Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron revisited ideas of a reform 100 years in the making when he set out an ambitious plan to transform the House of Lords, the 700-year-old unelected upper chamber of Parliament, according to the AP. For an idea of how big this reform would be, check out the figures. The House of Lords is currently composed of 775 members (660 political appointees, 89 hereditary peers, 26 ecclesiastical representatives) — Cameron hopes to reduce the number of members to 462 (360 elected elected members, 90 politically neutral appointees, 12 Church Of England bishops).
New members would represent select regions and would be voted into office in three flights: 2015, 2020, 2025. Each election cycle would produce a third of the new members and term limits would be set at 15 years. In addition, the 90 non-political appointees would be selected by an Appointments Commission, according to the BBC’s analysis of Cameron’s plan.
With no real governmental power except the ability to delay bills passed by the House of Commons, (the more powerful, lower, directly elected chamber), many within the Lords plan on doing just that; delaying reform at all costs.
This time though, the reform movement seems to be gaining momentum.
All three main parties in the UK have promised reform during the last general election cycle and over the past century, the Lord’s power have gradually diminished. The most marked example was in 2009, when their role as the highest court of appeals was taken away and given to a new Supreme Court.
Besides the Lords attempts to delay any reform (including the proposal of a national referendum on the issue), there is clear opposition from some members of Cameron’s Conservative party, the Labour party, and of course, the Lords themselves.
The main issues brought by anti-reformers include fears that the newly elected House of Lords, with larger constituencies and terms three times longer than their Commons brethren, would come to supersede the House of Commons.
Others believe that this “constitutional monstrosity“, as termed by Conservative MP Jesse Norman, comes at the wrong time, as Britain trudges through a recession and federal spending cuts nearing $130 billion.
And at least one Lord believes he still holds a divine right to his position. David Trefgarne, former government minister and one of the 90 hereditary members of the House of Lords, believes that because his seat was bestowed upon him by the monarch, it is in effect bestowed upon him by the divine.
“The Almighty decided that I was to have a certain duty imposed upon me”, he told BBC radio, later republished by the AP.
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