Thursday, 14 June 2007

Should Lords Get the Vote?

Members of the House of Lords are barred from voting in General Elections. The disqualification is of ancient origin. The leading case - which considers the matter in detail is Earl Beauchamp v Madresfield (1872) L.R. 8 C.P. 245. Thomas Jefferson also remarked on the issue in his Parliamentary Pocket Book in which he wrote "It was the opinion of the Sollicitor general in K. William's time, that the Lords had no right to vote in the election of a Commoner because they were not contributors to the expenses of a knight of the shire or a burgess [fees were levied on cities, towns and counties during the Middle Ages and paid by electors]; and that they were not contributors to that expence because they were of another house"

The matter was raised in the House of Lords yesterday by Lord Dubs, who asked the Government:-

"Whether they will introduce legislation before the next general election to enable Members of the House to have the right to vote in a general election."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): "My Lords, the Government have no plans to do so."

Lord Dubs: "My Lords, does my noble friend accept the principle of no taxation without representation and will she perhaps join me in a little tea party to discuss this further? Will she also confirm that the basis for Members of this House being denied the right to vote in general elections stems not from statute but from a resolution passed by the House of Commons in 1699?"

The supplementaries which follow make for interesting reading, and I was priviliged to watch the exchanges from the gallery. The can be read in full in Hansard: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldhansrd/text/70613-0001.htm#07061372000004 or watched on the archive of Parliament Live [only until mid July 2007]. at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Archives/ (at the start of business for 13th June).

What do you think. I'd be very interested in your views - either as a comment on this blog, or by email to jdavidmorgan@excite.com