The official public consultation from the Joint Committee of the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill runs until 12 October and this week I have submitted my views to it. I used the simple to use process provided by Unlock Democracy that helps you to respond to the consultation.
This is what I said;
Those who make the laws that govern the people should be chosen by the people that are to be governed.
This is the fundamental premise upon which all democratic societies are based. Arrangements that deviate from this to a greater or lesser extent undermine democracy. So within the constitution of the United Kingdom the second revising chamber of the legislature should have it’s membership chosen by democratic election. Anything else is an insult to those democratic principles.
So I would like to see a reformed House of Lords being wholly elected.
However, arguments for some element of appointment would be acceptable if they mean that the reform of the Lords is more likely to actually be achieved and if the purpose of those appointees was clearly established.
The purpose of appointees should not be a representative one.
Representation is a function of the democratic process. The views that are held by legislators should be determined by the choices of the electorate. No particular set of views or opinions, including those of religious faith, should have a special status outside of the democratic process. No viewpoint deserves guaranteed representation irrespective of voter choice.
So the role of any appointees should be to serve a purpose other than representation. So there is a case for members of the government who are not members of the House of Commons to be appointed as members of the Lords so that they can both carry out government business and be held accountable. In these circumstances, for reasons of balance, opposition political parties should be able to make appointments to ‘shadow’ government appointments.
As they lack a democratic mandate appointed members of the Lords should not be able to vote on legislation.
The election of members of the lords by thirds for 15 year terms is appropriate given the different role of a revising chamber. However, I believe re-election should be possible.
The above assumes the continuation of the recent move to 5 year fixed term parliaments for the House of Commons. If this was to change then the duration of terms for the Lords should be revised. The electoral cycle for the two legislative chambers should be kept synchronised.
The purpose of these reforms is to extend democracy and give greater power to the citizen. So in choosing a voting system it is logical that the one chosen should be the one that results in greatest amount of voter choice. This is the Single Transferable Vote.
For me reform of the House of Lords is about fixing the issue of the democratic legitimacy of the second revising chamber of our legislature. It is not a debate about the need for a revising chamber or how that chamber carries out it’s role. It seems perverse to at the same time as arguing for the need to strengthen the legitimacy of the second chamber to also argue to weaken it’s powers. I would argue that the current powers of the Lords to delay legislation should be kept the same. This doesn’t rule out future reform once an elected chamber has been established.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.