The Coalition Government’s attempt to push through controversial reform of the House of Lords was “barmy and daft”, according to an ennobled Midland industrialist.
Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, head of Warwick Manufacturing Group, said that because of its constitutional significance, the Lords should never have been part of the wider deal stitched together by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats when they agreed to share power.
Lord Bhattacharyya, a member of the Upper House since 2004, said none of the three main political parties were fully happy with the proposed changes and the whole thing had ended up as a “big charade”.
Prime Minister David Cameron eventually pulled the plug after 90-plus Tory rebels refused to toe the party line.
“Given all the problems facing the economy, which is what our leaders should be concentrating on, this was a huge waste of time,” said Lord Bhattacharyya.
And, while accepting that it was never going to be the last word, sure to ignite again at some stage, he urged a moratorium for the foreseeable future.
He went on: “To try and have a second elected chamber competing with the main one, the Commons, was doomed from the beginning.”
Had it somehow gone through then many able members would not have stood, unwilling to put themselves through such a public examination. That would probably have applied to many in the professional world and also a considerable number of politicians who crossed into the Lords from the Commons, either retiring or through losing their seats. “They have trod that road – why would they want to do so again?”
Lord Bhattacharyya implied that politicians could be two-faced in their attitude. “When in the Commons there are those who talk about the Lords being a class-ridden nuisance – but when they are offered elevation frequently they are the first to accept it.”
The Labour peer highlighted how his party, with a history of hostility to the Lords, had pushed through important reforms while in office – for example, cutting the number of hereditary peers to less then 100. There were still elements needing addressing, he accepted.