Parliamentary Reform - House of Lords.

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by BuggerAll, Jun 11, 2009.

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  1. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    I know the HoL reform has been discussed before but I thought I would re-open the issue in the light of current talk of Parliamentary reform.

    The weakness of the current HoL is its democratic deficit. This is partly ameliorated by the 2 year rule and that they are not allowed to be involved in money matters and the convention that they do not block stuff in the Governments manifesto.

    The strength of the Lords is the diversity of experience of the members, the appointment for life, which means they are not beholden to whips for their continued existence.

    We also need to consider what we want an upper house for? Is it a reviewing chamber or is it a rival to the commons.

    I believe the consensus is emerging for an elected HoL. I believe this is a mistake because it could become a rival to the Commons. I do not see how the 2 year rule could be maintained over a democraticly elected House.

    My own view is that we should try to maintain many of the existing features the current system of Life Peers.

    I would select Peers in a number of ways:

    1. Some people would automatically be ennobled as part of their job. Such as:

    Cabinet Ministers (On retirement if serving MPs)

    4* Officers.

    Certain senior Plod

    Retired MPs who have served a number of terms in the Commons.

    Heads of certain public bodies. CBI TUC.

    2. Then there would be 'functional constituencies' who would select or elect Lords. These functional constituencies might be professional bodies, groups of local councils, types of businesses, trade unions etc. Different bodies would have different criteria for electing. Some might be every 5 years. Some might be when the existing member dies or declares him/herself to be effectively retired. (They are appointed for life so a 'functionally' retired member would still be entitled to speak and vote but would not be entitled to draw any pay or allowance) There would need to be a joint Commons and Lords committee to review the functional constituencies.

    3. The great and the good nominated and appointed by PM, leader of the opposition etc, subject to a review committee which I would like to see headed up by the monarch or her appointed person (PoW).

  2. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    If Mugabe decided he'd have an upper chamber stuffed with people he decides who should be in it there would be an outcry. The old system worked in an anachronistic way. The current system stinks. We need a fully elected upper chamber and personally I favour a straight UK-wide PR. You get 33.7% of the overall vote you get 33.7% of the seats.
  3. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    Who selects the list your percentage are drawn from? Whoever it is controls the House. No.
  4. The irony is that currently the only elected Peers are the 90+ hereditary ones.
  5. Grownup_Rafbrat

    Grownup_Rafbrat LE Book Reviewer Good Egg (charities)

    The problem with electing them, is that they become slaves to the Party WHips, and therefore stop being a brake on the excesses of the Commons.

    I think BA has the bones of a good system, and if aligned to the reduction of the power of Party Chiefs and WHips and allowing MPs to vote to represent their people, could restore democracy.
  6. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    You could decouple the upper house elections from the lower house by having fixed term elections every 2 years (IIRC they do this in the US Senate) with half the people being up for election. This would give a reflection of the popular mood of the country.

    Under the current party system you can't get away from the Whips without giving far more power to the constiuencies to cose their own candidates. Perhaps we need primaries al la USA?
  7. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    The great merit of an hereditary system is that Govt can't control who gets into the Lords, which needs a quota of loose cannon with no reason not to speak their minds. Life Peerages are a Govt patronage/freebee racket. If we are to have appointed peers then perhaps they shouldonly be appointed should be for a ten-year term to ensure rotation; the total number of peers should be fixed fairly low but enough to do the business, with several places reserved for senior public figures on expiry of their active term (eg CDS) so that sufficient experienced people get in independently of their politics. But whatever solution this Govt comes up with (and there are rather more urgent matters demanding its attention like our national bankruptcy and total failure to control crime) is likely merely to be some way of crudely hamstringing the next Conservative govt. If Govt goes for an elective process I expect we shall be offered a party list system like that for MEPs so that only people who are 'in' with the party leaders get their snouts in the trough.
  8. I'd favour a directly elected upper house with 1/3 re-elected every second year, each member would serve a six year term. This would mean a constantly changing house less defined by a once every five years vote.

    I'd put a minimum qualification for candidates standing for election with candidates needing to meet one (or more of):

    - Cabinet minister for at least one year plus MP for at least 15.
    - MP for over 20 years (if you note, these are usually the bolshy ones who can stand up to whips)
    - Executive Director of a PLC of over 1000 employees for at least 5 years
    - County Councillor for at least 20 years, nothing below this, e.g. district or parish councils.
    - Leader (or senior executive) of a public interest body with over 1000 members (e.g. unions, Federation of Small Businesses, political parties etc.) for over 5 years. This would include the BNP.
    - Leader (or senior executive) of a recognised speciality interest group with substantial peer-acknowledged credentials (e.g. doctors, lawyers, environmentalists, charities)

    Probably a few more could come to mind but I'm posting this while having lunch! This is to stop the wannabe permanent politicians who have no experience of life outside parliament while recognising that doing the job of MP for long enough is sufficient experience.

    Also, elected members would be expected to sell any holdings above £5000 in any company, including those from their immediate families. If they refuse or their families refuse then they're automatically banned from speaking or voting on relevant issues.

    No second jobs, no executive directorships and a flat generous salary for a contractual 80%+ attendance in the House. (The 20% acknowledges conflicts from constituency appointments and other public duties)

    Those "qualifications" would heavily limit the number of candidates but you'd still get more than enough applicants and they'd be better than the no-marks who are our usual "new" MPs.
  9. Grownup_Rafbrat

    Grownup_Rafbrat LE Book Reviewer Good Egg (charities)

    And could I add to that, a reduction in their annual leave allowance to a mere five or six weeks, business days between 9.30 and 5.30, and an obligation to visit their constituences at least two days a week.
  10. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    CraigN, I see what yuo are trying to do, but I feel that if you have elections you should not restrict who may stand for them. (Yes there have to be a few rules, age, nationality(?) but generally it must be up to the electorate to choose who they want.

    For the same reason I am against term limits. Stops people from voting for who ever they want.

    I think some of the other restrictions you are putting in will make it highly unatractive. You would certainly attract candidates but I'm not sure if they would be the right sort.
  11. One of the few things Tony Benn ever said that I agree with involved the House of Lords. He put it like this:-

    'It is unacceptable that a hereditary peer should be able to sit in Parliament simply because one of his ancestors was a drinking buddy of some mediaeval king. It is equally unacceptable that a life peer should sit in Parliament simply because he donated a lot of money to a political party 40 years ago'.

    We must have a fully elected second chamber with a democratic mandate so that it's not neutered by the Parliament Act.

    We should distinguish between elected peers, who can sit in the House of Lords, and unelected peers, whose titles are honorific or ceremonial like knighthoods. You can already 'buy' titles that are associated with land and folks like our own dear Baron Castleshort even confer titles on themselves. Time to have two different types of peers (and stop Jimbo calling himself Baron while you're at it).
  12. I would go back to the system we had before Labour decided to fix it.
  13. The Lords should have no executive power, but they should be able to hold the House of Commons to account.

    Lords must be independent, secure in their positions, and free of pressure in any direction. Much as it might annoy some, the best way - in my opinion - to achieve this is to revert to the old system whereby Lords were rich folk appointed by an accident of birth.
  14. Firstly the monitoring and ammending role of the Lords is in my opinion vital to good deomcracy and govewrnment. Now whilst the model of hereditory and appointed members has in general worked well over the years it is now rapidly getting past it's sell by date. The commons and government have become to powerful in the relatiuonship through their link with the voters.

    Thus we need an elected component withing the lords. In my opinion this should be some 60% of those entiutled to vote in the house. They should be elected from differing shaped constituencies from the commons but it is possibly reasonable for the actual voting system used to be the same. Having a rolling system where a 1/3 are elected every two years sounds very reasonable. The remainder should be split between representative of the hereditorty peers and appointed life peers. The appointed peers will like the elected ones have a six year life with 1/6th being nominated by the three largest parties in the commons every year. I am not sure then how one deals with expired life peers, perhaps they could be available for imnstant reselection by their party or perhaps they should disbarred or perhaps something in between.