Lords reform is dropped it will be clear that this government is not interested in improving our democracy unless it suits the narrow, fleeting interests of those Ministers who signed up for change just two short years ago.”

ENDS

Notes to editors
1. Ipsos MORI House of Lords reform poll Published:19 July 2012
2. For more information about the Electoral Reform Societies campaign for Lords reform.

Pick up the phone, and end 100 years of unfinished business

27th June 2012
27 Jun 2012
Tags: 
lords reform
second chamber
house of lords

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Pick up the phone, and end 100 years of unfinished business

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the historic publication of the Lords Reform bill, and has called on Labour and Liberal Democrats to act responsibly and prevent a fatal impasse over the timetable.

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

For the first time in history we have a government pressing ahead armed with a clear mandate to deliver on Lords Reform.

Government and opposition now need to act responsibly, as any bun fight over the timetable could now prove fatal. The Labour Party have offered what looks like an olive branch, the onus is now on the Liberal Democrats to work out how to use it.

If Miliband and Clegg could just pick up the phone we could wrap up 100 years of unfinished business.”

The Lords Reform Bill in brief

  • The final House will be 462 members (360 elected, 90 appointed).
  • Elections to be held at same time as General Election.
  • The transition will take place over three elections.

The Electoral Reform Society welcomes the fact that the bill makes provisions for

  • Ensuring diversity: Appointments Commission criteria for selection confirms ‘the desirability of the appointed members collectively reflecting the diversity of the population of the United Kingdom and having a range of experience and expertise’.
  • Safeguarding accountability. The bill includes arrangements for disqualification, expulsion, suspension and resignation and ensures Lords can’t stand as MPs for 4 years after their term in the Lords finished.
  • Sensible remuneration arrangements. The salary for peers is not to be above an MPs and elected Lords will be ordinary residents for tax purposes so will no longer receive their pay tax free.

ENDS

For more information contact the media office on mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk or call 020 7202 8601.

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. Find out more about our work at http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk
  3. House of Lords Reform Bill: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2012-2013/0052/1305...
  4. Today’s YouGov poll on House of Lords Reform: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/s9zuj152zl/YG-Archives-Yo...

Give us the right to hand the Lords their jobs

22nd June 2012
22 Jun 2012
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house of lords
lords reform
constitutional reform

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Give us the right to hand the Lords their jobs

The Independent's recent series The Lords Exposed claims that 'radical proposals to reform the House of Lords are set to shine a light on those peers with low participation in debates or votes'.

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

We have the largest and worst attended second chamber on earth. The fact that the current Lords can inherit or buy a place in the British parliament is simply an embarrassment and clearly means that many are not taking their responsibilities to the British public seriously. Giving us the right to hand them their jobs would help to remind them who they’re working for.

While many people are worrying about paying the bills, it’s absurd that these unelected politicians can choose whether to bother turning up, then claim £300 and go home again. It's time for a more effective and efficient House of Lords that can actually represent British voters.

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
Tags: 
lords reform
house of lords
constitutional reform
elected lords

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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%