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Loki

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I'm a big fan of the house of Lords, and by way of starting a debate on whether the proposed reform of the Lords is a good idea or not, I thought I'd share this recent exchange:

 

Lea - Magna Carta

Tue, 7 February 2012 | House of Lords - Oral Question

 

Summary

The following oral question was answered in the House of Lords on 7 February 2012.

 

Contents - Magna Carta

 

Question

 

2.51 pm

Asked by Lord Lea of Crondall

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in June 2015.

 

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, plans to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in June 2015 are being co-ordinated by the Magna Carta Trust, an independent organisation chaired by Sir Robert Worcester. I am keeping in close contact with the trust and I hope that as many people as possible will join in the commemorative activities and events that are being planned for the run-up to 2015 and on the anniversary itself.

 

Lord Lea of Crondall: I thank the Minister for that reply. There are of course very special reasons to commemorate in this House what happened at Runnymede in June 1215 and, indeed, the evolution of our constitutional arrangements between the Lords and the Commons over many centuries since. Does the noble Lord agree that in addition to weighty documents being published and speeches being made, there could be something of a more popular nature? For example, the pageant that preceded the tournament in 1215 was itself preceded by a ceremonial exchange of hostages between England and Scotland. What does the noble Lord think about a replay of that? Other events might also intrude, such as an inconclusive outcome of the general election. In those circumstances, would one way forward be a series of ceremonial jousts between the parties in which the noble Lord himself might be called upon to participate?

 

Lord McNally: What excellent ideas. It is strange how the same thoughts go through our minds. Just as the noble Lord was speaking, I was looking at the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and thinking what a perfect hostage he would make in the circumstances. Not long ago, I went to a ceremony at Runnymede and pointed out something that may surprise some Members of this House in view of my views about reform-that at Runnymede, the Barons did very well.

 

Lord Cormack: My Lords, does my noble friend think that the Barons who look down upon us daily from their plinths above this Chamber would be best pleased if, a month after the next general election, they looked down upon a hybrid Assembly with a group of senators in it?

 

Lord Strathclyde: Progress.

 

Lord McNally: Indeed. I am sure that the Barons would be as revolutionary in 2015 as they were in 1215, but I defer to my noble friend because, sometimes when listening to him, I think he must have been at Runnymede for the signing.

 

The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, played a decisive and formative role in the formulation of Magna Carta, and that was not the first or the last occasion in our history when the Church has, so to speak, helped to keep the feet of the powers-that-be to the fire in matters of constitutional freedoms. Will the Minister take the opportunity to acknowledge the continuing contribution that people of faith are still making today in defending human dignity that transcends temporary political arrangements, and will he further let us know whether he is prepared to advise the independent commission to which he referred to invite the Church of England to play a particular role in the 2015 celebrations?

 

Lord McNally: I would certainly hope so. As the right reverend Prelate pointed out, Archbishop Langton played an important part at that time. I shall draw the idea to Sir Bob Worcester's attention. I believe that this is an opportunity for us to celebrate a significant part of our history. I know that historical purists will cavil at the importance of the Magna Carta, but I always remember Eleanor Roosevelt, when she published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, saying that it was a Magna Carta for all mankind. Nobody needed to translate what she meant by that. Magna Carta carries a resonance that has come down to us through the ages.

 

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, may I invite the Minister graciously to disabuse himself and all others who fall prey to the misconception that Magna Carta was ever signed? It never was. As a charter, and as the name implies, it was sealed by the royal seal of King John, as the facsimile mounted in the Contents Lobby makes very clear. May I apologise for making such a pettifogging legal point?

Lord McNally: Not at all. I have long considered the noble Lord a master of the pettifogging legal point, but his question gives me the opportunity to put on the record, for noble Lords who want to get involved in the build-up to the Magna Carta celebrations, that my honourable friend Eleanor Laing in the other place is chairing an All-Party Magna Carta Group. I am sure that it would benefit from membership from this House.

 

Baroness Benjamin: My Lords-

 

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords-

 

Noble Lords: Order!

 

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, there has not been a question from the Liberal Democrat Benches.

 

Baroness Benjamin: Thank you, my Lords. A favourite expression often used by British citizens is, "It's a free country". Thankfully, so it is, but many are not aware that our freedoms are the greatest legacy of the Magna Carta. What are the Government doing to ensure that children and young people use and appreciate this precious gift of freedom with respect and responsibility? Perhaps they could do so by establishing an annual Magna Carta day to raise awareness and celebrating on the underused Parliament Square, as suggested by the Hansard Society.

 

Lord McNally: Again, I am delighted by the enthusiasm with which the House is approaching this and I shall feed that idea back to Sir Robert.

 

Lord Howarth of Newport: Will the Minister confirm that Clause 29 of Magna Carta, which enshrines the right to due process, remains part of the law of England and Wales, but that it is under attack by the Government? Would it not be seemly if the Government were to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta by withdrawing Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which removes legal aid from people on low incomes who are in dispute about their benefits entitlement or with their employer or with their landlord? If the Government should be less than gracious about this, will it not still be for the Barons to insist on the ancient constitutional principle that:

"To no man will we sell, or deny, or delay right or justice"?

 

Lord McNally: The noble Lord once again confirms that one should never take that final question.

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I can't believe that conversation happened this year. :omg:

 

Fucking hell!

 

 

I don't know what the proposed reform is, but they can fuck off with their period drama fantasy world they live in. And whilst we're at it judges can come off it with all their airs and wigs.

 

Shit is ridiculous in this day and age.

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I'm going to add the word cavil to my lexicon, it's great. Also, pettifogging.

 

I love the way they take the piss out of each other like that. Suggesting his colleague may have been at the signing of the Magna Carta was a particularly nice zinger.

 

EDIT: I believe you and I have very different opinons on this, Chest :angry:

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I love the House of Lords, and am of the opinion that it should still be hereditary, which doesn't seem to be a populist viewpoint in this day and age. As hereditary inhabitants of the house, they could sure behave little worse than the hundreds of MPs who lie to get elected and then are infinitely corruptible and incompetent. It also stops the 'Money For Old Robe' stuff going on with people just buying their way into the House, and clearly having vested interests to particular corporations etc.

 

1155_big.jpg

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Did Christopher Guest ever get a chance to sit in The House, or was he fucked over by the Life Peer thing?

 

If he did, he should well make a film about The House. Harry Shearer should be in it.

 

Yup from around 1996 to life peers were banned in 1999 at least

 

They became Lord and Lady Haden-Guest when his father died in 1996. He also inherited an ermine-trimmed robe and the seat in the Lords, and he felt intensely curious to see what it was all about. "On my first day, I walked in and got lost immediately. It goes around in a circle and you find yourself in these hallways and they all look the same as the one you were in five minutes ago. One of the gentlemen that worked there saw me coming around the third time and, as I passed by, he said, 'Perhaps my Lord would like a compass?' I turned and looked and he had a smile on his face. There were some wonderful senses of humour in that place."

 

He attended for two years on a fairly regular basis, until hereditary peers lost their seats. "There's no question that the old system was unfair. I mean, why should you be born to this? But now it's all just sheer cronyism. The prime minister can put in whoever he wants and bus them in to vote. The upper house should be an elected body, it's that simple

 

Source http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2004/jan/10/features.weekend

 

Jamie Lee Curtis did as his wife in 1998 as well

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/s...000/4007601.stm

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I thought this would be terrible, but it was absolutely great.

 

This bit in particular

Just as the noble Lord was speaking, I was looking at the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and thinking what a perfect hostage he would make in the circumstances
made me chuckle as I sat reading this on the toilet
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I don't.

 

People being elected doesn't make them any less prone to influence or corruption; indeed it makes them MORE corruptible as they're constantly trying to seek re-election. One of the problems with the Commons is it runs in 5 year cycles, and quite frankly a lot of things take a lot longer than that to do. The Lords is a body that tends to consider the long-term effects of legislation rather than whether it'll spike the ratings before the next election.

 

I like the fact that a bunch of old, very clever men who never have to fight an election or be popular get to give legislation the once-over, and reject it if it

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For a look at the chaos of a double-elected parliamentary system, just look at the US, where one House has effectively crippled both the other House AND the President for years on end, just for political expediency.

US politics is quite a different beast to the rest of the world so I'd be wary of using Capotil Hill as an example - the upper houses in many other countries, especially where they have significant powers that the House of Lords doesn't, can provide good checks and balances to the powers in the lower house. Australia and Germany are two that spring to mind. Westminster is effectively unicameral as the House of Lords has no real powers (just look at the charade over the recent Welfare bill) other than to delay legislation so isn't much better than a talking shop. And there is no evidence that unicameral bodies of legislation are inherently better e.g. look at the craic in Hungary with a unicameral system where the dominance of the current government is enough to make constitutional changes at will.

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But it's not that, is it? The Lords suffers from rampant cronyism. A lot of the people there are exactly the same sort of fuckwits who were in the Commons. Labour wanted Peter Mandelson in the government, suddenly it was Baron Mandelson. Floella fucking Benjamin is in the House of Lords. Baroness Benjamin, of Beckenham in the County of Kent. She's the woman from Play School. She's a long-term advocate of the Liberal Democrats and they managed to get her in there, how is she in any way qualified for it? It's absolute bullshit.

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She's a long-term advocate of the Liberal Democrats and they managed to get her in there, how is she in any way qualified for it?

Why is she any less qualified than one of the big business donors that bought their honours with party donations? She's an advocate for human rights, equal rights and justice, has worked her way up from humble beginnings and has done shitloads more than just appear on Play School. Rather someone like that, than some entitled toff who doesn't know how the other half live, and is just there to lobby for reducing red tape and increase profits and inequality.

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A second chamber being free from electoral panic is a good thing, but there are more democratic ways to achieve this. The problem with unfavourable comparisons to the US legislative system grinding to a standstill the past couple of years is that the financial collapse is symbiotic with an existential crisis for Americana itself. Senate-Congress-WH has, more or less, worked for a century. It's just that there's a (frighteningly large) number of Republicans who've had their entire worldview shook, and their only recourse is to filibuster the fuck out of any remotely progressive solutions.

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