Tuesday, 8 June 2010

House of Lords Reform

No House of Lords Bill from the Coalition but there is going to be a Committee to think about one according to the Dep PM in the House yesterday:

I should like to turn to reform of the other place, which we all agree must now happen. It should be up to the British people to elect their second Chamber-a second Chamber that must be much more representative of them, their communities and their neighbourhoods. To that end, I should like to announce the following measures. First, I have set up a committee, which I will chair, to take forward this reform, composed of Members from all three major political parties, as well as from both Houses. Secondly, the committee will be explicitly charged with producing a draft Bill by no later than the end of this year-the first time that legislation for an elected second Chamber will ever have been published. Thirdly, the draft Bill will then be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses during which there will of course be ample opportunity for all voices to be heard.
Make no mistake: we are not starting this process from scratch. There is already significant shared ground between the parties that will be taken as our starting point. I am not going to hide my impatience for reforms
7 Jun 2010 : Column 48
that are more than 100 years overdue. Subject to the legitimate scrutiny that the Bill will deserve, this Government are determined to push through the necessary reforms to the other place. People have been talking about Lords reform for more than a century. The time for talk is over. People must be allowed to elect those who make the laws of the land. Change must begin now.
 Let me just confirm that the committee will hold its first meeting as early as next week, and that its members will be the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), who is the Minister with responsibility for political and constitutional reform; the Leader of the House of Lords; the Deputy Leader of the Lords; the shadow Leader of the Lords, the Leader of the House of Commons; the Deputy Leader of the Commons; the shadow Leader of the Commons; and, of course, the shadow Justice Secretary, to whom I give way.

As he says change must begin now.
But I don't like the idea of another elected House of Parliament.  It will inevitably rival the Commons and will be devoid of the proper talent and experience which an effective reviewing and reflecting chamber of technical experts needs. See this interesting view.
I would support the Irish model - with some updating - no need for the graduates  (of where? - Oxbridge, London - I think we gave that up some time ago!) to be an electoral college  - but the vocational panels sound like a good idea - but nomination must be by an independent commission and not just by other politicians nominating their friends and supporters.
Plus lets get rid of the House of Lords title if it is not going to be a House of Lords  - nor do we want a Senate (we already have a Supreme Court - the USA is supposed to ape our historical traditions - not the other way round).  How about a Curia Regis to advise the monarch on legislation - or even a Witenagemot - a bit like the French Conseil D'Etat but without the judicial role and the hegemony of lawyers. Councillors of State are already something else (senior members of the Royal Family to whom the Queen delegates powers) but I am sure we could come up with a suitable home grown title.
Just a few ideas...
The Irish Senate:
Seanad Éireann consists of sixty senators:
  • Eleven appointed by the Taoiseach (prime minister), see Senator nominated by the Taoiseach.
  • Six elected by the graduates of certain Irish universities:
  • 43 elected from five special panels of nominees (known as Vocational Panels) by an electorate consisting of TDs (member of Dáil Éireann), senators and local councillors. Nomination is restrictive for the panel seats with only Oireachtas members and designated 'nominating bodies' entitled to nominate. Each of the five panels consists, in theory, of individuals possessing special knowledge of, or experience in, one of five specific fields. In practice the nominees are party members, often, though not always, failed or aspiring Dáil candidates:

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