The House of Lords Reform Bill is a major step forward for democracy, but it’s clear the government needs to be more flexible if it is going to get it through the Commons. Unlock Democracy has proposed several changes. In our view the government needs to review its policy of 15-year non-renewable terms with a view to introducing shorter terms and more accountability. With a smaller chamber, the case for retaining bishops is unsustainable. There needs to be more clarity about how the two chambers will work together in practice – simply affirming the Parliament Act is not enough. It’s clear the Commons is determined to give this legislation close scrutiny. This is good – so long as the usual suspects aren’t allowed to wreck debate. We hope MPs on both sides will work constructively to prevent that.
Peter Facey is director of Unlock Democracy.
Screeching U-turns, botched proposals and a frantic rush towards messy compromise – it seems like there is no area of government that this coalition cannot turn into a dog’s dinner, and constitutional reform is no exception. The Lords remains in desperate need of bold change. We should have strong, democratically elected peers capable of restraining our MPs’ often harmful impulses. Kick out the cronies, hereditaries peers and crackpot bishops – yes, I’m all for that. But they need to be replaced sensibly. This proposal strangely allows some unelected bishops to remain (why?) along with many appointed Lords, who we’re supposed to believe will not be chosen according to cronyism. And now Nick Clegg is back-tracking, promising a possible brake on the reforms after the first tranche of elected Lords arrive in 2015. MPs must go back to the drawing board, start again, and only return when they have better solutions.
Julian Harris is senior economics reporter at City A.M.