In Parliament today, MPs will vote on the future of the House of Lords. With a heavy heart, I’ll defy the coalition government and vote against the reform.
At a time of great political and economic challenges, these expensive, unnecessary reforms cannot be justified. The House of Lords Reform Bill, which proposes a wholly or mainly elected second chamber, is the wrong priority for government time and taxpayers’ money.
Of course, the House of Lords is in need of some reform. It is unacceptable that expenses cheats, convicted criminals and those who are too old or infirm to contribute should retain their seats.
But the simple solutions to these problems have been ignored in favour of extensive and uncalled-for reforms.
The proposals are flawed on expense alone, with an elected House of Lords set to cost at least four times as much as the current system. That adds up to £500m over five years – enough to pay for around 15,000 nurses.
It’s also a terrible time to prioritise huge constitutional reforms. I know that my constituents want the government to focus on the things that actually matter to them; getting the economy back on track, dealing with the EU and reforming education and welfare.
The Bill also ignores the unique role of the Lords in our parliamentary democracy. There is no doubt that the people of this country must be represented by those of their own choosing. This is why the wholly-elected House of Commons has full responsibility for proposing legislation.
Yet the role of the House of Lords is different. It scrutinises legislation line-by-line, rather than in batches as in the Commons.
It cannot introduce legislation, nor totally stop laws proposed by the Commons, but instead offers a brake on reforms driven by short-term electoral gain. This Bill, by effectively creating another House of Commons, will remove this crucial long-term perspective. It also neglects the value of the Lords as a repository of knowledge and experience.