A senior Conservative peer from Norfolk has said the coalition’s plans for reforming the House of Lords will leave Parliament fighting itself in the courts.

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Baroness Shephard, who has been at the forefront of the battle against reform, warned that government plans were poorly drafted as they were presented in Westminster yesterday.

The proposals contain a specific commitment to the 1911 and 1949 Parliament Acts which enshrine the Commons as the most powerful chamber, able to force its will upon the Lords.

But Baroness Shephard claimed Lords politicians in the future will be able to argue that the Parliament Acts do not apply to the new Lords chamber.

She told the EDP: “I have no doubt that under such a proposal, if there was a conflict between an elected House of Lords and an elected House of Commons it would end up in the courts.

“The new House of Lords would be able to say that the Parliament Acts do not apply to the new kind of chamber that would be established by this reform.”

Under the plans the new Lords would be an 80% elected chamber, with a slimmed down membership falling from 800 to 450.

Hereditary peers would be completely removed from the Lords and the first elected members introduced in tranches of 120 at each of the next three general elections, with the process of change completed by 2025.

Elected members would serve for a single 15-year term and rather than a salary would instead receive £300 for each day they attend on which they would be taxed.

The plan was a key Liberal Democrat policy outlined in the coalition agreement that formed the current government, but up to 100 Conservative MPs have now said they may oppose the changes.

David Cameron yesterday insisted that voters were behind the change and warned his MPs they would face sanction if they opposed the government’s will.

Meanwhile Baroness Shephard said that if the Commons appeared divided over the issue then she and other peers in the House of Lords would do everything they could to attack the reforms.

On official estimates, the new House of Lords will end up costing the taxpayer an extra £150m per five-year period than at present.

And it is also expected that £3.8 million will be spent on a publicity drive to raise voters’ awareness of the new elections, which will cost around £85.7 million per time.

“The government should bring forward a properly drafted, properly thought out proposal that shows they have considered the constitutional and cost implications.

“Most of all the public should be asked what they think in a referendum.”

2 comments

  • Gillian, I don't think the people agree with this stance by the Lords. In the mother of parliaments is it not time for the upper chamber to also be elected on merit? We look to the Lords to be wise and experienced and this need not change. The time for inherited seats and seats due to position and rank, including the Lords Spiritual, is past. Our head of state, the monarch, is essentially powerless, which is actually a good thing. I would however like to see the monarch become the conscience of the nation. In addition a Prime Minister elected independently by the nation rather than by proxy via the notion of voting for a local MP would give that PM more mandate. It would also mean that the local MP was elected more on merit too. It is time for change and the sooner the better.

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    RichardS

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

  • Go one further Richard, why should these Lords be elected at all if 70% can't be bothered to vote. Lets make the Lordship time restricted to 4 years, just as the Commons and select both Houses at random, but from respective Constituencies. If we want to tackle corrupt pratcises between media, police and our representatives, we must let go of the old practises. Election expenses and costs would not be an issue anymore. Nobody would get selected for more than four years.The Tories can't have it both ways, first talking about grass roots democracy and that they want to reform the House of Lords, and then postpone it, because it might cause trouble in their ranks. Random democracy can, off course be refused, in which case someone else gets drawn from the constituency, problems solved. This could also change our councils drastically and rejuvenate our coffers.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

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