Letter: Proposed reforms of the House of Lords

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your objections (leading article, 6 November) to the House of Lords and its lack of sufficient power to delay legislation, may be summarised as follows. Because its membership is hereditary, it is illegitimate, and its illegitimacy discourages use of its power to delay legislation. The hereditary principle could easily be eliminated. Nearly all those who participate in debates and vote in that House have been politically active in the House of Commons, membership of which they attained in the usual and proper way.

If only the first holder of a title conferring membership of that House, and other members who are appointed by the Crown, were in future entitled to that privilege, the hereditary principle would virtually cease to exist. But you imply that all members of the House of Lords should hold office for a term of years. Surely, they would then be subject to political party discipline and discouraged from participation in the delay of legislation, unless their majority party was the one in opposition in the Commons, in which case they would use their powers obstructively. In neither case would they exhibit true independence.

Such independence as the Lords exhibit is due to the life membership of each member. Their present collective timidity is robustness personified compared with the feebleness with which they would yield to party discipline if each of them held his or her seat for a term of years.

Yours faithfully,


London, W5