Sunday, October 18, 2009

Peers shouldn't face questions in the Commons

I have been following the debate over the recent moves to have more Peers as Cabinet Ministers and how the elected House of Commons hold them accountable. Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, has suggested that they ought to face MPs in the chamber of the Commons (click here for more.) I would disagree.

Firstly this wouldn't be an issue if the Prime Minister hasn't taken so many Peers to be members of his cabinet. The system works best if the government of the day is drawn from the elected members (except, of course, those positions which have to sit within the Lords, such as its own Leader) because it keeps the lines of accountability and scrutiny very clear.

Constitutionalists and historians will keenly know what this country has been through to protect the integrity of the elected chamber. The privilidge of being an MP earns you certain rights and sitting in the Commons is one of those. The Monarch isn't allowed in the chamber - echoes of 1642 and all that - and has to address the joint session of both Houses from the House of Lords. And now, in disrespect to the history and traditions of the fight for parliamentary democracy in this country we are now to allow unelected Lords to address the chamber.

So, let's review - we don't allow Monarchs to do it, we don't allow foreign Heads of State to do it and we don't allow great statesmen to do it. But now we are allowing Mandelson and Adonis to do it. Doesn't seem right so far, does it?

Isn't the solution an arrangement with Westminster Hall or some other similar venue? Accountability is very important but we ought not to throw the baby out with the bath water here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Antony, I tend to agree. It's a reflection of the dwindling electoral talent after 12 years. Maddie/Adonis are heavyweight retreads. It shows its time for a General Election to restock the electoral gene pool for new talent.