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House of Lords: Abolition — [Mr Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:53 pm on 18th June 2018.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 4:53 pm, 18th June 2018

I share a brief with the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire; I think Members from all sides of the House recognise and value her expertise. Indeed, there are a number of medical professionals in the House who continue to practise, with up-to-date, relevant experience, which is really important.

I am not claiming that there are no valuable elements of the current House of Lords; there are many talented Members who demonstrate very high levels of integrity, expertise and independence. However, we make a mistake if we assume that these characteristics are naturally imbued in the upper Chamber because of the way in which the Members are appointed. That argument will always fail if we watch for opportunities for indolence, as opposed to every decision that we do not agree with.

Appointment does not guarantee effective independence and expertise any more than an election would preclude those qualities. Crucially, all the positive qualities of the other place are fatally compromised by the lack of democratic accountability. We are saying to the public, “We trust you to decide our future relationship with Europe; we trust you to elect MPs, councillors, police and crime commissioners and mayors, but we do not think you are up to the job of electing an upper House.”

We have heard a lot about how the Lords’ actions during the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill may have changed some Members’ opinions about the way in which the other place operates. I do not have any truck with that, just as I have no truck with people who have become converts to the House of Lords because of the way in which they have recently operated. Just because the Lords vote in a way on a particular occasion that suits someone’s political view does not negate the overall democratic deficit that its continued existence in its current form represents. Let us not allow the day-to-day decisions and the painfully slow incremental reform to cloud the big picture: the House of Lords belongs to a bygone era of privilege, establishment and a closed political world, when we are becoming a much more open society. The time has come to end this relic of an earlier age and bring our democracy into the 21st century.