Lord McConnell: House of Lords membership is international embarrassment for UK
The former first minister of Scotland has described the membership numbers of the House of Lords as an “international embarrassment for the United Kingdom”.
Despite being made a life peer in 2010, Lord McConnell also said he finds it “regularly embarrassing to be a member of a house that has now over 800 members”.
His comments were made in a question and answer session after the Donald Dewar memorial lecture at Glasgow University, 20 years on from the death of Scotland’s first first minister.
Lord McConnell, who was first minister between 2001 and 2007, was also asked if creating an upper house in Scotland would be a good idea, and what Mr Dewar’s position on that would have been.
We could find other models that are more of a bottom up approach than an upper house of the great and the good from the past
He said: “Although (Donald) was pretty much a lifelong politician, he’s a bit like me on this – I think he probably thought there were far too many politicians in the country and we shouldn’t go too far.
“I certainly find it regularly embarrassing to be a member of a house that has now over 800 members, which I think is an international embarrassment for the United Kingdom.
“I’m not in favour of an upper house type second chamber but I do think that some kind of scrutiny of the work of the Parliament and ministers by some other kind of forum is worth exploring.
“But I think in Scotland we can maybe do it slightly differently, so for example we could have a forum in Scotland that wasn’t the convention of Scottish local authorities but had a representative of each of our local authorities, as well as representatives of different parts of civic Scotland who could express opinions… and had a statutory role to do so.
“And where amendments were proposed by them the parliament had to vote on them in the way that the House of Commons has to vote on amendments proposed by the House of Lords.
“We could find other models that are more of a bottom up approach than an upper house of the great and the good from the past – much as some of us may quite enjoy it.”