First 654 words of the document:
Is the House of Lords now an outdated institution which needs to be abolished or reformed? (40
Britain is a bicameral system, meaning it has two chambers. The Commons is the lower house but has
more power. The upper house is weaker despite its name. The issue of whether the House of Lords
should be reformed is one of the most important political questions of our time. The Lords has a
number of powers and limitations and this essay will examine both and determine what reforms are
needed to make it a more effective chamber.
The main powers of the House of Lords are these: it can delay legislation for up to 1 year, forcing the
government to think again and reconsider. Second it can amend legislation and send it back to the
Commons for reconsideration. It also has the job of debating the great issues of the day. It cannot
initiate any legislation, but it is also true that any law must be passed by both houses.
The Lords also has some important limitations. Under the Parliament Act it can only delay legislation
for a year and cannot defeat any legislation for good. It cannot defeat government legislation that
was in its manifesto. This is the Salisbury Convention. Also any amendments passed in the Lords have
to passed back to the Commons and they can throw it out. The Lords also cannot also make
legislation but only responds to what the government proposes.
Now we can turn to how democratic the Lords is, or rather isn't. It is made up of hereditary peers
(92), life peers who are mostly appointed by the prime minister and bishops of the Church of
England. Obviously this is totally undemocratic. Although there are many crossbenchers who have no
party, most peers are appointed by the government so the government can effectively control
things in the Lords.
There are many proposals for reform. The most important of these is the idea that it should be fully
elected by proportional representation. This would make it a much more effective chamber because
it would be democratic and it would enjoy elective authority. The government could not guarantee to
have a majority because of PR and so it would be more independent and challenging. It would have
more public respect and it would be more able to make the government more accountable. It may
also be partially elected and partially appointed. This would make it partially democratic and would
also allow the government to promote people who can make a special contribution to politics.
It could be reformed by giving it more powers. This would make the UK rather like the USA where
each house has equal power. This is called a system of checks and balances and would prevent too
much power being concentrated in one place.
An elected second chamber would be much more effective in scrutinising legislation, checking the
power of government and making government more accountable. Its members would have a proper
democratic mandate and would themselves be more accountable to the electorate. However, if it
had too much power it could cause a total deadlock in the work of government because it could
defeat or obstruct or amend legislation.
I believe the best form of House would be all appointed. It would not be democratic, but it would do
a better job because many of the appointed members would have special knowledge and would
represent important interest and cause groups. It would also have more powers and would
therefore be better able to control the power of government. The House of Lords is certainly out of
date and needs to be radically reformed.