Closing arguments

Fully elected

‘Fewer people turning up to elections should not mean no one is allowed to vote’

In her closing speech in support of a fully elected House of Lords, Kingsford Community School student, Annie Teriba warned that an elected government needed to be accountable to more than just the electorate: ‘Dictators do not always seize power through wars – they are elected in some instances. We see instances like in Germany, where Hitler was elected; and in China, where the current leader is elected even though there is only one party.’

An elected House of Lords would not become a ‘clone’ of the House of Commons, she said. If the elections are 'held mid-term in line with the European parliamentary elections, at a point when the electorate may feel disgruntled' she was sure that ‘people would not vote now in the same way that they did in the general election.’ Furthermore, any clash between the two elected Houses would result in ‘more meticulous’ scrutiny of legislation and more amendments, which were good. One draft is ‘obviously not perfect,’ she argued

Annie rebutted arguments about low turnout for elections: ‘Democracy is not about having every single person vote—democracy is about every single person having the opportunity to vote.’ A low turn-out is better than no turn-out. ‘Because a few people won’t turn up to elections, that is not enough to say that no one is allowed to vote.’ She also contested the assertion that the media would be act as safety net for the Commons: ‘Seriously, the media cannot amend Bills; and the media tells me that a popular drink gives me wings. I am still waiting to fly.’

Appointed Members of the Lords have opinions even if they are experts, Annie argued. The ‘tradition’ of appointment needed to change: ‘because if we do not do that, how can we get better?’

Fully appointed

‘Having a stable form of democracy without many elections is better for society and government’

An appointed House of Lords is best, none of the other options are preferable, Audrey Bourn-Enock argued at the start of her closing speech. Under the system proposed by Robert Clack School, Members of the House of Lords would be appointed through an independent committee which would make sure they are experts in specific fields. This would ensure the expertise of the House.

Hereditary Peers and the Bishops would have no place in this system. ‘We say that hereditary Peers have no experience and expertise in any field, and are therefore not needed in our new House of Lords. Furthermore, we also want to keep a sustainable difference between the Church and the state,’ she said.

A fully or partially elected House of Lords would not only ‘threaten the supremacy of the House of Commons’ but provide ‘no clear government’. Under all of the other options – fully election, hybrid and abolition – the Commons would ‘not be held accountable for anything,’ Audrey said.

Election to the House of Lords is beset with issues, she continued. ‘Elected Peers will not have the expertise that the House of Lords needs, because they will be career politicians who failed to win any election to the House of Commons and want to try their luck in the House of Lords.’ Their lack of expertise means they would not be able to make detailed amendments to Bills that affect everyone in society. There is also the practical matter of the cost. Elected Members would not want to voluntarily contribute to government. ‘Is it fair for us to fund two elected Chambers in the current economic climate?’

The best quality of democracy is not always demonstrated with an election, Audrey said. ‘We argue that having a stable form of democracy without many elections is better for society and government.’

Hybrid

‘Elected Members can work with appointed Members to create more thoughtful debate and in turn produce better decisions’

At issue is what needs to be done to make the House of Lords accountable to ordinary people, Kevin Choi from St Angela’s and St Bonaventure School argued in his closing speech supporting a hybrid House. The hybrid option embraced the benefits of both appointment and election to the House of Lords, he said.

Those who supported appointment ‘rightly pointed out’ that this would mean there would be Members from a wide range of backgrounds. ‘You get a lot of knowledge. You get people who have had life experience.’ Members with ‘a firm grounding on the economy’ and experts in the education system ‘who have been in there for their entire lives,’ he said. ‘We argue that the appointed Peers give to the House a massive boost in its ability to debate and scrutinise legislation from the House of Commons.’

However, through election there would also be Members of the Lords who are ‘in touch with the people, have been in the real world.’ The hybrid system achieves the best of both worlds, Kevin said. ‘We believe in the benefits of both systems. We believe that both can work together—that the elected Peers can work with the appointed Peers to create more thoughtful discussions and debates in this House of Lords, which would then in turn produce much better decisions.’

There would be independence, he argued. Appointment Members would have ‘no fear of the public’ because ‘they do not have to pander to popular votes,’ he said. ‘We do not want any more professional politicians who pass everything. We do not want people voting along party-political lines.’ While at the same time a small minority of elected members, ‘who keep their jobs only because we pay for them’, would hold appointed Members to account: ‘They are the ones who will attack, who will hold the other Peers accountable for what they are doing.’

Abolition

‘Why stick to the past? We are the future, we are the present, we can make history’

Abolishing the House of Lords is not a ‘ridiculous’ option, Itiafa Akerejol from St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School argued in the opening remarks of her closing speech. ‘What is truly ridiculous is how long and ongoing the debate has been when the answer is right in front of you: simply abolish the House of Lords. That would eradicate all the problems.’

There is a simple solution to the issue of any clash for supremacy, cronyism, and bias in decisions being made: ‘The answer is to eradicate the House of Lords.’

There would be no need for diversity. ‘We do not all have the same beliefs,’ she said.

The media and trade union are among the powerful institutions that would provide a ‘safety net’ for people against the House of Commons. ‘They represent us,’ Itiafa argued. ‘How many of you know Members of the House of Lords personally and up close? Can you give them your opinion and be sure that they will take it up and debate it for you?’

Tradition was not reason for dismissing change, she continued: ‘Someone referred to history; how can we remove the House of Lords given its history? Do you not want to make history? Why do you want to stick to what has been in the past? We are the future; we are the present; we can make history. If we change things now—there is no need to waste time—there will not be a debate in 20 or 30 years time if we end this.’

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright