Scandal doesn’t argue for an elected Lords

Posted by Richard D North under 'Power To The People!' on 4 February 2009

The alleged abuse of the House of Lords (and democracy) by a few Labour peers shouldn’t detract from the great value of the Lords, nor from the merit of its being an appointed, not an elected, house.

Naturally enough, the House of Lords usually hits the headlines when it goes head-to-head with the House of Commons. That is when its painstaking deliberations on policy manage to become theatrical.

And then, of course, there the occasional scandals. Most recently, some Labour peers have been accused of selling their ability to affect legislation. Perhaps predictably, the fuss induced Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to retaliate by suggesting that peers convicted of crimes (Lords Archer and Black) should not be allowed to sit in the House.

It is routine to complain that the Lords are dull, unaccountable, undemocratic and lack transparency. Even voices on the right assert this sort of thing (as for instance Mary Riddell in The Daily Telegraph). Critics normally call for an elected, or mostly elected, Lords.

It is important to see that the wrong-doings (real or alleged) of appointed peers (that is, life peers) do not make the case for an elected House of Lords. Far from it. Elections to the House of Lords might well favour rather undistinguished party hacks whilst the right appointment system could easily ensure that probity as well as expertise and wisdom were prerequisites for membership.

Much of this was well-argued by Rachel Sylvester in The Times.

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