Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Simon Hughes on House of Lords Reform

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 7th November, 2011

It’s a hundred years since the last serious attempt to reform Britain’s anachronistc Second Chamber was made, by the then Liberal government. And some of us who believe passionately in constitutional reform sometimes wonder if it will be another hundred before a further major step forward is made. This is despite the fact that all three main parties at the last general election pledged in their manifestos to transform the Lords by making it a wholly or mainly elected institution — and one with fewer members than at present. The Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, Simon Hughes MP, shared his optimism with the Gladstone Club at the National Liberal Club this vening by saying we might expect the Coalition government to put forward concrete proposals in 2013 or 2014. The matter of course falls within the brief of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, which is maybe unfortunate given the AV referendum failure and lingering public anger about tuition fees. It is essential, as Simon said tonight, that NGOs, pressure groups and even the media take ownership of this overdue reform. He is personally not enamoured of the idea of a list system PR election, though I think that might be the best way forward for electing the 80% of Senators that is widely being touted — an open list system, of course, in which voters, not just the party, would state their preference among candidates on the list. It also makes sense that the Senators should be elected from the recognised European regions in the UK, of which London would be one. Simon spoke of 15-year terms, with one third of the Senators being elected at the same time as elections to the House of Commons. I would actually prefer 12-year terms, with elections that would not therefore usually coincide with a general election but which could of course be held on the same day in May as local or other elections.

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