The version of the House of Lords that the Leader of the House, Jack Straw, wants in his White Paper has been classed as a “professional” model by the broadsheets. At present members of the House of Lords receive allowances. The vision of the Lords for Jack Straw is that they work full-time and would be salaried – Straw believes that £50,000 a year would be a sufficient enticement to serve in the House of Lords.
Jack Straw’s vision for the House of Lords is for a 50/50 model. 50% of the Lords would be elected and 50% would be appointed.
There would be a reduction in seats to about 540 members.
Members of the House of Lords could opt to work full-time and would earn a full salary of £50,000 a year. However, members could also opt to work part-time and would be paid according to the hours worked. Those peers who chair a Lords committee would receive a higher remuneration. At present a peer can be paid an allowance of £154.50 a day for overnight accommodation, £77 a day for subsistence and £67 a day for the running of their office.
The remaining hereditary and life peers would be encouraged in Straw’s model to leave the House of Lords with a generous compensatory package. If this was not accepted, the prospect would be that the remaining hereditary peers would be removed – an action that would gain the support of the Labour Left.
Jack Straw’s model has not received the full backing of the Cabinet. Some such as Chancellor Gordon Brown want a fully elected House of Lords. This is in direct opposition to Straw’s model. It is said that Tony Blair is wary of a fully elected Lords, as it would seem to be by some a threat to the legitimacy of the House of Commons – also a fully elected body.
It is generally accepted that MP’s will receive a free vote on the issue of Lord’s reforms. Current reckoning is that the Conservatives want a House of Lords that is made up of 80% of elected peers.
Summary of Jack Straw’s White Paper:
|50% of peers to be elected|
|30% of peers would be nominated by their own parties|
|20% would be appointed by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, which would have a reference to balance gender and a “good mix” of peers.|
|50% of the ‘new’ peers would be voted in on a regional basis based on proportional representation using the list system.|
|Lords would hold their position for a maximum of 15 years.|
Straw also envisages that the House of Lords would be renamed. In view of the position of the House of Commons, it could not be called the ‘The Upper House’ and the ‘The Second Chamber’ could be seen as demeaning. One title that may get the go-ahead is ‘The Reformed Chamber’.
Other models that the Commons will get the chance to vote on are:
- All elected
- 80% elected and 20% appointed
- 60% elected and 40% appointed
- 40% elected and 60% appointed
- 20% elected and 80% appointed
- All appointed
On February 19th, the House of Commons voted against Jack Straw’s preferred way of voting for reform in the Lords. Straw wanted MP’s to put their choices in a rank of preference and to dispense with the traditional ‘Aye’ and ‘No’ voting system that has been used in the House for centuries. Both sides of the House rejected this. Any vote for any choice will be on an ‘Aye’ and ‘No’ basis. Straw’s initial preference system was to ensure that there was no repeat of what happened in 2003 when further reform of the Lords was ‘train wrecked’ as a result of the Commons failing to agree on which direction reform of the Lords should proceed in.