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Large rush of politicos to Rutland if IDS's plan is adopted, then...

There's no excuse for not having a 100% elected Lords. It would help counter some of the misconceptions about the party.

In short, you're caught in the sleaze, so what do you do? You propose to rob the taxpayer to bankroll your activities then reduce the power of the Lords to curb your excesses.

If the Lords is not 100% elected with at least the same powers as now, and as Tim notes, arguably more, then this is a simple stitch-up.

The Tories and LibDems have happily colluded with Labour and sold the taxpayer down the river over state funding, will they do the same with democracy?

It is difficult to argue with your premise Chad.Nevetheless it is a difficult problem ,I look forward to seeing some interesting ideas being put forward on this blog and elsewhere.

Probably going a lot further than others, I'd like to see the HoC turned into the English Parliament, with the HoL being 100% elected, and focussing on their current role plus UK issues like defence.

I'd like the HoL members to be men and women of conscience, who though members of the various parties, act effectively as independents, and thus taking a lot of the politics out of the key national issues.

This would be a neat and equal application of devolution across all four countries in the Union whilst retaining a higher legislature bonding the Union firmly and fairly together.

I think the HoC needs less power, not more. Too much power focussed in too few hands is bad for democracy.

A brief point - hope to post more later this evening. This debate usually starts in the wrong place, by asking what the composition of a second chamber should be. The right first question is: what should the powers and function of the second chamber be? Once that has been identified, you can then start discussing the right composition to achieve that.

A good question for Blair at PMQs would be: "Does he think that a reformed House of Lords should have more or less power to hold the executive to account than does the present one?" (If he says: "less", he's a control freak; "about the same" - he should stop complaining when those powers are exercised; "more" - is that a pig I see above me? - he needs to explain what those increased powers should be).

That's the question we now need to answer when considering reform.

This is, BTW, taking us further down the route towards a written constitution. We will most probably need some legislation setting out the extent, and the limits, of the reformed second chamber, to ensure that there's a solution in the event of stand-off between the 2 chambers.

>>>>There's no excuse for not having a 100% elected Lords. It would help counter some of the misconceptions about the party.<<<<
I think perhaps it might be better to have a system where people in certain specific positions get seats in the House of Lords - Heads of the Research Councils, Mayors, Head of the Local Government Association, President of the Royal Society, Head of the CBI, Heads of the biggest charities, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland & representatives of the Presbyteries, Church of England Bishops, heads of the other major Protestant & Jewish denominations, the Big Chief of the Roman Catholics in Britain (Whatever his title is), leading Imams, Sikh & Hindu leaders - that sort of thing.

As for financing of political parties, I think that State Funding should be avoided at all cost, perhaps there should be some kind of a levy on donations that could be used for any funding scheme arranged by the state.

So far as loans goes, they should be declarable in the same way as donations, there should be minimum interest and repayment terms with anything not meeting these counting as donations.

The House of Commons could function perfectly well with a third of the current number of MP's and the Second chamber really needs no more than 200-300 members.

If there are going to be elections then it will have to be different in some way, based on categories of people perhaps, or having different voter eligibility - an input from the Commonwealth might be a useful thing to have, maybe the STV system? There might be different categories of people standing who would be voted for - groups of candidates based on age or gender?

Anon, all those people you suggest could stand for election.

As with the state funding, there is an increasing arrogance in Westminster, that simply ignores the very people who should count the most, um, all of us!

It is not democracy if you don't let the people change the composition of those bodies via the ballot box.

I disagree with Simon over the order of the discussion. It doesn't matter what power the Lords have, if they are not 100% elected, then it is an undemocratic body that the people will always be suspicious of and never see as fully "legitimate".

Our laws should be made by elected representatives, elected by the people, not the PM, the parties, by virtue of their position, job etc, just simply by the people.

Power and money it seems are the two things our politicans just can't let go of no matter how much lip-service they pay to 'democracy'.

Can I just add to the post from Simon - which is exactly right in asking the right questions: Why a second chamber? What is its powers?

This discussion has come as result of Blair's embarrassments - moving on as he likes to say. It is vital that the opposition (Conservatives, LDS & others) don't allow this to be hurried and look to a more openended cross party approach.

It should start with defining the powers and responsibilities of the House. The HoL plays a major role in controlling, in abscence of a written constitution, what would be an elective dictatorship when a PM, with both Royal Prerogative and electoral majority, tries to drive through partisan measures.

In a country with a representative lower house (through either FTTP or Alternative/Transferrable votes) provides generally a stable government through allowing working majority for one party, but not necessarily a government representing the majority of voters measured at a national level. Its important therefore to have a second chamber with delaying or revising powers that is differently representative and more independent.

I think that one responsibility of a second chamber is to protect the constitutional settlement. I personally think that a leavening of appointed members would be good - appointed on basis of offices held rather than by PM. So certain church leaders (Christan, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish), exPMs, ex Home & Foreign Secretaries, ex Chancellors, ex Speakers, ex Supreme Court Judges etc.

The last couple of weeks have graphically illustrated how the Palace of Westminster is the last gold-plated Edwardian Club. When the chips are down, its members will bury all their (superficial) differences and collude with one another to hold onto cash and power in the teeth of public hostility and indifference. This is the Post-Democratic settlement which Blair and Mandelson always aspired to.

The dream:
The more we trust people, the stronger they and society become.

Communities should have more say over their own futures
Built To Last

The reality:
We'll force you to prop us up financially and we'll decide the composition of the HoL.

Ted, what is so wrong with trusting the people to democratically decide the composition? I thought that was what democracy was all about, directly selecting your elective bodies.

I welcome this loans-for-scandal as Michael notes, it has neatly exposed that the only real opposition in this country is between the people and the parties who are becoming ever further apart.

Once again, the Tories have failed to capitalise on a failing government because in reality the only thing they want to change is the party in charge.

Chad - you are probably right that we now need to move to a fully elected 2nd Chamber. The first point remains, though: what should that 2nd chamber be able to do?

That cannot be considered in isolation - we also need to consider what the function of the House of Commons is too - and then how the 2nd chamber might complement that.

Any other approach is piecemeal tinkering. And look where that's got us since 1997.

Yes, I totally agree Simon.

A fully elected toothless chamber, which Blair no doubt envisages will clearly be worse than the current arrangement.

If the proposed changed weaken the powers of the HoL they shoould be completely opposed.

The question is though, can the Tories really "trust the people" and call for a fully elected chamber with increased powers or will they fall in line with the government again as they have over funding.

That would be collusion, not consensus politics

If we were to have an elected second house, the timing should be different to the election of the Commons.

Maybe, the second house should be elected two years after the general election. You don't really want both houses to be dominated by the same party.

Just imagine if both houses had been elected in 1997.

First step: Return the House of Lords to how it was before 1997

Second Step: Only appoint Life Peers when a particular area of relevant expertise is missing from the Hereditary Peers. For example, if none of the Hereditary Peers are experts in education, appoint two people who are experts to Life Peerages (preferably with opposing views).

One of the benefits of the current house is the experience & knowlege of its members. If we go for a fully elected house we move towards a fully political house with likely replication of professional politicians and could lose something beneficial to the country.

I do trust the people and would support a fully elected house if we can agree that it is differently elected to the HoC - regional lists perhaps as there is no need for representatives, set terms as it is uneccessary to disolve the HoL when gov't resigns, perhaps longer terms with a set proportion re-elected at intervals.

I'd also like to see the overseas territories (Gibraltar, Falklands etc) having a presence in Parliament - HoL might be the place to give them a voice.

Key though is that the powers and competence of a second chamber is agreed.

Quite right Michael. Frankly, it disgusts me to hear the spokesmen of political parties arguing, in effect, that they'll behave dishonestly unless given public money to fund their political activities.

It's like the MEPs demanding salary increases, in return for being honest about their expense claims.

We could hold the elections at exactly the same time, but by using a preference based PR type approach like in Oz, the result would be that the composition of the upper house would favour the smaller parties as supporters of the big 2 parties are not likely to put their main rival as choice 2.

In Classical Athens, the birth place of democracy, the powerful Council of 500 that drew up the agenda for meetings of the Assembly that all citizens could attend was appointed annually by lot, just like we choose juries. Now that would really be trusting people...

If we want the HoL to retain its vital role of holding the government to account, it must not work on party lines like the Commons. If it is going to be elected, there should be a limit of one long term (10 years?), and no whipping.

I agree with Chad: House of Lords reform needs to be considered together with the devolution settlement and need for an English Parliament.

The House of Commons could become the English Parliament with MPs elected on the first past the post system as at present,
and the Stormont Parliament could be revived on the same basis for Northern Ireland.

The House of Lords could become the second revising chamber for the 4 national assemblies/parliaments as well as the British Parliament for non-devolved matters.

The current regional members of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies could join it as well as regionally elected members from England and Northen Ireland. All could be elected on the AMS (additional member system) currently used in Scotland and Wales. The IDS proposal to use the historic counties as a basis for the regional members could be incorporated.

This would provide a comprehensive solution to both devolution and House of Lords reform in which all parts of the UK would be treated equally, the legitimacy of the House of Lords as a revising chamber would be strengthened, the problem of patronage and corruption would be avaoided and no new
layers of government or costly new parliament buildings would be involved.

It's a good method of showing up the differences between what Conservatives think of as more democracy and the Labour version. Giving Northumbria the same number of Senators as Herefordshire would give equal representation in a second chamber where none previously existed and will help to offset the marginalisation of such a rural county in the Commons. By contrast nulab plans for a regional assembley were just meant to impose another layer of government between the people and the real decision makers.

It's rather ironic that this latest call for reform has come on the back of the loans for peerages scandal - a scandal that was perpetrated by elected politicians.

It is also right to note that Labour is really objecting to any 2nd chamber which doesn't allow them to do what they want with 36% of the vote. We should oppose any reduction in the Lords' powers.

It seems to me that the Lords is pretty perfect as it is. What do we want from the Lords? I would suggest:
- no one party having a majority
- good number of non-party political members
- independence of mind
- a chamber which is inferior to the Commons, but prepared to challenge it from time to time (particularly on constitutional issues)
- expertise, wisdom and experience

This is what we have!

Any elected element would lead to 3rd rate politicians (people who aren't even talented enough to be backbench MPs) elected on a 30% turnout to represent goodness-knows-what creation of a constituency, and claims for greater legitimacy on the part of the Lords.

To think that we can have an elected element without a more powerful Lords is as stupid as thinking that we can have a Human Rights Act without giving more power to the judiciary. It's worth remembering that the Lords' recent relative activism has been partly because of the fact that there is no longer a built-in Tory majority because of hereditaries, and so they feel they have more legitimacy.

Rather than all thinking about our pet schemes for constitutional tinkering, we should concentrate on being conservatives and only reforming where necessary. The recent fuss will remove the most egregious abuse (buying a place in the Lords) and so it will become an even finer place, doing an even finer job then it is currently.


1: We have 2 classes of MP's; those who can vote on Scottish and English bills (the Scottish MPs) and those who can only vote on English issues (English constituency MP's) creating imbalance and prejudice.

2: We have an upper chamber that seeks to ensure a government keeps to its manifesto pledges, but if that government pushes a non-compliant bill through 3 times, the government can then force the bill to be law (see 'voluntary' ID cards).

3: We have an upper chamber that is not selected in any democratic form.

4: We have an upper chamber that can be populated by 'favourites' of the PM and parties.

5: We have a government seeking to introduce a Parliamentary Reform bill that enables it to sidestep parliament completely.

If any of the countries we preach 'democracy' to proposed a similar scheme for their own country, we would laugh in their faces (or invade).

we should concentrate on being conservatives and only reforming where necessary
Reform is needed. desperately.

Couldn't agree with you more. Surely the years since 1997 have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that out much-vaunted "unwritten constitution" can be disregarded at will by a Government elected on less than 40% of the popular vote which is determined to ram through major constitutional chnages to suit its own partisan interest?

I think an attractive option we should be pushing is the greater use of referenda, both at national and local level (e.g. on council tax rises). That might really energise the voters, and would also offer a way out of any stalemate caused by disagreements between the Commons and a more representative Upper House.

greater use of local referenda...seen the UKIP local campaign pledges?

How about electing the Lords in thirds, like the US Senate? Then you end up with what is generally considered to be a pretty good democratic model - a lower house more in step with swings in public opinion, and an upper house in which public opinion can be represented, but with less of an immediate and more of a thoughtful approach. Keep some crossbenchers (independently appointed) to ensure that no party holds a majority (say 20-30%)and you have a pretty good second chamber. The electoral system would be a tricky one, though. I like IDS' idea - so many people in the country are marginalised because of a majority in the cities dictating matters for them (eg foxhunting).

The opportunity exists for a very successful second chamber to be created. But ONLY if we, and the Lib Dems, are prepared to hold our ground against a bullying government determined to weaken the powers of anything that stands in its way. The House of Lords' powers must remain the same as they are now. That is the correct constitutional balance.

Chad - I agree with your 15.10 post, especially the sentence about preaching democracy abroad. Everybody is talking about the changes needed to the present system, but I would really like to know if real change of the sort that is being discussed here can take place, when the only person with the power and determination to effect wholesale change gives very impression of just wanting a rubber stamping machine in the HoL's.

I think that having people like Mayors, some Religious Leaders, the President of the Royal Society and the Head of the Research Council would be a very good idea, but I am not at all sure about ex-politicians, and I am afraid that is a direct result of the behaviour and actions that have caused people to lose all faith in politicians!

Patsy, I agree. I believe that one of the key features of the new House of Lords should be the absence of ex-MPs. At the moment it looks a bit suspicious that if you've been a minister, or re-elected a few times for your constituency, it should grant you a permanent vote in the Upper House for the rest of your life.

I think retaining some crossbench element is vital, but it should be through independently-appointed, intelligent, impartial people who are able to comprehend the political issues of the day and vote according to their conscience.

What's wrong with returning the House of Lords to how it used to be? It worked well didn't it?

This just in from CCHQ:

"In response to Geoff Hoon’s comments on the future of the House of Lords, Oliver Heald MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, said:

“Geoff Hoon’s remarks that peers should be appointed and that the remaining hereditary peers should be scrapped is a recipe for a house of cronies appointed by the Government.

“His comments are directly contrary to the Lord Chancellor’s proposals. How can we have a situation in which half the Cabinet say one thing, while the other half say something different?

“In good faith we have entered into talks with Lord Falconer on a mainly elected second chamber, and yet we are now faced with these contradictory comments from Mr Hoon.”

What's wrong with returning the House of Lords to how it used to be? It worked well didn't it?

Blair defends the use of the Parliament Act by noting that if he didn't, an unelected body would be stopping a democratically elected body from operating and that is plain undemocratic..

With a fully democratically elected HoL, which could of course include the type of people noted here but would be chosen by communities, then it too would be elected, and we could drop the Parliament Act, as we would want the HoL to be that vital check on government.

No more bullying buffoons like Charles Clarke trying to insult our intelligence by redefining the meaning of words like "voluntary".

Trust the people. A fully elected HoL will be a vital check on bad government.

You can't have an upper chamber that is supposed to be an independent check on the lower chamber comprised of members selected by the lower chamber. That would be like allowing the PM to set the remit of inquiries into government malpractice. Oh, hold on....

Whats the point of a bicameral assembly if the HoL is composed by the same method...it would not be independent nor would be a safeguarding upper assembly.

How timely. Here is a quote from Geoff Hoon this evening after the ID vote.

But Commons leader Geoff Hoon said the Lords should "accept the will of the elected chamber".

Cynical. They only want the blooming chamber elected if its powers are removed. As someone noted earlier (and wishfully hoping the Tories support an elected chamber) maybe PMQ's would be a great opporunity to put Labour on the spot. More power for an elected Lords or less?

it would not be independent nor would be a safeguarding upper assembly.

Seems to work for other countries like Oz, James. What makes us so different that we need an undemocratic application?

I was going to say something in my previous post, and then I forgot. It was to do with a comment by Simon C on his 10.12 post about PMQ's and asking Mr. Blair whether he thinks that a reformed HoL should have more or less power... My first reaction to that was that politicians never usually an answer a question 'head on', and I should think that in this instance Blair would be even less likely to commit himself if he thinks it might weaken his position in any way.

What a chance to take a lead on the issue though Patsy with careful wording

The leader of the Commons has urged the Lords to 'accept the will of the elected chamber'. Would the Leader accept the decision of the Lords if they too were democratically elected?

It should see them squirm a little at least, well, that is, if the Tories aren't agreeing with the government again.

Thoughts on electing the Lords:

1. Nationwide elections are held regularly (interval up to debate - 7 yearly?) , with options being restricted to any party with at least one MP in the Commons or the Lords at the time of the "dissolution" of the Lords (to prevent fringe parties until they get sufficient strength to get at least one MP elected). Additional option of "None of the above".

2. "None of the above" counts towards the Crossbench, and is limited to no less than 15%, no more than 30% of the House (if the score is less than 15%, then the Crossbench peers get 15% of the seats; if it is more than 30%, they get 30% of the seats; between those figures, their percentage of seats equates to their percentage of the votes).

3. After that, parties receive allocations of seats directly proportionate to their vote.

4. To fill their seat allocations, each party can select from a "pool" of peers in whatever method they choose. The "pool" is drawn from hereditary and life peers, appointed as they are now. Should a party receive more seats than they have peers to draw upon, more peers are to be appointed to that party.

5. The Crossbench can change their composition in the Chamber dependant upon the debate (i.e. if they have 100 seats, they can choose any 100 Crossbenchers for that debate). Other parties nominate for fixed terms (1 year, 5 years, whatever - I'm flexible on this. I prefer londer terms to diminish the powers of the whips).

6. Blocking and revising powers to be increased (details up to discussion :) )

>>>>Anon, all those people you suggest could stand for election.<<<<
There has to be some difference with the House of Commons or the existence of a 2nd Chamber is not justifiable, it can't simply be that it is a revising chamber because in that case it can be argued that the House of Commons can act as a revising chamber and then all the 2nd Chamber is doing is to duplicate what the House of Commons is doing, either that or it is merely a consolation prize for opposition parties in Mid-Term elections, I am sure that a future Conservative Government any more than a Labour Government no more wants it's legislation held up by a 2nd Chamber that claims equal validity with the House of Commons as an excuse to indulge in some filibustering.

Surely the function of the 2nd chamber must be to bring in technical expertise beyond the intellectual capacity of most ordinary people, through people who have risen to high positions in business, industry, churches and Scientific Research through their own efforts and through measured successes.

Why the obseesion with an elected Lords? It is the "undemocratic" lords that have acted as a brake on the power of Downing street. democracy is more than just elections.

A second elected chamber would just provide another place for whips and parties to have control, and thus the PM controlling both houses. Doubly so under a closed list PR system.

For example: In any election for an upper house since '97 Labour would have either got a majority or coalition with the libdems. This would be just as bad if it was a Tory govt with a Tory lords as well - too much PM and party control.

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