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Monday, November 29, 2021

We desperately need to replace the House of Lords with a second elected house

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“The replacement of the Lords by an elected second house is an essential step towards the restoration of democracy in this country.”

Perhaps the fact that the government avoids the scrutiny of the Commons is a smart plan to give Tory MPs more time to spend on their lobbying jobs?

Eighteen pages of draconian laws on nonviolent protests and suspicious arrests and searches hit the Lords’ inboxes this week, when we were halfway to amending existing proposals in the terrible Police Bill. Parliamentarians’ scrutiny was ignored and their local representative will have to rely on the Lords to pass amendments to the new laws for minimal debate.

This arrogance of power is nothing new, but its magnitude is shocking. Ministers have spent the last three years taking executive powers on trade, environment and a host of other issues, allowing them to make decisions without reference to Parliament. Other countries have in-depth discussions and votes on their trade bills. Here we have a little debate with subtitles “here it is, whether we like it or not.” Despite a million signatures on a petition to stop the weakening of food standards at the expense of British farmers in the Trade Act, the government made worthless promises and forced the clauses to pass leaving them in sole control. Family farmers can contact their local MP and lobby strongly to vote against government betrayals in Australia and New Zealand trade deals, but there is nothing those MPs can do except overthrow the government (please do so ).

One of the problems with the main opposition to this Boris-led clique is that they refuse to treat it as a corrupt government that seeks to perpetuate its dominance by repressing the opposition, manipulating the voting system, and systematically lying to avoid accountability. The opposition is still playing by a rule book designed by thoughtful men in its parliamentary club where moral standards and integrity are taken for granted. Other countries have police investigations into corrupt practices; our parliamentarians cling to a system of self-regulation and annoyed with the slightest slap on the wrist for breaking the rules.

Our First Distorted Past The post-election system gave the Conservatives a comfortable majority of 80 (over 44% of the popular vote), so it is the Lords who have the job of making ministers stop and think.

Rather than a second elected house, the Lords are a mix of professions, landowners, and business people. There are many political appointments, including Natalie Bennett and myself. We both have to represent the voices of half a million Green voters. Then there are the party donors, including a notable number of former Conservative Party treasurers who have donated over £ 3 million to the ruling party. It is far from being a representative sample of the British public, but it has something going for it; there is no incorporated government majority.

The debate over the sewer amendment to the Environmental Bill showed how important a second review chamber can be when combined with enormous public pressure on a single issue or an injustice. It also showed the limits of the Lords, who will not deliberately push issues beyond a certain point, as they do not believe that an unelected house should twist the arms of elected deputies.

The replacement of the Lords by an elected second chamber is an essential step in restoring democracy in this country. We can debate the details of the public relations system and its use of vetoes in government legislation, but the key is to give the second chamber more legitimacy and see it act as a brake on the executive branch.

Jenny jones is a member of the Green Party of the House of Lords

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