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that we will be voting to give the Bill a Second Reading; we


pressed Mr Khan on how long he considered would be needed to scrutinize the Bill. Mr Khan did not give a figure, but concluded by saying “the government are not only trying to deprive the public of their say in the matter by not giving them a referendum, but seeking to deprive the people’s representatives of the chance properly to scrutinize the Bill”. The first Backbenchers to

Rt Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP

support the principle of reform of the House of Lords. As the government have decided to introduce this Bill, our job is to respond. We will oppose where we think things are not right and we will support them when we think they are the right thing to do.”

speak were two former Foreign Secretaries, Rt Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP, (Con) and Rt Hon. Margaret Beckett, MP, (Lab). Sir Malcolm opposed the Bill, saying “the Bill is a puny measure. It is unwelcome and it will do far more harm than good to our constitutional structures and to the good government of this country. “The Bill will lead to the

Mr David Heath, MP However, Mr Khan indicated

that the Labour Party would oppose the “programme motion” that the government had proposed for the Bill. The programme motion would have allowed 10 days of debate on the Bill in a Committee of the whole House.

However, Mr Khan argued

“a fixed period of time for the committee stage will not allow proper discussion of all 60 clauses and 11 schedules, and consideration of new clauses”. The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Mr David Heath, MP, (Liberal Democrat),

Mr John Thurso, MP

What are we to replace them by? Essentially, it will be a sham democratic Chamber, consisting overwhelmingly of Members who

222 | The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three

departure — the expulsion — of the vast majority of Cross Bencher and specialist Members of the upper House. We have been extremely well served by several hundred of our most distinguished citizens — industrialists, trade unionists, academics, diplomats, churchmen of many faiths, leading members of the armed forces — all of whom have carried out the task of revision, and only a small fraction of them can remain under these provisions.

would rather be in this Chamber and who will be elected under a party list system that is an insult to the electorate.” Mrs Beckett also opposed the

measures. She saw an elected second Chamber as a threat to

to the number of amendments made in the Lords against the government’s wishes as an example of effective scrutiny. He argued: “As we all know, when an amendment that is made in the other place arrives here we are told that the Lords have asked us to think again but, as they are not legitimate or elected, let us, the legitimate and elected House, strike it down.” Secondly, he rejected the

Rt Hon. Margaret Beckett, MP

the supremacy of the House of Commons. She stressed that she supported some further reform to the upper House – the abolition of the remaining Hereditary Peers and the introduction of Lord (David) Steel’s (Liberal Democrat) Bill to allow Peers to retire or be expelled for failure to attend or for certain offences. However, she went on to

say that “in my years in the House I have never supported the establishment of a second House to second-guess this Chamber”. She argued that it would be impossible to defend the primacy of the Commons on, for example, finance and taxation if the second House were elected. She also argued that using a party list system for elections would amount to an extension of party patronage and that any change would require a referendum. Mr John Thurso, MP, (Liberal Democrat), supported the government’s Bill. He spoke of his own experiences of the House of Lords from his time there as a hereditary Peer and made two arguments in favour of reform. First, he argued that the Lords was not working as a scrutiny body.

Other Members had referred

argument that electing the Lords would impact on the primacy of the Commons. Instead, he said “for 50 years the ability in this House, and in Parliament as a whole, to hold the government to account has been diminishing. For me, the Bill is primarily about the primacy of Parliament as a whole. It is not a zero-sum game. Increasing the legitimacy of the Lords will increase the legitimacy of Parliament as a whole.”

Rt Hon. Alan Johnson, MP The former Home Secretary,

Rt Hon. Alan Johnson, MP, (Lab), also supported the reforms, whilst arguing for a referendum. He said: “I do not agree with

Walter Bagehot’s comment that the cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it, but neither do I agree with the constant stream of self-regard that comes from those on the other side of Central Lobby about how it is the greatest, most expert revising Chamber ever to be devised in the world. They have certainly been very expert at preserving the status

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