10 Aug 2007

Baron Booth of Bread Streets plea for Lords Reform

Wouldn't it be outrageous if it took Parliament more than 100 years to fulfill its commitment to replace the House of Lords with something democratic?

Photo: Purshasing a virtual peerage - Baron Booth of Bread Street - last year to highlight this campaign: see more by clicking on 'lords reform' label below and scrolling down to 13th Aug 2006.

Sadly, that is precisely what may happen. Today marks the 96th anniversary of the Parliament Act 1911 in which Parliament committed itself to replacing the House of Lords with "a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis" adding that "such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation."

At the time, you might have thought that would mean the House of Lords would be replaced by a democratic second chamber in 10, maybe 20 years. You would have been forgiven for not thinking that by the turn of the millennium, House of Lords reform would remain incomplete!

The fairly good news is that the House of Commons and the Government have now firmly committed themselves to an 80% to 100% elected second chamber. The Commons voted for this in March. The Government confirmed its support for this last month. The House of Lords, perhaps not surprisingly, disagrees. As a result, although it is planning to publish its full plans for reform later this year, the Government is resigned to the fact that reform won't be completed until after the next General Election.

We now have just four years before the centenary of the 1911 Parliament Act. Unlock Democracy and Elect the Lords believe that the Government ought to commit itself to a deadline of holding the first elections to the second chamber by no later than May 2011. That would mean holding them on the same day as the next Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections. Suggested action include:

• Writing to your MP (www.writetothem.org.uk), asking them to commit to the 2011 deadline and to pass your comments onto the Lord Chancellor Jack Straw. Please send us copies of any replies you get.
• Spreading the word, by telling your friends and family, writing to your local paper and, if you have a blog, writing about the campaign.
Buying a virtual peerages. They won't get you a seat in Parliament, but they will look pretty on your wall!

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