Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Electing the Lords

Lord ChancellorThere is much talk again in government circles of reform of the House of Lords. This is partly due to Labour frustration at the number of defeats they are suffering from peers (rather a good sign I'd say). The recent Power Inquiry has also recommended that 70% of peers be elected under a proportional representation system.

Elections increase the democratic mandate of a House. However, they do not necessarily improve the deliberative quality of democracy. John Parkinson writes:

Appointees are not dependent on parties for their future career. This is why governments often find that even their political appointees become so independently minded once in the job. Life tenure can have a wonderfully liberating effect on the mind. From a deliberative point of view, the problem is not that the Lords are unelected, but that they have relatively little power to force the government to stop and think again.

The Power Inquiry has suggested that elected peers should be over the age of 40 to ensure they have a reasonable amount of life experience and that peers should be elected for one term of around a decade. I would add that they should not have been an MP for at least 10 years. These restrictions would all minimise the influence that political parties could have on peers, and prevent the Lords becoming a rest home for career politicians at the end of their long and meaningless political lives.

1 comment:

Bishop Hill said...

The 10 year rule is a good idea. My own thoughts had been that there should be a ban on anyone who had ever been a member of a political party. (Perhaps with an exception for former PMs)