Lords Reform: a wild minority report appears!

Majority report tries ‘Out of Order’. It’s not very effective.

Despite the Joint Committee’s report specifically stating that no minority reports can be published under Erskine May (the Commons’ parliamentary bible), it appears that 12 members of the 26-strong committee (nine peers, 3 MPs) who disagree with the report are producing one. EDIT: Apparently they’re calling it an alternative report, not a minority report. While the distinction is important, the intent is the same.

Anyway, the actual joint committee proposals do hold some interesting bits. The essentials are:

  • Reformed Lords would be more assertive, and that mandates are remain just as strong despite when the member is elected (putting a crimp in the whole ‘MPs have more recent mandate’ thing).
  • A concordat on the conventions governing relations between both houses should be started, in line with the Cunningham Committee report in 2006, perhaps alongside  considering alternate dispute resolution procedures outside the Parliament Acts.
  • 450 members, 90 of whom would be appointed
  • If this fails, the government should consider an indirectly elected house
  • Elections to be conducted under the form of STV in New South Wales
  • Elected members to have 15-year terms at each general election, with some provision for recall at the next general election including if they fail to attend 50% of sessions
  • Appointments Commission to be statutory and composed of former and current peers, watched over by Joint Committee.
  • Appointments to be made for five years, renewable by the commission for up to 15 years so long as they participate enough.
  • Ministers appointed under the provisions of the act should not be able to vote in the Lords
  • 12 Bishops to remain
  • Salaries, second homes for elected members determined by IPSA
  • Transitional members to number 449 after 2015, 392 after 2020 and 0 after 2025.
  • Transitional members to be determined by internal grouping procedures
  • If ministers wish the Parliament Acts to apply to a reformed House of Lords, they should make provision for it in the bill
  • Of course, a referendum before reform happens!

Of course, an unprecedented thirty meetings and fifteen divisions (!) later, we still have 12 members of the committee who are pushing for their own version of the proposals. Consensus was really not found at all in this report.

UPDATE at 13.03: The rival press conference for the cross-party and cross-house dissenters has now come and gone. It seems that they are proposing no Lords reform now, citing cost, and instead propose a constitutional convention to look at ways to reform the Lords without unbalancing the relationship between the two houses. Obviously, there would be no short time limit on such a convention if it were to happen… Presumably that’s not the only stuff they talk about, so I’ll link to the report if and when it’s online.

UPDATE at 13.26: Here it is! The Alternative Report.

  • They say that the government is looking at the idea from the wrong perspective and that the starting point should be how parliament can better serve the people.
  • To this end, it should consider the functions and powers of the Lords, Commons and government as a whole
  • They want a joint committee to consider the conventions to begin work immediately, and a Constitutional Convention to be called involving parliamentarians, academic experts, representatives from devolved governments and parliaments, business, charities, etc.
  • The Convention would consider Lords reform in a wider context, including how it would affect local, regional, national governance, and most importantly the House of Commons.
  • This Convention would run, regardless of elections, until a consensus was arrived at.
  • There would then be a referendum on the report.
  • In the mean time, there should be a pause in the government’s Lords reform plans, and the Steel bill should be taken up, in its original form, by the government and the Goodlad report and proposals from Lady Hayman (former Lord Speaker) should be considered and implemented.

So there we have it: a proposal designed to indefinitely halt the government’s Lords reform which lambastes the government for stalling on the Lords’ own preferred reforms. It’s very neatly done and by just under half the original committee which kind of ruins any idea of consensus at all.

I eagerly await the Queen’s Speech to see what moves the government will make.

Selected reaction here:
Constitution Unit
Ben Brogan, Telegraph
PM downplays referendum
Boost of Nick Clegg as majority of voters favour House of Lords reform
Mary Ann Sieghart, Independent
Nick Clegg warns party he won’t go to war over Lords reform
Cameron tries to return to the big picture
Iain Martin, Telegraph

UPDATE at 14:58: Labour has now responded, saying that there should be political consensus before proceeding. Together with David Cameron’s statement saying that the only way Lords reform can happen is with all parties working together and Nick Clegg’s warning that he won’t break the coalition over Lords reform this might be the beginning of a climbdown. It’s too early to tell yet.

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