East London Humanist chair Paul Kaufman wants an inclusive House of Lords


- Credit: Paul Kaufman

In case you missed it, two of the latest adornments to the House of Lords have now been revealed.

Perhaps David Cameron hoped that there wouldn’t be too much fuss if their appointments were announced in August, the aptly named ‘silly season.’

The former, officially now Lady Mone, is the underwear tycoon elevated on the strength of the successful business she founded. The latter is of course Douglas Hogg, the disgraced former MP whose main claim to fame is snuffling over £2,000 in parliamentary expenses to clean the moat of his Lincolnshire manor house.

These appointments, together with 43 others, now bring the total number of peers up to 831. This makes it the largest legislative chamber in the entire world apart from the Chinese National People’s Congress.

Of course there is a powerful argument for having a second chamber to scrutinise the work of the Commons. The question is who should be awarded this responsibility and whether they should be democratically accountable to the electorate.

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It is also worth recalling that it was only a few weeks ago that former Labour MP Lord Sewel, who was in charge of standards in the Lords, reluctantly resigned after being exposed for allegedly consorting with prostitutes and snorting cocaine.

So why is any of this of particular concern to Humanists? Our longstanding gripe is that for centuries religious leaders, who are also unelected and accountable to no-one, have had an automatic right to sit in the Lords and vote on our laws. All of the recent scandals merely serve to underline the embarrassment of a mature democracy being ruled by such a motley bunch who for the most part owe their position to historic accident or patronage.

Distinguished supporters of the British Humanist Association include some of the most eminent philosophers of our time. Why shouldn’t they too be given a chance to contribute to our law-making? More from Paul

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