Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 5 July 2012


Next week I will be voting against my own government on a three line whip. I will be voting against the House of Lords Reform Bill. I simply do not believe that a directly elected upper house is the right way forward for our country.

I have two main reasons. First of all any elected house will seek to increase its own powers. This has always happened: the US Senate, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly all started modestly but have cranked up their clout almost from day one. Currently the House of Lords is a revising chamber only. It can ask the Commons to think again, but in the end we get our own way.
That would slowly change if the second chamber became elected; there would be a power grab and constitutional tensions would gradually increase. This has happened in the USA where gridlock between the two elected Houses is not uncommon. We need this like a hole in the head.

Secondly, a mainly elected House would exclude many wise and experienced people who have achieved much in their lives and have something to contribute from their own backgrounds: businesspeople, charity workers, scientists and the like. There is no way that such single minded achievers would ever stand for elections. What advantage is there to be had in stuffing Parliament full of career politicians at the expense of such practised wisdom?

It is even worse than that. The kinds of people who will seek election to the upper house will be those who really wanted to get in the Commons but were not quite good enough. So a second chamber of second rate politicians in place of wise old birds. Great.

If it does make its way through the Commons as it probably will, it must certainly be put to the people of this country in a referendum. If we have asked the people about devolved assemblies and directly elected mayors, we surely need to seek authority for this massive change.

We would not be doing this if not for pressure from our coalition partners. There is virtually no public support for doing this, especially at a time when other serious issues should be consuming our attention. Of course coalition government must involve compromise, but major constitutional upheaval is too great a price.

I hope to help sink the bill. If our minority partners don't like it we should have a general election.


posted by Gary @ 09:30