Government offers half a loaf on Lords reform

The Government today published its proposals for reform of the House of Lords.

  • 50% to be elected for 15 year terms, a third at a time every five years;
  • 30% to be appointed by party leaders;
  • 20% to be appointed by the Independent Appointments Commission.

The retention of party appointees is difficult to justify alongside elected members. If party candidates think they deserve a seat in the Lords, surely they should stand for election? As Unlock Democracy points out, keeping party patronage means keeping the situation that created the cash for peerages saga.

The electoral system on offer is at least more democratic than many of those alternatives. It is a party list system, but will allow electors to vote for individuals within the party lists if they so choose.

This is a step short of the Single Transferable Vote in which candidates are ranked in order of preference regardless of party. Interestingly, this seems to have been rejected for being too democratic.

The fact that individuals, rather than parties, have to campaign for votes may lead to individuals attempting to gain a higher public profile which could create a more political House. Individuals elected in this way may view themselves as having a more democratic mandate than in other systems, and could even argue that they have more of a mandate than MPs in the Commons, thus risking undermining the relationship between the Houses. (The House of Lords: Reform)

Interestingly, the Government’s proposals suggest that an elected members of the Lords would not become members of the peerage. Presumably, they would then have to call ithe chamber something other than the House of Lords.

Overall, half a loaf is better than none, but why not go for a fully elected Lords? If it were elected by thirds, Government proposes, it would not have the mandate to challenge the Commons, but would still be able to act as a check on the executive.






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