house of lords reform 1999
Those of us who have always believed that there is need for the reform of this House have been denied the opportunity to discuss its powers, which is a far more important question. But there is another. Oh, come on! long-term reform is complete. Then we are told that referendums, Can the Minister say whether I am correct in thinking that non-political appointees will sit on the Cross-Benches? There is also, of course, the little matter of the possible change to our electoral system. It has a clear goal and a clear premise for what it wants to achieve. Pour remporter l'élection, un pair doit recevoir une majorité de première préférence. I am afraid I have a different word. The constitution can be changed, and regularly is changed, after due thought and consultation. The first Chamber should account to the people and so should the second. And in the wider interest we should be prepared to embrace the wise measures of the Labour government's 1968 White Paper. An overdose of political rhetoric will encourage further disinterest and apathy from the public who are becoming increasingly removed from politics and politicians, whether national, European or local. I stand in this Chamber because I have sworn the Oath of Allegiance and because I have a right to a seat, a place and a voice in the parliaments and assemblies in the United Kingdom, according to Letters Patent, which are not revocable by Parliament or any other authority in this state. As my noble friend Lord Marlesford said, France has had 12 constitutions since 1789 and, as far as I can see, is capable of a few more even in what is left of my lifetime. I have mentioned before, when this particular article was raised, that the headline was not of my making but of the editors of the Daily Telegraph. The proposals for the future appear to me to be as if we were a ship with no engine, sail or rudder, lost in a rather large ocean. We read: En 1992, cet objectif est remplacé par une réforme de la Chambre. If hereditary Peers are to go and if any full reform is to make any sense at all, the main defects of the existing House—its lack of legitimacy and its inability to exert its powers—must require a relatively high proportion of elected Members, either elected directly or at least by one of the more open forms of PR as opposed to the totalitarian closed list so beloved of this Government. Given the fluctuations of public opinion, any attempt to enforce any rigidity is bound to break down. And I would hope that the representatives of all the faiths which are to be found within this nation would find themselves nominated on a basis proportional to the prevalence of each faith within our society. Is it for the glory? But it is to say that if another place is responsibly to exercise its supremacy, Parliament needs to keep in place and in good repair provisions which ensure that not only the government of the day but the House of Commons itself can be kept under appropriate and effective scrutiny by this House. It has its attractions, but it could lack validity and constitutional propriety in the longer term. I believe many people in our country care very much about these things and question whether we either need or want this added cost of government. After all, British troops may be sent to Kosovo and where will the MPs be? We owe much of what we are to our own Other speakers have talked about the difficulties of achieving the parity which is looked for, and one worries seriously about how long it would be transitional. Children are brought up in houses where their parents do one thing or another, the parents talk of their interests and of their professions; some of it somewhere must rub off. The third option would be to adopt essentially the proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to remove voting but not speaking rights from all hereditary Peers. Frankly I confess that I dislike the prospect of an institutional representative network. A further 20% … However, I am concerned, as is my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, that this Government see this House and its transition as a rather old and curmudgeonly crab in the process of changing its shell, and for a few moments it will be soft and vulnerable to attack so that they can take a large bite out of it. No present or future holders of a hereditary peerage in the peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland(1), Great Britain or the United Kingdom, or their heirs, have the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords by virtue of that peerage, or to sit and vote in committees of the House, or to speak in the House, or to receive a writ of summons, unless they are excepted from this general exclusion by section 2 of the Act. We have seen changes in procedure in your Lordships' House as well as a new and more lively House. Secondly, the self-selection principle would avoid further imposition and intrusion into the electorate's private time—media and television, lobbying, personal visits by potential voting Peers—which is a situation certain to arise if the White Paper's preference for "people's Peers", or regionally selected Peers, was to be adopted. It will not "enhance Britain's democracy" as stated in chapter 2, paragraph 3, to move to an all-appointed House. We already have 510 life Peers against Dr. Wright's 300, with apparently floods more still to come, depending upon a certain contingency. Although we have a precise and challenging timetable, I shall do my utmost to ensure that we play our full part in ensuring that that happens.
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