Thursday, 8 March 2007

Time for MPs to stand up for themselves

Next week the House of Lords will react to an absolute majority of MPs voting for a wholly elected Upper House. There will be great resistance. MPs need now to resolve to start standing up for themselves.

1 They need to stand up against the inevitable attacks from the Lords - and those who believe that Britain's constitution is already the best that can be. Like it's manufacturing and technology Britain has been the world leader in development - rightly she is regarded as the "mother of Parliaments"; but has let others overtake her. Britain can cope with two elected chambers of its legislatures - it doesn't need to be governed by an appointed committee of the great and the good.

2 They need to stand up against the Executive. A common theme running through the debates preceding the votes, is that Britain needs a stronger parliament. Jack Straw said a number of times - "Strong government must be balanced by a strong parliament, and that means, among many other things, an effective, revising second chamber". Many speakers in the debate highlighted that theme and bemoaned the Commons subservience before the Executive. There were a number of amendments put down, though not called, which would remove ministers from the House of Lords. Many who voted against a fully elected Upper House did so because they fear it would give more powers to the party leaders - already they can control who gets selected for the Commons. The answer to the failings of Westminster is for our elected representatives to stand up for themselves. Reform the Commons as they reform the Lords. Re-assert the supremacy of parliament - this time not over the King, but over the Executive!

How should MPs set about standing up for greater scrutiny? What has Britain to learn from the US system?

Your views please.