Letter: Real benefit of the Lords

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Sir: Vernon Bogdanor says ("Let's root out the rot in our sickly constitution", 8 January) that there is probably more wisdom to be found in the local pub than in the House of Lords. The Second Chamber, he claims, is "feeble" and allows "omnicompetent government".

The House of Lords is not ideal as a revising chamber and its composition needs reform. But to claim that it has no effect at all as a brake on headstrong government flies in the face of the facts.

The Conservative government has been defeated in the Lords - against the odds - 231 times since 1979. The Lords have acted as a constitutional brake.

On the Bill to abolish the Greater London Council and metropolitan counties, they prevented the Government from cancelling elections in order to replace elected councillors with nominees.

Two years ago, they frustrated Michael Howard's plans to remove police authorities from local democratic control.

There have been real effects for real people. Divorced women will have better pension rights because of the Lords. Disabled people have wider protection against discrimination. Local authority tenants have a vote before developers set up Housing Action Trusts on estates.

School governors cannot choose their own inspectors. Pupils with special educational needs have stronger rights.

Elderly people are more likely to have been able to rent a specially adapted home.

All of us have more access to national sporting events on television without having to pay.

Last year, the Lords published a very successful report on central/local government relations, which has marked a new start in that area. The original idea came from a noted constitutionalist who argued that the Lords was ideally placed to act as a "chamber of experts". Why has Vernon Bogdanor changed his mind?


London N1