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?