Tue. Oct 19th, 2021

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Sebastian Payne (“Abolish the House of Lords to Correct England’s Democratic Deficit”, Notebook, September 22) was prominent for the lack of legitimacy for the House of Lords. It is not just the democratic deficit, but a shortcoming in the incomplete federal nature of the Union that is at stake.

During the last attempt to reform the second chamber in 2012, there was a healthy attempt to solve the problem.

The bill was discussed by a joint committee of both houses chaired by Lord Richards, which submitted a thoughtful report. I submitted a note to the committee in which I recommended an elected house with 30 members from each of the ten regions of England (which should then be created), plus three demarcated regions. There would be a listing system and proportional representation.

This scheme, or some variant, would have avoided the conflict between two elected chambers, which in previous years had been an obstacle to reform, and could have avoided the lack of a suitable room for discussing the problems of the Union.

Unfortunately, after a second reading in the House of Commons, the bill was denied further progress due to a decision by the Labor Party not to set aside time for further progress. It was backed by a minority of Conservative MPs, recalling the combination of Michael Foot and Enoch Powell to frustrate Harold Wilson’s attempt to reform the House during the 1960s.

This is not the undoubted need to reform the second chamber. It is the sheer lack of a spirit of reform in the first chamber that is the problem.

Meghnad (Here) Desai
House of Lords, London SW1, United Kingdom

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