The LibDem leader in the House of Lords may have welcomed Jack
Straw’s reform plan but the leader of the Tory peers, Lord Stratchlyde,
gives it a thumbs down in tonight’s London Evening Standard (not online).

Jack Straw has proposed that the current 741-member Lords be reduced to 450 members – half-elected and half-appointed.  All elections would be conducted via proportional representation and no member would be permitted to serve more than twelve years.

Lord Strathclyde sets "some unimpeachable tests" for reform:

  1. Will reform improve the way the House works?;
  2. Will it increase the powers of the upper chamber?;
  3. Will it improve legitimacy and credibility?

He is particularly concerned that Straw’s model of reform will hand more power to political elites in two main ways:

"Party managers will produce lists of candidates.  Experience suggests these will include people who couldn’t be bothered to fight a general election seat or who would be rejected by voters if they did.  Another pointer is that the super-loyal, the most likely never to ask a difficult question, might well be the most favoured to get the selector’s nod."

And, secondly, the appointees won’t be much better, either:

"Traditionally, life peers have been of great distinction: senior members of the armed forces; former Cabinet ministers, authors and scholars, heads of universities and leading figures from business and science – people with "real lives" who have made vital contributions to our country.  Apparently, not much longer.  Under the Government plans, most appointed members will be yet more politicians.  The number of independents would be slashed by half.  And new appointees will have to be "approved" by the unelected magic circle, making selections not only by ability, but by quotas."

Tories favour an elected Lords with more powers.