Explain two strengths of the House of Lords
The House of Lords has a number of important strengths. First, there is a much lower level of party discipline in the House, leading to better quality debates. Members of the Lords do not have to seek re-election and are therefore not constrained by the same populist considerations as MPs. The House of Lords is able to devote a lot of time to committee work, and its less partisan nature facilitates highly deliberative and detailed scrutiny of government activities. There are whips in the Lords but they work more on persuasion and informing Lords rather than having any political threat.
The Conservative whip for the Lords is Lord Taylor of Holbeach. Furthermore, life peers cannot be sacked by their parties even if they disagree with their views. In October 2015, Lord Adonis (he was a Blairite, left probably because of Corbyn) left the labour party and became a crossbencher. He was given a job in government with George Osbourne. Any peer can do this – they are there for life. The most independent of Lords are the Crossbench Peers, of which there are currently 175. Crossbench Peers are non-party political and by tradition sit on the benches that cross the chamber of the House of Lords.
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They do not adopt partisan policies, but rather speak and vote as individuals. An example of a crossbench peer is Lord Trees, who brings knowledge about veterinary issues. Secondly, members of the Lords bring a wealth of experience with them and the processes of deliberation and scrutiny benefit from this. Appointed members produce a highly valuable and effective cross section of British life including the experts in their field. They will often be much more qualified than the Ministers introducing and defending bills.
Examples of highly qualified Lords include Lord Winston who is an expert in science and medicine and Lord Sugar who is an expert in business. Highly public peers such as Lord Sugar can draw attention to an issue in a way other politicians could never do. Furthermore, Lord Sainsbury was involved when the Lords investigated GM foods for the first time in the 90s. Their influence and advice is essential in scrutinising the Government. Peers only turn up for the debates they are expert on. Many feel inadequately qualified for debates they are unsure of.
The Lords tends to have more time to consider in greater detail the content of legislation and policy, thus ensuring that fuller consideration is given. The Lords also bring a wealth of experience on religious matters. Although the Church of England has 26 members in the Lords, such as Bishop Libby Lane, the other religions are also represented too, such as the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks. This ensures that the Lords can bring knowledge from all walks of life that politicians do not have. To conclude, although the House of Lords has many drawbacks, these key strengths are evidence that it is an effective second chamber.