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The House of Lords is to be reformed, reduced in size and mainly elected. The current draft plan is for 'Lords' representing a geographical area the size of a European Parliament constituency, much bigger than a Commons one, for a fixed, fifteen year term. Many criticise that as perpetuating the current problems of a House that is in political hock to Government or Opposition and will be composed exclusively of politicians. So, we need a more radical solution, and there is precedent for my proposal.
Did you know that the 26 Bishops of the Church of England have seats in the House? And that until 2009, up to twelve Law Lords also could sit there - they have now become the judges of the UK Supreme Court. Until the 1950s, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Belfast, 'the combined Scottish' and other universities were allowed to consider themselves as constituencies and to return members to the Commons. I offer this list as evidence of the precedent of vocational representation in Parliament.
I propose that the House of Lords should be composed of members returned to represent professions, vocations, careers and industry workers. The Bishops would not have a shoo-in - any vicar could stand for election. Likewise, the President of the BMA and the General Secretary of UNISON have big enough jobs already, so that their associations would elect 'Lords'. There are about 140,000 BMA members and ten times as many in UNISON, so the seats should be allocated on the basis of membership, just as Commons constituencies are modelled to include approximately the same number of people.
What would be the effect of this? It would ensure that the 'Lords' were composed of people who had no debt to pay to the political parties of the Commons. Moreover, that they were already prominent in their own workplace would ensure that they had a view of the world that extended beyond the Westminster Village to the workplace and to the people who work there. Just as the Law Lords would abstain from any political matter but pronounce and advise the House on the Law, so would, say, the Medical Lords not speak on health in a political sense but only to inform their Lordships' House on Medicine.
This would cleanse Parliament, introducing a gale of fresh air, ideas and ability, and removing the air of time-serving and expense collecting that infects Parliament.
I commend it to this house!