Tory MP: Reform "bonkers" House of Lords
AN unelected House of Lords is "bonkers", says Tory MP Guy Opperman.
The Hexham MP spoke out ahead of peers debating potential reforms this week.
Mr Opperman said: "The idea that in 2012 you can have people making our laws because their ancestors did a cushy land deal with the King, or because they were a mate of Tony Blair's is just bonkers.
View of the House of Lords Chamber in the Palace of Westminster, London, looking from the galleries towards the Throne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
He added: "I will vote for at least a majority of the House of Lords to be elected because in the 21st century the only way that the Houses of Parliament can be legitimate is for them fundamentally to be made up of people elected directly by voters.
"People are right to praise the hard work of local peers like Lord Bates and Lord Shipley, but with progressive reform the House of Lords can only improve."
And he had a blunt message for opponents of reform, saying: "I can never understand why some politicians are so afraid of the people. In my view, the people are pretty wise."
The Government's proposals for a smaller 300-membership chamber, with 240 elected peers and 60 appointees has sparked anger amongst some Tory backbench MPs and demands for a referendum on the plans.
An alternative blueprint of 450 peers, with an 80-20% elected and nominated split, has been put forward in a report by peers and MPs investigating reform of the House of Lords.
Lord Shipley, who is due to take part in next week's debate, said: "I will be speaking in support of the Government's proposals.
"Although, I am instinctively in favour of a wholly elected House, there are strong benefits in ensuring independent experts continue to sit on the crossbenches.
"This reduces the impact of party politics because no party will get an overall majority. I am very happy with 20% of the House being nominated by an independent appointments commission."
On regional representation, he said there were just 16 peers from the North East compared to 27 from Yorkshire and 300 from London and the South East out of a total membership of around 825.
"I am very concerned to maintain the number of peers from the North East if the total size of the House is cut in half to 450, which is likely to happen.
"It is just very important that there is a connection between all the constituent parts of the UK with the second chamber. That can be delivered by an electoral system."
The peer also stressed the House of Lords should remain a revising chamber and not challenge the legitimacy of the House of Commons - a key concern for critics of reform, many of whom also question the wisdom of prioritising such changes in the middle of an ongoing economic storm.
Tory peer Michael Bates, who will also speak in the debate on reform, said the House of Lords worked pretty well - but stressed that if reform was decided upon, it should be complete and be put to the people in a national vote.