Today’s Sunday Times (as well as plentu of other sources) is carrying a leaked government memo which indicates, perhaps, that movement on Lords reform may at long last be forthcoming.
A plan, drawn up by Jack Straw, the Commons leader proposes that the House of Lords will be reduced in size by more than a third to about 450, of which half will be elected. Life peerages will be abolished and the number of women and ethnic minorities substantially increased.
In addition peers would be allowed to sit in the Lords for no more than three parliamentary terms No single party would be allowed to command an overall majority, no matter how big its majority in the Commons.
The current system of attendance allowance would also be swept away. Instead, peers would be paid a salary and expected to work full-time, a change that could treble the current cost of £13m to the taxpayer despite the reduction in the number of lords.
Although the Tories and Liberal Democrats (and probably a fair few Labour members too) are expected to demand a bigger proportion to be elected the proposals for an equal mix of elected and appointed members is seen as a significant breakthrough in efforts to reach all-party agreement on Lords reform.
One Liberal Democrat peer close to the negotiations said: “The Lords reform logjam is breaking up. You can really feel the earth move when even Jack Straw, a hardcore constitutional conservative, is backing a 50% elected House of Lords.” However, Tom McNally, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, warned Straw that allowing political appointments to continue would fail to address public fears over abuses and would create a system that was “institutionally corrupt”.
Proposals are expected to be put to a free vote in the Commons after Christmas, with the first elections and appointments to the new upper house taking place at the next general election
What is proposed does not go as far enough for my liking but at least it shows the Lords reform has not been brushed totally to one side. I do have one question: we are we are still debating the fate of our unelected upper chamber in the 21st Century?