Letter: After the Lords

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Pelham Barton asks whether there is any case for a second chamber which is not directly elected. Well, the argument is that the house should continue to have some independent members who, vote on the merits of legislation rather than on party lines. But do they? When I was chief lobbyist to the GLC during its campaign against abolition we noticed that nearly a third of the cross-bench peers voted consistently with the Tory government (four of them were said to be in receipt of the Conservative whip) and almost a third voted with the opposition. The rest appeared to cast their votes in a genuinely independent way.

I suggest to Lord Wakeham that, at the first meeting of his Royal Commission, a university is commissioned to produce a research study showing how the "independent" peers voted on major issues during the last 10 years. Were they really independent? If not, the case for nominated cross-bench members collapses.

Provided the powers of the new second chamber are laid down in statute and not left to conventions and time-honoured practices, there is no need for the Commons to feel threatened by a directly elected Senate. Only the "great and the good" hoping to be nominated for a place in this exclusive club will be disappointed. Well, tough.

ROLAND FREEMAN

Salisbury

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