Where we live

Lord Norton

The New Local Government Network has just published a paper arguing the case for an elected second chamber based on an analysis of the principal homes of the current members of the House.  It argues that London and the Home Counties are disproportionately ‘represented’ while some parts of the UK have relatively few peers living in them. 

The report can be found at: http://www.nlgn.org.uk/public/wp-content/uploads/lords-of-our-manor.pdf

I find the report flawed for several reasons.  As it touches upon in passing, where someone has their principal address does not mean that they see their role as representing, or speaking for, that part of the country.  It is hardly surprising that there is a tendency for those appointed to Parliament to have a home in London.  More relevant than peers’ principal addresses may be their territorial titles.  My principal home is in Hull – which is where I work and spend most of my time – though I also have a flat in London.  I neither ‘represent’ Hull nor London.  If I speak for any part of the country, it is Lincolnshire.  That, however, is not why I am in the Lords.

Peers are appointed for who they are and not where they live.  It is their expertise or experience that is especially relevant.  This leads to another problem with the report.  It asserts that if members are elected on the basis of regional elections this will make the second chamber more effective in scrutinising legislation.  No evidence is offered for this remarkable claim.  One can make a persuasive case that it would have the opposite effect.  And why do we need politicians elected to speak for particular parts of the country?  We already have them: they are called MPs.  And where do many of them choose to live?

11 comments for “Where we live

  1. howridiculous
    03/09/2008 at 10:24 am

    Dear Lord Norton,

    I entirely agree that we already have regional representatives and they are MPs. In fact, they are even better than regional representatives because they are local ones and people have a greater affinity with their localities than with their regions. I don’t imagine people in Oxford and Canterbury have much regard for themselves as being ‘South East’!

    Had the NLGN looked at territorial designations they might have made a stronger case for the London/Home Counties claim. A rough analysis of some 690 peers reveals the following territorial designation breakdowns. Whilst it does not include all peers it is unlikely those missing from the survey would significantly impact on the London/South East concentration.

    East Midlands – 27
    East of England – 66
    London – 141
    North East – 17
    North West – 58
    South East – 106
    South West – 51
    West Midlands – 44
    Yorkshire and The Humber – 41
    Scotland – 82
    Wales – 35
    Northern Ireland – 22

    Howridiculous.

  2. howridiculous
    03/09/2008 at 10:25 am

    Dear Lord Norton,

    I entirely agree that we already have regional representatives and they are MPs. In fact, they are even better than regional representatives because they are local ones and people have a greater affinity with their localities than with their regions. I don’t imagine people in Oxford and Canterbury have much regard for themselves as being ‘South East’!

    Had the NLGN looked at territorial designations they might have made a stronger case for the London/Home Counties claim. A rough analysis of some 690 peers reveals the following territorial designation breakdowns. Whilst it does not include all peers it is unlikely those missing from the survey would significantly impact on the London/South East concentration.

    East Midlands – 27

    East of England – 66

    London – 141

    North East – 17

    North West – 58

    South East – 106

    South West – 51

    West Midlands – 44

    Yorkshire and The Humber – 41

    Scotland – 82

    Wales – 35

    Northern Ireland – 22

    Howridiculous.

  3. Nice One Sunderland!
    04/09/2008 at 1:15 pm

    The North-East is looking particularly deprived of Peers

    I’d be more than happy to help boost the numbers if there’s any peerages going spare at the moment!?

  4. lordnorton
    04/09/2008 at 7:31 pm

    howridiculous: Thanks for an extremely useful breakdown of territorial designations. I take it from the data that you have included territorial designations that are not formally part of the title as well as those that are.

    Nice One Sunderland!: I fear (for the reasons I have given) that one’s location is not likely to be sufficient in itself for putting oneself forward for a peerage. However, if you have significant personal merits, it is possible to put your name forward to the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The Commission considers self-nominations as well as nominations submitted putting forward others for consideration. For anyone interested in the work of the Commission, and what it considers, information is provided on its website: http://www.houseoflordsappointmentscommission.gov.uk

  5. howridiculous
    05/09/2008 at 1:33 pm

    Dear Lord Norton,

    I am glad the data was of interest. Yes, it has to include those whose territorial designations are not formally part of their title. The bulk of the data came from a website called ‘Government Evaluations’. From what I remember, the 60 or so not covered in the regional breakdown are referred to as ‘National’.

    Howridiculous.

  6. ladytizzy
    05/09/2008 at 7:31 pm

    What a curious bunch the NLGN are. Also, I’m not clear how independent this think tank is when it has received some £33K directly from the government. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2008-02-18e.182559.h Very suspicious of a body that uses ‘New’ so many times.

  7. James Clarke
    07/09/2008 at 1:39 am

    Dear Lord Norton,

    Why does anyone pay attention to these idiotic ideas from think tanks? It seems to me that the Lords seem to be the only people who actually read the legislation that is drawn up. New Labour seem to be determined to break what doesn’t need fixing! Is there a think tank putting forward the idea of maintaining the lords in its current form? I would certainly be for that.
    I have deep concerns about meddling with our political system. A clear idea of what kind of political forum that our people wish to be ruled by should be gained by referendum before changes are made that effect the very foundation of our democracy. After all everyone seems to be obsessed with turning our system into a carbon copy of America so why not just ask everyone if that’s what they want. Its been far to long since any government organisation has trusted the general public of this country to have half a brain its about time we were allowed to have a say about big issues such as this.

  8. L Tate
    07/09/2008 at 9:55 pm

    I’m a bit bitter that Birmingham only has one peer (presumably Lord Jones of Birmingham), while Norfolk has 13. For most places whether they have a peer or not doesn’t matter much, but Birmingham needs more peers. Why? Because generally Government, Londoners, Mancunians and the Public at large looks down on us. How many people living in London or Norfolk will stand up for the interests of our city? Not many. Roll on the Manchester band wagon.

    Of course we have MPs (although Birmingham will have just ten in the next parliament for a population of over a million, which seems not very much), but if you have another forum (the Lords) you need representation there as well. Otherwise you’re at a disadvantage. Although, the whole idea of an appointed “democratic” body that calls its members “lords” in a supposedly egalitarian age is clearly ridiculous in any case and perhaps it’s for the better that we have less to do with it.

  9. lordnorton
    07/09/2008 at 11:06 pm

    L Tate: Birmingham in practice has a lot more than one peer, certainly in terms of people who have worked there (for example, in the NHS or the police) or retain links with it, including some who have served as MPs in Birmingham. This is where territorial titles are relevant. For example, apart from Lord Jones of Birmingham, there is Lord Hunt of Kings Heath [Philip Hunt],Baroness Morris of Yardley [Estelle Morris] and Lord Morris of Handsworth [Bill Morris]. This rather shows the limitations of an exercise focusing solely on published addresses. In any discussion on Birmingham in the Lords, there is a good body of knowledge available. The advantage of an appointed second chamber is that it enhances the core accountability of the single elected chamber, a point I have developed in earlier posts.

    James Clarke: I agree with your first paragraph. There are some bodies that do support retaining an appointed chamber (see, for example, http://www.effectivesecondchamber.com). I fear I take a different view on the second paragraph: I share your concerns about meddling with the present system – which works far better than critics give it credit for – but for the reasons given in some of my earlier posts, I am not a supporter of referendums. My support for the present system means that I look to Parliament to protect that which works.

  10. Nice One Sunderland!
    09/09/2008 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks for the information Lord Norton – I shall have a gander at the criteria and have a think about nominating myself!

    I wonder how many peers have actually been appointed by the commission, compared to those appointed through the party machinery.

    Would it not be good idea to have some ‘normal’ members of the general public in the Lords – even if for limited periods.

    I doubt that students, the unemployed, housewives, single parents etc. are very well represented in the upper house… especially in comparison to ex-MPs, teachers etc.

  11. lordnorton
    09/09/2008 at 11:59 pm

    Nice One Sunderland: There is information on the Commission website as to the nominations that they have put forward. The House does contain students (one of them is studying under me!), housewives and, I think, single parents. It would be difficult to have normal members of the public as members for the simple reason that once you become a member no one regards you as a normal member of the public, however much you have experience that is common to most people or to particular sections of society.

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