Letter: Lords: let's vote

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Government has no right to tinker with the House of Lords. Major constitutional change is the prerogative of the electorate.

The need for a second chamber was amply demonstrated recently by the repeated rejection by the Lords of the closed-list system of proportional representation. The Lords were right to resist this attempt by the Prime Minister to erode democracy. Despite this, it is intolerable that the second chamber should not be wholly elected. Now the Prime Minister appears to want what is, in effect, a wholly appointed second chamber - a further erosion of democracy.

In a referendum, it is likely that the electorate would agree the immediate abolition of the House of Lords provided that a democratically elected replacement took its place. There would need to be a public debate about how, in the interests of maximising democracy, the new chamber should be elected. Proposals which cede more power to the Prime Minister are not likely to prove acceptable. It should be possible to offer the electorate a clear choice - keep the House of Lords or elect a second chamber using the proposed method.

A referendum is the only way to dispel the suspicion that the Government is not really interested in increasing democracy. The present tinkering suggests that ministers really view the House of Lords as a place giving power and patronage to the Prime Minister and as a sinecure for their retirement.

DAVID McKAIGUE

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