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Andrew Turvey
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A modest proposal to slim down the House of Lords

Twenty two new life peers were appointed today, increasing the size of the House of Lords to 796 members. This is second only to the Chinese NPC which meets only once a year and even beats the European Parliament's 751 members. There is cross-party consensus that the house is too big, but the nature of appointments means that it just keeps growing. As the graph below shows, there tends to be a bumper appointment just after an election (red bars), so there is a good chance it will become even bigger next year:

Reform of the House of Lords has been a perennial challenge. Big bang proposals like Nick Clegg's attempt in 2012 (see [1]) have always ended in failure. However, this masks the success of more modest proposals, in particular the Dan Byles/David Steel bill that made it onto the statute book as the House of Lords Reform Act 2014, which allowed peers to resign and removed peers convicted of an offence.

Betty Boothroyd, the former Commons speaker who is now a Lord herself, called this week for changes to reduce the number of peers. Specifically she suggested bringing in a retirement age and replacing life peers with peers for a term. [2] The second is consistent with the 2012 proposals, which had 15 year terms for appointed members [3]

I think these are modest and achievable proposals that would improve the House and everyone who supports reform should be able to get behind. If we have a campaign, backed by all the key pro-reform organisations, I think we could get this change onto the statute books in a couple of years and reverse the trend to an ever expanding house. What do you think?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Lords_Reform_Bill_2012
[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28639453
[3] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtdraftref/284/28405.htm#a24

How to sack the Rotherham Police Commissioner

The Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, the area that includes Rotherham, Shaun Wright, has come under a lot of fire recently for his role in the Rotherham sexual abuse grooming case.

Many people have called for him to resign, including:
- Prime Minister David Cameron
- His party leader, Ed Miliband
- Home Secretary Theresa May

That's fine, but should he have the choice to resign or not or should he just be sacked?

For some reason when parliament brought in the PCCs they didn't include any mechanism at all to remove a PCC in cases like these. There are all sorts of criteria about employment, citizenship, criminal convictions and election fraud but there seems to be no way to remove someone for gross incompetence.

(http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/13/part/1/chapter/4/enacted)

It may be possible to seek a criminal conviction for misconduct in a public office or take him to an electoral court for misleading statements in his literature. However, both of these seem to be long shots which would also take time.

Here's another way that I have come across that might be possible: in the interests of "efficiency or effectiveness", the Secretary of State has the power under the Police Act 1996 to make an order that alters a police area:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/16/section/32

Given Shaun Wright is going to have a hard time continuing his job effectively, the Secretary of State has a number of options for this. Immediate ideas include:

- a merger with another local force. This could be a good option as it allows a fresh start for the police. West Yorkshire would be the obvious choice if they could be persuaded to agree.
- a split into two separate areas. South Yorkshire consists of four districts (Rotherham, Sheffield, Doncaster and Barnsley) and districts cannot be divided between districts. South Yorkshire police area could be shrunk to cover only Barnsley and a new area created. More radically, South Yorkshire could be shrunk to zero and a new area created.

Even the threat could be enough to force Shaun Wright to resign. Is it worth thinking about?

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Notwithstanding the Israeli response, I get the impression that legally speaking the UNHRC makes a good case. Let's see if the ICC has the political will to launch a formal investogation. They clearly have no ability to enforce any decision, although this "lawfare" approach could still have an impact.

I don't agree with "all" settlers - if some remained then legal action could fail on the grounds that it wasn't a sufficiently grave violation to merit ICC jurisdiction.  However, in principle, settlement on occupied territory is essentially the counterpart to ethnic cleansing and definitely counts as an international crime. Given the scale and impact of Isreali settlers on the demography of East Jerusalem and the West Bank it seems to pass the test of gravity.

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UK tops mobile access to Wikipedia in the West
See which countries have the highest percentage of mobile traffic to Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Zero program is removing barriers to accessing Wikipedia through partnerships with telecommunications companies that remove data costs.

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From the comments: "A 40K/annum ISA allowance would be great for the 1% of the population who could afford to use it. Unfortunately, the 99% of the population who can't afford to lose it, lose one of their main tax breaks as a result, the tax-free 25% lump sum. Only a wealthy person could have thought up such an idiotic policy"

Couldn't have said it better myself!

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A £30m fine for allowing a £1.4bn fraud seems rather inadequate, no?

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Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland seem to be on a one-way journey to separation, this just being the latest evidence. I wonder if the unionists will have the courage to make the opposite case? Given how close the Wales devolution was, they may find they have fertile ground.

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First he blames the BNP, then his daughter's death. Will he ever take personal responsibility for what he has done?

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What a stupid article. Yes, Mr Chivers, Cameron didn't mean to imply that gay men are paedophiles. He meant to imply that gay men are regularly accused of being paedophiles. And, guess what, Cameron is right.
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