The House of Lords

The House of Lords Appointments Commission

The Government showed no sense of urgency about implementing the commission's recommendations or making other reforms to the House of Lords. Its only reform since the removal of the majority of hereditary legislators-for-life has been to set up a House of Lords Appointments Commission. This Commission recommends to the Prime Minister possible new non-political legislators-for-life. The Commission will also vet all nominations to seats in the House of Lords, including those party political ones that it will not make, for "for propriety."

Three members of the commission are legislators-for-life nominated by the main political parties. The other four are independent of the parties. Two of them are also legislators-for-life.

In September 2000 the new commission sought nominations for about ten seats to be filled in the legislature in 2001. It wrote to 10,000 organisations inviting nominations, invited nominations through its Web site and organised public meetings. Candidates had to have what the Commission described as "outstanding personal qualities," and also "a record of significant achievement within (her or his) chosen way of life." They must not be affiliated to a political party.

In April 2001 the names of the first 15 of the new legislators-for-life were announced. Those who had hoped for "people's peers" were disappointed. You can read the roll of dishonour here.

The apologists for an unelected legislative chamber had claimed that this reform would make it more representative of the people of Britain. In fact 7 of them were already "knights" who wear a "Sir" in front of their names. Indeed only 4 of the 11 males were not "knights." What's more a majority of the illegitimate legislators had already been honoured one way or another by Liz Windsor, the "queen." Only 4 of the 15 were women.

Those considered "representative" of Britain included chief executives, directors and the former commissioner of London's police service. According to "Lord" Stevenson, who chairs the appointments commission, it excluded candidates it believed would not feel "comfortable" in the House of Lords.

The appointments were received with widespread hostility. The Financial Times commented that all of the new legislators-for-life "could have been raised to the peerage under the normal procedures, which means that the pool of candidates for the Lords has not changed at all." Labour legislator Gordon Prentice said they were a "sick joke." Other MPs called for an elected second legislative chamber. The Daily Express complained that "The House of Lords remains a piece of the Dark Ages at the heart of our democracy." The new legislators were, according to the Mirror, "drawn from the ranks of the so-called great and good." The Guardian demanded "Not selection, but election."

The new legislators will be under no obligation to actually attend at the House of Lords. Those who do will be paid only £35 a day, which will exclude a very large number from consideration.

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