Brian Wilson: Even a Tory MSP can see what’s wrong with House of Lords

The Tory MSP, Murdo Fraser, produced a proposal this week for the replacement of the House of Lords by an upper house which would be mainly or wholly elected and structured to represent the nations and regions of the UK.

The House of Lords is a pillar of Britains class-based society, says Brian Wilson (Picture: Getty)
The House of Lords is a pillar of Britains class-based society, says Brian Wilson (Picture: Getty)

He is on the right track. The unelected House of Lords remains a democratic affront with over 800 members, including a clutch of Bishops, and a vast imbalance towards those who live around London.

Scotland has its “fair share” of peers – about ten per cent – on numerical grounds while Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions are grossly under-represented. However, numbers alone do not translate into accountability.

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While reforms enacted 20 years ago got rid of the worst elements of the hereditary principle, it was disappointing that the next stages of reform were not pursued. Robin Cook tried while Leader of the House but, Brexit-style, MPs voted against everything and in favour of nothing. So reform petered out.

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I am 100 per cent supportive of a second chamber and 100 per cent opposed to what exists. Reform should embrace its best features – a wide range of expertise and a degree of independence – while getting rid of the mumbo-jumbo and power of patronage.

It is welcome this proposal has come from within Tory ranks and the best way forward would be through a cross-party approach based on shared understanding that what is there now is indefensible.

A chamber of “lords and ladies”, however appointed, is a pillar of class-based society, which is why it is clung to so tenaciously. Those who took ermine on the basis they were only going there in order to change it should now join a clamour for reform.