Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Ulster peers’ fury at House of Lords reform proposals

Northern Ireland’s peers have hit out at the Government’s reform proposals that will see most of them evicted from the Lords.

The coalition unveiled plans to slash the number of members from 826 to 450, of which 80% would be elected.

This would mean just nine peers elected from Northern Ireland, compared to 18 from Wales and 48 from South East England.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said: “We have been discussing this issue for 140 years and it really is time to make progress.”

Mr Cameron said most MPs and the majority of the public were in favour of reform — but he is facing a rebellion from as many as 100 Tory MPs on the issue. And hostility is mounting among members of the House of Lords.

Former First Minister Lord Trimble (below), who sits as a Conservative peer, sat on the committee tasked with drawing up suggestions for reform. He has put his name to a rival report rejecting the proposals.

He said: “I am not surprised they have paid so little attention to the report. It’s quite clear that this is going ahead because Nick Clegg is insisting on it — and Nick Clegg is not listening to anyone.”

He claimed the changes would mean that the Lib Dems “permanently hold” the balance of power.

“They will use it to almost compel the government of the day to make significant concessions to them as a price of getting their legislation through,” he said.

The UUP’s Lord Laird said: “It’s illogical, and has not been done well at all.”

Under the proposals the UK would be divided up into electoral regions, similar to the system currently used for European Elections. At each of the three elections, three peers would be elected from Northern Ireland. There are currently around 25 peers either born in Northern Ireland or representing its parties.

Elected members would serve for a single 15-year term, with the remaining 90 chosen by commission.

The number of Church of England bishops will be cut from 26 to 12. It will still be the House of Lords.

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