Lords’ Reform Bill would be ‘an act of vandalism’, says MP

A BILL put forward this week to reform the House of Lords was “an act of constitutional vandalism” and not a priority, says one Warwickshire MP who voted against it.

But Jeremy Wright, MP for Kenilworth and Southam, insists reform is needed to remove “patronage and inheritance”.

All three main parties included Lords reform in their manifestos, and the Liberal Democrats insisted the plans form part of the coalition agreement but Prime Minister David Cameron endured his biggest rebellion on Tuesday when the House of Lords reform bill passed its second reading on Tuesday, but 91 Conservatives voted with Labour against it - among them Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White and Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi.

In a speech to Parliament, Mr Zahawi said while the House of Commons embodied the will of the people, the House of Lords was a check against “the tyranny of the majority”.

The Government dropped a motion setting a timetable on debates fearing it would lose, prompting Liberal Democrats to declare they would oppose boundary changes that would benefit the Conservatives.

Mr White told the Courier he had made a judgement about the Bill, not the coalition, adding he supported some reform but not the measures put forward.

He said: “What is proposed is an act of constitutional vandalism. What we had on Tuesday was not as good as the system we have. A change of this constitutional seriousness needs consensus, what we had on Tuesday night did not.”

While he said Lords should be given the option to retire and removed if convicted of crimes, the idea of serving for 15 years after being elected was not democratic.

Mr White warned that elections using proportional representation and party lists would lead to people of a lower calibre getting in using a discredited system, and there were higher priorities than the “luxury” of Lords reform in a recession.

Jeremy Wright, a Tory whip, supported the bill but called for time for improvement. He said that with 800 members, some of whom never attended, the Lords was “too big” and while there was no place for hereditary power, the ratio of elected to appointed peers could be argued.

Without a timetable, some have warned that opponents of the bill might talk the bill out. Mr Wright said it was “curious” that those who said reform was not a priority were prepared to debate it without limit.