If the UK is to continue with a bicameral system of government to provide some check on the powers of the Executive, of course the second chamber must be filled by people with a wide range of knowledge and experience across many fields (Letters, July 10).
The present proposals, if they ever get enacted at all, fall a long way short of achieving this aim.
We may have already got rid of most of the hereditary peers, but they have mostly been replaced by former Commons ministers and backbench MPs or major party donors, all appointed by the patronage of successive prime ministers.
A chamber with 80% elected from party lists will merely perpetuate such representation, probably ex-MPs or councillors or those who failed even to get elected to the Commons, ready and willing to support their own party's policies and accept orders from the Whip's office.
In our form of parliamentary democracy the main purpose of the second house is to be a revising chamber, scrutinising and often correcting badly drafted and ill-considered legislation with which the House of Commons has failed to deal properly. Any worthwhile improvement or change introduced by "the other place" is almost always rejected by the Government majority when the Bill goes back to the Commons. The whole exercise is largely pointless.
Is it likely that any successful businessman, learned academic, eminent scientist, or leading figure in the arts, sport or the media would give up their career and stand for election, just to spend their days at Westminster carrying out this menial and meaningless activity? I think not. Instead I predict that the election party lists will be filled with just the same sort of people as those that Downing Street has already elevated to the peerage, with the same political backgrounds and loyalties. The changes will have achieved nothing and the Executive will continue to reign supreme, which of course is always the intention.
Almost 250 years ago a British colony gained its independence, and immediately set up a bicameral parliamentary system which, with very little alteration, has worked well ever since, helping to make that new nation became the wealthiest and most powerful in the world. Perhaps it is time our revered "Mother of Parliaments" learned some lessons from its former offspring in the New World.
Iain AD Mann,
7 Kelvin Court,
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