House of Lords 2a
Democracy

The case for House of Lords reform has become unarguable

 

We will ensure that the House of Lords fulfils its valuable role as a chamber of legislative scrutiny and revision

While we still see a strong case for introducing an elected element into our second chamber, this is not a priority in the next Parliament. We have already allowed for expulsion of members for poor conduct and will ensure the House of Lords continues to work well by addressing issues such as the size of the chamber and the retirement of peers.

So pledged the 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto. And yet it is reported that David Cameron is about to ennoble a further 50 Tories because: “It is important the House of Lords in some way reflects the situation in the House of Commons. At the moment it is well away from that. I’m not proposing to get there in one go. (But) it is important to make sure the House of Lords more accurately reflects the situation in the House of Commons. That’s been the position with prime ministers for a very, very long time and for very good and fair reason.”

That each new prime minister is obliged to appoint 100 new peers just to get legislation through is ridiculous. The endless accretion is manifestly unsustainable. The Upper House is fast approaching a thousand members, making it one of the largest legislatures on the planet. Surely, if it is important that the House of Lords “in some way reflects the situation in the House of Commons”, we need to say farewell to the crossbenchers?

There are currently 226 Conservative peers (29%), 212 Labour peers (27%), 101 Liberal Democrat peers (13%), 1 Green (0.1%), 3 Ukip (0.4%), and 179 crossbenchers (23%). There are sundry others, including the Bishops, which are set out in full on Parliament’s website. If these numbers were adjusted to reflect the situation in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister would need to appoint a further 166 Tory peers in order to achieve proportional parity with his 50.1% of MPs in the House of Commons. Far better, you might think, to force each group to cull among their own until proportionality is reached. But that would mean pruning out 92 LibDem peers and appointing 67 SNP peers. It isn’t going to happen.

We must be wary of demanding House of Lords reform in the wake of Lord Sewel’s penchant for coke-snorting and cross-dressing; or because one or two (hundred?) are on a never-ending gravy train of tax-free attendance allowances and generous expenses. But, contra the opinion of many Tory MPs, the status quo cannot be preserved.

Those Conservatives who support the status quo appear to be confusing it with the status quo ante: they do not address the reality that Tony Blair changed the House of Lords irrevocably. It is no longer largely composed of non-partisan experts, cuddly crossbenchers and independently-minded hereditary peers who patriotically place loyalty to their country above ephemeral tribal politics: it is now a corporatist entity, appointed by the prime minister of the day and rubber-stamped by a committee appointed by the government of the day. In order to better reflect the outcome of each general election, a prime minister now has no choice but to bung another 100-or-so in, otherwise legislating gets a little jammed up.

Tony Blair appointed his statist supporters and quangocrats, and so David Cameron has to do the same. It is bizarre that we are heading for an Upper House of a thousand members while talking of reducing the House of Commons from 650 to 600. What is the democratic rationale for cutting the number of elected politicians while increasing the number of unelected?

But the rock of the status quo is as untenable as the hard place of a PR-elected chamber. The proposal to elect members to the House of Lords – whether 80 or 100 per cent – is a certain recipe for future strife. Not least because the last proposal was that they be elected by STV and remain in office for 15 years. Where else on the planet are elected politicians insulated from their electorate for a decade-and-a-half? How does an 80% elected chamber constitute any kind of democratic resolution? What is the democratic legitimacy of the remaining 20%, especially the Bishops? What is the democratic legitimacy of the entire 100% if members may only be judged by their electorate every 15 years?

It is bizarre to seek to move towards any proportion of elected peers before establishing the function and purpose of the Upper House. If it is to remain a revising chamber, providing scrutiny and expertise, why is the judgement of the people the favoured mechanism for establishing those who make the wisest scrutineers? Plato observed that philosophers are “very odd birds, not to say thoroughly vicious; whilst even those who look the best of them are reduced…to complete uselessness as members of society”. In short, the wisest scrutineers are not necessarily going to be recognised by most people and may certainly not have popular appeal.

Plato’s metaphor of the Ship of State needs to inform deliberations. While the partially deaf and myopic captain (the people) is quarrelling with his crew (competing politicians) over how to navigate and who should be at the helm, none of them has any genuine skill in navigation. One faction of the crew is able to take control of the ship by killing their rivals and drugging the captain. They then turn the ship into a pleasure cruise and admire the seamanship of whomever is able to control the captain.

Democratic politics has not changed. But the true navigator, with his expert knowledge of the seasons, winds and stars, is completely ignored and considered useless by the crew, who do not understand the means or purposes of the art of navigation. Those who argue for an elected Upper Chamber are deluded that out of the chaos, sophistry and corruption of the democratic process, the mob will eschew their short-term carnal pleasures, see through the political rhetoric and recognise the navigator’s skills for the good of the state.

This was not so in ancient Greece, and nor is it is so now. The philosopher, then as now, is not inclined to beg others to allow him to rule. For, like the navigator, he is concerned with truth and not (like the crew-politicians) with the satisfaction of his immediate personal pleasures or with the acquisition of power. Those who seek to rule are concerned with seducing the people in order to gain and retain power, which leads to conflict and distrust: those who seek to scrutinise, reflect and guide are concerned with the pursuit of wisdom and truth for the long-term good of the state. Thus their lordships should value their independence from petty issues of party politics, and the Prime Minister should not seek proportional parity.

The case had not been made for an elected Upper House, which would become a highly-politicised chamber crammed with even more ‘professional’ politicians. Not only would a house elected by PR assert a greater democratic legitimacy than one elected by FPTP, but experience shows (in Scotland, Wales and London) that demands for incremental gains in competences would surely follow. And yet the immediate and pressing matter for the Prime Minister is to get his legislation through both chambers.

Perhaps he should first focus on the purpose of the House of Lords. Everything else will then fall into place.

  • Anton

    Which Ship of State do we resemble at present – Costa Concordia?

    • Sam

      Dude

      “Which Ship of State do we resemble at present”

      A worm ridden galleon?

      • Stig

        The Good Ship Venus?

        • Anton

          Same nautical metaphor used devastatingly here against Gordon Brown:

          • David

            Thanks for that.
            Hannan gives a brilliant performance.

          • IanCad

            Anton, Thanks for the link.
            I have been very critical of Daniel Hannan in the past, as I do believe that he has been conned into becoming a mouthpiece for the American Medical Association. (AMA)
            This is stirring stuff. Sure, it is six years old, but, this man is OK.
            What poverty of mind is displayed in the CP today. That we are led by such a mediocrity is a reflection upon the abject baseness of the British electorate. And, more particularly, the crassness of the Blue Party.

      • sarky

        The mary celeste?

        • Sam

          Not when it comes to politicians allowances and expenses!!

    • IanCad

      The Raft of the Medusa?

  • John Thomas

    ” … no longer largely composed of non-partisan experts, cuddly crossbenchers and independently-minded hereditary peers who patriotically place loyalty to their country above ephemeral tribal politics” – maybe this fact explains the mess we’re in …

  • David

    The Upper House is a mess, and becoming messier with each “reform”.
    Before Blair we had an eclectic mixture of hereditary peers, religious leaders and experts, most of whom saw their duty (remember that word?) to the whole of their country and not to narrow pressure groups or party interests.
    The H of Lords was one of the few places where short termism did not dominate.
    Now we just have a pile of media types and washed up politicians seeking sinecures who put narrow, sectional interests above Queen and Country.
    How low we have sunk !
    Back to the future !

    • CliveM

      After recent revelations, the question needs to be asked, was Blair the worst Prime Minister ever? His constitutional reform with regards the status of Wales and Scotland, fail. Handling of the UK economy (in light of financial crisis), fail. International affairs (Iraq, EU), fail (and how! Hundreds of thousands dead in ME and a rampant IS due to his mishandling of Gulf War 2). Education reforms, fail. Reform of MP’s salaries and expenses, fail. Lords reforms, fail. Indeed it is hard to think of a policy area where we aren’t today counting the cost. Infact the one ‘success’ was keeping the Pound and that is thanks to Brown!!

      So here we are, another stinking Blair failure, poisoning the political system of the UK. Symbolically it encompasses all that was wrong with the Blair years. Superficial change, simply to see something done. Corrupt. Rampant cronyism. Contempt for public.

      To misquote something said in another context, if you think more Blair is the answer, get a new head.

      • David

        I agree with your analysis, but you forgot three elements.

        Firstly the deliberate increase in the rates of importing people of very foreign cultures, to create his own group of captive Labour voters.

        Secondly, and going hand in hand with point one, the aggressive pushing of “diversity” and multiculturalism to promote moral and cultural relativism, leading to our increasing social destabilisation.

        Thirdly, pointing those in low paid work, not towards a labour market, which through mild shortages drives up wages through increased efficiencies, but to State provided benefits. Again this was to create a dependent client class of Labour voters, at the expense of both individuals’ dignity and self-esteem, and healthy markets.

        The man was a total disaster.

        • CliveM

          Agreed. Indeed like most of his and Browns ‘reforms’ they were self serving and morally questionable. They said more about their political ambitions and who they perceived their enemies to be, then it said about the needs of the UK economy.

        • Phil R

          Cameron has based his leadership on Blair’s model.

          So in a way he is still in charge. ….

          Polices, style, is there a differences of any significance?

          • David

            Agreed.
            It is almost as if he is simply continuing the Blair years. Appearances and impressions count for more than any substance or depth. It is all about short-term unthinking, “look good” stuff. We live in the Age of Incoherence.

      • Anton

        He also abolished the death penalty for treason, I think. Covering himself?

        • CliveM

          Yes he did and probably.

      • Phil R

        I liked Blair.

        Far better person than Cameron and I think a much nicer one.

        Did I trust Blair? Yes and I think he made the right decision with Bush ref Iraq with the information available to him.

        Do I trust Cameron? Do you?

        • CliveM

          So despite the dodgy dossier, upon which he persuaded parliament to send troops to die, you still trust him!!

          Do I trust Csmeron? Only in the narrow sense that I think he will do better then the alternatives. But no further.

  • bluedog

    Is there nobody who can recognise that reform of the House of Lords is an integral part of the federal constitution that will surely follow the inevitable creation of an English Parliament? Why O why is it so hard to join up the dots and understand this simple point?

    His Grace rightly observes, ‘The proposal to elect members to the House of Lords – whether 80 or 100 per cent – is a certain recipe for future strife.’ Yes but, no.

    Yes if it is done so that the Lords represent the same constituency as the members of the House of Commons. Then a civil war is guaranteed. No, if the elected Lords represent a different constituency to that of the Commons. Wind the clock back to the origins of the HoL in the Middle Ages and observe that all the Dukes and Earls bear the names of English, Irish and Scottish regions or counties. The order is deliberate because the Scottish peers were the last to join. A future elected HoL needs to be refocussed on the same basis, getting away from the current deeply corrupt system. In short, the House of Lords needs to become an elected senate, with Lords for England, NI, Scotland and Wales, or such regions as George Osborne at his absolute discretion may determine. House of Commons constituencies remain the same and the function of the Lords should be to represent regions, not constituents.

    Of course, cleansing this Augean Stable will be a mighty task as the inter-locking vested interests are well-entrenched. But as His Grace remarks, when Tony Blair ended the hereditary membership of the Lords he changed the upper house irrevocably. Sadly it’s taken twenty years to grasp that point alone. For the final destination, the Federalist Papers are essential reading. Let’s hope it won’t take another twenty years to reach the correct answer to the puzzle.

    • Hugh Jeego

      Why not have a HoL replacement elected by PR, with the HoC still elected by FPTP? Or the other way around. That we you retain the constituency representation and add in proportional representation for parties.

      • bluedog

        Afraid not, Hugh. Merely allowing a different means of election does not alter the underlying fact that the two houses represent the same constituency. That leads to civil war.

  • IanCad

    Reform usually, but not always, means returning to what worked before. Let’s not beat about the bush.
    Keep only the hereditary peers. Ninety two – that’s a nice even number — just eight shy of the US Upper House. With our smaller population it would seem more than sufficient.
    Now, were that happy solution to be applied, the financial savings would be substantial.
    Daily allowance, travel, cheap nosh, expenses. Shall we say $100,000 per head – or should that be seat? Multiply that by seven hundred and we have seventy millions of good hard coin.
    Add also the savings from fewer staff and it would be closer to a hundred million.
    Come On Dave!! Be Brave!
    Thought not.

  • carl jacobs

    I must admit I don’t “get” the HoL. The idea that it isn’t highly politicized because it isn’t elected is not credible. Aren’t Life Peers appointed by the Prime Minister? If it wasn’t politicized already, it wouldn’t be the subject of reform by political parties seeking political advantage. What virtue attaches to a man simply by accident of his birth that makes him qualified to sit in government? What singular advantage to representative Gov’t comes from a Prime Minister appointing a man to the HoL – as opposed to that man being elected by those he would represent?

    Unaccountable power will not be wielded with wisdom. The ultimate reform would be to make the chamber accountable. That is how it has always looked to those of us on this side of the ocean.

    • Sam

      Dude

      The theory is that these hereditary peers , being the feudal aristocracy and therefore landowners and part of the local government (along with barnoets and squires) , could be a ontrast to the elected house of commons, to prevent radical revolution or populism (like the French revolution). . That and because they were wealthy they couldn’t be corrupted.

      Till the 60’s the Lord’s were hereditary (the temporal) and bishops of the c of e (spiritual)made up the rest (plus the royal family). These lords temporal were the old feudal land owners and given titles and of course land for various reasons (e.g. Charles II had multiple lovers, whose children got made into lords or the duke of Wellington, because of his military victories).

      The life peers get the title of baron or baroness for the rest of their life, but it isn’t past on to the eldest son. The prime minister appoints these (in theory the crown), but I’m sure the opposition can nominate a few, plus they are appointed for other reasons ( Rabbi Jonathan Sacks being a positive example).

      Tony Blair (boo, hiss) got rid of allowing the hereditary peers from sitting in the Lord’s, but allow a selection to say. The hereditary peers elect about a hundred of themselves to sit and vote.

    • CliveM

      Carl

      There was and is no good justification for the hereditary principle of the old House of Lords. However it worked. That’s the funny thing about the UK constitution (at least until Nlair wrecked it) it was able to evolve and accommodate itself to the changing needs of society. It wasn’t always rational and it was certainly never modern, but it worked.

      However for some people that is never enough.

  • Linus

    We have an elected upper house in France, the Sénat. It’s basically a retirement home for ancient politicians, political cronies and other placemen. Theoretically it makes legislation better by reviewing and amending it, although unlike the way things work in the British system, bills can originate in the Sénat. In practice however the Assemblée Nationale takes the lead and all important legislation originates there and is merely ratified by the second chamber.

    Meanwhile it cost us millions. Salaries, accommodation costs, expenses, gold-plated pensions for life, all sorts of other privileges and passe-droits. For the job it does, it’s just not worth it.

    Sénateurs are elected by an electoral college composed of all the elected representatives in a given département. So basically you have representatives electing other representatives, which is an open door to cronyism, back-scratching and downright corruption. This is how the government likes it because it lets them operate a system based on patronage and reward without compromising the democratic credentials of the Assemblée Nationale.

    What’s the bet your government is looking at ways of duplicating our senatorial election system. Getting rid of the accusation of stacking political outcomes by creating lords to speed legislation through the upper chamber, but still having some way to reward political loyalty and provide “jobs for the boys” would be the best of all worlds for your prime minister.

    Unnecessary upper chambers like the Sénat and the Lords can only be made relevant and democratic by instituting direct elections. But this is an expensive proposition. Elections cost a lot of money. For the added value they give, it just wouldn’t be worth it. Here in France we have the Conseil Constitutionnel watching over the conformity of legislation with the Constitution, so the Sénat is a luxury we can dispense with. Perhaps you should consider something similar rather than continuing to shell out millions on a chamber full of placemen and appointees.

    • DanJ0

      Bills can originate in the House of Lords.

      • Linus

        Can they? Well there you go, I wasn’t aware of that. Does it happen often?

    • CliveM

      I think we are pretty much there already. Some of the details differ, but the essentials are all there.

  • I’m
    sure the HoL will be greatly reduced if all the ex jail birds, those
    with a whiff of any sexual offences around them and those who are too
    frail and elderly to properly contribute are asked to resign.
    Testing for illegal drug use should be mandatory in both houses as
    that would also reduce numbers and clean them up a bit.

    • Anton

      Far easier – and more sensible – to legalise and tax drugs.

      • No, we don’t want a nation of good for nothing brain addled addicts Things are bad enough now as they are.

        • IanCad

          Marie,
          Legalize or not. we still have our educational system to contend with. Drugs are small beer.

          • Anton

            No. Beer is a small drug.

        • Anton

          In 2001 Portugal removed all penalties for possession of ‘hard’ drugs and, contrary to claims that addiction and crime would rocket, its statistics did not soar. In 19th century England most drugs were legal and there were no mass crazes for opium or cocaine, just a few addicts – little different from today when these drugs are illegal.

          At present we are expending large sums trying to enforce drug bans that are not working (it is not hard to get hold of drugs) while criminal empires extend their tentacles from drugs to organised crime, the police divert resources from other areas, and the courts and prisons get clogged up with drug offenders, while addicts delay seeking help because they fear getting a criminal record.

          Currently the drug trade is a huge industry that
          does not pay tax. Some say it would be immoral for the State to profit by taxing something that causes human degradation. But the government already taxes tobacco, and it is actually more moral to tax non-essentials. Tax must not be so high that the black market is much cheaper, for smuggling would then flourish (as with cigarettes and, at one time, tea – an issue which triggered the American War of Independence!) As for taxing designer drugs, distilled spirits are the designer drugs of yesteryear – they are strong and they require specialist knowledge and apparatus to make – and those are taxed.

          • bluedog

            You misunderstand the technicalities of drug manufacture and supply. Most of the drugs you mention – cannabis, opium, cocaine are imports, as they do not easily grow in the UK. Thus in the 19th century there was very little local production. Hydroponic nurseries working under electric heating have changed all that with regard to cannabis.

            However the emergence of easily manufactured chemical drugs like Ice are the real revolution, and causing extraordinary levels of addiction and social damage. Only the ill-informed and naïve could accept the almost genocidal consequences of unfettered access to these concoctions.

          • Anton

            Nobody has to take drugs, and in 2001 Portugal removed all penalties for possession of ‘hard’ drugs and, contrary to claims that addiction and crime would rocket, its statistics did not soar.

          • Well when we relaxed the grading of cannabis from class B to class C and usage rocketed. Hence it was re-classified back to class B. All drugs are degrading and dangerous to humans. We would still have a lot of talented and clever people alive and contributing had it not been for damn drugs.

          • Anton

            OK, go ahead, ban alcohol – by far the most destructive drug in our society – and see where it gets you. It would instantly be outlawed if it were invented today.

          • bluedog

            Alcohol is not instantly and dangerously addictive. As a society we have a long established acceptance and means of control of alcohol, including virtual prohibition of use when driving a motor vehicle. The use of other drugs by motorists is difficult and expensive to detect and the consequences totally lethal. Society will simply not accept the risk, whatever your own predelictions.

          • Anton

            Which society? Portugal has. The Chief Constable of Durham is one of an increasing number of police chiefs who take my view, having spent a career seeing criminal empires extend their tentacles from drugs to organised crime, his Force divert resources from other areas, and the courts and prisons get clogged up with drug offenders while addicts delay seeking help because they fear getting a criminal record.

            Policing should not be about Health and Safety.

          • bluedog

            Which society? The British electorate. Since when has Portugal been a valid exemplar. If certain of the police are loosing their grip, sack them, to encourage the others.

          • Anton

            We are in the same position with drugs today as America was during the prohibition era and it was a farce – one in which empires of genuinely heinous crime grew. Knee-jerk reaction to ban everything in sight isn’t either workable or desirable. The police are not meant to be a branch of Health and Safety and people should take responsibility for their lives and what they put into their bodies.

          • bluedog

            ‘We are in the same position with drugs today as America was during the prohibition era’. No. False analogy. There has never been societal acceptance of drug taking on the scale you envisage. Is the US today capitulating to the drug barons and becoming a narco-state? Of course not. But that is the inevitable consequence of the capitulation that you seek. Appeasing the drug barons by giving them the licence to destroy civil society for their own profit is not a responsible option. What line of business are you in?

            No doubt we will one day hear from some idiot CofE prelate that as Christ turned water into wine, in the modern idiom, Christ would have approved of drug use.

          • Anton

            “There has never been societal acceptance of drug taking on the scale you envisage.”

            What scale am I envisaging? I said that addiction did not rise significantly in Portugal when drugs were decriminalised. You are disagreeing not just with me but with a growing number of senior police officers who see empires growing from drugs to forms of crime that involve horrendous coercion (nobody has to take drugs) and who have other crimes to police. What do you advocate? Tighter drug control isn’t going to work.

          • bluedog

            If drugs are a social problem today, you are implicitly saying let that continue and grow. Ultimately those addicts on welfare will overwhelm the system. In the golden era of the 19th Century to which you allude, there was no welfare state. It follows that 19th Century addicts died conveniently quickly at no cost to the tax-payer. That is not true today. Addicts are a massive burden on society, and it follows that society has a vested interest in ending the source of addiction. The dynamics of the problem have changed but not, it appears, your comprehension of same.

            The return on capital of drug manufacture and sale is immense, so of course the drug business provides finance for investment in other sources of crime. Crime by definition always offers rates of return far higher than legitimate business. The police (and you) seem unable to realise that if the means of finance is removed, the subsequent crime will similarly decline.

          • Anton

            “In the… 19th Century… there was no welfare state. It follows that 19th Century addicts died conveniently quickly at no cost to the tax-payer.”

            Actually they didn’t. They lived less long but they mostly held down jobs and used drugs in the evening. Read Chris Snowdon’s fine book The Art of Suppression and have your assumptions challenged. It’s amazing what you can do if there isn’t a Welfare State.

            “The return on capital of drug manufacture and sale is immense”

            So tax it! Just like we do whisky, nicotine and caffeine.

          • bluedog

            But there is a welfare state. And ‘less long’ is a ridiculous euphemism for early death from addiction.

            I see no point in continuing this exchange, your position is beyond redemption. Good night.

          • Anton

            Don’t take it from me, take it from senior police officers who say the same. Good night and time will tell.

          • sarky

            Decriminalisation is an admission by law enforcement that they don’t have the resources to deal with the problem (which they don’t) I’m sorry but it’s a cop out. Even if you legalise drugs there will still be a black market for cheaper, stronger drugs. The only way to stop it is to take out the organised crime behind it, but all we have is the incompetent, shambolic NCA.
            We may not be able to stop drugs, but we can disrupt them, just need the resources, which our responsible government is cutting daily.

          • Anton

            Decriminalisation might be a consequence of the failure to deal with it but it also causes people at the sharp end to think more deeply about the present mania to stop people taking what they want in private, rather than encourage personal responsibility. In the USA in the 1920s prohibition was a high police priority and it didn’t work, did it? The fact is that the State is not omnipotent and THANK GOD.

          • CliveM

            Anton

            I’m open to persuasion on this. However I have a friend who advises ministers on health issues for the Scottish parliament. We were discussing different countries approaches and he said one of the problems is that Scotland/UK has a culture of excess. To many people don’t go out for a drink, they go out to get ratted. Think how different our drinking culture is to many parts of Europe, including Portugal. This tendency is bad enough with alcohol. If drugs became legalised and easily available, there is a concern about how people would treat this new liberty. Yes a lot of police want it decrminalised, but they won’t have to clear up the mess.

          • Anton

            The alcoholism stats are not worse in England than in the Med but some here tend to do it in binges. That wouldn’t happen with cannabis as it doesn’t make people aggressive, while only a minority would choose to fill themselves with stronger stuff if it is legalised.

          • You’re wrong there, the cities were awash with opium dens in the 19th century. People couldn’t work through addiction and yes there was no NHS or welfare and they did die early. Why do you think the drugs were banned in the end? Mass addiction was engulfing cities like a fog rolling in from the sea. I have to ask are you in the early stages of a drug addiction yourself?

          • Anton

            I’m sorry you chose to take this personal. I take no illegal drugs, don’t smoke and am roughly on the government’s recommended rate of intake of alcohol. A friend in the 1990s had been hooked on cannabis.

            Let’s have some evidence for your claim that the cities were “awash” with opium dens. As a proportion of the population of the time.

          • My maternal family who came from the North East (grandma and mother) told me and 19th century literature tells us of opium dens. Most of the poets, novelists and artists then were themselves reliant on some form or other of dangerous drug and their works reflect this.

            One could purchase inexpensively opium and various opium tinctures from the pharmacies. It was used in syrups to calm children too. Karl Marx, in Das Capital, commented on this when he wrote of “disguised infanticide and stupefaction of children with opiates,” and he
            went on to claim that

            “In the agricultural as well as the factory districts of England the consumption of opium among adult workers, both male and female, is extending daily.”

            Laudanum an opium derivative was also widely available
            over the chemists counter as were the other dangerous drugs Cocaine, which of course was an ingredient in Coca Cola and arsenic in various guises. All considered to be medicinal because they didn’t know the dangers of addiction and the other nasty side effects leading to death.

            Until 1868, the sale of drugs was practically unrestricted, and they could be bought like any other commodity. ( Mitchell, Sally, ed. Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia. Abingdon, New York: Routledge, 2012.)

            So Anton we’ve been on this journey, learned the lesson the hard way and don’t want to go back there

            I was just curious as to your lifestyle and age that’s all Anton.

          • Anton

            I don’t express curiosity about your personal habits when I disagree with you.

            What you have said is that drugs were legally available and were up to the individual to decide about; that artists used drugs (hardly representative – have you read the lives of the composers or Vasari’s lives of the [Renaissance] artists?); and that Western Civ’s greatest self-critic Karl Marx, a man who called religion the opiate of the people, said that drugs were a problem. (He would, wouldn’t he?) Also that your grandparents said there were opium dens? How many? There were and doubtless still are brothels too, but what matters is NUMBERS. We knew we had an alcohol problem in mid-18th century England when gin consumption quadrupled in a few years to alarming per capita quantities. Please read Chris Snowdon’s book The Art of Suppression for some better and perhaps reassuring data. Why don’t people want to believe good news?

          • There is no data available on the actual numbers of opium dens in the 19th century only vast historical accounts and information passed down through families,so that book you recommend is misleading and a load of old tosh. I suspect the author wishes to lull naive people like yourself into a false sense of security where the dangers of drugs are concerned. I see he’s written a few books trying to debunk the hazards of alcohol consumption and smoking too.

            If you read Victorian literature it contains numerous references to drug use, that’s how prevalent it was.

            Mrs Beaton’s book “Household Management” (1861) warned against the abuse of drugs.

            By the mid Victorian period it was noticed by doctors and pharmacists and they called for stringent controls of the sale of drugs and poisons. Constant drug use was no longer regarded as a moral weakness but was seen for what it was, an addiction. Other remedies replaced opiates and cocaine for ailments.

            So you’re telling us that because you’ve read some freelance journalist’s humanitarian, libertarian twaddle that the laws on drugs should be relaxed.

          • Ivan M

            Marie, drugs are generally a substitute for sex, to while away the time and to make the hours bearable. There is not going to be a mass reversion to drug use, as there are other ways to kill time these days. It is furthermore highly unfashionable. Eric Clapton no longer chants “Cocaine!”. He and what remains of that generation of junkies have gone straight.

            The hardcore addicts may well be too far gone, for anyone but Jesus to help. Why make their lives more miserable? There are lessons from the American Prohibition that can be applied here. All the criminal gangs and their exorbitant profits will disappear overnight upon legalisation. Further we can hope that advances in medical science will help detoxify those who cannot themselves, inhibiting the pleasure receptors in the brain and so on. I am more or less on the same page as Anton.

          • Anton

            No. I’m saying that there is nothing in the Law of Moses categorising some drugs as legal and some as illegal at a time when psychoactive drugs were known from herbalism and wine was regarded as a good thing. God evidently values freedom and personal responsibility more than some people today do.

            Perhaps you might take the trouble to read Snowdon’s book before dismissing it?

          • Anton and Ivan

            I’ve read his article on alcohol and cigarettes in The Independent and Sp!ked, that was enough

            You are both silly and naïve. You need to read up on your
            Victorian history of drug use and abuse and study human nature.

            There will always be gangs peddling illegal substances and goods, they will not all disappear overnight, some will move on to peddle other illegal or new dangerous substances that will be worse.

            Look at alcohol, it’s legal, but there are more gangs than ever distilling and brewing up stuff to fill bottles to pass off as genuine alcohol products in small convenience stores. Be careful when you buy wine and spirits from your local corner shop.
            There’s even a booming black market in empty high end alcohol bottles some whisky ones going for as much as £200 plus so that the counterfeiters can fill it up with some poison they’ve distilled up in their backstreet den then pass it off as a £700 bottle of rare Scotch whisky.

            Anyone on here enjoying good whisky make sure you destroy the labels and tops on the empty bottles before putting in the recycling bin. In fact break the bottle. There are people going through the glass recycling boxes in upmarket areas.

          • Anton

            The government should be less greedy and tax decent malt whisky less; then nobody would bother drinking either the illegal stuff or the legal blended whiskies that have had a load of cheap grain alcohol dumped in them. (You can tell the quality differential from the PRE-tax prices…)

            “You need to read up on your Victorian history of drug use and abuse”

            This, from somebody who slammed Snowdon’s book which is largely on that subject without reading it!

            “You are both silly and naïve.”

            People typically resort to insults when they run out of arguments. I suggest you say the same to the senior police officers who have reached the same conclusion as me and Ivan.

          • I’ve not run out, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of arguments against your views.

            OK I will read it.

          • Anton

            Thank you!

          • Sorry Anton but I think you’ve been taken in by this spiv type.
            I’ve watched the debate between Christopher Snowden and Peter Hitchens now as well.

            “The War We Never Fought” meaning the war on drugs.

            It’s in 10 parts.

            Chris Snowden really talks a load of liberal bollocks and his statistics are skewed and twisted as are his views. He’s bonkers and probably on something himself!

            Part 1 starts here:

            I’ve cancelled the book order it’s a waste of money.

            I’ve also listened to a Ch 4 interview with him and an eminent scientist Prof Mike Lean Chair of Human Nutrition debunking
            Snowden’s arguments that we are eating less calories now than we did in 1974 and that it’s our lack of exercise that is driving obesity not the food manufacturers fault for giving us all that junk food full of fat, sugar and empty calories.

            Here: “The Fat Lie”: IEA Chris Snowden Exposed On National News.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gluDOSaKDB8

          • Anton

            If you are going to criticise a man for his views on a subject then there is some merit in reading what he has written about it – but feel free to disagree with that. And to disagree with increasing numbers of senior policemen. As for God, He speaks approvingly in the Old Testament of wine but disapprovingly of drunkenness, and He does not legislate alcohol (or any other drug – plenty were known via herbalism) in the Law of Moses. Evidently He regards it as a matter of personal responsibility rather than a matter for legislation. Would it not be wise to prefer His precedent?

            If you don’t, you end up with laws like this (from a 2009 revision of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act): Any compound structurally derived from 3-(1-naphthoyl)indole or 1H-indol-3-yl-(1-naphthyl)methane by substitution at

            the nitrogen atom of the indole ring by alkyl, alkenyl, cycloalkylmethyl, cycloalkylethyl or 2-(4-morpholinyl)ethyl, whether or not further substituted
            in the indole ring to any extent and whether or not substituted in the naphthyl ring to any extent.
            Is it not obvious that this is absurd legislative overreach? The government has belatedly recognised the folly of banning drugs as soon as it hears of them (one question: Why?), but it is becoming more totalitarian not less, for a draft of the Psychoactive Substances Bill 2015 intends to criminalise “any substance intended for consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect” with the exception of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine”. You might think those exceptions concede the point, but the principle – “thou shalt not get out of thy head except on alcohol” is deeply totalitarian and not the government’s legitimate business. Heil Cameron!

          • No Anton it would not be wise to prefer His precedent where psychoactive substances are concerned.

            No it’s not absurd legislative overreach, and all the families of those who have died of drug use or abuse as well as all those people who have been on the receiving end of someone who has become mentally impaired and or dangerous to themselves or to others ( such as those who go off on shooting sprees) through drug use or abuse will not think so either. There is more than a casual link between mental illness and drug use. I suggest you read Peter Hitchen’s blog articles and books on this topic.

            Government has a duty to protect it’s citizens and that means from themselves sometimes. Don’t misunderstand me I’m not in favour of too much government regulation over us and intrusion into our private lives,but in this area they need tough laws that will be properly enforced. None of this turning a blind eye to Cannabis personal use or to celebrities who have class A on them.

          • Anton

            Do you support the forthcoming legislation that makes it illegal to consume any psychoactive substance whatsoever apart from alcohol, caffeine and nicotine? Why then the exception for those? Do you know what the statistics (and costs) for premature deaths due to alcohol and tobacco are? Come on Marie, let’s ban the lot. Prohibition worked so well in 1920s America, and it was enacted by people who would not have let Jesus Christ into their churches in view of Matt 11:19.

            There was a terrible alcohol problem in the growing towns of the industrial revolution and that was a time and place where Christians rightly set an example by abstaining. But the eternal message is different. Down your path lies a police State that criminalises a large proportion of its members for enjoying a mild high, that costs increasing amounts in policing and prison resources, and after all that doesn’t actually prevent stuff from reaching our streets. I suppose you could save money by enacting capital punishment for drunks and smokers – and chewers. One chapter of Snowdon speaks of the outlawing of chewing tobacco in EU countries, which is rather odd when it can be smoked.

          • Yes Anton most definitely I support the forthcoming Psychoactive
            Substances Bill 2015. And the government have to ensure that the
            police properly uphold it too.

            There will always be people willing to try drugs and people willing to supply them, but if they are hard to get hold of and there is the
            definite threat of prison hanging in the air as well as drug taking
            being made a taboo subject rather than a fashionable trend, it will
            greatly decrease. I realise that some people have to have some sort of vice or prop in their lives, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine are
            harmful enough without the mind altering substances.
            We do not want a nation of mad people!

            That you could trust people, the youth especially to abstain from trying psychoactive substances that would be readily available for sale in the high street under your rules is a joke.

            Like I said sometimes the government and police need to be tough, other times not.

            You cannot begin to compare the period of prohibition in America from 1919 to 1933 to the 21st century drug problems. Two
            entirely different scenarios, substances and levels of knowledge.

            Smokeless or oral tobacco was banned in the EU and UK to stop the aggressive promotions of it which were targeting students and to prevent more and new health issues occurring.

            No, I don’t want capital punishment for smokers and drunks.

          • Anton

            Keep going down that road and you’ll be calling for it in a few years… that or changing to the same viewpoint as the many senior policemen who have realised the futility of the present way. I know that you don’t consider yourself deeply totalitarian, but neither did a lot of dictators. You wrote: “I realise that some people have to have some sort of vice or prop in their lives, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine are harmful enough…” Do you consider that Jesus was wrong to drink with his disciples (Matt 11:19)?

          • Really? I think not.
            The police, prison and border control services are not getting the support they need from the government because of cuts and a growing population with ever more migrants, no wonder the viewpoint of some senior police is that of futility, they are overwhelmed. But they must not loose hope or give up.

            Jesus would not have drunk enough to have effected him and red wine in moderate consumption is actually good for the health.

          • Anton

            I agree about Jesus, anyway. I am just grateful that you don’t make political decisions. Totalitarianism spills across issues.

          • I don’t support a totalitarian state government. I do support humans not messing up their own brains by taking drugs. It’s bad enough when a person has a genetic brain disorder or has developed a disease of the brain through other environmental hazards such as herbicides,pesticides, pollution with toxic chemicals and heavy metals without
            them taking psychoactive substances to do the same.

          • Anton

            You might not support a totalitarian government but you’ll get one if it is run by people who enact laws like that.

          • No I would not ban alcohol or tobacco you misunderstand and are lumping them all in together.

          • Anton

            Yes I am, because the main difference is merely cultural accustomation.

          • I’m going to have to totally disagree with you there Anton.

          • Anton

            I respect your freedom to disagree. But you are disagreeing not only with me but with a growing number of senior police officers who see empires growing from drugs to forms of crime that involve horrendous coercion (nobody has to take drugs) and who have other crimes to police. What do you advocate? Tighter drug control isn’t going to work.

          • bluedog

            ‘(nobody has to take drugs) ‘. Disingenuous. Once you are addicted you are forced to take the drug of your addiction.

          • Anton

            And everybody knows that when they CHOOSE to start. You have also not answered my question: What do you advocate from where we are today? More taxpayers’ money for anti-drug schemes that don’t work and for more police time to be diverted from real crimes?

          • bluedog

            The death penalty for drug manufacturers and suppliers would have an inhibiting effect. That’s want you want to hear so you can deflect the argument along another path, isn’t it?

          • Anton

            By hanging, drawing and quartering in public?

          • Tighter drug controls will improve the situation greatly along withi fostering a say NO campaign culture as well. Those people who peddle death don’t give a toss about people’s lives, they would and do quite easily migrate to other criminal activities too if they see a quick and easy buck to be made.

          • Anton

            Where is the evidence for your claim that tighter controls will improve the situation greatly? It never has.

          • bluedog

            Anton, the largest global manufacturer and supplier of Ice seems to be China. Is there anything in the history of relations between China and the West, UK in particular, that could give China a motive to export Ice to the UK? You know the answer.

          • Anton

            Yes I do, and a national shame the opium trade was.

          • I disagree with you on this Anton, drugs are different and more destructive than tobacco and alcohol which are bad enough, but I don’t think this is the right thread to discuss this topic now.

          • Anton

            I agree! Someone else raised the subject of drugs.

  • Martin

    They’ve been fiddling about with the HoL for years. Like everything else politicians design it has become a disaster.

    I suggest two options, either we revert to the hereditary principle or we create an elected house, possibly either at a different time to the Commons or else by means of a different voting system, more in line with the views of real people. If the latter it should be able to reject any legislation sent by the Commons.

    It won’t happen tho’, the Commons would’t want their ‘authority’ undermined.

    • Dreadnaught

      They’ve been fiddling about with the HoL for years.

      More like they’ve been fiddling IN the HoL for years.

  • len

    Why do we even need a house of un elected men getting sums of money from the public purse for doing virtually nothing( I do not include sniffing coke and entertaining prostitutes as a job description)

  • I see Cameron has installed Lady Brabra into the House of Lords. I
    wonder will she be in charge of the whips?