As I have explained in my “Short Guide To The British Political System”, Britain’s House of Lords is an absurd and indefensible anachronism.
It is the only unelected second chamber in the world except Lesotho. It is the only second chamber in the world which gives automatic seats to religious figures except Iran. As explained here, a new study reveals that 124 of the 775 lords are in the pay of finance firms or have financial services clients.
The Coalition Government has now brought forward proposals for a largely elected upper chamber with 80% elected by proportional representation and 20% appointed by more independent procedures than currently. The proposals are not perfect ,but they deserve to be supported – and last night MPs voted in favour of the Bill by 462 votes to 124.
But, in practice, this vote means little if the Commons does not also support what is called a programme motion which would schedule the time for debate which – because it is a constitutional bill – has to be on the floor of the House at all stages.
The intended vote on the programme motion was cancelled because the Labour Party opposes it and 91 Conservative MPs had threatened to vote against it as well. I believe that Ed Miliband needs to rethink the stand of the Parliamentary Labour Party and then negogiate and support a version of the timetable motion if and when it comes back in the Autumn.
There is never a perfect set of proposals or a perfect time to implement them, but we’ve had this debate for a century now and one of the world’s most respected and vibrant democracies can no longer remain in the embarrassing company of Lesotho and Iran.