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Lord Wei speaks on House of Lords reduction

January 7, 2015

Parliament evening 300Lord Wei spoke in a debate on Tuesday 6th January on the topic of a reduction in representatives of the House of Lords.

He observed that in his experience, the primary function of the House is that of a revising Chamber—a place in which to amend and suggest improvements to laws produced by elected representatives in the House of Commons, whose primacy over the House of Lords is enshrined in conventions.

He felt the House functioned, in modern terms, as a kind of human Wikipedia for the laws of this country, suggesting changes and improvements to legislation that may, for whatever reason, have been created less than perfectly in a hurry to respond to some crisis, scandal or tragedy, or without real historic knowledge when similar laws were drafted many decades ago, or even without relevant life experience. In the main, the House performs this Wikipedia function well, and for relatively little cost compared with other countries, drawing on the long expertise of Members and their interests and activities in and beyond the House both current and in the past.

However, there is an issue with size and that was the reason for the debate.

Lord Wei did not support a cut-off on age due to expertise and late appointments. He also did not support fixed terms as it again lost expertise and would be destabilising to implement.

His proposal was to invite Members of the House who had served the longest to voluntarily semi-retire by convention as active attendees of the Chamber and to become in effect honorary life Peers, retaining the ability at certain times of the year, such as post the Sovereign’s speech, to contribute if they wished—namely, to reduce the size of the House using tenure as the primary criteria.

This proposal would be simple, objective, quick to implement and fair, since everyone would get a shot at sharing their experience. It would incentivise one to contribute fully while they had the opportunity. It is also a continuous solution. Finally, it retains the idea that Members remain Peers for life, with all the independence of thought that that brings, even if those who have been here longest voluntarily participate only at certain times of the year.

Lord Wei had run an analysis of average tenure. Shrinking the House to 650 core Members would still give an average tenure of around 19 years.

Read the full speach here

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