Going round in circles

Lord Tyler

I have been fascinated with the way words have been used – some would say misused – in the Lords Reform debates of recent weeks.   No doubt both sides have been guilty.  Some of the reformers have got very muddled up in their descriptions of the proposed electoral system.  Some of the opponents have tried to label the Bill as “abolition”.   If that is accurate, how would they differentiate these reforms from the total removal of the House, creating a unicameral Parliament ?

But, the most curious linguistic episode has been the sudden announcement from some opposing Peers that we are not “legislators” after all, and that therefore we can remain unelected, well-paid, political nominees for life. 

I looked up “legislate” in the Oxford English Dictionary.  “To perform the function of legislation; to make or enact laws.”  One could argue it is only the Queen who “enacts” laws, since she has to give Royal Assent.  But we know it is Parliament – both Houses – which “makes” the laws; we agree their ingredients, put them together, and form a product – just like any group of people “making” anything else. 

Those of us who visit schools and colleges on behalf of the Lord Speaker carry with us excellent briefing material for the students, as I did last week.  In this there are substantial references to “making laws” and to the “checking and changing laws”.  If the fact that MPs have the last word, by a majority vote, means that are the only they are “legislators” then – strictly – perhaps it would only be the particular MPs who actually cast the winning votes who finally “legislate”.  Of course this is nonsense; it is the institution of Parliament which legislates, and the Lords is an integral part of that process.

The opponents often talk of how effective the House is, passing its many amendments to Bills.  Surely the House cannot be both effective at redrafting legislation, and incapable of making law.  The argument is in equal measure hopelessly circular and desperately semantic.

Sit tight for further sound and fury in the Commons today, before we find out which MPs will stick to their promises and make progress.  In the meantime, this Guardian editorial sums up my views well.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/09/house-of-lords-opportunity-reform-editorial

15 comments for “Going round in circles

  1. maude elwes
    10/07/2012 at 5:13 pm

    @Lord Tyler:

    You’ve done it again. It’s like hearing Pavarotti make that top note. You hold your breath in the belief he can stay with it, and, yes, he doesn’t disappoint…

    You are the single person from that House I have listened to in the last few days, that I can honestly say, I was raised to a height of pride in my fellow countryman.

    I thought this was approprite, change New York for the Lords.


  2. Twm O'r Nant
    10/07/2012 at 6:44 pm

    opposing Peers that we are not “legislators” after all,

    In the days when the judicial, court of appeal met in the house of lords there would have been a little justice in saying that, but it must be true to say that there are some very simple minded members indeed in the House of Lords, whose words and thoughts may be rapidly discarded.

    The most effective thing about the amendments in the HofL seems to be the way they are withdrawn, in vast numbers, in the chamber. I am no expert… thank goodness!

  3. Senex
    10/07/2012 at 7:22 pm

    News Flash: Lord Wat wins nomination for South West.

    Reporter: “Congratulations Lord Wat on winning your nomination to the South West”.

    Lord Wat: “Thank you very much. As one of eleven peers, and a Liberal Democrat at that, we will be representing 16 areas and well over a million people. It’s a great honour to be nominated.”

    Reporter: “That’s a lot of area to cover; how will you fund your campaign?”

    Lord Wat: “As the election coincides with the General Election we will be asking party members to give more.”

    Reporter: “There have been rumours that the government intends to introduce taxpayer funding for political parties as a result to the extra burden placed upon political parties caused by House of Lords reform.”

    Lord Wat: “Yes, I have heard this too. Believe me when I say that there is absolutely no basis to this whatsoever.”

    Reporter: “As an MP and before coming to the House of Lords you had experience of constituency surgeries. How will you cope with the extra workload given that you are representing many more individuals with their problems?”

    Lord Wat: “There won’t be a constituency surgery as such. People can write to me about their concerns and I will pass them onto the relevant ministry or their MP.”

    Reporter: “Do you think this will discourage voting as there seems no point to it?”

    Lord Wat: “Please understand. The changes are to serve the needs of Parliament. Now that may come as a shock to you but you must understand that we have a paid job to do in the House of Lords and we must have the time to do it.”

    Reporter: “Thank you, for giving me some of your valuable time and may I wish you every success in the General Election.”

    Lord Wat: “Thank YOU, the pleasure was all mine. See my agent over there, he will explain about the fee. We can supply a VAT receipt if you require one.”

  4. Lord Blagger
    10/07/2012 at 8:42 pm

    Now you’re contradicting other peers who say you can’t make the laws. I think you can.

    Are you saying they are lying or fools?

  5. MilesJSD
    11/07/2012 at 12:13 am

    So, we are to understand that you go around teaching British people and children that
    (“) It is nonsense
    that only those People
    (MPs but including Peers, Party-members, and iron-rice-bowled senior Civil Servants)
    who write the Bill and then cast the winning votes,
    who are the ‘legislators’;

    but not so (you teach)
    it is the whole of the Governance Structure that ‘legislates’;
    then the Queen also has to legislate it;
    then the Judiciary has to make it an enforceable Act;
    which the Civil Service thereafter has to physically implement and enforce (“).
    We note that none of the real-life needs & hows
    of all those who did not support the particular limited, and limiting, intention and wording of the Bill
    must live without their real-life needs and best-affordable-hows
    being legislated.

    We also note that “The Law can do no wrong”
    so the Bill is judged both sufficient for All, and un-improvable.
    But therefore it is false
    that The Institution of Parliament (and all those who precede and follow-up its Bill including The Queen, the Judiciary, the Civil Service, and all of The People) have passed a Bill meeting every-one’s real-life needs (& affordable-hows thereto).

    They haven’t;
    many people’s real-life needs have actually been excluded by the Bill.
    Remember what China even in Mao’s time began to write into their governance-practical-philosophy
    (“)seek your eventual legislative Truth from first faithfully recording all the Facts of the Chinese Peoples’ real-life situations and needs(“)

  6. Nazma FOURRE
    11/07/2012 at 10:30 am

    Dear Lord Tyler
    I am deemed to point out that your opponents are right to say that they should not be elected.True they are not legislators as they are not throughly invested in the making of laws.Their role is to vote on laws to be passed.Hope one day, some day, you will come to agree with their justified opinions if you don’t want to see lord-commoners around.
    Thanking you beforehand
    God save the Queen. God bless the United kingdom.
    Nazma FOURRE

  7. Malden Capell
    11/07/2012 at 12:06 pm

    It doesn’t matter, as Nick Clegg is making up a falsehood, that something having both Houses elected is essential to democracy. It palpably isn’t.

    The very fact that election of Upper Houses worldwide is not even a majority of democratic Parliaments, undermines that claim. Therefore this ‘principle’ is baseless.

    The elected Houses that there are *all* have equal legislative powers with the Lower House. Those that have less powerful Upper Houses do not elect them.

    As soon as you concede that, then the whole purpose behind this sorry excuse of reform falls away.

    • maude elwes
      11/07/2012 at 7:11 pm

      The only other country that has a similar system to ours, and unelected upper house of appointees and hereditaries, is, Losotho. Oh, yes, we must remain in the crock with them. That’s the future we want for this powerful Western democracy. With its head still in te middle ages.


      • Malden Capell
        12/07/2012 at 10:52 pm

        Sorry, Maude, but that’s a red herring if I ever saw one. Canada also has a completely appointed House; as does Jamaica, I believe.

        Nor can you extrapolate the claim that those countries that don’t have a House like ours are therefore elected – they’re not. Odds are they are something else entirely.

        So please, drop it.

        Anyway, I fully acknowledge that the hereditaries should be honourably retired. That can be done with a very simple Act of Parliament, such as the Steel Bill. But nobody seems to want to take it up.

        • maude elwes
          13/07/2012 at 10:36 am

          @Malden Capell:

          Listening to the types with the views you have is dringing me more toward the Blagger solution. No upper house at all.

          I would, if I were you, leave Jamaica aside. It is not a good example of government for a Western European power such as the UK. The Jamaican Gleaner tells us a bit about it.


          Now Canada. Why this sudden love of the Canadian way of running a country? I wonder. What do you see in it for us?


          This gives some idea of Canadian government corruption but not nearly as much as should be offered.


          Are you suggesting the British Parliament should jump from frying pan to fire with this US linked group of psuedo yankee hat doffers? We have neough corruption here without importing more of it. I prefer, always, European solutions to our questions. We are, after all, a European country. North America lacks so much integrity from my point of view. And it is time we began to look to our own sense of what is acceptable morality and justice the make up of a new upper chamber.

          I thought this discussion of Canadian corruption a good read with plenty of food for thought.


          And what is it exactly that you would like me to drop?

          If your frustration lies with a solution that nobody seems to want to ‘take it up’ then it’s a no hoper isn’t it? So, ‘you’ should drop it and cut the clap at the same time.

        • 25/07/2012 at 7:16 am

          @ Capel … 750 hereditary peers, of which 92 make it into the house … 675 life peers, of which 675 make it into the house … Hereditaries are not the problem, here.

  8. Lord Blagger
    11/07/2012 at 3:09 pm

    Plenty of countries only have a single chamber with no problems.

    After several hundred years of making the law, that’s plenty of time to get it right.

    That they carry on creating new laws show they are incompetent, and making laws for the sake of making laws. An attempt at justification for the cash they are looting for personal benefit.

  9. Senex
    11/07/2012 at 4:55 pm

    Whilst the real world deals with its own version of HoL reform, here in the virtual reality of the blog things are much quieter.

    On July 19, 2010 Baroness Cox asks a question: “…what are the criteria used for nominating peerages for representatives of different professions…” Lord Taylor of Holbeach replies: “The commission does not currently look to fill from particular professions and does not target nominations from them either…It welcomes nominations from all backgrounds and encourages nominations that would broaden the expertise and experience of this House…”

    As a consequence the house has a very high degree of civic society representation. Research by UCL places the houses expertise and experience into more than 20 categories. To have more than twenty electoral domains would be very complex so for the sake of argument lets say civic society could be reduced to 16 categories not including a category called ‘Other’ or ‘All’. How could it be achieved?

    Aim: Manage Electoral Domain Complexity in an Indirectly Elected House.
    Objective: Only allow one election per year over a 20 year cycle so that house expertise and experience completely renews itself once every generation.

    2020 General Election – Political Domain 0
    2021 Domain 01 Election
    2022 Domain 02 Election
    2023 Domain 03 Election
    2024 General Election – Political Domain 0
    2025 Domain 04 Election
    2026 Domain 05 Election
    2027 Domain 06 Election
    2028 General Election – Political Domain 0
    2029 Domain 07 Election
    2030 Domain 08 Election
    2031 Domain 09 Election
    2032 General Election – Political Domain 0
    2033 Domain 10 Election
    2034 Domain 11 Election
    2035 Domain 12 Election
    2036 General Election – Political Domain 0
    2037 Domain 13 Election
    2038 Domain 14 Election
    2039 Domain 15 Election

    Public Perception: Higher electoral legitimacy than the Commons.

    Ref: Expertise and Experience in the HoL. Table 6, p15
    Baroness Cox and Lord Taylor of Holbeach 2:47

  10. MilesJSD
    11/07/2012 at 11:17 pm

    The two essentials that are still being watered-down or avoided altogether are:

    1) that those who are chosen to stand for election, or for ‘cameral’ appointment such as Prime Minister, Judiciaries, Civil-Servants,
    as governance-judiciary-executive powers,
    be reliably capable of doing the Job and publicly-verifiable in their past workplace and lifeplace success and sustainworthiness* records.

    2) that The People, at every level, be provided with, and to some extent required to be further-learning lifelong, a Democratic Governance Skills Curriculum** progressively enabling them to perform neighbourly, nationally, and united-nationally
    two-way discussion,
    governancial-scrutiny, and
    * newcomers to Lords of the Blog may like to know that by “sustainworthy” I mean:
    not simply ‘economically-sustainable’ (for that may well be very flawed)
    ‘morally, exemplarily, and lifestyle-emulably,
    worthy of both the position and the pay’.

    ** If this results in having to constitute a system of multiple-votes-empowerment, then sobeit.

  11. Senex
    23/07/2012 at 12:32 pm

    The debate in the Commons on July 10 finds Sir George Young having a torrid time by having to give way time after time. When he does manage to speak he says:

    “The House will recognise that I could have no conceivable problems with the Bill, given that some of the ideas originate in a book that I co-authored in 2005” Column 190. And “The average length of service now is 24 or 26 years, so the proposal is an improvement.” Column 192

    Sir George Young is an expert in a directly elected HoL using universal suffrage? He is a sixth Baronet, the only hereditary honour which is not a peerage. The Baronetcy was used extensively by the Stuart Kings to undermine the covenant established under Magna Carta between the people and the Barons in their ability to hold their Kings to account. The Jacobite baronetcies were never accepted by the post Stuart Crown but existing ones remain close to the Monarchy. Sir George Young is the King’s man.

    As a result of what he said the interleaving of electoral domains with general elections stated in the post above could see the HoL completely renew itself in approx four generations per century rather than five allowing extra domains to be accommodated.

    2040 General Election – Political Domain 0
    2041 Domain 16 Election
    2042 Domain 17 Election
    2043 Domain 18 Election

    If this was further extended then the now appointed peers would see their tenure under elections become 25 years the average for existing appointments assuming that they were successful at each general election. The addition of six extra domains would move closer to the research by UCL on the categorisation of the houses expertise.

    2044 General Election – Political Domain 0
    2045 Domain 19 Election
    2046 Domain 20 Election
    2047 Domain 21 Election

    At a minimum and assuming one peer per domains 1 thro 21 the politically elected peers would sit besides 21 elected colleagues acting as the swing vote. At a maximum all 800+ peers could be accommodated. A party majority of greater than 21 would see executive control of the house using the minimum model and prorata thereafter.

    Ref: House of Lords Reform Bill.
    Baronet: The number of baronetcies

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