There is no ‘Divine Right of Peers’ – Tyler

Liberal Democrat Constitutional Affairs Spokesman, Lord Tyler this week dismissed claims that Life Peers should be allowed to sit indefinitely in a reformed chamber.

Responding to a Question in the House of Lords from Lord Grocott, a Labour Peer and staunch reform-opponent, Lord Tyler said, “Since 1997, when a Government…was elected with a clear commitment to reform of your Lordships’ House to include elected Members and, by implication, to end the life peerage, all of us who have been appointed know that we are ‘term peers’ in practical terms.

But complacent Labour and Conservative Peers came together to defend Peers’ right to determine the laws of the land in perpetuity, irrespective of future reforms to the House.  Newly appointed Conservative Peer, Lord Cormack, said, “My Lords, my Letters Patent give me the right to sit here for life…Are we to attach more importance to the Letters Patent from the Queen or to the views of the temporary Deputy Prime Minister?”

Challenging the Leader of the House, Lord Strathclyde, Labour Peer Lord Grocott said, “Is the noble Lord actually saying that everyone currently a life Peer will remain a Peer for life?”

Responding for the Government, Lord Strathclyde said, “A peerage is for life.  That honour should remain, but is should not necessarily guarantee a seat in the House of Lords…My noble friend (Lord Tyler) is quite right.  I do not believe that any new Member of this House, before accepting this great honour and, indeed, a job, has not considered what might happen if a reform Bill is finally published.

Commenting after the exchanges, Lord Tyler said, “There is, and always has been , an unholy alliance between reactionaries on both sides of the chamber, desperately working together to cling on to the relic of an all appointed House of Lords. 

“On the Labour side, we have someone clamouring for minimal reforms, which would offer only the most limited changes and delay democratic accountability.  On the Conservative side, we have a Peer who is effectively praying in aid the Divine Right of Kings over the democratic right of the House of Commons to have its way.

“One thing is certain.  There is no Divine Right of Peers to sit forever in the House of Lords, making laws which affect the whole country, with no mandate whatsoever to do so.  It has been seen to be wrong for 100 years, and we are looking to this Coalition Government finally to put it to an end.”

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