Writing for PoliticsHome, Labour MP George Howarth sets out the case for the House of Lords to be abolished, arguing that its removal would create a "truly democratic and accountable" political system.
The House of Lords Reform Bill shows how difficult it is to bring about constitutional reform. The Bill reflects efforts to please everybody and in doing so has pleased nobody. As a Unicameralist, my default position is against reform on the basis that why would you want to reform something that should be abolished?
There are those that argue that the House of Lords in its current form operates very effectively as a second chamber and has an important role in revising legislation. I would agree with this but by its very nature, it is as odds with democratic principles. My opposition to the House of Lords is two-fold. First, by virtue of its very history, it represents privilege and elitism. Secondly, whether its membership is by appointment and patronage or through the hereditary system, it is anomalous in any democratic system.
I recognise that at this point in time, we are some way from there being a majority in the House of Commons in favour of abolition. It is even more unlikely to get majority support in the House of Lords on that basis that turkeys never vote for Christmas.
The events of the last few days have created a space for a considered debate about whether a unicameral system could be made to work. I am pleased that it now seems that we are likely to have a referendum although there is no copper-bottom guarantee of that happening. On such issues, we need not to look in on ourselves but to look out at what the wider public thinks. If we are to change the second chamber, we should do so on the basis that we have public support, not just the support of the political classes. I would like to see a referendum not only on the question of whether it should be reformed but also on whether it should be abolished altogether.
It is worth noting that the unicameral system has been tried and tested elsewhere. Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand, have all made this change and their political systems now operate effectively with a single chamber.
I do not under-estimate the significance and impact of a move to a unicameral system and such a change would mean we would need to radically reform the way the House of Commons works. Thought should be given to what restraint there is on the majority in a single chamber and a complete rethink is needed on the means by which the activities of Government are scrutinised. There would also need to be more pre-legislative scrutiny, more opportunities for MPs to consult experts in relevant fields, and a re-examination of how representative the chamber is of all sections of society.
However, this strikes me as an opportunity to improve public perceptions of the political process. At a time when people are increasingly disenchanted with politics and politicians, a change to the political system may help. Constitutional reform is not an easy process but as MPs we will be serving the people we represent best if we focus on what they care about and create a political system which is truly democratic and accountable. It will necessarily involve difficult debate and difficult decisions but surely such change is not beyond the wit of man?