UK Independence Party

The Lords: Danger to Democracy

   Home    Articles    Why UKIP?    Quit the EU    People    Elections    Young UKIP    Sitemap/Links    UKIP Shop    Humour   Contact Us

Why we must make the UK's Second Chamber democratic



The Boundary Commission for England is currently working on a government plan to cut the cost of politics and improve democracy by equalising constituency sizes. Plans include:

  • Reducing the House of Commons from 650 to 600 MPs

  • Cutting English constituencies from 533 to 501 (similar plans for Scotland and Wales)

  • Making constituencies average 75,000 voters (currently range from 54,232 to 105,448)

Meanwhile the House of Lords is unaffected and continues to grow ever larger, more expensive and less democratic as more and more peers are appointed by government.

How is the House of Lords formed?

Unlike the elected House of Commons, all members of the House of Lords (excluding 92 hereditary peers elected among themselves) are appointed. The membership of the House of Lords is drawn from the peerage and is made up of Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. The Lords Spiritual are 26 bishops in the established Church of England. The majority of Lords Temporal are life peers appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, or on the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Membership was once an entitlement of hereditary peers but, under the House of Lords Act 1999,  membership was restricted to 92 hereditary peers. Since then, Labour and Conservative governments have been stuffing its benches with appointments.

Today there are 825 Lords, most of them political time servers or wealthy party donors of little recognisable merit. Former Commons Speaker, Baroness Boothroyd has said: "Tony Blair in ten years appointed 374 new peers. Cameron was in office for six years. He created 244 new peers at a faster rate than any other prime minister. I think quite frankly it’s a disgrace.’

The current situation

Today we have a situation where this unelected body of nobodies threatens to frustrate the will of the people in demanding Brexit.  Having been appointed by the Establishment, most are supportive of it and owe no allegiance to the people. It is difficult to see how such a medieval construct fits into a modern, democratic structure.


It is especially worrying that 104 unelected Lib Dem peers — in a party of only eight MPs — will follow instructions to delay Brexit at every opportunity. They are likely to be joined by Lords such as former European Commissioners Lord Patten, Lord Mandelson and Lord Kinnock. A senior Labour peer told the Daily Express: “There is no guillotine in the Lords so the debate cannot be curtailed and there is nothing to stop us and the Lib Dem peers putting down lots of amendments to delay Article 50. We hope we can delay it and give people time to change their mind on the referendum result.


Recent pronouncements from Lord Kerr and others demonstrate that they consider the British people to be too 'bloody stupid' to run our own affairs. We must leave it to people wiser than us, they feel.


It comes as little surprise that the High Court wants parliament to decide on Brexit in opposition to the will of the people. Their view is likely to be supported by the Supreme Court whose current President is Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, and its Deputy President is Baroness Hale of Richmond.

Lord Neuberger is currently being urged to stand down as his wife is busy promoting her anti-Brexit views on Twitter. We will see.


How does the USA do it?

In the USA, the Constitution's first three words—We the People—affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. (We have no such safeguard in our system.)  Each state, regardless of population, is represented by two elected senators who serve staggered six-year terms. This means that there are only 100 Senators for a country of 325 million. The UK has 825 Lords for a population of 63 million. It is difficult to see how this can be justified.

The US Senate is widely considered both a more deliberative and more prestigious body than the House of Representatives, due to its longer terms, smaller size, and state-wide constituencies, which historically led to a more collegial and less partisan atmosphere. In the U.S., the Senate is sometimes referred to as the "world's greatest deliberative body" (Wikipedia). No-one can say that about our House of Lords!

Can the Lords be reformed?

UK governments have been trying to reform the Lords for more than a century with little success. The process started with the Parliament Act 1911 introduced by the Liberal Government which wanted to constitute the Second Chamber on a 'popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation'. The word 'immediately' has transmuted into 'never'!


For example, the Labour Party came to power in the 1997 general election, it had in its manifesto the promise to reform the House of Lords:

"The House of Lords must be reformed. As an initial, self-contained reform, not dependent on further reform in the future, the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords will be ended by statute."

The Blair government subsequently passed the House of Lords Act 1999. On 7 November 2001 the government undertook a public consultation. This helped to create a public debate on the issue of Lords reform, with 1,101 consultation responses and numerous debates in Parliament and the media. However, no consensus on the future of the upper chamber emerged.

All three of the main parties promised to take action on Lords reform in the 2010 general election, and following it the Coalition Agreement included a promise to "establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation". Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg introduced the House of Lords Reform Bill 2012 on 27 June 2012 which built on proposals published on 17 May 2011. However, this Bill was abandoned by the Government on 6 August 2012 following opposition from within the Conservative Party.

An attempt to pursue very minor reform of the House was made in May 2014 when the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 gained Royal Assent. The act would allow members of the House of Lords to retire or resign, which was previously constitutionally impossible. It also made provision to exclude members who committed serious criminal offences resulting in a jail sentence of at least one year, and members who failed to attend the House for a whole session. Despite its very limited scope, there has been no action since nor any indication of progress.

For a useful history of reform proposals, I recommend the article on Wikipedia at

How can we move forward?

The 100-year history of failed reform suggests that the 'softly softly' approach will never work - drastic measures are needed to produce a democratic Second Chamber which truly represents the people. However, history suggests that Parliament will never agree; not least because many MPs look forward to becoming Lords and escaping the need to be elected. They will not vote for abolition or limitation of the Lords..


So, instead of addressing the stumbling block (Parliament), we can by-pass it in a Referendum. The question would be:

Should the UK have an elected Second Chamber? Answer YES or NO.


The proposal behind the Referendum would be to use 'best practice' by introducing a modified version of the US Senate system. The objective would be to have around 100 UK Senators. Our system could, for example, be based on the 109 UK councils and unitary authorities (England 48, Scotland 33, Wales 22, Northern Ireland 6) with each electing one Senate member. Senators could serve no more than two terms with elections synchronised with general elections to keep costs down.


To ensure maturity, with understanding and support for British values, prospective Senators would have to be at least 30 years of age and been UK citizens for at least 20 years.


The current House of Lords could be allowed to continue as a self-financing club for those who wished to be part of a debating society. This could give advice to the Senate but have no legal powers. Job done.


Don't hold your breath - but just remember Brexit!



The above are personal views and do not represent UKIP policy.

Norman Taylor, March 2017



Published & Promoted by the UK Independence Party Ashford Branch at Festival Bungalow, Colt Estate, Pluckley Road, Bethersden, Kent TN26 3DD
Contact: Tel 01233 822 132   Fax: 01233 822 132   E-Mail: