Saturday, 22 August 2015

Letter on House of Lords

The fact that "unelected peers claimed £360,000 in pay and expenses just for attending" the House of Lords is disgraceful, but far from being the only complaint that can be made about this political anachronism (Morning Star,17/08/15) The inability of some members like Lord Sewel to behave what some commentators call "honourably" is another, but there are much more fundamental problems than the occasional scandal, even though their code of conduct fails to define "honourable behaviour", preferring instead waffle about it being "inherent in the culture and conventions of the House". The Lords clearly fails to give value for money, with £300 a day attendance payment, plus expenses and allowances, and for some, like Sewel, taxpayers`subsidised housing and payment of well over three times the average income for committee work. In a time of austerity, with cuts in vital services, such generosity seems absurd.  According to Parliament`s official website ( the Lords has three main roles, "making laws, consideration of public policy, and holding government to account", but even its most ardent supporters fail to provide much concrete evidence to prove its worth. Why didn`t it see the obvious flaws in the so-called "bedroom tax", for instance, or object more strongly when disability benefits were cut?  
   With the upper chamber filled to the brim with "lobby fodder" already, and because the Tories cannot command a majority of peers, Cameron is set to create another sixty, or so, mostly Tory ones, of course. What does this have to do with "democracy", that so-called "British value" about which the prime-minister boasts so much? Does any country in the 21st century need its legislation, which has been introduced, debated and amended by the elected assembly, checked by unelected peers and Church of England bishops? Some suggest reform is needed to complete the so-called "constitutional jigsaw", but why bother, when its abolition most certainly would?

No comments:

Post a Comment