The recent appointments to the House of Lords highlight the complete lack of momentum for reform of the Second House. A good start would be to remove all the trappings and titles of nobility, since hereditary dukes, earls and the rest no longer have the birthright of a Lords seat.
Much of the attraction for appointees, well understood by an appointing PM, is the kudos of titles and ermine robes, constituting a pat on the back for party loyalty or financial support.
Likewise, with the old hereditary peers gone, it is unacceptable to have seats reserved for senior clergy.
The Senate would be a perfectly acceptable name for the second house of our parliament, and whether or not its members (senators) ought to be elected should be a matter for debate. But if the Senate were seen as a serious debating and regulating chamber, with members bringing readily identifiable experience, wisdom, skill and expertise to the floor, its credibility as part of a democratic parliament would be infinitely improved.
The outcry at David Cameron’s latest appointments to the House of Lords is entirely justified. The credibility of the second chamber is once again in issue, this time over the number and quality of appointments, and the Conservatives’ crass attempts to invent a constitutional rule that the Government is entitled to a majority there.
To fend off the wave of criticism, the Prime Minister is now said to favour term appointments to reduce the numbers. This or other palliatives, such as a retirement age, avoid the fundamental issue.
It should be the electors, not the government, who choose those who make the laws and scrutinise the executive. Without democratic legitimacy, the second chamber is unable to perform its functions as effectively as it should.
The House should be wholly or largely directly elected, by proportional representation. It should have defined functions and powers, enhancing its present roles of revision and scrutiny, while maintaining the primacy of the Commons. Making it elected would mean that it represented all parts of the country equally, while giving the nations and regions of the UK a new voice at Westminster.
The present House of Lords is an anachronism. By closing itself off from the electorate it plays its part in the growing public alienation from politics. It is time to move with dignity to a democratic replacement, in the interests of the health of our parliamentary system. The Government should recognise the damage it has done, and move to introduce democracy; but if it will not, we need a cross-party campaign for a new elected second chamber.
Co-ordinator, Campaign for a Democratic Upper House
It is disappointing, but sadly unsurprising, that the Government’s list of 45 new peers is populated exclusively by the establishment parties who already dominate the upper house, while the 1.1 million people who voted Green at the general election remain roundly ignored (as do those who voted Ukip).
Almost everyone recognises the desperate need for reform of the House of Lords, as well as of our wider political system. Rather than appointing a list of new peers, David Cameron ought to be working to make Parliament fit for a 21st-century democracy.
The Green Party wants to see a House of Lords democratically elected by proportional representation, so that it is representative of, and accountable to, the public.
In the meantime, it is simply scandalous, an establishment stitch-up, for the Prime Minister to appoint so many new Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour peers to the already over-inflated House, while ignoring the new parties.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (the only Green Party peer)
House of Lords
It surely can’t be right to use the phrase “House of Lords” or the title “Lord” any more. Why not “House of Toadies”, “Their Toadyships’ House” etc.
West Wickham, Kent
End the Tory war on the disabled
So now we know. After several freedom of information requests, the Department for Work and Pensions has finally released statistics showing the effects on the Government’s benefit cuts on the disabled. They show that between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died after their Work Capability Assessment told them they were “fit for work” and their sickness and disability allowance were stopped.
This comes just over a week after the DWP admitted it produced propaganda in which fictitious people were “quoted” waxing lyrical about the positive effects of having their benefits withdrawn.
The Tory war on the disabled and poor must stop immediately. The witless Iain Duncan Smith must be sacked. Under Duncan Smith the DWP has become the Ministry of Death.
The Department for Work and Pensions is probably right in claiming that there is no link between people being deemed fit for work and dying within the following two weeks, although some may be suicides. But that does not excuse the DWP, who must explain why so many clearly very sick people were deemed fit to work.
If TTIP goes through, democracy is finished
Thank you for giving some attention to TTIP. The media as a whole is not drawing enough attention to these negotiations being conducted by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
We have always been in favour of the European Union, but it makes you wonder. Are there any other “treaties” that we aren’t hearing about?
The front page of The Independent on 27 August sums it all up in the photograph of heavily redacted documents. The TTIP treaty needs to be strangled at birth. If this gets through, democracy is finished in Europe, and the vote we cherish will be meaningless, at the behest of big business.
At last, a politician who listens to women
There seems to be a tide of hysteria over Jeremy Corbyn’s recent announcement that he is willing to consult with women over the possibility of segregated rail carriages. It saddens me that much of this outcry is coming from women, as they seem to be missing the crucial point.
I think gender segregation on public transport is a terrible idea, for a number of reasons. But Mr Corbyn was approached by women affected by sexual harassment on public transport, who suggested the idea of segregation to him.
Instead of just brushing them aside with the usual political platitudes such as “of course it’s a serious matter and we care deeply but run along now dears”, he was willing to listen to women’s voices; he was willing to open the debate on the subject.
All of those women who are waving their fists at him now should wake up to fact that he has given them a platform on which to do just that. He has given women a voice at last, and wants to hear what we have to say before reaching any conclusions. He is not “going to bring in segregation”. He is going to hear our fears, our views, our proposed solutions.
If we as women make it clear we don’t want segregation, he won’t introduce it. If we make other suggestions such as more train guards, at last there’s a real sporting chance we’ll be taken seriously enough for that to happen.
Thank you, Mr Corbyn. You have my vote.
Engage brain before moving off
I doubt I am the only one weary of road signs that read “THINK!” or “THINK BIKER!” When did this insistence on proper brain function take hold here, and why?
At a roadworks near Gloucester, drivers are now treated to signs bearing photographs of small children with a tag-line that reads: “My Daddy Works Here”, as though motorists not made aware of these men’s status as fathers might deliberately run them over.
To local councils that produce these messages, may I point out that basic cognitive skills and some degree of visual acuity are prerequisites for a driving licence in this country. And has it occurred to anyone working in these places that distracting motorists with these Orwellian prods might actually increase the chances of collision?
Sorry, here we don’t support England
I am easily able to purchase the Radio Times for Wales. Where can I buy the version of The Independent that supports the Wales rugby team in the World Cup?
Bangor on Dee, Wrexham