Super majority in the Commons on Lords reform

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 12th July 2012

There was progress on the rocky road to reform of the House of Lords this week when the bill to introduce some members to the second chamber received huge support from MPs.

But party politics and vested interests have been working overtime in an attempt to thwart progress.  It’s no surprise – they’ve been trying to stop democracy in the Lords for a century.

So what happens now?

The overwhelming vote in favour of Lords reform places a duty on rebel Conservative MPs to both honour their manifesto and respect the will of Parliament.

While most attention has focused on the inter and intra partisan politics at play, the reality is that on the substance – the actual legislation – there was a super-majority in favour of reform.

It is very rare for a division to have such a lop-sided result.  The 462-124 vote means the majority for change is larger than half of the total House itself.

In a way, this should be expected as all three parties went to the election saying they believed there should be at least some members who get elected to the upper house by the public.

Conservative minister Mark Harper’s words should ring in the rebels ears: last week he reminded his colleagues that the Tories have campaigned for a mainly-elected second chamber at the 2001, 2005 and 2010 general elections.

The most recent Conservative manifesto also stated that they would work to build a consensus for such a chamber.  Achieving 78.8% of the vote from MPs across seven different political parties in the Commons is a fairly reasonable definition of consensus, short of unanimity.

The 91 Tory rebels who are ignoring the platform they were elected on – and the coalition agreement that allowed their party to form government – might be keen on stopping democracy in the Lords but they shouldn’t be allowed to stop democracy in the Commons.  The view of Parliament has been tested and is clear: they want elected people to serve in the Lords.

The rebels must support a programme motion that protects their rights as the minority to have their say but also allows the will of the majority to be respected so Parliament can focus on getting out of recession, creating jobs and delivering public services.

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