Andrew Tyrie is MP for Chichester and has just co-authored (with Sir George Young MP ) this report for the Constitution Unit on the future of the House of Lords.
Six weeks ago, Gordon Brown told us that he would “come forward with published proposals for the final stage of House of Lords’ reform before the summer Adjournment.” What we have had instead is some minimalist proposals designed to show that the government is doing something. No surprises there, but by the autumn we are supposed to see something closer to what Brown promised, with measures setting out the detail of a reformed second chamber.
The challenge for David Cameron and his team is how to respond – not just now or in the autumn, but in preparing to take power. The paper that George Young and I published last week is intended to help provide that response, and to deal with the dilemmas that our party confronts.
Conservatives have long believed in an effective second chamber, seeing it as part of the checks and balances necessary for limited government. Back in the twenties, Churchill doubted the “trumpery foundation” of “mere nomination”. He insisted:
“If we are to leave the venerable, if somewhat crumbled, rock on which the House of Lords now stands, there is no safe foothold until we come to an elected chamber.”
More recently, the party has come strongly to that view; we have been committed to an elected second chamber since early in the 2001-05 parliament, and in the Commons votes of March 2007 nearly 60 per cent of Conservative MPs supported at least one of the options for democratic reform.