Monday, 23 July 2012

West Briton Column 19 July 2012

Reforming the House of Lords is one of those things that most people agree with but can’t agree how and when.

The principal behind Lords reform is simple and right : those that shape the laws of the land should be chosen by voters. Opponents say that the elected Lords will be more assertive, amending and delaying legislation. This may well be true. But this is partly the point of the reform. Britain's central government is hugely powerful and I support moves to make it more accountable to Parliament. The expertise that many peers bring to their work in the Lords is valuable and probably the most popular aspect of the Lords. Yet expertise is not sufficient qualification for political office.

Last week I voted for a bill to Reform the House of Lords that recognises the value of so called independent peers and proposes to retain a non elected and appointed group of peers, whilst ensuring that the second chamber is more democratically accountable. While the bill progresses through parliament, it will be a difficult journey as all political parties, including the sponsoring LibDems, are divided as to the best way forward. If agreement is found and that is a big if, I think the final proposals, which will have a profound impact on our political system, should be approved by the people with a vote.

While the media obsessed about party politics and Lords reform, much more important issues were considered in Parliament. The much anticipated proposals to significantly improve the quality of care that is provided by professional carers to adults as well as new recognition and support for the thousands of family members who care for their loved ones were announced. This is an area of policy in which I am very involved and will continue to be so as these urgent and vital reforms make their way through Parliament.

Finally, on Friday, I joined my colleague Richard Harrington MP in promoting a bill that seeks to prevent fraudulent subletting of social housing. New powers and penalties will be introduced to deter people from doing this. Estimates would indicate that several hundred homes in Cornwall are not going to the hard working local families that are waiting on long housing lists as a result of fraudulent subletting. The vast majority of people living in social housing would never consider doing such an unfair thing as deprive others that need a home in this way. But even one person doing this is one too many. This bill will create a specific crime with heavy penalties of fines, even imprisonment with the money fraudulently obtained in rent returned to the social housing provider to repair or help toward the cost of building more homes. This one measure won't solve all our housing problems, but when added to all the other measures the government has introduced will help towards providing the genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy that are so desperately needed by local families.

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