Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Roger Casale MP (LR 54)

Letter to the Lord Chancellor

  I am writing to you with regard to the Consultation Paper on House of Lords Reform.

  There are three points that I would like to make:

  Firstly, I believe that the critical issue is the relationship between parliament and the executive. Changes that weaken the position of the Commons should be resisted because it is primarily through the Commons that the Executive is held to account. Therefore, our approach to parliamentary reform in general, including reform of the Lords, should be conditioned by how change will affect the Commons. Specifically, the Commons should not only remain the predominant chamber in terms of holding Government and Government ministers to account but be strengthened in that role. In addition, both Houses need to become more effective in discharging their scrutiny role over detailed legislation.

  Secondly, having rightly eliminated the hereditary principle, we are now faced with a situation, which in my view is at best fluid, at worst unstable. We have unleashed powerful demands for further democratic reform. For example, our starting position of 20 per cent elected peers is clearly no longer tenable. I am now in favour of at least a 50 per cent elected element as the minimum expedient to stem the pressure on us to go further. Also, we should be careful about suggesting that an end to the process of Lords reform may be in sight, or even that we believe we can move to a definitive second stage. Our strategy should be to continue to lead the process of reform, and if necessary to moderate the pace of reforms so that they are effective. We must be careful not to be seen as trying to limit or even to halt the reform process itself.

  Thirdly, if we are to move towards a greater elected element, we will need to think very carefully about the method of election, because of the number of competing concerns that will need to be reconciled. We should seek the widest possible consultation on this issue.

  In conclusion, there is a need to ensure that the transition to a new House of Lords should be shaped as far as possible by a public consensus as and when it emerges that this consultation and in particular, by a consensus view within our own Party. That may be difficult to achieve without further clarification of our long-terms strategy. However, it is essential to shaping a coherent vision for Lords reform.

January 2002

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