BlogOfTheMoon

Monday, March 24, 2008

Seven Nine Lords a-Blogging

I heard a discussion on Radio 4's The Week in Westminster this week about members of the House of Lords running a group blog. I was in Norn Iron at the time but I took a note of the the participants and looked them up when I got home. This led me to Lords of the Blog and I was quickly sucked in by some of the material I found there.

Unlike a lot of people, I have a lot of respect for the House of Lords. Not only is it a more civilised chamber than the Commons (it always amazes me that MPs whinge that they get no respect from the public after seeing how they behave in the House; they could certainly learn a lesson from the Lords) but it's vital to our democracy. Although it's not perfect, the Lords is a revising chamber and it has successfully revised and redrafted legislation over the years, improving it no end. Yes we've still got bad law, but think how much worse it would have been without the Lords (in one of the comments in that blog, Lord Norton of Louth states that the Lords makes 2000-3000 successful amendments a year to legislation).

The other vital function of the Lords, in my mind, is its expertise. While the Commons has the elected legitimacy, its members are often jacks of all trades, and masters of none (and, increasingly, not even Jacks, since they come straight into Parliament from political jobs without having any "real world" experience), while the Lords contains experts from all walks of life, from art and science to business and politics. These are exactly the kinds of people who should be in a revising chamber – experts in the fields, who will know when an idea has merit and when it is simply fanciful.

Yes, I'm painting an idealistic picture here, and no doubt the second chamber could be improved, but if we ever do move to a fully elected 'senate' for our second chamber, the term of office must be a long one – another benefit of the Lords is that they are more resistant to lobbying, since there is no electorate to have to please and no chance of being deselected if they vote against the party line.

All in all, I think our second chamber does a damn fine job, and if it's going to be changed, we really need to think very carefully about how it's done. It keeps the government in check, it's full of expertise, it's more civilised and its members are more independent than the Commons. I'll vote for that.

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