Jack Straw has unveiled his White Paper for Lords reform.  He proposes the abolition of hereditary peers but the retention of the Bishops.  The new Upper House would consist of no more than 450 members – elected for terms of 12 to 15 years.

Responding in the House of Commons, Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert focused on unresolved issues:

  1. Method of election: "We believe that the electoral system should mirror this House – a first-past-the-post system based on recognisable constituencies of our historic cities and counties.  And we would strongly resist any move to introduce an electoral system based on proportional representation."
  2. Cost: "At a time of increasing public disquiet about the use of taxpayers’ funds by politicians, the cost of the second chamber is bound to be an issue.  What plans does the Justice Secretary have to set out the pay, pensions and responsibilities of members of a reformed second chamber and the costs of reform as a whole?"
  3. Size: "We have argued for a second chamber of between 250 – 300 members; a similar size to the upper houses of France, Italy and Spain.  The US Senate has only 100 members for a population of 300 million – albeit in a federal system."
  4. Name: "On the subject of a senate, the White Paper notes that the Working Group reached a “strong consensus” that a reformed second chamber should be known as the Senate – yet the Government’s proposals do not use this name.  Can he tell us why the Government appears reticent to adopt a name which was agreed by the cross-party Group?
  5. Transition: "The White Paper suggests that life Peers could remain members of a reformed second chamber even after transition is complete.  How could reform possibly be considered ‘complete’ while life Peers remained in a second chamber, possibly for decades?"
  6. A space for Appointed members: " is it not the case that, in view of the contrary position taken by the Lords themselves, retaining an appointed minority would provide the best hope of consensus?"
  7. Purpose: "Reform should not be supported unless it strengthens the authority of the second chamber in holding governments to account.  But a reformed second chamber should not seek to compete with this House, which must continue to have primacy."
  8. Timing: "Reform of the Lords has been proposed and attempted for the last hundred years.  Can the Secretary of State for Justice indicate when he thinks these proposals will be translated into a Bill?"

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