Time to reform House of Lords and ‘sack’ work-shy peers – Bill Carmichael
But even he has given up trying to justify this absurd feudal relic and anti-democratic institution.
On the news that the Prime Minister has added yet another 36 new peers to the already absurdly bloated House of Lords, Lord Fowler admitted its current size at almost 830 members was “ridiculous” and “not necessary”.
Lord Fowler, who served in Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s Cabinets, has previously announced his intention of reducing the Lords to just 600 members – which would leave it just shy of the elected House of Commons.
But clearly that isn’t going to happen any time soon, so long as all parties at Westminster continue to cram the upper chamber with various cronies, failed politicians and rich party donors.
It is true that the new peers include a number of talented people such as former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke, ex-Labour MP Frank Field and Ruth Davidson, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives.
There are also places for ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson’s brother Jo, Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the London Evening Standard and Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph.
All can be expected to make some valuable contributions to the work of the Lords – certainly more than some of the ‘‘dead wood’’ on the red benches.
For example, an estimated 88 peers – about one in nine – have never spoken in the Lords, held a government post or participated in a committee, and 46 have never even recorded a vote.
Perhaps replacing some of these inactive members with fresh blood would make some sense, but that is not the way it works. Instead, membership of the House of Lords is, for many, a job for life and most stay until they die, regardless of any work they do. Governments – and Labour and Conservative are equally guilty of this – just keep adding more and more members with each passing year.
The end result becomes so utterly ridiculous and embarrassing that even the Lord Speaker himself recognises that things cannot continue as they are.
Lord Fowler accused the Prime Minister of contributing to the problem of “passenger peers”, who contribute precisely nothing to the work of Parliament, by failing to address the chamber’s ever growing numbers.
And regardless of the talents of individual peers, giving an unelected and unaccountable oligarchy a major say over our legislative process is simply incompatible with a modern democracy.
Unusually this time round when the peerages were announced, many of the objections came from committed Remainers. They have spent the last four years cheering on the Lords in their efforts to block Brexit, and defy the will of the people expressed in the 2016 referendum, but now suddenly they want to see the institution abolished.
Why? Well it appears that the addition of a tiny number of pro-Brexit peers has upset them. Brexiteers such as former Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart, alongside former Brexit Party MEP Claire Fox and famous cricketer Sir Ian Botham.
The objections to these additions are spurious. The House of Lords is entirely unrepresentative of the British people for a number of reasons, including the fact that almost 52 per cent of voters backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum, but the number of Leaver peers is small.
I welcome the addition of Brexit-backing peers, but that does not alter my longstanding opposition to the House of Lords.
We have over the last four years fought a gruelling campaign to rid ourselves of the unelected and unaccountable European Union and re-establish our country as a free and independent nation once again.
It is now time to turn our fire on the equally unelected and unaccountable House of Lords – we should get rid of the absurd charade or turn it into an elected chamber.
The work on reforming the House of Lords in the modern era began way back in 1911 when a Liberal government promised “to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis”.
Perhaps it is time we delivered on that more than a century old promise.
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