I’ve long been in favour of the abolition of the anachronism that is the House of Lords and its replacement with an elected second chamber.
And a recent report on the attendance record of peers does nothing to change my mind. During the 2009/ 10 session, 79 peers did not attend at all and more than 200 appeared less than half of the time.
Peers keep their titles for life and are currently not allowed to retire from the House of Lords – although they can simply choose not to turn up.
The Lords’ Leaders Group is reported to be looking into, “options for allowing members to leave the House of Lords permanently.” I would agree with that – apart from the optional bit.
There are good reasons to have a second, or revising, chamber of Parliament in order to provide a curb on any potential government abuse and to review proposed legislation. Think how the checks and balances system works in the US, where the executive and the two houses of the legislature are all elected separately.
Then compare that with a system where Prime Ministers use patronage to appoint Lords when they choose, where hereditary peers still inherit the right to a place, where 26 Church of England Bishops have a say on political matters for no good reason and where failed politicians can pick up a tax free fee of £300 each day just for turning up.
The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled – to give it the full title – belongs in a bygone age, not a modern parliamentary democracy.
A cross-party committee on House of Lords reform is currently working on a draft bill that will out proposals for a wholly or mainly elected second chamber. But there are many, including a large number of Conservative MPs, who support the status quo.
Proposals will be published next year, and I hope that there will be a full debate on creating a modern alternative to the Lords.