Joe Cullinane

Scottish Labour Councillor for Kilwinning

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Ayrshire weekly press column: Time to abolish unelected Lords


Joe calls for the abolition of the House of Lords.


Over the last few weeks a lot has been said about the point of having a second Parliamentary chamber, how much it's members are paid and how they spend their time and who with! But a strong democracy needs to be accountable to those it represents. That is why it is time to scrap the unelected House of Lords and replace it with an elected second chamber.

The case for a second chamber is a simple one - our politics is better when there is scrutiny of Government. A second chamber ultimately challenges the unhealthy problem of handing absolute power to one group of politicians.
Recent weeks has shown how an effective second chamber is important. Despite the Tories having a majority in the House of Commons they have already been defeated 10 times in the House of Lords since the General Election.
This is a far cry from the scrutiny on offer at Holyrood where the SNP's majority in the Parliament's chamber and committees means that even poor pieces of legislation, such as the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, are passed with a nod and a wink towards the Government's whips.
The problem is, if we were starting from scratch today, would we set up a second chamber filled with establishment figures, such as ex politicians, party donors and those that have inherited their title through their parents, who receive £300 per day for simply turning up without the need to ever face the voting public? I somehow doubt it.
The fact is the House of Lords is the epitome of the unequal society that we live in; a minority of people handed power that they weren't given by the majority to whom they are not accountable but are able to exercise that power to change their lives. It desperately needs reformed.
The SNP have long opposed the House of Lords and continue to boycott it. However, not once have they proposed an alternative.
At the General Election Labour had one - an elected senate made up of senators elected from across the regions of the UK, including Scotland. That senate would be elected using proportional representation to ensure that it reflected the wishes of each region and the country as a whole.
Labour didn't win the election and the Tories plan to increase the number of peers again. So where now?
Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn is a proposing a constitutional convention to move towards a more representative and democratic second chamber. The other candidates have also agreed that there is a need to reform the Lords.
Kezia Dugdale, a candidate for Scottish Labour leader, has also backed an elected second chamber and has suggested that it should be convened in Glasgow, a move that would send a clear signal that, not only are we strengthening our democracy by electing our second chamber, we are ending the centralisation of power held at Westminster at a UK level.
Both proposals have merit but whatever the model of reform the end goal must be to ensure that all our representatives are democratically elected. Once we finally achieve that goal maybe we can start the process of reforming the Scottish Parliament's procedures to ensure we also have effective scrutiny of our devolved Government.


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