Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Queen's Speech

Parliament has just begun what those in Westminster term a “new session” following the Queen’s Speech yesterday which set out the main legislative priorities for the government over next eighteen months or so. Top of the government’s priorities will be proposals aimed at getting the economy moving again and spur growth by making it easier for people to set up their own business and easier for existing businesses to expand. But the run up to this year’s Queen’s Speech was dominated by speculation about whether or not there would be a Bill to reform of the House of Lords. It is an issue that is way down the list of priorities for most people across the country. One recent poll of 1000 people showed that the number of people wanting Lords reform was a big fat 0! I think we need to tread with care when meddling with our constitution. There is actually more to democracy than just politicians and elections. For instance, you need an independent judiciary, an independent police force and the rule of law. When it comes to the House of Lords, it is not there to create policy but just to amend and scrutinise the policy of an elected government in the House of Commons. I think the relationship between the two houses should be a bit like that between a father and son. The House of Lords should be different to the House of Commons with people who have a life time’s experience in their field and who have some wisdom to offer. At a time when most people enter parliament in their 20s or 30’s, we should nurture a place for experience within our constitution. But if you had an elected House of Lords, you would lose that. The twenty something politicians who failed to get elected as MPs would stand for the House of Lords instead. The election would be decided on a PR system like we have in the European Parliament where political party managers decide who is at the top of their list. Worst of all, the system proposed would not even allow Lords to be thrown out if they failed. They want you to vote them in for a fixed term of 15 years but deny you the chance to vote them out if they failed. What is the point of an election if you can’t even fire them? The House of Lords is not perfect and I would support some changes. You could reduce its size, limit the duration of their tenure and broaden the nomination criteria with roles reserved for former chiefs of the armed forces, leading surgeons, retired head teachers and senior charity workers. But let’s not reduce it to a joke like the European Parliament. George Eustice can be contacted on george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or at 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.