By Julian Lewis
Southern Daily Echo – 3 March 2010
Liberal Democrat council group leader David Harrison is absolutely right in opposing quangos and absolutely wrong in his views on electoral reform (In My View, 12 February). The problem with voting systems which yield permanent 'hung Parliaments' is that they give minority parties the ability to hold everybody else to ransom, unless they are granted disproportionate power in a coalition government.
He is also mistaken about the need to elect the House of Lords – an issue on which MPs are usually given a Free Vote by our Party leaders. It has become a knee-jerk reaction to say that the Second Chamber should obviously be an elected one – but is this really the case?
If people were asked whether they think the number of MPs should be doubled, most of them would throw up their hands in horror – and rightly so. Yet, that is precisely what would be created if the House of Lords became another elected chamber.
Nor would the difficulties be confined to excessive numbers of professional politicians representing overlapping geographical areas. If a House of Lords had the same complexion as the Commons, it would simply serve to rubber-stamp its decisions; while if it had a different complexion, the result would be political deadlock.
An appointed House is – and is seen to be – subordinate to the elected chamber; so it can try to modifly legislation, and often improve it, without having the final say. This is as it should be.
Furthermore, there are many distinguished people in the House of Lords who could never have acquired the eminence and expertise they have, if they had chosen instead to become professional elected politicians. An appointed House allows their wisdom to be brought directly to bear on the framing of legislation, and this would be lost if the House of Lords became the Second Chamber of elected party politicians.
To sum up: turning the House of Lords into an elected chamber would shut out the experts, double the number of MPs, and probably lead to a legislative stalemate. Apart form all that, however, I'm sure it is a great idea!