Political and Constitutional Reform CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Imran Asim Hayat

As in previous evidence provided to the joint committee on draft House of Lords reform, I still believe that there should be equal faith representation in the House of Lords (it became quite clear that the joint committee and the government still favoured Church of England bishops and faith over a secular chamber).

As this committee’s intention is to move forward in small steps based on common consensus, I believe it would be futile to encourage a reformed secular chamber (which was my first choice and those of many witnesses).

I do believe that a majority consensus can be built around the idea of equal faith representation by setting up a statutory appointments commission with clear defining powers and remit that would decide and appoint those it seems fit to represent different faith communities based on the recommendations of national representative bodies of each faith (the appointments commission would have the final say).

The new statutory appointments commission with its remit enshrined by law, would be the only body appointing all future peers (expect Church of England bishops) including party peers. Political parties and the Prime Minister can still make recommendations to the commission but the commission would have the final say. In order for there to be a majority consensus, Church of England bishops would be exempt and be appointed ex officio (I say this with regret but respect the fact that some reform is better than no reform).

I do believe that any peers, including bishops and other faith leaders should be expelled from the House of Lords if they are convicted of any crime not just only serious ones. The reason being that only those of exemplary character should be permitted to retain their seats in the Lords.

Any peer who has not been convicted but nevertheless has made racist, bigoted, sexist and anti-Semitic remarks should be banned and expelled from the House as such disgraceful individuals would only bring the House into further disrepute.

In order to remove any negative perception of parliament in the public’s mind, strict disciplinary procedures would prevent embarrassing episodes of peers getting up to no good.

Measures to remove persistent non- attendees would not be a straight forward matter as there would be some who know how to play the system very well. One method to reduce the occurrence of non-attendees would be to set up a time table during each parliamentary session in which in each time period there would be a list of peers required to attend parliament. Failure to do so would lead to suspension or expulsion. Those not in the list at that particular time of the year would be free to attend Parliament especially if there was a debate involving their area of expertise. At the end of that time period, the names of peers would be removed from the list and a new list created and henceforth the cycle would continue. I believe that a majority consensus would have to be agreed on how long each time period should be.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude that the committee should focus more on making the House more effective and efficient rather than finding ways of reducing it in size as that can only be achieved with greater reforms such as a fixed senate. Removal of hereditary peers or ending by elections would only make a tiny difference though welcomed. The greatest focus should be fairness (equal faith representation and Humanist representation) and accountability of peers.

26 March 2013

Prepared 16th October 2013