Gale's View - 9th May 2012
I happen to think that, given the dog`s breakfast that Blair made of the House of Lords , reform is inevitable at some point in the future. If, though, the answer is still more politicians elected at still more cost and the generation of a whole new tier of bureaucracy then we are asking the wrong question!
Instead of preserving the powers of a revising chamber, which the Lords have exercised rather well for centuries, it looks as though the dog`s breakfast could be replaced with a dog`s dinner. The proposals contained within the Draft Lords` Reform Bill, which may or may not find its way into the Queen`s Speech today (Wednesday) are set to invent a tranche of elected Senators” representing super-constituencies (rather like old-style Members of the European Parliament) who will presumably sit on the red leather benches alongside the remnant of the real thing. These people will immediately, given an electoral mandate but without the need to look after the cares and concerns of individual constituents, be relied upon to rush around the manor making mayhem without real responsibility. And with a fifteen-year term ahead of them you will not be able to chuck the under-performers or the over-dissidents out for a very long time.
I have said before, and hold to the view, that if you are going to do it, be radical. Get rid of the Lords and Commons. Create English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland parliaments each with a First Minister and real tax-raising powers to deal with all the parochial minutiae of Education and Healthcare and Social Services and Welfare and Environmental issues that are the day-to-day stuff of an MP`s Business. Then create and over-arching United Kingdom Senate, headed by a Prime Minister and with the Monarch as the Head of State, to preserve the unity of the realm and to manage very specifically, Defence, Foreign Policy and macro –taxation. As in days of yore, and put crudely, raise the money to pay the troops to fight the wars to protect our interests and promote our foreign policy. That, until relative recently, was the real work of parliament .
There is the small matter of the economy to sort out, of course. That begs the question as to whether or not the current parliament will have the time to reform the Lords, introduce rights to same-sex marriage, consider the inevitable after-shock of elected police commissioners, finish off the boundary revision process, begin the tortuous passage of a `hybrid` bill to permit the construction of a High Speed Two railway, legislate for the televising of the Law Courts and the myriad of other measures that will be laid before you.”
By the time that you are likely to read this Her Majesty will have set out the bill of fare for the next twelve months in Westminster and you will know the real answers. It is, of course, possible that Lords` Reform may have been omitted, that Same-Sex marriage will have ended up in the long grass, that the Liberal Democrats will oppose boundary reform as a result and that the coalition will fragment and lead to an earlier General Election that the May 2015 date currently on the statute book of a fixed five-year parliament. Before that, though, the Queen might well feel obliged to ask Mr. Miliband to form another coalition made up of all or some of the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Nationalists, the Welsh Nationalists, the Northern Ireland Members and Mr. George Galloway. Am I dreaming – or having a very bad nightmare?