A member of the Scottish Labour Party called for the abolition of the House of Lords, which is not surprising. But first let us consider foremost, what we know about the House of Lords. As many are aware, their power is somewhat limited. In particular, when it comes to the budget, the House of Lords have very little influence: much to Iain Duncan Smith’s satisfaction. However, they do possess the power to delay legislation, as their key function is to comb through the laws and revise them accordingly. Our government complies with EU policies more than they cooperate with the Upper House. The House of Lords also possess a judicial function as a court of appeal. History lesson aside, it has become rather customary to learn that many have abused parliamentary expenses yet few have been caught.
The recent Sewel case certainly trumps the ‘cash for questions scandal’ and the entire investigation surrounding Lord Hanningfield last year, as revealed by the Telegraph newspaper. A recent documentary by channel 4 proved very insightful on the issue aforementioned. Although the House of Lords feels a whole lot tamer than the traditional clashes in the Commons, the perception of both Houses are in peril. There is no doubt that Lord Sewel accomplished a lot during his tenure before finally stepping down, in particular the devolution legislation. However, the allegations against him are enough to make one shriek. His apparent taste for prostitutes, women’s underwear and cocaine habits are all too damaging, not only to his reputation but to the current peerage system in the House of Lords.
There has been a lot of pressure for changes to the system, some reforms perceived to be more radical and less agreeable, to those it concerns. Perhaps it is time to have an elected House of Lords and even so, more proportional representation as well as term limits.
Of course, we are all too familiar with the roles of our parliament; representation as a legitimate authority, scrutinize the executive and debate issues and current affairs yes? So why then can they not get on with the task at hand? It is simple really; the levels of relentless and scandalous claims have made a show of the institution. Clearly £300 a day is not enough of an incentive for peers to behave appropriately; it is all too tempting for some to just abuse the system of expenses and allowance. It is appropriate then to suggest that their daily allowances ought to be tailored so it more reflective of their daily duties.
Not all fit the esteemed criteria once required for appointment and yet the list members in the various categories grow. Quite clearly the reforms issued in the past have been for the short-sighted. The identity of both Houses needs to be redefined with more lasting solutions. Clearly the number of peers in the Upper House is out of control and needs to be reduced to those who have genuinely earned the position. The House of Lord is undemocratically filled yet some would reject a system based on election. The recent scandal weakens the perception and public trust for those who ought to serve our country; instead many have proven to be overpaid self-serving individuals. One must remain vigilant when digesting the condemnation of Lord Sewel, primarily because a number of those who express their distaste in public are just hypocrites who have not yet been caught.