» Friday, March 19, 2004

Lords Reform

In answer to questions about the latest development on the Government’s plans for House of Lords reform, the PMOS said that it was sometimes necessary to be pragmatic in politics. It remained the Government’s view that hereditary peers should no longer sit in the Lords. As Lord Falconer had said in his statement last night, we were not going to let the matter rest. Just because we were not proceeding with the Bill at this stage did not mean that we had given up on the issue. Far from it. However, it was necessary for us to be realistic about events in the Lords over recent weeks and months. For example, the handling of the Constitutional Reform Bill had been virtually unprecedented. As a result, a judgement had been taken not to proceed with the Bill and Lord Falconer had announced last night that the Party would deal with the issue in its next election manifesto.

Asked to expound on Lord Falconer’s threat to review the powers of the Lords, the PMOS said Lord Falconer had been indicating that the Government would be reflecting on recent events in the Lords and the way that Peers were able to obstruct the will of the elected Commons, and would consider how to take things forward. Put to him that the Lords’ ability to obstruct legislation had surely not suddenly come as a blinding flash of revelation to the Government, the PMOS said the Government accepted the fact that it did not have a majority in the Lords. No one was suggesting that legislation should not be scrutinised. Of course it should be – hence the Lords’ important function as a revising chamber. However, legitimate scrutiny was one thing, the sort of behaviour we had seen in the Lords recently was entirely another. The Government had taken time to reflect on what had happened and had reached the judgement that the Bill would not be passed in present circumstances. As Lord Falconer had indicated, it was clearly best to acknowledge such a thing at the start and concentrate on other legislation which was in train at the moment.

Put to him that the Government could have proscribed the powers of the Lords had it completed all the stages of reform quickly instead of waiting seven years to do so, the PMOS said that these were clearly very complex issues. He pointed out that had the Government not set up Joint Committees, not offered free votes on the issue and not tried to find an emerging consensus, the same journalist would be criticising us for railroading through legislation and abolishing a thousand years of history at a stroke. The point he was making was that there were real issues which needed to be looked at. The Government would reflect on them in slower time.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. Am I missing a point?

    Why do we need to reform the Lords?

    Everything has worked perfectly for generations – is it that the level of common sense shown by their Lordships clashes with the current generation of elected politicians?

    From what I see, read, hear and experience there cannot be more than a handful of elected politicians who could successfully run a modern manufacturing business, so why are we letting the rest of them run our country?

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 19 Mar 2004 on 5:06 pm | Link
  2. Worked perfectly for generations? No it bloody well hasn’t. For one thing the composition was such that the Lords defeated a Labour government whenever it wanted to, but a Conservative government only once in a blue moon. Neither party really took notice of the Lords so it did not really do its job. Oh, and running the country is completely and entirely different from running a manufacturing business.

    Comment by David Boothroyd — 19 Mar 2004 on 6:56 pm | Link
  3. Language, language David! For once I agree with you. I do think there is a very real need for an elected Upper House, especially in these days of inflated executive power, but most definitely NOT the house of Lords as is. If and when this ever does happen, the utmost care should also be taken to ensure that the government has no say in who is elected – I’m sure they would push ahead tomorrow if they could properly influence the election of members to the Upper House. Once again, the whole question of electoral reform is a moot point – a government in power is only ever going to tinker with the system if it thinks the tinkering will enhance their own chances. It has nothing to do with improving the democratic process and everything to do with personal gain, cronyism and vested interests. When Labour say they will look at reform of the polling system I’m sure they’ll look long and hard at it – and I’m also sure they’ll do nothing about it because I can’t conceive of another system of voting in which they will actually be better off.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 19 Mar 2004 on 7:23 pm | Link
  4. …and there was me thinking that the ability to use incisive thinking and ask the critical questions, having understood the real meaning of information on subjects that are both familiar and unfamiliar, was a skill required by both discipines.
    Now I understand – the reason people like the PM dont clarify certain issues by asking the obvious questions is because that’s not how politicians run countries – thanks for the clarification I shall sleep easier at night.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 21 Mar 2004 on 8:17 am | Link
  5. Roger, the skills you mention are common to a whole range of occupations. They don’t mark a person out as particularly successful. The fact is that over the years, various successful businesspeople have gone into politics and tried to adapt their business skills into political ones, and it has always turned out to be a complete disaster. Remember John Davies? Ross Perot? James Goldsmith? Then look at some successful ministers and you find they have skills from completely different professions. Aneurin Bevan was a Miner. Margaret Thatcher was an industrial chemist turned Barrister. Gordon Brown was a TV journalist. Michael Heseltine was a magazine publisher. Oh, and it’s not true that those who have been in politics ever since leaving university make bad Ministers, either.

    Comment by David Boothroyd — 22 Mar 2004 on 10:34 am | Link
  6. Good points David – except the last one!!! In my experience, ANYONE and EVERYONE who has become qualified for a position purely on their academic record has made a pigs ear of it, with no exceptions. Another reason why the Governments insistence on the whole country having a degree is complete rubbish; the ones we do have are already worthless.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 23 Mar 2004 on 8:58 pm | Link

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