Tuesday, 9 February 2010

I'm Mandy Fly me

Just had an email to inform me that the Speaker wants the Procedure Committee to 'inquire into increasing the accountability of Ministers in the House of Lords to the elected members of the Commons.' They want to know:
  • Do you think that Secretaries of State in the House of Lords should be more directly accountable to the House of Commons?
  • If so, do you think that such scrutiny should take place in the Chamber, Westminster Hall or another forum?
  • Should such scrutiny take the form of questions or also include debates?

My answer would probably be, in the short term of course until we have a democratically-elected second chamber, that yes Secretaries of State in the Lords (which means Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis) should take part in departmental questions in the Commons and should also come to the Commons to give statements and be questioned on those statements but they shouldn't take part in debates on legislation as otherwise they'd be de facto Commons ministers. It would of course be a big step forward for Lords ministers to be allowed on the floor of the Chamber. Some will no doubt see it as an outrageous breach of parliamentary convention, and suggest that it will undermine the very foundations of parliamentary democracy, but my only concern would be that in enhancing the legitimacy of the unelected Ministers it would prolong the existence of the unelected second chamber. Seeing as we're committed to a directly elected Second Chamber (and by we, I mean Labour) I don't think we need to worry too much about that. (I actually don't know what the Tory view is on an elected second chamber. I know they voted the other week to keep the remaining 92 hereditaries, but not sure what their long-term view is).

1 comment:

Lass said...

Couldn't agree with you more - this would be a great interim measure, but Labour needs to keep pushing to complete Lords reform, even if the Tories don't comprehend why both Houses of Parliament need a connection to and the involvement of the the general public.

This government deserves a lot of credit for recognising that parliamentary democracy and conventions need to be challenged and improved. Fingers crossed for the amendment to allow an AV referendum and let's hope Labour gets in again so the Tories can't repeal it and you can continue the process of constitutional renewal.