The Constitution Unit


Letter to the Times: Lords reform

13 August 2012

Meg Russell’s letter in The Times

Sir, Lord Steel of Aikwood (“Clegg will look petulant if he walks away”, Aug 8) has suggested that the Constitution Unit might assist in finding the long-term way forward on Lords reform. We would of course be happy to do so. But he is also right that Clegg and Cameron should now be pressed to put through lesser but essential reforms, having abandoned their more ambitious Bill. The chamber has become too big, and the patronage enjoyed by the Prime Minister is indefensible. He still decides how many peers are appointed, when, and from which party. Also indefensible is the absurd system of “by-elections” to replace the remaining hereditary peers when they die.

As David Steel has emphasised, all agree that reforms to end these anomalies are necessary and would strengthen Parliament. The only disagreement is over whether they are sufficient. Nick Clegg told the Commons on May 17 last year that “the key thing is not to make the best the enemy of the good. That approach has stymied Lords reform for far too long”. He was right, and he should remain true to that principle now.