Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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Brexit and the House of Lords

29
Jan

Leaving the EU was never a one-stop goal. Leaving was a crucial political objective only because it will allow us to settle all the big issues facing the country in our own way and time.

Our departure should be the starting gun for a renaissance across the whole of public life as a new pride in being British, or English as it is now more often expressed, sweeps across our affairs.

Brexit will galvanise the country to reform as it has not done before. One move in this renaissance may be forced on our tired political elite.

The government was slow in waking up to the obvious fact that our negotiating hand would be significantly strengthened if we had a card marked 'plan B'; a plan for what we would have to do if forced out without a significant agreement. Indeed, not to have this option would have increased rather than decreased the chances of a good final settlement.

The same thinking needs to be applied now the Brexit legislation implementing the referendum result has completed its stages through the House of Commons and heads for the Lords. Here we have a group of peers who have planned for a long time how they can defeat the legislation.

The group acts as the political agents for Open Britain, the body that in its previous guise campaigned for Remain. More recently, and worse still, in attempting to undermine the referendum result we have an even more desperate group of Remainers struggling into their kamikaze flying suits. This group has made clear that it will stop at nothing in its attempt to defeat the Brexit legislation.

Its job has been made massively more easy by the government drafting the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in such detail that it runs to 19 clauses and 74 pages. In the earlier days of campaigning for Brexit I was not the only campaigner who thought this objective would be achieved by a short four-clause bill - date to leave, bringing over into our laws all EU laws and regulations, how Commons and Lords could review them by amending and rejecting, and lastly defining a safe haven for the two-year period after achieving our departure.

The sheer scope of the government's Brexit legislation makes ambushing the country's decision all that more easy. Those opposing the bill will of course clothe themselves in self righteousness, talking only in terms of improving it. But most of this group of peers are wreckers who will sadly have ample opportunity to savage a bill of this size and scope.

Hence again the need for a 'plan B' - the abolition of the Lords and its replacement by a senate of a quarter of its size. A new senate would have clearly defined powers of having to consider all government actions, the duty to improve, and the duty to amend. But the senate would have the ability only to send a measure back once, unlike now.

I would suggest again to the government a short four-clause bill that would first abolish the legislative power of the Lords.

Second, a senate would be composed of 'elected' senators representing the main interests in our society - science, technology, the arts, both sides of industry, the professions and so on - these interests are already grouped in professional bodies who are self-governing. These bodies would be charged with electing a set number of senators decided in the first instance by a joint committee of Lords and Commons.

Third would be a smaller group of senators, taking up to a third of the membership, to represent the balance of regions and political parties elected to the Commons.

Fourth, the party senators would be elected as part of an enlarged general election. Likewise, during that election campaign the senators from the professional bodies would be elected by their own organisations. The Electoral Commission would supervise both elections.

I shall shortly be introducing a bill along these lines and will be seeking the backing of fellow MPs. The intention is to persuade the government to adopt the legislation in readiness, should the last-ditchers and their allies prevent a good passage of the bill implementing the referendum decision.

It will be a bill anyway that the government should immediately progress once Britain is outside the EU. The declaration of such action would speak volumes in the renaissance of British society that will follow the date Britain takes back control and is fully responsible for its own destiny.


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