The need to "reform" the House of Lords is not immediately obvious and was not so even in 1997 when Tony Blair decided to use that and the ban on hunting as a sop to this disgruntled left-wingers. (Much good did it do him.) The Upper House does its business considerably better than the Lower one and, though its members are paid merely expenses when they sit in the Chamber, they spend a great deal more time and energy on their work as legislators and revisers of legislation than our highly paid Commons. I have written about this too often to be able to link to any specific post but as the Bill starts making its way through Parliament (and, maybe, even before) I shall return to the subject.
How people get there is, after all, less important than what they do when they are there. After all, our real government is in Brussels, in any case, and that is not about to change.
The real reason for the proposed reform is the need felt by this and previous governments and by the political parties to control the Chamber that is likely to oppose and revise whatever legislation they try to bulldoze through. It has been hinted that the reason Mr Cameron has appointed more peers than even Mr Blair did in his first year was to ensure that there was a large cohort of people grateful to him for when the "reform" is to be pushed through. That may be a miscalculation. For the time being, even appointed peers are not dependent on those who had appointed them and may well vote according to their consciences. They may even turn up for the debates, something many of Blair's appointees did not once they realized that a great deal of work and very little pay were involved.
That this "reform" will not be any better thought through than the previous one was, is indicated by the response given to Lord Kakkar's Starred Question on Wednesday.
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the draft Bill on House of Lords Reform makes no provision for defining the powers of an elected second chamber.A fair question. After all, once the make-up of the House of Lords changes, its role and duties will change, too. The notion that the Upper Chamber is secondary to the Lower rests entirely on the assumption that the former is unelected. That will, logically, change once they are both elected and we have something resembling a Senate. Also, the elected members will expect to be paid and paid as handsomely as their colleagues are in the Lower House. In other words, everything will be different. Lord Strathclyde (for it is he, again) does not think so. At least, the people who wrote his reply do not think so.
My Lords, the draft House of Lords Reform Bill specifically provides that nothing in the provisions affects the status, powers or jurisdiction of either House of Parliament. We therefore do not believe that it is necessary to define the powers of this House in primary legislation.The rest of the short debate, which is well worth reading, consists of peers attempting to point out to the noble Minister that the provisions of the Parliament Act applied to one elected and one unelected Chamber and, therefore, cannot apply in the same way to two elected ones, with the said Minister refusing to acknowledge that black is black and white is white. I quite liked Lord Howe of Aberavon's contribution (yes, yes, Geoffrey Howe):
My Lords, is it not possible that including such provisions in the Bill would make lucid and clear the increased risk of conflict between the two Houses and the disastrous consequences of the creation of a new structure? Will my noble friend tell the House whether that is the explanation, and is it the consequence of idle carelessness or deliberate deceit?Dear me, what a suspicious nature some people have.