Following Cleggs ambitious claims to give democracy the ‘biggest shake up’ since the Great Reform act 1832, one of his main aims of Lords reform has been clouded with increased criticism and a backdrop of backbench unease and a tricky audience.
The coalition agreement set out to have a mostly elected House of Lords by 2015 with the overall number of peers cut from around 800 to 300 of those 60 would still be appointed for their expertise, 12 bishops will remain. The rest would be elected for 15 year non-renewable terms and the members would be paid a salary.
The government has faced increasing pressure from the Conservatives and the current Lords not to implement the bill, arguing that Clegg is sending out the wrong message to voters on government priorities in a time of austerity and that the House of Lords will just become another House of Commons.
Conservative peer and joint committee member Lord Trimble, a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said that having non-renewable 15-year terms for peers would create “a machine for irresponsibility in the second house”.
Labour recently waded in saying that it would demand a referendum before the elected House is agreed. Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said: “We are not playing games with any Tories over this issue, but in our manifesto we said a change as important as an elected second chamber should be put to the people in a referendum. That remains our position.” This move by Labour could see Tories that are opposed to the bill, joining forces with Labour.
This half-hearted opposition from Labour can take us back to the time of the House of Lords Act 1999 where New Labour under Blair removed all but 92 hereditary peers, this had been intended to be the start of House of Lords reform however we were still left with some hereditary peers, a huge and ever growing unelected chamber and a cash for honours scandal during Blair’s third term.
How you can use this:
1) An example of the coalitions attempt at constitutional reform
2) The voting system if the bill passed would be proportional so you can bring that into an elections question or a point on electoral reform within a constitution essay
3) The electorate become disengaged with voting and the democratic system due to being overwhelmed with more elections, firstly the referendum Labour is suggesting then the Lords elections themselves
4) An example of the impact the Liberals are having in a coalition and where the Tories have seemingly given way to Liberal thinking with Menzies Campbell saying that Lords Reform is in the ‘blood’ of the Liberals