Page last updated at 01:22 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Lords choices 'need transparency'

House of Lords
Reform of Lords selections is needed in the near future, MPs say

Nominations for the House of Lords should be vetted more clearly and thoroughly to ensure peers are of good enough quality, MPs have said.

The Commons public administration committee said it was important to ensure "transparency" in the system.

This was necessary to "reassure a jaded public" in the wake of the "cash-for-honours" inquiry of 2006/7, it added.

MPs voted in 2007 in favour of a fully-elected Lords, but such a plan has yet to pass through parliament.

'More names'

The committee proposes that the independent House of Lords Appointments Commission should consult on and publish criteria on what makes a good peer, rather than simply judging "on grounds of propriety", as currently happens.

Political parties could put forward lists, giving more names than the amount of spaces available, also known as "longlists".

The commission could then judge recommendations according to its own standards.

The introduction of a fully or largely elected second chamber would render the changes we propose obsolete. But that moment is some years off even at best
Public administration committee

The committee's report says that, although MPs voted in 2007 in favour of an all-elected House of Lords, that this has not yet happened and that reform is needed in the short term.

It adds: "We believe that change is needed and possible in advance of any legislation on the future shape of the second chamber. The existing powers of the House of Lords Appointments Commission are not set in statute.

"They could therefore be amended without recourse to statute."

The report goes on: "The introduction of a fully or largely elected second chamber would render the changes we propose obsolete. But that moment is some years off even at best.

"In the meantime, we have proposed changes that should be made with immediate effect to bring fairness and transparency to the interim arrangements between now and the completion of reform."

Rejection

The police cash-for-honours investigation followed allegations that parties had offered peerages in return for loans and donations.

But the inquiry was dropped in July 2007 and no-one was charged.

In March that year MPs voted by a majority of 113 in favour of an all-elected second chamber, but this was rejected by peers a week later.

In July last year Mr Straw set out renewed plans for an elected House of Lords.

Most, if not all, peers would be elected and serve terms of between 12 and 15 years, with numbers being cut from more than 700 to 450, he said.

At the moment all peers are appointed, apart from the 92 hereditaries who survived the first phase of Lords reform during Tony Blair's first term as prime minister.

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman David Howarth said: "The government's slow progress on Lords reform is painful."

He added: "A democratically accountable second chamber is vital to our democracy, but this government is too fond of the power the present system gives it."



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SEE ALSO
Straw unveils elected Lords plan
14 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Q&A: House of Lords reform
08 Mar 07 |  UK Politics

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