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Lords reform Wednesday, 30 June, 1999, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Your views on the Lords - part four
Lords Reform
Reaction from BBC News Online users on the government's plan to reform the House of Lords.

Send us your views by clicking here.

I am an American who regards the hereditary portion of the legislature of the United Kingdom (which was United by a hereditary succession,though the present Government also sees fit to endanger the Union,and is a Kingdom by hereditary succession) as a defining characteristic of your country to be defended at whatever cost!

The present government's fanatical devotion to eliminating all legislators other than politicians and those who have found favor with politicians is absolutely shameful. The role of democracy(never a fit object of unquestioning worship in the first place, as all the atrocities committed in the name of that abstraction "the people" against the real persons it supposedly represents should attest) is scarcely threatened by the retention of the present system.What the proposed reforms(which a future non-Labour government should have the courage to unapologetically reverse!) do is simply wipe away all opponents to a Commons majority already over-powerful.

Labour's specious claims of a mandate for this scarcely merit response.They won because they were not the Tories,and people were tired of the Tories ... and most people of the reduced turnout of 1997 voted against them nonetheless. They did NOT win because every plank in their manifesto had majority support, I am sure many voted for them DESPITE various items therein.Had there been a choice on offer of changing the party in power WITHOUT radically altering the constitution,which is after all the norm in free elections the world over,that choice would most likely have carried the day.

And even if this constitutional vandalism is popular,does that mean it is right? It IS best,no matter what politicians say,to have those who owe nothing to the political system yet have the power to oblige the politicians to listen.Succession by inheritance is an EXCELLENT means of choosing these people,even as it has served you for over a millennium as a means of choosing a head of state. It allows those who will exercise the role to have ample preparation for it,yet takes the role out of reach of those who would grasp for it.One can not obtain parents by bribery or deception...the same can not be said for elections.

The wide range of age brackets and backgrounds represented by the hereditary peerage are unlikely to be duplicated in an elected or appointed body,and any system of non-hereditary filling of seats is either open to corruption or,if by random chance, not allowing of preparation.

The insidious disempowerment of the hereditary element of the British constitution has gone quite far enough ... anything done against them now must be undone with all despatch.You are better served by your present system than you would be by a creation of politicians crying the divine right of The People as justification for them to do whatever they like.

Let hereditary creations flow again,and respect be restored to a treasure beyond price denounced by self-serving fools for impure motives.
Louis Epstein

Actually this is instead a question:

If a second, "upper" house is formed, will the Prime Minister still be elected by the majority party in the House of Commons?
Matthew Mattis

Whatever the main outcome of Lords Reform - wholly elected, or part elected part selected, there should be a number of peers who are chosen purely at random from everyone eligible to sit in the new House. This would probably be the total UK adult population who are UK citizens. These should number ten - fifteen and could be known as people's commissioners. They would, of course, be at liberty to decline to sit if they felt the task was to overwhelming. They would be full voting members of the new House for a period of five years.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Allen Samuels, Department of English, University of Wales

I fear for the loss of tradition with very little gained, however perceived. As a citizen of another country (the United States) and former colony, very little of what the House of Lords does affects me, but knowing that this little portion of a Democracy is soon to be lost depresses me.
James R. Markusen


I welcome the government's proposals to abolish the hereditary element in the second chamber. The concept of hereditary privilege forming part of the legisilative process is absurd in a democracy on the brink of the third millenum.

The present government made a manifesto commitment to abolish the hereditary principle in the house of lords which received the support of the electorate in huge numbers. They now have an obligation to carry out that commitment. Any attempt by the Tories to frustrate the will of the people can only be viewed as a waste of parliamentary time that would be better served debating real issues such as health, education and crime, although the compromise plan for an interim house drawn up by Tory peers and the government should be welcomed.

The role of a second chamber is an important one and it should serve to prevent "democratic dictatorship". I hope that the royal commission will consider many points of view before reaching its final reccomendations. I believe the second chamber should consist of two-thirds elected members (with elections being held every eight years) and one-third non-political appointed members bringing expertise from all walks of life, ie industry, academia, the arts etc. Appointments should be made by a non-political committee on the basis of ability to contribute to the growth of the nation. It should no longer be a rest home for worn-out and failed politicians.

Live not for tomorrow,
Yearn not for the past;
Live only for the moment,
It's all that is ours.
Johnnie Finnis

Dear Sirs,

It is greatly to be regretted that the United Kingdom has so departed from its traditions as to consider abolishing the hereditary peers. It is tragic that in an age when party politics is supreme, that an organ of government which is above the idea of party is to be swept away in the fever of Americanism. Anyone following the American political scene cannot but be impressed by the lack of confidence the people of the U.S. have in their elected officials. Has anyone thought that government is ordered to the common good, which transcends party politics, that the fact of election does not guarantee that those elected will strive to do what is for the good of all? The House of Peers with the monarchy ensures that some leaders exist who do not compromise their consciences in order to gain party favour. Let us hope that the government thinks better of this deformation of the constitution of the body politic.

Rev. Marshall Roberts

Dear Sirs, I personally believe that the rights for hereditary Lords to sit and vote in the Upper House should be abolished. Why should a body vote for factors affecting the general public, when they have not been voted for? I just hope that the first phase is put in place!

After watching Billy Bragg on Newsnight last night, I must say that I totally agree with his views.

Andy Weller, Keele University

It is a ridiculous situation when the 'mother of all parliaments' has an upper chamber whose membership is the most undemocratic in the free world. There would be uproar if anyone suggested such a system now. We missed an opportunity to reform in the pre WW1 years, and again in the 1960s, if we miss this chance, then we be the laughing stock of the planet, entering the 21st century with hereditary legislators. I only hope that this impetus for reform will extend to the end of the monarchy after the Queen's death.
N J Cooper, Hampshire

If Tony Blair was serious about wanting to create an independent second chamber and giving up his power of veto over the nomination of life peers, he would have set up commissions to handle both back in May 1997, so we could have a full reform now. Instead, he has proved that he merely wants an impotent second chamber to remove the last vestige of opposition in this country.
Tim Roll-Pickering, Canterbury

The House of Lords works, and works for the country; does Tony Blair have a proposal that will do as good a job? Indeed, does he have any coherent proposals at all?
Yours, Max Aitken

There is no excuse for a legislative body like our upper chamber not being an elected body. We should replace the Lords with something like the US Senate. The heredetaries should be got rid of as soon as possible, but the life peers who are selected by patronage are also an anachronism. The upper house should be elected with one member representing 3 Commons constituencies - not necessarily adjacent. Members should be elected for 7 years with one seventh of them being elected each year. The date of the election should be fixed. The party leaders in the Commons should have no say over their party's leadership in the upper house. In this way, the upper house could be a truly independent check on the possibility of the abuse of power by a government sitting in the Commons. The upper house should be able to amend and delay legislation - and originate legislation - but the Commons should have the final say in whether or not a bill becomes law.
Peter Atkinson, Henley-on-Thames

An independent body able to send back law-proposals that are not well done, is, I think, a necessary to every form of Government.

The important question then, is this one: how are they to be selected? Until there is a valid answer, any attempt at abolishing the present upper chamber should, I think, be met with the suspicion it deserves.
Göran Koch-Swahne, Malmö, Sweden

The lords should go, they are unelected and can therefore never claim to represent what the people want or need!
Stephen Fitzjohn, Bristol

Dear Sir, While we consider what reforms must be achieved I hope we do not forget the Lord's vital role in our legislature, filling the gaps left by the Commons as a result of time restrictions to pure party domination.

The success of the Lord's is achieved largely due to the massively reduced political influence within the house, compared to the Commons. As such, we should not seek an elected chamber, which, at the very least, will cause an entire rethink of the two houses political relationship. Instead, we should enhance the Lords to create a house which is entirely impartial, thereby ensuring a permanent balance to the commons, and providing essential input to our legislature.

Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to create an independent commission to appoint the members of a new House of Lords, according to professional merit and impartiality. Thereby, the Lords will become increasingly balanced, preventing such attacks on human rights as refusing homosexual equality, and remaining to fulfil its essential role in our constitution.
T Shelford, Law 98, Bristol

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