Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Time for Lords reform?

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

Having followed the cash-for-influence scandal over the past couple of days, I find myself hoping that we'll now see House of Lords reform move back up the political agenda. Once again we're reminded of just how unaccountable the Lords are, especially given the fact that, as was famously the case with Jeffrey Archer, the accused Lords will in all likelihood keep their titles even if they are found to have broken the law.

In my own view this scandal demonstrates the need for a fully elected and accountable second chamber (after all, MPs are subject far stricter rules than Lords), and at the very least it shows that previous reform hasn't gone far enough. The government published a new white paper on the issue last summer, proposing an 80 or 100 per cent elected House, but little has happened since.

If Lords reform does make a comeback, there could a welcome secular angle too. As we pointed out in New Humanist a while ago, if criminals being allowed to keep their peerages appears archaic, it almost seems ultra-modern compared to the presence of 26 Church of England bishops in the upper house. A new debate over reform would be a great opportunity to push for the removal of these holy relics, although the last white paper proposed that the bishops would only be reduced in number, not ousted, if reform results in a part-elected, part-appointed Lords.

All the more reason to support the fully-elected option, then.


Kevin said...

Hear hear.

One of the dangers with keep the god-botherers in the House is that ultimately the representatives of other, less wishy-washy religions, like, say, I dunno, Islam, will start demanding seats too. And, based on many of their recent comments, the Anglicans would probably welcome them with open arms.

Andy said...

I am rather proud when the Lords curb the excesses of the lower house. eg detention without trial.


I agree that having an imaginary friend and wearing a silly hat should not automatically qualify you for a seat.

However, I worry that having them elected will make them subject to the same problems as the lower house.