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, 2 June 2011

I have a dilemma and I seek your help. All 3 parties went into the last election pledging support for a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords. Now the government has brought forward a proposal for radical change: an upper house of 300 elected senators. This will now be debated in detail before legislation is brought forward.
My dilemma is simply this: the existing system works, primarily because people appointed to the upper chamber have done something worthwhile with their lives, are not politicians, and have expertise to share. I willingly accept that if we were starting from scratch to shape a democracy (as some countries in the Middle East are now doing) you would not advocate an unelected second chamber. But in the UK we are building upon centuries of tradition and experience. And it works. It works because the House of Lords knows precisely what its role is: it is a revising chamber. The power vests in the elected Commons, and the Lords exists to look over our shoulder and from time to time to ask us to think again.
My problem with an elected upper house is twofold: first of all it will be made up of politicians, and it would not make room for the sage old birds who currently adorn the red benches. Not many wise people would put themselves through the stresses and strains of party based elections.
Secondly if we have an elected upper house it will want more power and we would have to go through a massive exercise of rebalancing the respective rights and duties of each house.
There is another point too. Trying to get any constitutional reforms through Parliament would take a long time and would be a distraction from our focus on getting the deficit down, the economy moving and public services reformed.
So although it was in the party manifesto upon which I stood, I am thinking about voting against the forthcoming proposals for an elected upper house. Therefore I seek your views. I know not many of you are interested in this subject because in 19 years I can count on one hand the number of e-mails or letters I have received on this subject. But I seek your advice: am I free to stick with what works? Please let me have your views at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA or
Don't say you haven't been consulted!

posted by Gary @ 15:23