THE CASE FOR A SECOND CHAMBER WHICH WOULD ADD SOMETHING TO PARLIAMENT AND PROMOTE EMPOWERMENT

THE PROBLEM

The House of Lords is a large unelected body commanding little legitimacy.

THE CONVENTIONAL SOLUTIONS

  1. Make it a smaller elected body.

OR

  1. Abolish it

WHY NOT THE CONVENTIONAL SOLUTIONS?

Either of them would ensure that Parliament consisted exclusively of full time politicians owing their place to party political processes.

This is hardly empowering.  This is not the mood of our times.

THE ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION

A Second Chamber which consists entirely of people who are NOT FULL TIME POLITICIANS.

  • That doesn’t mean that they can’t be elected.
  • It doesn’t mean that they can’t be part-time politicians.
  • It does mean that they must live a life in which Parliament is a small part – a voluntary form of public service, rather than a job.

HOW COULD THIS WORK?

500 seats each shared by 24 people (12,000 people in total) attending for 8 hours a fortnight would create a Chamber that could meet for 16 hours a day (8am to midnight) six days a week

HOW WOULD IT BE ELECTED?

This proposal is compatible with any of the electoral methods proposed – you just elect more people. However the considerable increase in the numbers to be elected does open up new opportunities.

A POSSIBLE ELECTORAL METHOD

The following is an electoral method which takes advantage of the much larger number of people involved in a part time chamber to combine some of the competing electoral proposals.

As just one possibility

Out of 12,000 people sharing 500 seats we could have

A fifth (2,400 people sharing 100 seats) elected by the method advocated by Billy Bragg, seats allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes they receive

  • Political parties receiving more than 1% of the vote would receive a number of seats proportionate to the number of votes.

  • For a transitional period the party’s life peers would have a claim on these seats but no new political life peers would have this right.

  • After the transition

    • up to a quarter of the seats would be nominated by the party,

    • up to a quarter would be indirectly elected by the party’s elected representatives and governing bodies,

    • at least a quarter would be elected by the party’s members and

    • at least a quarter would be elected by the entire electorate in a geographical single member constituency (a sort of open primary but after the General Election not before it)

  • Each party group would make its own arrangements to rotate attendance

A fifth (2,400 people sharing 100 seats) elected by STV with quota to link national and local government. This is the Senate of Regions and Nations idea made more local still (taken down to district level) and linked to the idea of election by STV with quota

  • Electing 2,400 people means 1 representative per 27,000 people (about 23,000 electors).

  • This means that it is possible to use district councils as constituencies and still have multi-member seats in which STV can work.

  • Those elected could serve on the council as well as in the House of Lords – the title alderman could perhaps be revived.

  • In two tier areas they could serve on both the district council and the county council – indeed in large counties they might entirely replace county councillors.

  • In devolved nations some arrangement could be made, appropriate to the situation of the individual nation, to involve them in the national parliament. For example they could share a number of seats in the national parliament on the same 8 hours a fortnight basis as they use in the House of Lords

  • Some arrangement could also be made to involve them in devolved arrangements in regions

  • They could therefore knit together the different levels of elected authority.

  • They would form themselves into groups to arrange the rotation of attendance. The LGA would arrange the rotation of those who could not find a group

One tenth (1200 people sharing 50 seats) to consist of faith representatives

  • Elected by multi-faith partnerships

  • The established churches in England and Scotland could organise these partnerships and the rotation of attendance but have no other special role.

A fifth (2,400 people sharing 100 seats) to consist of a citizen’s jury (1,200 people sharing 50 seats) and its expert advisers (1,200 people sharing 50 seats)

  • Each month 90 jurors would be chosen by lot to serve for one year and 10 would be chosen by the National Jury, from amongst those due to leave it in the next three months, to have their term extended by a further year

  • The National Jury would appoint 1,200 experts to support it in its work. Half of these would be filled by 24 places (one seat) reserved for experts appointed from each of the major professions (Health, Finance, Law, Engineering, Architecture & Planning, Other Professions), scientific disciplines (Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Geographical & Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences, Applied Sciences, Other Disciplines) and bodies of knowledge of especial relevance to the work of a legislature (Economics, Public Finance, Public Health, History, Politics & Social Policy, Statistics & Interpretation of Evidence, Constitutional & Public Law, Human Rights, Ethics, Government & Public Administration, Politics & Political Philosophy, Policy Application of Science, Behavioural Sciences). The remaining 25 seats (600 individuals) could be appointed from any area of expertise or achievement.

  • For a transitional period existing non-political life peers would slot into expert places to maintain continuity and to reduce the number of appointments that need to be made at the outset.

  • An elected Secretariat of the National Jury, elected by the jurors, would arrange the rotation of attendance

One tenth (2400 people sharing 50 seats) to consist of youth representatives

  • Members in this category would attend once a month rather than once a fortnight to minimise disruption of education so 50 seats would be shared by 2400 people not 1200.

  • Half the seats would be filled by the members of the UK Youth Parliament and by former members for one term of office after leaving. The Youth Parliament would arrange the rotation of attendance.

  • The other half would be filled by student representatives. Seats would be divided proportionally between student unions who would arrange the elections by STV with quota. NUS would arrange the rotation of attendance

One tenth (50 seats, each shared by a number of people) to be filled by representatives of organisations chosen by the people.

  • Any organisation could stand other than a political party, an organisation with a political test of membership, an organisation formed primarily to influence a particular party, or a public body under the control of Ministers

  • To stand organisations would need either 100,000 members or 100,000 nominators (or a mixture of the two e.g. 60,000 members and 40,000 nominators who are not members)

  • Trade union and charity law would be amended so trade unions could stand whether or not they have a political fund and charities could stand

  • Voters would vote for 20 organisations. The 50 with the largest number of votes would appoint a group of people to rotate one seat

  • Elections could take place concurrently with the European elections.

One tenth (50 seats, each shared by a large number of people) to be filled by representatives of the major interest groups of the realm.

  • An Assembly would be created for each major interest group of the realm

  • Membership would be based on standing, achievement, representative function, office or election by a larger group and as far as possible would be automatic or by election not a special appointment

  • These Assemblies could be based on relationships to the economy (Land & Title, Capital, Labour, Management, Consumers), professions (Health, Finance, Law, Engineering, Architecture & Planning, Other Professions), bodies of knowledge (Science, Social Sciences, Applied Sciences, Other Disciplines, Universities, Schools), cultural movements (Arts, Media, Sport), honours (Life Peers, Other Crown Honours) types of public service (Administration, Advocacy & Dissent, Charities)

  • Each Assembly would meet monthly and identify two delegates to attend each meeting of the Chamber

As an optional extra, arrangements could also be made to allow the public to vote electronically, having watched the debate on television. Individuals unable to watch at the right time but wishing to participate could do so by appointing proxies.

This is an additional possibility. If 25,000 public votes equated to 1 vote in the House of Lords (rounded up for the option which obtained the most votes and down for the other) then the public vote would overtake the vote in the House when more than 12,500,000 people participated. A new participatory politics would emerge around the campaign to secure proxies.

SOME PROCEDURAL IMPLICATIONS

Business planning would need to be done at least a month ahead to allow members to make appropriate arrangements. Saturday afternoons could be reserved for urgent business which could not be planned a month in advance.

Speaker and officers It would be necessary to have a panel of deputy speakers and also to elect an Executive Committee to oversee organisational arrangements. Groups of members would also need whips and officers to arrange rosters or coordinate procedures. These members would be able to attend even when not rostered, although they would only be able to vote when rostered.

Existing life peers Political life peers (those appointed specifically as working peers and those who have held elected office or served as Ministers) would slot in as members of the delegation from their party. Special arrangements would be made for those whose party has ceased to exist or has ceased to be entitled to seats – two seats would be shared between these members. Crossbenchers would slot in as expert advisers to the National Jury. Individuals who have not been appointed specifically as working peers or held elected office or served as Ministers, but who have taken a party whip would be individually considered by the National Jury who would decide whether to appoint them as advisers or to treat them as political peers – those treated as political peers would join their party delegation.

New life peers In future life peerages would be an honour rather than a legislative appointment, although an Assembly of Life Peers would be one of the assemblies entitled to send two representatives to each meeting of the Chamber.

Participation by members who are not rostered Normally members who have good reasons for attending should be rostered to attend but it is possible to think of circumstances where this might not be possible, especially for members in small groups where several might have a reason to attend or where a member holds a dissenting opinion. To deal with this, the Speaker of the House of Lords should have power to invite an unrostered member to attend in a non-voting capacity if that member has business on the agenda or a specific and particular contribution to make or is a member of a committee which is meeting.

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