Monday, 23 April 2012

Lord Richard ignored again

In 2004 the Labour peer Lord Richard produced a report  following a commission that he chaired that looked at devolution in Wales. Despite many sensible recommendations, it was ignored. 
Fast forward and today Lord Richard again produces a report. 
This time he was chairing a joint committee of peers and MPs looking at what’s to be done with the House of Lords. And despite many sensible suggestions it’s likely that this report too will be ignored.
Indeed his suggestions were only endorsed by a little over half of the committee. At least when he chaired his Welsh Commission there was unanimity well, almost. Lord Ted Rowlands did express some mild reservation in a letter. Not quite on the same scale as today's revolt.
Certainly nothing that amounts to an alternative report that is Lord Richard’s fate today. And the thrust of the alternative report is that the government has not considered how to protect the primacy of the Commons.
Basically, they want the Commons to remain top dog. They fear that an elected House of Lords would pose a challenge and the poor Commoners would be undermined. 
Richards report broadly welcomed the government’s intentions but did flag up the need for a referendum after the legislation is passed and a need for the two Houses of Parliament to agree "a concordat" on their respective powers. 
It’s the idea of a referendum that has got MPs excited. Tory back benchers and a Labour say “yes.” But Nick Clegg whose bill it is says “no.” 
And  David Cameron?  Aware of the feelings of many in his own party is firmly sitting on the fence. Cameron says he’s personally opposed to staging a referendum, but does not rule out holding one.  A touch of firm government there, then.
So what is likely to happen. A referendum you bet, with the hope that the whole lot will be kicked to touch.
After all who want to embrace the concept that a parliament should be made so sordid as to have the people elect its Members.

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