All The More Reason

House of Lords: bored yet?
February 8, 2007, 5:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I almost considered posting this as a comment on my previous post, but being the only commentator on your own post is almost too sad for words.

First of all, I am still baffled by Jack Straw’s insistence, neatly summarised in his article for The Guardian today that, because some argue for a fully appointed upper house and others for a fully elected upper house, the sensible thing to do is opt for a 50-50 split. If one were dividing, say, a cake, perhaps this logic would hold. But there are deeper principles at work here.

The White Paper is really the government’s first legislative response to the recent scandal surrounding the alleged trafficking in honours. Having actually read the thing now, it is heartening to see that it appears to have committed itself to ridding the process of appointing party-political peers of its current, corrupt odour.

Until Inspector Yates got on its case last year, the government had always rejected any suggestion that the Appointments Commission should have responsibility for selecting, rather than merely ‘vetting’ political appointees. To quote its 2003 White Paper:

“The Government does not accept the Royal Commission recommendation that the Appointments Commission should have the final say over the identity of party nominations. Parties of whatever persuasion must be able to decide who will serve on their behalf.”.

Indeed. And some wags may point out that all three political parties would be far more skint now if they had been unable to do so.

They say that a week is a long time in politics; six years, it’s safe to say, is bloody ages, and at some point since that last quote was written, the government decided that ‘the current system of appointment cannot be retained in a reformed House… the new Statutory Appointments Commission would have power over both non-party and party-political appointments’. Of course, the short-list of nominations will still come from the parties themselves and, as such, will still liable to jiggery-pokery. But it’s progress of a kind, even if the only truly legitimate appointments commission is the British people.

Michael P


2 Comments so far
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Commenting on one’s own post – I know the desire all too well…

Two quick questions:

When someone dies in the House of Lords now, a by–election is held and the voting is done by whom?

Who could theoretically run for a seat?

I realise the answers to these questions, and many more, are already within your posts, but the mind is tired and working slowly.

Comment by J.S.

By-elections only take place when an hereditary peer dies because, by the 1998 law, there must always be 92 of them at any one time.

The other 91 hereditaries make up the electorate. You can only stand if you are an hereditary peer (i.e. one of those aristocrats excommunicated in 1998). Commoners need not apply.

In fairness, not all of the hereditary peers are members of the nobility; before the 1960s, the hereditary peerage was the only kind at the disposal of the political parties wanting to put their men in the House of Lords. The life peerage, introduced in (I think) 1958 enabled the parties to make peers whose title would die with them.

The last hereditary peer to be appointed by the Queen (on the ‘advice’ of the Prime Minister, as the hollow saying has it) was Lord Thatcher, husband of Maggie, who in turn became Baroness Thatcher.

Comment by Michael P

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