THE line between improper lobbying and appropriate representation in Westminster is a fine one. Just when the “cash for honours” issue seems to have died a death, the Sunday Times has found evidence of an allegedly improper practice among some members of the House of Lords in offering to bring about changes in the detail of legislation for a fee. An undercover approach to ten members of the House of Lords found four who were apparently willing to act in that way. All four were Labour and two were former ministers; they say they have done nothing wrong. One offered the thought that the rules were clear enough but were there “to be bent”. Whatever the outcome of this particular affair, it serves as a reminder that the reform of the House of Lords seems to have disappeared from the agenda of both leading parties. Tony Blair brought about a welcome change by forcing the departure of all but about 100 hereditary peers but no progress at all has been made on the form that a reformed House should take, what responsibilities it should carry or how it should be elected. A second chamber is an essential feature of any democratic system and it is most unsatifactory that Britain's is in a kind of limbo, not wholly hereditary, wholly appointed or wholly elected. It does not say much for either Labour or the Conservatives that they cannot reach an agreement on this important and long-delayed matter.


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