In the words of the excellent Gary Gibbon ‘The Queen’s Speech will see the Coalition unveiling a giant hammer it intends to hit itself with for months ahead: Lords reform.’
There have been quite a few leaks about the coming report from the Joint Committee, and it looks like they have proposed a 450-strong House of Lords, with 20% elected at each general election with 12 bishops. But they have planted a landmine down by recommending a referendum before the reforms can take place. The coalition’s last referendum left scars on the Liberal Democrats’ collective back and the last thing they want to do is risk another self-flagellation in front of the voters on an issue that the public do not care about. It will be interesting to see if any other land mines have been laid in the report. It all depends when they blow up – if they blow up in the Commons, then this legislation is dead in the water but if it is in the Lords it could limp through to Royal Assent with the helping hand of the Parliament Acts. I’ll do a post on the joint committee’s leaked proposals in a bit.
The video in Gary Gibbon’s blog is very instructive, and to see a glimpse of the kind of rhetoric going on in the upper house about this, you only have to look at the Hansard for the debate on taking committee stage of more bills outside of the chamber. Members saw this as an attempt to ‘clear the decks’ for Lords reform. Members say that they are afraid that ‘the Deputy Prime Minister will have his way with us’. They fear an ‘act of stealth’ to enable the ‘demise of this House’ though an ‘Abolition of the House of Lords Bill’.
Lots of more of this sort of thing, including many more mixed metaphors, to come of course.