Lords has a role to play

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I read to my disappointment but to no surprise letters “Let’s Disband the Lords” and “The Shame of the Lords” published recently which chastised the House of Lords.

The British constitution is a delicate thing and the Lords, being a pillar of it, should be treated equally delicately; judgement of it should not be rushed to.

Proponents of Lords reform inevitably assert that change is a century overdue. They speak as if the Lords has been set in aspic since the Asquith premiership.

Over the past century, the Lords has, in fact, been changed in many ways, from the curtailing of its powers in 1911 and 1949 to the introduction of life peers in 1958, to the banishment of most hereditary peers in 1999.

Being a revisionary assembly of sober second-thought, which does much to improve the quality of legislation presented to it by the Commons (such is the expertise of its members), the Lords is not some bastion of aristocratic privilege.

As Baroness Boothroyd, former Labour Speaker of the Commons and now crossbench peer, said: “When I leave here I get the the number 11 bus home.”

Under the spurious disguise of democracy an elected upper house would be merely a poor imitation of the lower – its members would be chosen by arbitrary “regions” for, according to the 2012 reform bill, terms too long for any democratic body and would cause only legislative gridlock, even a constitutional crisis should it assert its democratic mandate.

The House of Lords has survived every attempt to abolish it. Perhaps there’s a reason for that.

Craig Robinson

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