What have the Lords ever done for us?

Member News

Baroness Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat MP and valued campaigner in London and Parliament for manufacturing in the Midlands on behalf of Made in the Midlands, argues the case for a Second House to keep a check on government legislation.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the House of Lords is an anachronism, far removed from real life and of no use to manufacturing companies in the Midlands - or anyone else for that matter!

But you’d be wrong. We can make changes to laws, and indeed create our own. The government has no overall majority in the Lords as it has (just, with help of the DUP) in the Commons. We can deliberate government legislation properly (as opposed to simply forcing it through as happens in the Commons),and we can chuck it out if we think it’s wrong. In fact, the government lost over 40 votes in the last Parliament, and many laws were amended for the better.

In addition, their lordships also tend to know what they are talking about. Lord Kerr, a senior ex-diplomat and crossbench peer, settled the argument regarding whether Article 50 is reversible last weekend because he had WRTTEN Article 50! (And it is, by the way).

Of course, there’s a great deal wrong with the Lords. Made in the Midlands Chairman Lord Whitby and myself are Life Peers - so no one can sack us unless we behave very badly indeed. The result is that the average age of Peers is 69 - far TOO old, in my view.

Some of the elderly Lords and ladyships use the Lords as a club (or even a day Centre) run for their personal benefit, instead of a workplace. Someone rather cruelly suggested we turn the temperature down a few degrees - that might get rid of quite a few of them!

The truth is, that efforts to reduce the size of the house have so far failed, because the proverbial turkeys have an aversion to voting for Christmas. Personally, I’d like an opportunity to vote myself out of existence and replace the Lords with a predominantly elected second revising chamber.

But let’s face it, that’s not going to happen as long as political parties have to rely on financial donors to win elections, or the maximum donation, even outside election times, is drastically reduced.

So for now we’ll crack on as we are. And on the bright side, I don’t know how it works, but somehow it does.

Baroness Lorely Burt