Thursday 26 April 2012

LORDS REFORM, a different view....

It is inculcated into our modern psyche that if a legislative body is not directly elected by the people then it is a bad thing. This is why people want to reform the House of Lords. The truth that dare not speak its name is that the unelected Life Peers of the Lords are better at legislating than the elected members of the House of Commons. I see no problem with one Chamber representing the people, having full democratic legitimacy and ultimate legislative sovereignty, whilst the second Chamber is full of unelected wise heads skilled at legislating and representative of the community. It's just like when you form a new committee from elected persons and then notice that don't have a lawyer or an accountant or a surveyor and you need one - so you co-opt one onto the Committee, circumventing the need for an election because you need some specialist skills. That's what our Second chamber should be - one big co-opted fund of very specialist people representing all walks of life. Some parts of our community need to be better represented and some parts need to have a dramatic reduction in the numbers of their reprsentatives(Anglicans and lawyers). We are made to want to give up this wealthy fund of knowledge, skill and experience and replace it with a cloned underpowered ignorant chamber of yet more elected politicians because we feel the urge to modernise and reform - but we must always ask: will the result be any better? So long as the elected chamber remains ultimately sovereign and can win any legislative tussles (as now) then overall our Parliament will be democratic. Political nomination to the Lords should end and the appointment process needs widening and made fairer. Anybody should be able to apply and the whole House should elect its own members- starting with the current constitution as the electorate (less the residual hereditaries and most of the bishops). People will claim that it is self-selecting - but better that than selected by party leaders or dished out as reward for long service or political donation or appointed by some Govternment appointed or controlled quango. Years ago when I was at Bar School I went to a lecture by the old Earl of Halsbury who said that the Commons should give the people want they want and the Lords should give them what they need. Whilst I do not endorse such a patronising and paternalistic view of the 'people', I do think that politically driven (or media driven) legislation coming out of the Commons is often improved by proper and expert scrutiny in the Lords. I don't really care what it is called or whether its members are Lords. Whatever we do we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let's have an appointed chamber of wise heads with enough power to warn, advise, opine and moderate, but never the power to prevail over the democratic will.

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