House of Lords reform: my letter to Lib Dem News

Richard Balmer raises the old argument that having unelected peers in the House of Lords is good because it means outside experts are able to scrutinise legislation (Letter, 13 July).

The reality is very different, not only because so many of those appointed to the Lords are not outside experts but rather former elected politicians from the Commons, council chambers or elsewhere. Even those who are appointed specifically as outside experts at the time of their appointment get to remain peers until death, with no requirement to still have up to date or relevant expertise. As a result, expertise in the Lords is often in fact extremely thin on the ground, especially on issues which have arisen or changed significantly in the last 20 years or more, such as the impact of the internet on many areas of business and society.

After all, if you wanted an expert to advise you now, it would be rather a dangerous lucky dip to go back to a group of experts from a few decades ago, pick a group and then hope one of them has the relevant and up to date knowledge you need today. That is no way to get an expert.

Yours etc.


Note: since his and my letters have appeared, Richard Balmer has been in touch to explain that due to space restrictions his letter didn’t convey the full range of his views on Lords reform. I suspect there is quite a lot about Lords reform we agree on, although the general point about experts is also applicable to many others who make similar points.

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