MPs need lords to be their grandparents, peer suggests

By Jo-Anna K. Burnett

MPs are 'babies' who could benefit by their "grandparent" peers, a senior member of the Lords has claimed.

The unusual comparison came in a select committee hearing addressing calls for Lords reform.

"Having people around who have done more than 15 years in an institution can be of value corporately to that institution," said Lords reformer Helene Hayman.

"We have to deal with getting from where we are now to the size of House that we want without throwing – I was going to say the babies out until I thought about it – the great-grandparents out," she said.

Lord Steel of Aikwood and Hayman testified before the political and constitutional reform committee that changes needed to be made to reduce the number of peers in the second chamber.

"It's precisely because the big bill didn't make progress, that I'm very glad your committee is looking at what I call these housekeeping measures," Steel said.

Steel quoted an H. H. Asquith passage from 1917 that addressed Lords reform and added: "If people had read their history, they'd have known they were running into trouble if we produced a [lords reform] bill of that kind."

But committee member Paul Flynn disagreed.

"After more than 100 years of endeavour, of wonderful dreams and prospects, between the dream and the reality, falls the shadow, and the shadow in this case is the enormous power of inherited titles, of royalty, of the whole system that's fundamentally undemocratic and based on privilege," he said.

Nick Clegg's plans for reform of the House of Lords were scuppered by a substantial Tory rebellion – an action which prompted a retaliatory effort against constituency boundary reform by the deputy prime minister.