You may recall our article on the UK Labour party’s proposals for constitutional reforms in the United Kingdom that was published late last year.
The party has long promised an overhaul of the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom – giving Wales and Scotland more powers over their own affairs.
On closer inspection of the report published by the party in December, we found scant details on the powers that they would be prepared to devolve to Wales.
Nowhere was any mention of the devolution of Justice or that of the Crown Estate – a proposal which now commands 75% support amongst the people of Wales.
And it seems that the one proposal which could prove popular with voters across both England and Wales – and also serve as a “compromise” option for those willing to support the Union in exchange for further constitutional powers – is now under question.
In their report on UK constitutional reform, the UK Labour party proposed that the House of Lords be replaced with an elected second chamber based on nations and regions within the UK – however last week, Lord Adonis poured cold water on this and claimed it is “unlikely” to happen.
Established in 1801, the House of Lords debates legislation and has the power to amend or reject Bills passed in the House of Commons.
While some may argue that the House of Lords serves an important function as a “check” on the UK Government’s powers, there is evidence that many now see it as an antiquated system, which rewards the wealthy with titles and prestige for their past political support.
Indeed, following then Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to “pack” the Chamber with 36 new elected peers in September 2020, a poll conducted by Survation for the Electoral Reform Society found that 71% of the UK public were in favour of a major overhaul.
In a damning report, the Electoral Reform Society noted that in 2020, the House of Lords had swelled to nearly 800 members; with only the Chinese National People’s Congress possessing a larger legislature.
However, Lord Adonis now argues that getting parliamentary support to “radically restructure” the House of Lords would be met with challenges.
He also points out that some of the opposition might also come from within the UK Labour party itself, which has no consensus on reform. There is no agreement in the party on what reform would look like.
In response to Gordon Brown’s proposal for a “Senate of the nations and regions”, Lord Adonis noted the same issue that we have raised time and again: England (which accounts for more than 80% of the UK population) has no systemised form of devolution. It has no regional assemblies – and the last referendum which proposed the establishment of a regional assembly in the North of England was resoundingly defeated.
On a depressing note, Lord Adonis adds that a second chamber modelled on the Bundesrat in Germany is impossible and that a UK senate of the nations and regions – either by having members directly elected to it or having some form of regional nomination – involves a complexities of which he “cannot conceive”.
One should surely ask, is this really an acceptable state of UK politics in 2023? What does it say that we cannot reform a 222 year old political institution that is no longer fit for purpose?
There is another answer. If we cannot reform UK political structures, why not create our own? One that is reflective of a modern, outward and democratic country?
Only independence can free us to implement our own democratic institution which is fit for purpose in the 21st century!
(First Published in Pembrokeshire Herald by Maria Pritchard)