House of Lords tipped for revolution as Lord Owen hit out at chamber: ‘Complete joke!’

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Two leading members of the House of Lords have come out in favour of axing hereditary peers. This week, Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town said hereditary peers were “not something that would be accepted by the British public today”, while Lord Alderdice claimed they should be allowed to simply “wither away”. The pair, along with Lord McFall of Alcluith, are currently in the running to become Speaker of Britain’s second chamber.

Their comments came as an investigation by The Sunday Times published this weekend found that hereditary peers have cost the taxpayer almost £50million in expenses in the last 20 years.

Peers can claim £323 a day in tax-free expenses, as well as travel costs.

However, the investigation found that the average hereditary peer has spoken in the House of Lords 50 times in the past five years.

This is compared to the 82 times that a life peer has spoken on average over the same period.

They are also 60 percent more likely to mention their own business or personal interests when they do speak.

Baroness Hayter and Lord Alderdice are not the only two members of the House of Lords who have come out in favour of reform in recent times.

In an interview with last year, Lord David Owen revealed what he thinks would be the best approach for a complete overhaul.

The former Foreign Secretary and SDP co-founder said: “The House of Lords is a complete joke. A legislative chamber should be elected.

“Or you apply a different system.

“I am a great believer in looking at the German system – the Bundesrat.

“I am a Brexiteer but I am not averse at looking at the good things in Europe.

“A lot of the German constitution was drafted by British people after the war, by the way.”

He added: “The Bundesrat has the advantage of being a specific, proven mechanism designed to approve constitutional changes and all legislation that affects their 16 federal states or Lander.

“Also rather than electing members to a second chamber, it draws on the existing members of their landers who represent them on specific issues.”

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The German Bundesrat is a legislative body that represents the sixteen Länder, otherwise known as the federated states of Germany, at the federal level.

The Bundesrat participates in legislation, alongside the Bundestag, the directly elected representation of the people of Germany, with laws affecting state competences and all constitutional changes requiring the consent of the body.

When asked why many attempts to reform the Lords have failed in the past, Lord Owen said: “They all fail because the House of Commons doesn’t want an elected chamber.

“Everyone has been trying and everyone talks about an elected chamber, but the House of Commons blocks it.

“Quite rightly, they sense they will have their power reduced so they prefer to leave it as a joke.

“It is a complete joke.”

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Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, it emerged that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was planning radical constitutional reforms, including reforming the House of Lords.

According to The Times, the proposals were drawn up by Lord Salisbury, who was advocating with the Constitution Reform Group (CRG) for the Act of Union Bill.

The Bill, which was said to be “on the desk” of Mr Johnson’s team in January 2020, forms a sort of manifesto for the constitutional change that the CRG thinks is both necessary and inevitable.

The blueprint proposes a federal structure for the continuation of the Union, establishing the principle of self-determination among all four parts, as well as radical reforms in Westminster.

It is believed Mr Johnson put these plans on hold in order to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

However, the Prime Minister faced intense criticism after creating 52 new peers in 2020 – taking the total size of the Lords to more than 830 – despite a cross-party agreement three years ago that numbers should overtime be reduced to 600.

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