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House of Lords Act 1999

Comment 20th August 2010

 

The repeal of the House of Lords Act 1999.

Why does this matter?

1. The House of Lords might not have been a modern academic’s ideal, but it worked on many levels: it provided many voices outside party politics, it could be an effective check on governments of all colours, it was a cautious and independent revising chamber and most of the hereditary peers acted fairly independently in a spirit of public service. At present the reputation of the Lords is hardly higher than that of the Commons, and that is saying something. An elected upper chamber would merely make us pay more for more party politicians to cheat us even more brazenly.

2. A hereditary chamber might not be electorally democratic, but it need not be antidemocratic. Traditionally, the British constitution embodies the Aristotelic ideal of the mixed constitution, being partly monarchic, partly aristocratic and partly democratic. Any imbalance in the delicate mechanism leads to corruption and decline. At present, the Executive dominates the Commons (a highjacking of the democratic element) with traumatic mini-revolutions at general elections, and the moderating influence of the unelected (and therefore less demagogic) element has been all but silenced. A stronger and less dependably subservient House of Lords would make for a more healthy commonwealth.

3. If we are to have a referendum on a relatively small matter such as voting reform, there should certainly be a referendum to decide on the core of the constitution (Parliament) from a balanced perspective. Going back to the beginning of the recent mess and starting again is the most responsible way of doing this.

4. The 1999 House of Lords Act is just plain unfair. By forcing through the Act along party political lines, a faction of the country took away honours that the country had promised for ever. To take back a free gift is massively dishonourable and should make all commoners ashamed. Repealing the act is the honourable thing to do.

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