The previous government attempted the reform of the House of Lords in two stages, but succeeded only in the first. All that the last government could achieve was the disgraceful expulsion of the hereditary peers, except the ninety-two happily redeemed by the present Marquess of Salisbury. No-one could agree on what should replace the hybrid arrangements left after 1999, and they cannot agree on it now.
There seems, however, general agreement that the size of the House of Lords needs to be reduced, and the power of appointment by the party leaders curtailed.
We propose, modestly of course, that the same procedure should be followed as before. There is no prospect of a consensus on the election of new peers. But we should be able to agree on the expulsion of the old discredited ones.
A simple Bill to expel the life peers from the House of Lords should suffice. A political system devised in the 1950s is hardly fit for the modern world.
The ninety-two hereditaries and the twenty-six bishops would, of course, remain. An Upper House of 118 members would be economical, well suiting our straitened times, and their independence would be unmatched. Some on the political left may worry about the preponderance of Conservatives among the hereditary peers, but they may be assured that the bench of bishops will redress the balance.
As a last resort a hundred or so representatives of the life peers (being the same proportion as the elected hereditary peers) could be elected from among their number. The quid pro quo, of course, would have to be the restoration of the representative elections of the Irish peerage and of a similar proportion (one) of the royal princes - doubtless the photogenic Duke of Cambridge, although his grandfather would bring more wisdom, and more ethnic diversity.
If the House of Bishops were also to elect from among themselves their twenty-six representatives, instead of rotating by principle of seniority (unknown to our ancient constitution) then that holy grail of reformers - the 100% elected house - would be at last achieved.
For those who demand an Upper House made by the ballot box (and all these peerage elections would make for a very exciting night of television hosted by David Dimbleby) this is the only realistic proposal on the table. If the Deputy Prime Minister is reading...