UCL News


Letter: A fair formula for creating peers

17 January 2007

Sir: There is a simple and immediate way that the Prime Minister could satisfy those critics wanting him to give up patronage powers with respect to the Lords ("Blair criticised for trying to keep PM's right to nominate peers", 12 January).

This need not await the long-stalled package of major reform, or agreement over the proportion of the chamber that should be elected.

The current House of Lords Appointments Commission was established in 2000 by Downing Street press release rather than by legislation. Just as easily Tony Blair could announce that he was handing responsibility for choosing political appointees to the Commission, as was recommended by the Wakeham Royal Commission in 1999.

If this is too radical (it probably is) we could at least shift to a process whereby the parties provide a shortlist from which the Commission can choose. More importantly, Number 10 could surrender control of when appointments are made, and how many go to each party, to the Commission - it would be easy to agree a formula for this that was generally seen as fair.

In one step this would enhance trust in the appointments process, in the House of Lords, and perhaps even in the Prime Minister. If presented as a stopgap (as was the original creation of the Commission) it need not have any adverse effects on future more major reform.

Dr Meg Russell, UCL Constitution Unit, 'The Times'