Frances D’Souza was interviewed on Womens Hour yesterday as part of their focus on democracy day. Due to my work routine for the day I was able to listen to the interview in the car. It was a revelation! Baroness D’Souza who is Speaker of the House of Lords was explaining that whilst the House of Commons passes substantial amounts of its legislation without it being scrutinised or debated, that the House of Lords scrutinises every line of every piece of legislation. It was a persuasive argument for the benefit of the current House of Lords but it has left me with a number of thoughts.
The House of Lords is not accountable to you and I except through the appointment of these men and women through the Prime Minister of the day. This is no more or no less democratic than the selection of the Commissioners in the European Union. Their appointment is judged by UKIP to be an affront to democracy, yet the presence of UKIP Lords in the House of Lords does not create the same level of UKIP anger, why is that?
It is clear that the contribution of people such as Frances D’Souza would be a loss if they were not able to scrutinise our legislation. It was clear that she has no party political allegiances and whatever we do to make the second Chamber more accountable, we need to find a mechanism that allows people like Frances to contribute and one that does not advantage the Political Parties that are already able to achieve much more influence than their 0.9% membership in the first Chamber.
How can we possibly continue as a Nation with legislation that has not been debated or scrutinised by our elected representatives. Although the statement by Baroness D’Souza was not a complete shock and I have written about this behaviour before, I was amazed to have this failure of our legislations raised so openly by the speaker of the House of Lords on national radio.
The news this morning that the changes to the administration of death certificates, introduced following the murders by Harold Shipman have still not been implemented raises the question of why do we pass such laws if their implementation is then held up by Government Departments. One would expect the Government Departments to carry out their analysis before laws are passed, not afterwards. On top of this we have the delays of the Chilcot enquiry until after the election in May, a matter that further diminishes the status of the Government and its powers.
We clearly need a different form of Governance in the UK. The big question is how will these things be debated and changed as successive Governments have done little to implement their own promises, let alone some of the issues I have raised in this blog!