THE HOARY OLD CHESTNUT

There is a certain amount of controversy surrounding the upper, or second, chamber of the Houses of Parliament, and I refer of course to the House of Lords.

As names go, experience tells me to proceed with care for fear of incurring the wrath of the minority lobbies, who can be vocal, strident and at times positively intransigent when protecting the best interests of their supporters.  I refer to the Feminists and the Transgenders, who normally have more than enough to say on anything and everything.  Imagine my surprise therefore during the current debate on the composition of the House of Lords and efforts to control its numbers that all the usual suspects are mute, whether of malice or by visitation of God, who can say.

Before going on to the meat and potatoes of the debate, let’s dwell for a moment on the cabbage.  Has the time come when it is politically incorrect to refer to the House of Lords as the House of Lords?  With this in mind, may I suggest a way out that should please almost all: call it the House of Peers.  An excellent suggestion I hear you cry, so let’s move on.

The debate is predominantly about numbers, how to reduce them and how to make the House of Lords manageable.  There are approximately 850 peers, with work for 250 being done by 100.  So as a legislative chamber, it is grossly overmanned and hugely inefficient.

In addition, the vast majority of those elevated to the peerage know little or nothing about affairs of state, and care even less. When accepting a peerage, their first consideration is getting to the front of the queue when booking a table at the Gavroche, and scooping up the £300 a day attendance allowance when the bank balance needs an injection of funds.

So I suggest we model reform of the Lords along the lines of a gentlemen’s club, or should that be a gentlepersons’ club?  Club members enjoy the facilities but are rarely asked to take part in the administration, and besides, they wouldn’t want to do so.

Let the great and the good continue nominating their favourites for a peerage, which will enable its recipients to use the appropriate title and the bar and dining room. They will not be admitted to the debating chamber, and will therefore not be permitted to speak.  And most important of all, they will not be permitted to draw an attendance allowance, thereby saving the hard pressed taxpayer several millions each year, and removing the temptation of those who might otherwise claim to lie through their teeth.

Job done!