Prime Minister David Cameron’s dissolution honours list creating of 45 Life Peers has been subject to intense criticism, reflected across the media.
He has been accused of affronting democracy and bringing the British Parliament into disrepute.
The unelected House of Lords, at one time in the past numbering just 50 Members, now has 831 Members, the second largest Parliamentary body in the world after communist China’s National People’s Congress of 2987. [ However, they have about twenty times the UK’s population, at 1,357 million people to the UK’s 64 million ].
The Lords has far too many Members who have been placed there for what can be politely described as the wrong reasons.
Interestingly the Tory supporting media has been in the forefront in expressing distaste and disapproval, believing the appointments will also damage the Conservative party.
What has been particularly surprising has been the arrogance surrounding David Cameron’s inner circle, refusing to respond to or take the slightest notice of those who expressed outrage, both before and after the appointments were announced.
It is behaviour similar to that of a King who feels he can do whatever he likes, grant patronage almost at will, but in the case of David Cameron, is it because he simply just does not care because he has said this is his last term as Prime Minister?
Why should all this bother the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories, including Bermuda?
Firstly, because her Majesty the Queen plays a constitutional role in all such jurisdictions, to a varying degree.
The reality of that role is that the Crown has for many years meant the UK government, but the de facto taking over of the granting of Membership of the House of Lords by the Prime Minister, means that the status of the Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories [BOTs] have become more diminished and less autonomous.
Although all have their own systems of government and their own Prime Minister equivalents, they all are represented on defence and foreign policy by the British government and whatever happens with the British Parliamentary democracy in some way affects them, even if it is by association only. The British government is ultimately responsible for their good government, and that right has never been challenged.
The problem is that the House of Lords is the UK Parliament’s second chamber, the equivalent to a Senate, and has important responsibilities as part of the British democratic system. The decisions of the British Houses of Parliament do affect the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, in varying degrees. Unlike other countries, such as France, who have overseas territories representation in both their Houses of Parliament, the United Kingdom still has not brought in similar rights for British overseas voices to be heard.
It would not be quite bad not if there was just restriction from elected House of Commons Membership, but to be kept out of the House of Lords as well is particularly insulting, when the make-up of the House of Lords is examined in detail.
Just why should this ad hoc mixture of people have any say at all in affecting those jurisdictions which the UK has some form of responsibility for?
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the affairs of the three Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, and the Minister of State responsible has been Lord Faulks, QC, since January 2014.
Lord Faulks has never been elected and was only ennobled in 2010. Lord Faulks is also a Privy Councillor.
Where is the logic of having a person with no previous Crown Dependency connections being put in such a position of responsibility?
This is no slight to the capabilities and calibre of Lord Faulks, who appears to have had an illustrious legal career, but why cannot that position be held by a suitable Crown Dependency person who could quite easily be made a Life Peer and Privy Councillor?
Is this just a little insulting to the Crown Dependencies, that a key decision maker in their affairs is someone they have absolutely no say in appointing.
Why not create a small number of Life Peers and Privy Councillors who could serve on the Committee for the Affairs of the Channel Island as well? Why not have some a Privy Councillor for the Isle of Man too, who are in a slightly different position to Guernsey and Jersey?
The British Overseas Dependencies, including Bermuda, come under the UK’s Foreign Office Minister, James Duddridge, MP, the Falkland Islands under Colleague Hugo Swire, MP, and Gibraltar and the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas under David Lidington, Minister for Europe.
The constitutional procedures are complicatedly different for the British Overseas Territories, with a population of about 350,000 — with some 62,000 of those in Bermuda — compared with the Crown Dependencies’ approximately 290,000, but just why are they all denied representation on affairs which the UK Parliament and the UK government decides for them?
So, on a matter which could easily give such representation, why no Life Peerages given so that they could have some say in such matters?
No one could deny that there are plenty of suitable candidates, from distinguished former politicians to those who have put in outstanding public or business service.
This omission is glaring, but in view of the quality of the new Life Peers recently announced, and indeed of Life Peers generally, is not the lack of anyone in the Lords to put forward the views of Crown and Overseas Dependencies, an oversight which has now become an affront to them?
Is it not also an affront to deny all but Gibraltar from participating in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU?
All are affected in various ways by the UK’s membership, but currently will have absolutely no say in the outcome.
Maybe, Gibraltar can assist the case for everyone else?
- Anthony D C Webber served as an elected Member of Guernsey’s Parliament for 13 years, and is now a Crown Dependencies’ and British Overseas Territories political analyst and commentator.
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