We Brits are in no position to criticise how other countries are run as long as our upper house at Westminster is allowed to remain in its present far from satisfactory form. 

The Lords is comprised of some 800 members and its primary function is to scrutinise and revise legislation passed by the House of Commons. Only China’s National Peoples Congress is bigger! While some of its Peers across the political spectrum are undoubtedly hard-working, others owe their place in the House to the worst excesses of political cronyism. Many sit there on the basis ‘lose an election to the Commons, get a seat in the Lords’! Currently, almost 27% of its members were previously MP’s. Almost 7% are former political staff or other party hacks.

Members of the Lords can claim an allowance of £300 each day, plus travel costs. Many Peers are said to sign on simply to claim this money, and promptly leave without attending or contributing to any debate in the chamber, let alone staying long enough to vote. 

Over the decades, there have been a number of attempts to radically reform the Lords. Most of these have failed due to insurmountable political pressure from one direction or another, and the problem has been considered an intractable one. Tory Peer Michael Heseltine emerged from the jungle canopy overnight to declare that he intends to rebel against the Government’s Brexit Bill currently being debated in the Lords!

A good number of fat cat Labour and some other Tory Peers, in receipt of huge monthly pensions from the EU, are also expected to obstruct the Brexit Bill, which Mrs May won in the Commons with a thumping great majority. They will thus effectively be frustrating the will of the British people as expressed in the Referendum. Their EU pensions are so eye-watering that for most Brits they are the stuff of fantasy. According to some reports, one well-known Labour Peer is said to be paid nearly £88000 a year, another nearly £40000, and yet another three at least £35000 each!

Its therefore time to introduce much-needed reform to this unrepresentative body. Many approaches to change are being pursued and at a recent meeting of ‘HL Reform Now’ it was argued that the many different views represented could be accommodated, on an interim basis at least, until it is seen how the changes are working. As a basis for further discussion, it was broadly agreed that the number of Peers be reduced from 800 to 500, of which 200 would be political appointees of the right calibre and commitment, 100 would be appointed from distinguished people in the Arts and Sciences, plus other areas of public life, and 200 would be directly elected from all parts of the UK. There was wide agreement against abolition of the Lords.

Once reformed, the Lords would remain a strictly ‘scrutinise and revise’ body as now and would not have the power to block any bill passed by the Commons. Should Mrs May be unable to obtain the agreement of the other main political parties to reform the Lords, the question should be put before the people in a referendum. Action is long overdue


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