Letter: Peers and pageantry
Thursday 26 November 1998
In the Queen's speech, we see major reforms to transport policy and food standards postponed, in order to abolish hereditary peers. Moreover, the P G Wodehouse lot are to be replaced with assorted recycled Strathclyde regional councillors, backroom apparatchiks and, no doubt in the fullness of Tory time, PR sleazes and fat cats.
Some years ago, I was invited to dinner in the Canadian Senate (which is entirely made up of such political retreads). They bewailed their lack of legitimacy and pointed to the example of the much more popular Lords (then taking on Mrs Thatcher).
Lords are not in the habit of submitting to party discipline; and if "the Care of the Pig" comes up for debate, there will be a peer who knows, though party hacks think pork is born in plastic wraps in Tesco's. And the Lords' scientific knowledge far outweighs that of the Commons. Transport and food policy are both science issues. The choice of two science-based reforms as sacrificial victims of the move to abolish hereditary peers is symbolic. We already have a Commons full of party faithful: by all means get rid of ancient hereditary Lords, but not to replace them with party-line yes-people.
EUAN G NISBET
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