Letters: Lords make better democrats than MPs

These letters appear in the 29 June edition of The Independent

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The fear of a constitutional crisis about the number of Lib Dems in the Lords is an overreaction (Editorial, “Liberally undemocratic”, 27 June).

It is not a contradictory state of affairs for the Lib Dems to have more peers than MPs – this has been the case for many years without it being an issue, and it’s an opportunity for the Lib Dems to show that they can continue to be a constructive presence in parliament

Even though unelected, it seems that Lords often make better democrats than MPs – whereas Commons members must toe the party line, Lords are less cowed by the whip and have greater freedom to vote with their conscience.

Despite the increase in Labour peers during the Blair and Brown years, those same Lords still opposed the government on a number of issues, significantly the 2008 attempt to extend detention without trial to terror suspects. On that occasion the “archaic” Lords showed themselves to be more progressively minded and better defenders of human dignity than their elected colleagues.

Robert Frazer

Salford

In declaring the disproportionate Lib Dem presence in the House of Lords to be a crisis, people are conflating the Lords’ position as a constitutional checking mechanism with the electoral process. The House of Lords is not an elected house, neither does it or its elected counterpart reflect actual electoral popularity.

However, I think the Lords or any successor should stay unrepresentative. The one thing that we should avoid is a system which almost guarantees rule by one party. Better the current system of the great, the good and the lucky – perhaps with the last of these being phased out gently in favour of the knowledgeable.

Cole Davis

London NW2

The Lib Dems need have no problem about making room in the House of Lords, as they should, for distinguished members of their party such as Sir Alan Beith and Sir Menzies Campbell without compromising their principles.

Some of their existing members can provide space for them by volunteering to retire under the recent legislation permitting this which was promoted by one of their number, Lord Steel.

Rodney Stewart Smith

London NW1

Welcome restraint on graphic images

Well done to The Independent for not putting the most sensational photos of the current many grim news stories on to your front covers. This approach seems unique among our daily newspapers; scanning them this morning, all, with the exception of The Independent, showed the same photo of two bodies on a Tunisian beach, feet sticking out from beneath a sheet. Similarly, virtually all newspapers featured the photo of “Jihadi John” about to execute David Haines.

Clearly, we need to be informed about these tragic attacks, but putting deliberately shocking – and presumably horrendously upsetting for those involved – photos on front pages gives organisations and individuals, whose exact aim is to shock, upset and destroy, a warped kudos.

Your coverage shows it is possible to be thoroughly well-informed about these hideous world events without needing recourse to a sensational quick-fix photo.

Alison Crane

Brighton

The merciless bombing of Shia worshippers by Sunni jihadis occurs with sickening regularity in Iraq and Pakistan. Now it’s happening in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Kuwait. Yet the West tolerates Saudi Arabia’s playing of the destructive sectarian card against “apostate” Shia.

The West went along with the Saudis in seeking to overthrow Assad’s secular regime. We have, in effect, sided with Sunni jihadist insurgents in Syria and yet made it a criminal offence for British Muslims to join the insurgency.

Then there is Britain’s decision to establish a permanent military base in Bahrain, even though the Sunni ruling family suppresses the Shia, who comprise the majority of its citizenry. We have truly nailed our colours to the Sunni jihadist sectarian mast.

Yugo Kovach

Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Assuming (a) that we want Islamist terrorists where they can be targeted with heavy ordnance, and (b) that we want to rescue the innocents these terrorists target, why on earth are we preventing adults who want to join Islamic State from leaving Britain while simultaneously preventing families who want to escape Islamic State from entering Britain?

Keith Gilmour

Glasgow

In all the discussion about Isis seeking to establish a caliphate in the Middle East, it is forgotten that an Islamic caliphate already exists. It is called Saudi Arabia: it buys our weapons in bulk and gives us our economic lifeblood in return.

D Hussain

Benson, Oxfordshire

In the light of recent events in Kuwait, France and Tunisia, is there any hope that David Cameron will stop trying to save ha’pence from the EU but rather join more firmly with our friends to do our utmost to combat the atrocity that is the existence of Isis?

Vivienne Cox

London W4

Who are these ‘greedy lawyers’?

Your editorial “Gove’s crusade for justice could win popular support” (27 June) speaks of  “greedy lawyers” who are the subject of “public revulsion”.

I am a junior barrister, and my practice consists exclusively of privately funded civil work. I earn £27,000pa. No pension, no sick pay, no paid holidays. My colleagues practising in criminal and family law are often paid considerably less. They are leaving the profession in droves.

It is no longer possible for a working-class person without family money to consider a career in publicly funded law. They are frequently expected to spend a day in court for less than the cost of the train fare to get there – literally paying to work. There has been no increase in legal aid rates of pay since 1995, and rates have been cut several times since then.

Perhaps you meant only to refer to commercial lawyers in City firms – yet they are a tiny minority of the profession. They operate in a competitive commercial market, and their clients pay them what they think their services are worth.

You support Michael Gove’s contention that British justice is “skewed in favour of the rich”. I agree, but do you think that will be helped by further cutting the pay of those who represent the poor?

You express the hope that Mr Gove will be “annoying a lot of wealthy lawyers”. I can assure you he won’t. There are not a lot of wealthy lawyers to annoy. Further legal aid cuts will however more than annoy a lot of hard-working, poorly paid lawyers, and more importantly harm many poor and vulnerable people who are being denied access to justice.

Colin Andress

Romford, Greater London

The BBC is under attack – defend it

You report (26 June) that the Conservative proposal that the BBC pick up the cost of £600m of free television licences for the elderly would mean “transferring the cost … of free licences from the taxpayer to the licence-fee payer”.

Taxpayers and licence-fee payers are not mutually exclusive groups; and I, for one, would happily accept an increase in the fee, not only to preserve that subsidy, but also if it meant that the catastrophic (25 per cent) loss of income for the Beeb could be avoided, and its mission to “inform, educate, and entertain” perpetuated.

The Government’s proposal, especially when combined with the probability that Ofcom will replace the BBC Trust in its oversight capacity, smacks of a politicisation of the corporation’s funding. It makes the need to resist covert attempts to hobble a world-class broadcaster all the more imperative.

Jeremy Redman

London SE6

I greatly value the BBC’s TV and Radio 4 broadcasts and would be very willing to surrender my right to a free licence if this would allow the BBC to sustain its high-quality programmes. Perhaps other retired people would care to join me?

Roger Knight

Swansea

We do away with taxi rules at our peril

In all the delirious talk of Uber, I see no mention of the reasons why taxis are regulated in all developed countries: it is to protect users from exploitation, criminals, and injury from below-standard drivers and vehicles. If Uber becomes widespread there will be far more such cases, which current regulation prevents. But who cares – the victims will be the sacrifices due to the gods of free enterprise and so entirely justified. 

Dudley Dean

Maresfield, East Sussex

You quote the Tory peer Lord Forsyth (27 June) asking whether 60 or so Lib Dem peers should resign in order to correct the perceived over-representation of their party in the House of Lords. This would be fine, provided that 85 Tory MPs also resign in order to correct the over-representation of their party in the House of Commons which was caused by a rigged electoral system.

Sam Boote

Nottingham

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