Reform of the House of Lords

Lord Haskel

At Question Time in the House of Lords this morning Lord Grocott asked the Leader of the House, Lord Strathclyde how many representations had been received from the public in response to the House of Lord Reform Draft Bill and White Paper.  He replied that a modest number of letters and other written submissions had been received.  The number turned out to be about 200.  There was no mention of blogs, tweets or other posts which probably vastly outnumber this figure.  The government just doesn’t get it!

31 comments for “Reform of the House of Lords

  1. Dave H
    20/07/2011 at 11:31 am

    To be fair to the government, they can’t be expected to go and read every blog in existence. The onus is on those writing the posts, tweets, etc to email their concerns to the relevant people so that they can be formally recorded. I’ve seen a very successful campaign of email submissions when the CSF Bill was going through – over 5,000 consultation responses (compared to a typical DCSF response rate of under 100), and a large number of submissions to the CSF Select committee when they looked at it and a large number of responses to the Bill committee when it reached that stage.

    Whingeing outside isn’t going to work most of the time, people need to make the effort to record their objections and ideally propose an alternative and formally submit them.

    • Lord Haskel
      Lord Haskel
      21/07/2011 at 10:43 am

      You may think that the government might find it difficult to find blogs which comment on reform of the Lords, but our library obviously doesn’t. In their current affairs digest of 13th July they refer to a blog from the London School of Economics blog and a blog from the Democratic Audit blog, both of which make very sensible comments on Lord’s Reform. Blogs may be more informal than written submissions, but they deserve to be taken seriously.

      • Dave H
        21/07/2011 at 5:53 pm

        The trouble is that you’ve highlighted high-profile blogs run by organisations that probably already contribute a lot to the process and get plenty of publicity for their own output. What about the rest of us, the ones that the PM is trying to get on-board for his Big Society? How many people are going to be employed to browse the web and discover all the blogs of individuals? That’s why I think it’s important to encourage email submissions from the general public and ideally to make reference to same in debates (or at least drop a note back to contributors to highlight where the points they raised got mentioned) so that we know that politicians are reading them.

  2. maude elwes
    20/07/2011 at 1:40 pm

    @Lord Haskell:

    The government doesn’t want to get it!

    And to the above poster, what point is there to going to the trouble to email, blog, etc. if government are not going to take those who do bother into account.

    People are working, using computer contact allows them to be in touch with their government in a way that is easy to do. Don’t tell the public to do this if you find it too bothersome to count or read.

    And when the next election comes along, we will not take them into account either and have the power to kick their smug butts out of it.

    • Lord Haskel
      Lord Haskel
      21/07/2011 at 10:49 am

      The government may not get it, but the House of Lords is trying to. We are making enormous efforts to reach out to the public -see our website. Also see my response to Lord Norton about streaming.

      • ladytizzy
        21/07/2011 at 10:21 pm

        I’m clearly missing the point you are trying to make. Without a formal public call for evidence what is the relevance of your post?

        The public would appreciate the url of the website you cite above. Many thanks.

  3. MilesJSD
    20/07/2011 at 2:27 pm

    Wrong, Dave H :
    it is the duty in a Democracy,
    especially in an infantilely-weak one such as Britain’s delusory “full democracy” is constituted to languish along as,
    that The State both seek-out contributions from The People,
    and therein from not only the best-schooled, propertied, and connected, but from every individual at every level,

    and to both provide educational-support to the lesser educated and lesser advantaged levels of The People;

    and provide easy communication channels, for All Of The People to communicate upwards through.
    Lord Haskel has the right perspective;

    but the perspective you promote is an oppressive one, rooted way back in the “Divine Rights Of The Rulers”,
    myopic, astigmatic,
    and several distinct kinds of ‘snobbish’ too.

    Like Marx “From each according to ability, To each according to need”
    you have unfortunately put the two contrasting necessities the wrong way round.
    Before a citizen can work-in-a-workplace (ability) s/he needs to be strong & healthy (apart from being sufficiently skilled) which requires that first s/he have a good breakfast, adequate clothing and shoes to walk to work open, and adequate Savings to support them for the whole week’s work until Pay-Day.

    Similarly the Citizen needs democratic enablements before s/he can become able, willing and competent at Democratic-Citizenship-Communication.

    The jotting-down of the citizen’s five-year-term Shopping-List should be a sufficient contribution to pass upwards and reach the collating desks of The State and of its Parliaments, the Judiciary, the Enforcement-Civil Services, and the Community Sector.


  4. Dave H
    20/07/2011 at 3:36 pm

    I disagree with both Maude and Miles. If I write a post on my blog, how is the government supposed to know it exists? GCHQ could probably tell them, but that’s a whole other can of worms about surveillance. If I write the same thing and email it to an appropriate person at Westminster then I know they’ve received, especially if there’s an auto-acknowledge to confirm receipt.

    As to whether the government of the day takes any notice, I’d say that depends entirely on whether you’re writing what they want to hear or not. I’m just as cynical about the process as anyone on here, having engaged in a battle with DCSF and only managed to win on a technicality. 95% against in a consultation translated as “a majority in favour” at one point, before the election mercifully consigned some odious legislation to the shredder.

    However, in order to stand any chance, you have to make sure they know what you have to say, don’t assume they’ll go looking for it because mysteriously, if you’re not saying the right things, you’ll be inexplicably overlooked.

  5. Twm O'r Nant
    20/07/2011 at 6:38 pm

    what point is there to going to the trouble to email, blog, etc. if government are not going to take those who do bother into account.

    Maude, I have submitted evidence in my own name half a dozen times to one particular committee of the HofC. If you feel strongly about something you really have got to follow it very closely indeed on the website, and send your evidence/ opinions what have you, in the format required by the committee.

    I may say that in the case of a House of Lords which has considered the possibility of
    secrecy with regard to the evolution,” a process” of the constitution over the last few years, you may not make much head way submitting evidence to a Lords committee, or getting anywhere near the committee’s meetings, their so often being in closed session.

    I certainly won’t bother trying and I am grateful to Lord Haskell for his observation.

    Politics is such a game that very little evidence, or the ideas associated with the evidence, has not been gorn over a dozen times by a dozen different expert Witnesses.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      20/07/2011 at 7:11 pm

      Twm O’r Nant: “you may not make much head way submitting evidence to a Lords committee, or getting anywhere near the committee’s meetings, their so often being in closed session.”

      You really are talking cobblers. This is nonsense. Lords Committee are not often in closed session, any more than committees in the Commons. It is just as easy to attend committee meetings as it is to submit evidence. Calls for evidence accompany inquiries and members of the public are encouraged to respond.

      • Dave H
        20/07/2011 at 7:38 pm

        No problems with shaving foam in Lords committees yet then? 🙂 However, I’d say it’s easier to submit evidence than attend, because I don’t need to travel to London to send email.

        It is more difficult to engage with the Lords on various topics, simply because of the way it works. With MPs, the obvious starting points are your local MP, the relevant minister and shadows, plus any select committee members covering that ministry. With the Lords it is necessary to work out which ones attend regularly enough to be worth the effort and then the subset that are likely to be interested in the subject at hand.

        I never needed to submit anything to the Lords committee on the CSF Bill because by then it was clearly on its way out, but I assume there’s a committee contact point for email submissions in the same way as for the Commons?

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          20/07/2011 at 8:30 pm

          Dave H: We tend not to get that sort of audience!

          The need to generate an easily accessible list of peers’ interests is one of which we are well aware; it is something explored by the Information Committee.

          Each Committee has its own page on the Parliament website, with e-mail address, and so contacting a committee is straightforward.

      • MilesJSD
        20/07/2011 at 11:13 pm

        That is still all dominantly one-way-directive, Lord Norton;
        drawn from deeply entrenched powers to “corner agendas”, to skip cooperative information-sharing & discussion by all levels of The People, to selectively exclude both constructive and critical contributions (“submissions”) from seriously-intending individual persons (“subjects”), and to manipulate the Media into supporting the final democracy-lock-out namely pre-cornered “Debating” the latter being always being limited by Britain’s Financial Owners who in turn hide like puppeteers behind the Constitutional & Political Mouthpieces they similarly “own”.
        That an email (e.g. from a ‘down-and-out’ like me) was given an “automatic receipts” is still only an acknowledgement of its delivery to a computer’s waiting Inbox, not an affidavit that it has been both responsibly comprehended and response-ably tabled.

        (and there is more that is being denied and suppressed)


      • Lord Haskel
        Lord Haskel
        21/07/2011 at 10:46 am

        Lord Norton
        I agree. You could have added that we now stream over the internet most of the sessions when our committees take evidence. The public can then send in comments. We probably need to publicise these sessions more widely.

  6. ladytizzy
    20/07/2011 at 9:19 pm

    Did I miss the public consultation call? I’ve looked on various sites such as but have lucked out. Can anyone point to the call? Many thanks.

    • ladytizzy
      21/07/2011 at 9:47 pm
    • Lord Haskel
      Lord Haskel
      22/07/2011 at 10:06 am

      I am not sure if there was a formal call. But there was a lot about the White Paper in the press and on the radio and television. Perhaps that’s how most people heard of it.

  7. 20/07/2011 at 9:50 pm

    What do we know about the likelihood of ministers and shadow ministers taking a regular browse through this site???

    • Lord Haskel
      Lord Haskel
      21/07/2011 at 10:51 am

      Perhaps not Ministers and Shadow Ministers, but certainly their staff have a look at this site.

  8. Twm O'r Nant
    21/07/2011 at 8:43 am

    You really are talking cobblers.

    I do need a new pair; I’m down at heel. Perhaps that was why.

    Most recently a Defence/FA committee did make me very welcome, with Lord T in the chair, but I did write first to announce myself.

    More formality may be required, whereas the other place is “easy come, easy go”, and interventions by catching the Chairman’s eye towards the end of the meeting, whereas HofL
    I have been excluded from meetings for no good reason.

    I am glad Dave H is going about it in the way that he is.

  9. Lord Blagger
    21/07/2011 at 9:14 am

    What a surprise.

    Reform of the lords.

    What happens to expenses? They go up.

    More pork for peers.

    Unveiling the system, Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the Upper House, said it would be “cheaper to run, less bureaucratic to comply with, simpler to police and far, far harder to abuse”.

    Didn’t last very long did it?

    Meanwhile, one bit of good news.

    The figures were disclosed as a former Tory peer lost the right to appeal against his conviction for fiddling his expenses. Lord Hanningfield, 70, was jailed for nine months on July 1 after being found guilty of six counts of false accounting.

    Interesting that his appeal that claiming for Tuesday, when he didn’t turn up, but did on Monday didn’t wash. Other peers take note.

    • Lord Haskel
      Lord Haskel
      22/07/2011 at 10:08 am

      The reason why Lord Hanningfield lost the right to appeal was because his excuse was that everybody was doing it. This was not accepted because it was untrue.

      • Lord Blagger
        22/07/2011 at 10:34 am

        Except they are.

        Perhaps you should call for an inquiry, and get Hanningfield back in to name names.

  10. maude elwes
    21/07/2011 at 1:38 pm

    Well, I feel in agrement with both Lords Haskel and Norton, this blog and other sites are indeed read and taken into account, even if only as a side line.

    Their staff are in the business of finding out what the public think and how they are going to win votes and influence people. So, if they ignore those who write in, in any form, they are not in the right business, as knowing what is on the mind of those they govern is a good way to be in touch. And it costs them very little in truth.

    However, what disappoints is so few people take advantage of this means of contact. As, in the main, people are constantly moaning about the twits who run the show. It would therefore make sense to tell them of their twittery and expose the lame and the halt in order for voters to rid themselves of these types at the next election.

    That way, the media, press, ect., have less power when the we speak for ourselves via this means of communication.

    • MilesJSD
      21/07/2011 at 10:26 pm

      The higher up the “pay-scale” ladder one goes, the greater the “Bigger Problem” pervading many of our “twittish” minds, hearts and bodies, is being denied:

      One-adequate-human-living = £200 per week
      (it is actually legislated to be much less, around £143 per week)
      adequate = sufficient for any individual to maintain their-self healthy, citizenlike (including work-worthy), and environmentally-supportive.

      Our elementary-school Mathematical Problem now becomes
      “How on Earth are all those millions of millionaires, and other multiple-human-living-consumers including our Parliamentarians and their Civil-Service Careerists, ever going to become able to
      (a) pay back all the excess human-livings they have been drawing from the Common Purse, literally for lifetimes, decades and in many cases as family-dynasties for centuries and millennia, and in turn thereby causing the Earth’s Lifesupports to be increasingly destroyed and extincted, and
      (b) truly lead the Peoples of the Earth to better live-within-our-means, namely egalitarianly within the Means of the Earth’s Lifesupports ?
      Chainsawing-down Rainforests, to be turned into obesely-verbose and vapid newspapers and loopholey-legislations, is not part of a sustainworthy-Earth equation;

      and neither is “chainsawing”-away multiple-human-livings from the Common Purse.

      Put this in the “pipeline” that the current-and-ongoingly-unreformable Constitution and Parliamentarians have already long been “smoking”,
      and realise that the Reform “changes” being hastily thrown together are all, but All, for the Worse, not for the Better.


    • Lord Haskel
      Lord Haskel
      22/07/2011 at 10:12 am

      You are right that direct communication is the best. People can always email or write to members of the House of Lords, to the Clerks of the Committees, to Ministers and Shadow Ministers. The House of Lords website provides the information.

  11. MilesJSD
    22/07/2011 at 10:50 pm

    Surely in a responsibly progressive adult democracy, there should be a feedback-to-the-public, through at least a State e-site, listing all communications from the public, and reporting what has happened to each ?

    How many unopened,
    how many dumped into the waste-bin,
    how many not treated verbatimly & seriously comprehended,
    how many not response-ably tabled or otherwise passed ‘upwards’,

    shouldn’t there ?


    • Lord Haskel
      Lord Haskel
      26/07/2011 at 11:20 am

      MPs, Peers, Government departments all run websites, but report selectively. The idea of feeding back to the public is only just taking hold.

  12. Gareth Howell
    25/07/2011 at 7:34 am

    I don’t know about life support systems Miles but your paragraph b) above hits upon a very sensitive nerve of the best club in London, which you not have to pay to join but which pays you handsomely for being a member….. for generations.

    The idea of “cash for peerages” was just another way of keeping the ambitious workers, down.

    What if….?!!!!

    • maude elwes
      25/07/2011 at 10:45 am

      Yes, and Uddin was back in the press columns today. She now says she cannot afford to pay back the money she stole from the tax payer presently, even though she has now rented the flat she lied was her home, but tells the people she will begin a small payment when she is ‘back’ in the Lords next year.

      So, the tax payer is to pay off her debt meaning she gets it tax free as a loan.

      This woman has no right to sit in the Lords ever, or, any other government office. She should have spent time in Holloway, just as the others of her ilk are doing. I thought the idea was equality people.

  13. MilesJSD
    26/07/2011 at 9:14 am

    D’accord, GH –

    and when I say “Lifesupports” I mean the Primary Natural “array”,
    i.e. both the Renewable (food, living bio-organics, and possibly water and lung-air)
    and the Non-renewable (fossil-fuels, minerals & metals (and now having to include Topsoils which take Nature 3000 years to renew)).

    I generally do not mean the Tertiary or “Civilisational” (Medical) ‘lifesupports’.

    Quirky perhaps, but by Secondary lifesupports I now have to mean purely educational advances which are being excluded/suppressed by the the “Health”, “Education”, and “Individual Human Development” sectors; mostly these are “Self-Help Books”, but some can be ‘delivered’ by non-mainstream, non-medical ‘Alternative Education and Health’ micro-sectors.

    All of which should, i think, help in the Reforms being countenanced.

    Thank you; and jolly good luck to you (all), too.

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