Reforming the House of Lords

Oliver Probert-Hill makes the case for reforming the House of Lords, and outlines his view of what an elected upper house could look like. 

The House of Lords has been an issue that the Labour Party has frequently debated. From Clement Attlee to Keir Starmer, every Labour leader has had a different stance on the issue. For example, Tony Blair’s Labour government removed 658 of 750 hereditary peers from the House of Lords leaving only 92 hereditary peers left. At the time, this was unprecedented.

A poll from 2020 found that 71% of the UK public backed an overhaul of the House of Lords, and can you blame them? The House of Lords doesn’t exactly scream democracy, does it?  The House of Lords needs to be abolished or at least reformed and this must happen in the next 10 years, and a Labour Government must be the ones to do this, as it’ll show that we’re actively making forward steps to bring power back to the people and to improve our country’s electoral system. 

So, what could an alternative solution look like?

Apart from how the House of Lords approves the legislation, we could abolish all aspects of the current house of Lords with the Peers removed and restricted from standing in any election across the country for at least 10 years. Doing this will create a new group of local people in politics that are focused on local issues and standing up for the people in their areas, becoming politicians because they truly want to work for the people of this country and not just for the pay cheque.

My changes to the new upper houses of parliament start with how it would be split - into three groups: the government, the official opposition and the independents. The independents would be a group of members that politically don’t feel like the opposition or the government. This way if you weren’t directly opposed to what the government were doing or what the opposition was proposing you could leave the official opposition or government. This is important as it includes a neutral ground for members to criticise the government without repercussions from the party. 

Now we move to the different types of members of the new upper house. There would be three different types of members. The first one would be a representative from every borough and city council within the country. This would create a local feel to politics as we all know from campaigning that people feel detached from Westminster. Also, this means that borough and city councillors could bring up important local issues on a national stage that otherwise would not have been discussed. The representative would be a councillor from the party in power of that council. This doesn’t have to be the leader of the council just someone who’s been a councillor for at least 4 years, as this way they will know how their council works and their council’s priorities. 

The second type of Member in this new upper house would be representative from every UK nation- this includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This addition to the upper house would again bring a local feel to politics and would hopefully limit the feeling of independence in Northern Ireland and Scotland. These representatives would be chosen by their respected devolved assembly. In the case of England, where they don’t have their own devolved assembly, it will be one of the mayors voted on by fellow mayors. The representative must not be from one of the biggest parties in the houses of commons or, they could be an independent. This representative must not have been a member of one of the 3 main parties in the last six years. This will show that they are there to represent the whole nation not just one from one of the biggest parties. 

The third type of Member of this new upper house would be elected using STV (single transferable vote). STV is a multi-winner electoral system in which voters cast a single vote in the form of a ranked-choice ballot. Voters have the option to rank candidates, and their vote may be transferred according to their preferences if their preferred candidate is eliminated so that their vote still counts. All the members using STV would be elected every 2 years. Given that electoral change is needed, I would support a version of PR (proportional representation) in the upper house of parliament. 

Having three different types of members of the upper house would be beneficial because it would give a wide range of opinions on multiple issues. This would be especially beneficial in bringing local politics to the national stage.

Oliver Probert-Hill is Chair of Cheshire East Young Labour and Sandbach Branch Labour Party. He tweets at @OliProbertHill.

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