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Why are constitutional reforms not the subject of Royal Commissions, rather than left to the party of the day to introduce their latest fads & fashions? Such fundamental long-term matters should be outside the province of day-to-day party politics.

Also, any reform of the second chamber should take into account the unfinished business of devolution.

Can't we just leave it alone? Clear out the existing hereditaries, and keep it appointment only with a mechanism for excluding people who are beyond the pale.

Limited cost. Not another round of elections where hack and other dreadful party people get elected.

Nick Herbert is wrong, I believe, on point 7.

A strengthened HoL/Senate, which he compares with other EU parliaments and the US and is based on FPTP, will have no less legitimacy than the HoC.

It is inevitable that, like most bi-cameral systems, laws will become proposed and rejected in both chambers but with both Houses having an equal or almost equal say in the matter.

How can we say that the democratically elected Senator for Henley can't have an equal right to be elected party leader and Prime Minister as the MP for Gosport would?

I agree with Ken 17:37 entirely and recommend his post to people wanting to comment here.

@SteveR 17:41 I actually wish we'd never messed with the HoL in the first place. It worked perfectly well as a revising chamber which could not ultimately defy the will of the people but would exercise a degree of non-partisan wisdom not often seen in the HoC.

However, as the expression goes, you can't unring the bell.

I'm wary of your comment "...mechanism for excluding people who are beyond the pale.." though. I'd get rid of all the ex-Trade Union bosses and safe-Labour seat bedblockers who were kicked upstairs to make way for NuLab clones on the (politically motivated on my part) grounds of uselessness and borderline stupidity.

Labour would doubtless play the same game against us. You'd have a witch-hunt within hours and people on all benches would be up in fromt of a McCarthyite tribunal because of a 10 year old unpaid parking ticket.

Point 1:
Surely, as the other place has constituencies based on the area occupied by a set number of electors (around 55,000 for a Labour-leaning area, 66,000 for a Conservative-leaning area IIRC ) within a county, elections to the Upper House should be based upon something other than "recognisable constituencies of our historic cities and counties" alone?

Point 2:
If patronage is to be abolished, how can we ensure that the Upper Chamber contains a sufficient number people who are capable of providing adequate scrutiny of proposed legislation? For example, successful business leaders, top class doctors, barristers with both general and specialised knowledge, and the like? We have all seen the effects of packing the Commons with former party-political councillors who have little or now real world experience to draw on, and how vulnerable such people are to pressure from the media, mandarins of the civil service and their own political party. Surely the Upper House needs to have a majority of independently-minded people, who will not flinch when bullied?

Point 3:
There is an argument for saying that the Upper House also needs to contain a representative sample of the indiginous population. This used to be the function of the heritary peers and I have no qualms in stating my opionion that the average age in the House of Lords appears to have risen distinctly since we have moved to a largely appointed chamber. I suspect the typical income of the newly-appointed peers is somewhat higher than those they replaced, also; thus emphasising the lack of social mobility that our country now "enjoys".

Point 4:
There is no way that a largely-elected Upper House will not seek to compete with the House of Commons. Each elected member of the Upper Chamber will surely claim a mandate that is as legitimate as that of any Member of Parliament.

Thank you for reading my comments, Mr Herbert. Even if you disagree with them, I would be greatly obliged if you will tell me how you would deal with them (as objections).

Why bother spending a great deal of parliamentary time, money and resources faffing about with an upper chamber that has worked perfectly well for hundreds of years and continues to do so.
We already have one chamber in Parliament filled with oppurtunists who'll stoop to anything to get a few votes.
In the House of Lords exist experts, statesmen, bishops and judges who are in a much better position to say the things that need to be said without fearing electoral reprisals.
We ought not to mend what isn't broken.

"Senate" is dull and generic. Keep it as the Lords -- another Westminster tradition.

This just makes me angry. The Tories should be restoring the Lords not destroying it. Why should they do Labour's work for them? It has worked for hundreds of years, is cheap and generally works ok apart from the abuse by Labour of packing it with their supporters. Labour has sought to exploit the issue shamelessly and it has been difficult to defend the status quo but now that the Tories are so far ahead in the polls they don't need to be craven on every issue. Every Conservative knows that while the Lords is utterly indefensible in theory in practice it works well. The Tories ought to be defending it not attacking it or at least keeping their heads down on the issue. They ought to know that Labour "reform" just means wrecking with unforseen and damaging consequences. What would Burke think? Sense and tradition should be followed over Reason. I'm all in favour of reform: - the hereditary peers must be restored, or at least their numbers increased to at least 200 as the system of election is not without merit; some sort of screening should be introduced in order to stop Labour abuse. Not one elected member. The Conservatives should not countenance this. They ought to defend the system or just wait until they are in power and restore the Lords, perhaps on the same day they restore the office of Lord Chancellor and get rid of the abomination that is the office "Justice minister" (and the proposed idea of a "supreme court") as if Britain was some second-rate tin-pot mediocre country without a proper legal system that the Socialists are desperately trying to make it. In my view there needs to be a comprehensive process of restoration of the constitution and legal system, a revanchist undoing of all the evils the Socialists have done (though devolution is a special case that can't just be abolished).

I agree that 'Senate' is a dull, and the name of the upper chamber should stay as it is.

More substantively, it is ridiculous that the upper chamber be entirely elected--even if the terms are for 12-15 years. At least a good number (at least 50%) should be appointed as to give the upper chamber the intellectual and specialist teeth it needs to do its job.

If a majority of the upper chamber are elected for long terms, Lords will inevitably initiate a power struggle with the Commons.

It is sad to see that Herbert is basically sucking up to Straw. Both are pushing through this ill-thought out plan to placate the "passing passions of the public."

How about retaining bishops (the proper ones, not the new trendy lot) the Law Lords, the retired Admirals, Generals and former chiefs of MI5/MI6 and sacking the media people, the failed politicians and Tony's cronies?

I absolutely agree with Ken Stevens comment @ 17.37, particularly the first paragraph.

But I also agree VERY strongly with Geoff @ 17.59 ---'I'd get rid of all the ex-Trade-Union bosses and safe Labour seat bedblockers..... on the grounds of uselessness and stupidity'!!

It has always made me VERY angry that TU bosses, most of whom have little regard for democracy or monarchy, should be SO KEEN to adopt silly titles that sit pretty awkwardly with their SUPPOSED socialist if not actually communist (in some cases) so-called beliefs. Yes, get rid of them, after all most of them only want to ponce around, being addressed by their 'titles'.

Elected for a 12-15 year term? Where's the democratic accountability in this?

I agree with Allan. Restore the Lords. Can we stop ripping apart our country soon please?

oops that's Francis I agree with sorry :)

I HATE HATE HATE *HATE* the term "Senate".

Most Conservatives I speak too do as well.

It sounds horribly republican, profoundly unBritish and makes the "Commons" sound like an analomy.

Don't abolish 1000 years of history.

Keep it the name the "Lords".

19.56 @ Spelling and Grammar pretty shocking there - apologies.

I was just fuming too fast!!

I have to say that although an unelected House of Lords is undemocractic no one can argue that it is perhaps the best in the world in revising and checking. I'm confidant that an elected House would not fulfill its function to the impeccible standard it does currently. If there was an elected House I believe that we would lose the people such as Dame Manningham-Buller the ex-MI5 chief who lambasted the 42 day bill. A 50% elected and 50% appointed I cannot see working because there is the possibility of Peers caiming they have more legitimicy by being elected than those because they have friends in high places.

I have studied the House of Lords as a part of my politics A level and as far as I can see the House works better now with life peers (in the sense they feel able to criticise the Governement more)although work needs to be done to prevent the scandals such as cash for peerages. Generally however to reiterate the above point why fix something that ain't broke?

I also agree with Francis @ 18.56 and would add a general sense of disbelief that at a time when the economy is in free fall and perhaps the most topical issue of the day is knife crime, Jack Straw is setting out for his own "abolish plastic bags" moment with HoL reform. What a sense of priorities!

This is a ridiculous idea. Why call it a 'senate' for goodness sake? Have we not got any traditions left in this country? Do we not hold anything dear?

It's change for changes sake.

The Straw proposals are a dog's dinner, and Herbert's responses are no better. His point no. 7, as has already been pointed out, is ludicrous. If you want a second chamber with greater authority then naturally it will challenge the Commons. If you don't want it, don't create it, but don't come up with feeble-minded, oxymoronic (or perhaps just moronic) justifications for having your cake and eating it.

In fact, the best approach, as also noted here, would be to leave the place alone. It serves perfectly well as a checking chamber that does not have the short-termist, party-line flaws of the democratic chamber? If we want reform, what about reducing the number of MPs in the Commons. Now there's a positive and popular measure!

Appointed, yes.

But by whom?

The Royal Colleges and Professional Bodies come to mind.

Law makers, doctors, nurses, accountants, retired military officers, churchmen/women, architects, environmental campaigners, representatives of land owners, representatives of employees and employers, retired diplomats, and so forth.

I've not read the white paper but assume it's the usual nasty cynical political machinations from Labour. Doubt if this does anything for the electorate (except further confuse the hell out of them) but will no doubt ensure that Labour have a continued majority in the Upper House for decades to come.

This no doubt like the Devolution act will just skew our system even further making Government less effective and further disillusioning the electorate.

As for the Herbert's response - weak - is he up to the job? As for the Senate if Herbert is so enamoured I hear that one of the senate roles in Arizona or Illinois will be up soon. Perhaps he should run?

When are politicians going to stop abusing our democracy!

There should be no major constitutional change without a referendum.

One last thing - has Straw left the Government ministerial 'enabling clause' in?

Our first demand of the government is that any change must be put to a referendum. We cant leave this as a carve up by the politicians.

Secondly, I see no need for the House of Lords. We should be arguing for four unicameral national parliamnets and a unicameral federal parliament. Of course Herbert is wrong and everyone above is right that an elected reformed second chamber is going to demand parity with the Commons (and given the mess the Commons has made, since it had effective charge of the country, it will deserve it.) The politicians know that is a recipe for coalition, pork barrelling and the black arts. It would be as bad as PR.It may be what they want. Why is it what we want?

Thirdly, can the Blimps on here forget about the name. The name doesn't matter. Call it the Lords and it will still stink of Peckham or Mosside - not Chatsworth or Blenheim.

[email protected], you ask the right question (appointed but by whom) but in my opinion come to the wrong conclusion.

environmental campaigners
In that case I want a climate change denier who would represent my views as well as the likely views of the appointee.

representatives of land owners
On the same token the Ramblers Association will want a fruitcake in there to 'balance' things. And the National Trust. The NFU goes through phases of being sensible but not reliably so.

What, from the RCN? They are militant despite the 'Royal' and don't represent hard-working grass-roots nurses.

retired military officers
Unless we get a gentlemans club in Pall Mall to nominate a retired brigadier then surely the military mustn't get this close to a political role?

I'm not going to go through the other suggestions as I'm sure you see where I'm coming from.

Would agree with Graham Checker , that there is no need to call it a senate. People are not fools, they would understand a democratic upper chamber without a name change.

Would Also agree with John L that there would need to be a referendum.

to stop a reformed House of Lords becoming to politicised and sensitive to public opinion, so it can do its job, you could try several things. First, go further than having terms of 15 years. Say after 15 years voters can use a power of a recall , with a petition of a rather high percentage of the Electorate in the constituency causing a by election. This would in effect mean that Lords will only be particulartly sensitive to public opinion after a long time and then they would only ever be gotten rid of when they were extremely unpopular. this would aid their objectivity. Also, banning party involvement( including members of political parties) , and allowing the ONLY campaign material to be a CV held on the Parliament site, would help objectivity. You would get low turnout with only particulary interested/objective minded individuals.

Hopefully you then make the upper house legitimate ( which it certainly isnt currently) while ensuring it is still fit for purpose.

Forgot to say i do agree that you need professionals ( doctors, barristers, solicitors, Accountants) etc in the Hl . So perhaps a prequisite should be that the person is of standing in the community, as defined for the sake of passports?

I see no point in having a House of Lords really, although if there is to be one surely it would be more logical for appointments to be made by Local Authorities and Devolved Authorities.

Keep the Bishops, but add representatives of Protestant denominations (such as Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland, Baptist Church of Great Britain, Methodist Church of Great Britain, United Reformed Church), Jewish Synagogues and Hindu and Sikh organisations.

The term "Senate" is not new in British Political History. When Stormont was established in 1922, an indirectly elected upper house of 26 seats of which "24 were elected by Single Transferable Vote by members of the Northern Ireland House of Commons in blocks of twelve for eight-year terms; the other two were the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Mayor of Londonderry "

It of course, was abolished in Ted Heath's second supreme act of vandalism when he abolished Stormont in 1972 (the first being his railroading through of membership of the then Common Market).

I think this a sensible and very British solution to the problem; the likelihood is that the second chamber will become more and more assertive with a democratic mandate, but it will still have a deliberative function and members with seats for 12 or 15 years should be ideally placed to fill that role. Is it really a bad thing for a healthy democracy to have two houses which can heartily disagree with each other on various issues? It will be an excellent check on the government of the day and should restore some balance to the constitution. The Commons will always, by its vary nature, be inextricably tied to the government of the day, and hopefully with long terms, the second chamber will not be. Unlike now, it will have the ability to stand up to the executive in a way which even the Commons cannot. Good. Why can't we have 100% elected Lords Temporal but retain Lords Spiritual, coincidentally? They have always been quite distinct and there should be no block on them taking their seats via different means.

I whole heartedly agree with those opposing the name "Senate" incl NW Supporter and Graham Checker (with whom I also agree about the effect of fuming - mainly on punctuation for me)
Also thanks to those who said they agreed with me: its good to know I am not the only one who thinks that way.

The Bishops should be removed with the hereditary peersm without question. Nobody should automatically be given a peerage because of their position within a religious organisation, even within the context of the established Church.

People keep referring to the "problem". There is no "problem" with the Lords except the assumption that just because it is not a democratic body, it's terrible for our country. What about quangos and most of the EU? I can assure everyone there will be major constitutional problems when it has been tinkered with. You only need to look in the most basic of A-Level politics books to see why (I'm not typing out the list because I've ranted about it before).

If other unnecessary constitutional experiments like devolution are anything to go by, it can only end with gridlock and controversey. The monarchy will be next- It's probably the start of a slippery slope to becoming just another unremarkable, grey, western democracy. And of course, their systems all work sooo much better than ours, don't they?

I think we should just combine what we have at the moment with a modicum of democratic control. Peers (and I would prefer both hereditary and appointed) should be allow to remain and all have speaking rights. However, voting rights should be determined by election (I would prefer FPTP in multi-member constituencies, with Peers/Religious elderss standing based on wherever they are "Lord", or "Bishop" etc. of).

First they wrcked a working system so that they would be free to disregard constitution an tradition. Now we have to smhow pick up the pieces.

I would prefer the term "Senate" with those elected being referred to as "Senators". Yes, the House of Lords is a wonderful old tradition but to introduce the idea of elections whilst still allowing those elected to hold the title "Lord" or "Lady" somehow reduces the whole thing to a certain vulgarity in my opinion.

Only the British would take a system that works extremely well from a functional point of view (ie, does what it is supposed to do, and effectively), and rip it to pieces in some sort of attempt at social engineering - then get wrapped around the axles trying to figure out what to replace it with!

The main purpose of all this monkeying around with the Lords is to ensure that there is no independent Chamber in Parliament that can hold the government up to account and ensure that legislation is properly drafted and is not completely unjust and oppressive. Well, they can do it some of the time. It was a lot better before it was packed by placemen and placewomen. I am sorry to see that the Conservative Party spokesman shows himself to be no better in this respect than the Labour Government - abolish or destroy anything that cannot be controlled.

I am also sorry to see that the Conservative spokesman has no ability to think logically at all. The only way HoC will retain primacy is by having a part-appointed, part-hereditary (whose disappearance from the House has meant that work does not get done the way it used to be, for those who have bought into the anti-hereditary propaganda); if it becomes an elected House, no matter what you call it, it will have equality with the Commons. How can you justify the alternative? Well, that's Nick Herbert written off as far as I am concerned. How many more?

The elected "senators" must have single fixed terms of, say, 12 years, and the right to vote, but the Parties represented in the commons ought to have the right to appoint a team of "advocates" - effectively Lords Ministers" - who would not have a vote.

The HoL is, after all, the highest "court" in the land and as such similarities with legal courts is not inappropriate.

Personally, I don't see any contradiction in the upper house being elected and it being subservient to the HoC, provided those sitting there are not seen as rivals to the elected politicians in the HoC. This can be achieved if the "senators" remain unpaid and an age qualification is introduced at, say, 45. It would then be unlikely to attract anybody who desires a longer term political career.

No Conservative worthy of the name would wish to change the existing House of Lords very much as it works perfectly well. As for 'democracy', look what introducing democracy into the Church of England has reduced it to. We have always had a mixed constitution, with both a democratic and hereditary element, and there is nothing wrong with that.
The only change I would make would be to make membership of the Lords for hereditary peers (limited to about 200) based on the length of time since inheritance, with the most senior becoming members. A similar arrangement has long been the case with the Bishops, based on the date of consecration.

"Our first demand of the government is that any change must be put to a referendum. We cant leave this as a carve up by the politicians."

I disagree completely,

We can't afford to have a referendum on this. I usually to support direct democracy, but a referendum would result in a 100pc elected chamer using pr, is that what we want?

"Secondly, I see no need for the House of Lords. We should be arguing for four unicameral national parliamnets and a unicameral federal parliament. Of course Herbert is wrong and everyone above is right that an elected reformed second chamber is going to demand parity with the Commons (and given the mess the Commons has made, since it had effective charge of the country, it will deserve it.) The politicians know that is a recipe for coalition, pork barrelling and the black arts. It would be as bad as PR.It may be what they want. Why is it what we want?"

Why shoudn't a reformed chamber demand parity with the commons? Part of its problem is that it has been neutered in recent years and SHOULD have more power.

The biggest mistake people make is to think that our castrated second chamber does a good job. I'm sure there are many good peers, but the vast majority don't even attend the debates. They just turn up to vote the way their whips tell them to. Without the party apparatchiks, the house of lords would probably have voted for a referendum on the lisbon treaty.

The only problem I have with Nick Herbert's proposals is the term length, which he doesn't mention. What is the point in having 12-15 year terms? How is that democratic? Senators should serve 6 year terms and be elected in thirds every 2 years.

"The HoL is, after all, the highest "court" in the land and as such similarities with legal courts is not inappropriate. "

But it wont be as of next year when the supreme court is created.

As already commented, I don't really understand Nick Herbert's first point regarding the need to have Upper House members elected by FPTP to geographical constituencies. Doing this would really make the Upper House little different from the Commons.

The constituency link is vital for MPs, but an irrelevance for the Lords (there's no constituency link now and no-one would say that the Lords is or claims to be geographically representative - this has gone since the Lords ceased to be filled solely by hereditary peers). To provide a distinctive balance, my preference would be for the Lords to be elected by PR with Parties on the ballot nominating a list. It would be up to each party to decide the range of specialist knowledge and experience it wished to retain. There could also be a proportion of seats reserved for non-party members and separate direct national elections for independents.

I agree that there should be many fewer seats. 100-200 would be sufficient (perhaps at the higher end depending on how many independents ought to be elected) and would be consistent with the Lords' expert scrutinising role freed from the need to spend time engaged in electioneering and representing individual constituents.

Elections to the Lords should happen out of sync with General Elections (perhaps tied in with fixed terms for the Commons) so that the party make up of the two houses was clearly distinct.

I hate the name 'Senate', it's awful. Leave it as the House of Lords. If you really must, change their title from Lord X to X LP (Lord of Parliament) or something. There are enough Senators in this world.

That said, I really am unsure about all this tinkering. Nobody knows what they want to replace it with, so I suspect in the end evreyone will be even more dissatisfied than they are now.

"I hate the name 'Senate', it's awful. Leave it as the House of Lords. If you really must, change their title from Lord X to X LP (Lord of Parliament) or something. There are enough Senators in this world."

The lords equivelent of 'member of parliament' is 'peer of the realm'.

I like the term senate and senator. Australiahas a senate, ad we gave it that nae, canada has a senate and we gave it that name. We gave all of the colonies second chambers and they have all taken the name senate.

"That said, I really am unsure about all this tinkering. Nobody knows what they want to replace it with, so I suspect in the end evreyone will be even more dissatisfied than they are now."

This hole problem ha been caused by the unwilingness of the conservative party to sensibly reform the house of lords when we had a chance. If left again for a laour government to finish, it will be a disaster, so it has t be a first term priority for a conservative government.

"Australiahas a senate, ad we gave it that nae" I meant type 'Australia has senate and we gave it that name'.

Oh for heaven's sake.

The minute the Tories return to power, the hereditary peers should be restored, and moves should be made to work towards the abolition of life peerages (with all due respect to sitting life peers, some of whom are extremely impressive people).

England tried to 'reform' the House of Lords in the seventeenth century. Happily, after less than two decades, the House of Lords was back again, in its previous form. God willing, history will, in this case, repeat itself.

(On the other hand, if the House of Lords is abolished, why call the replacement 'another bunch of unemployable second-raters who will rubber-stamp legislation in return for money and perks'? One might as well be honest about these things.)

Random thought: it was the accelerating rate of purely political appointees (and that idiot Benn) which resulted in the Life Peerages Act and the unfortunate suspension of hereditary peerages being awarded.

If none of these groups of people will have future political powers would we restore full powers to Her Majesty to appoint people to these titles on merit without fear or favour and without any political interference from No10?

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