Archive for the ‘House of Lords’ Category

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Designing a new House of Lords

In House of Lords,voting systems on July 18, 2012 by dadge

It seems to me there are three requirements for an upper house. 1. It should be designed with regard to its function, i.e. to scrutinise the bills and other products of the House of Commons; 2. To this end, its seats should be filled by people who are, or might be, good at that job; and 3. its membership should not be elected by proportional representation.

The reason for 3. has been well rehearsed: it would be ridiculous to have an upper house that is more representative, more democratic, than the House of Commons. I know that some politicians, especially Lib Dems, are so desperate to get PR into parliament that they have no qualms about getting it in by the back door, so to speak, but it must be avoided at all costs.

The consequences of points 1 and 2 are, among others:

4. It doesn’t matter if the upper house is democratically elected or not, really. The current system of appointment works reasonably well, and the only tweak that’s necessary is to remove the hereditary peers. (There’s nothing to stop the best of them being re-appointed as what you could call “double-lords”.)

5. If we move to an elected upper house we need to find a way of ensuring that the people who are elected are capable of fulfilling their role. Unfortunately, open elections are not necessarily the best way of achieving this.

My recipe is as follows:

6. Make the elections for the upper house as different as possible from those for the House of Commons, given that the latter should be, and will eventually be, elected by STV or AMS. Therefore use FPTP or AV for the upper house.

7. Use fixed constituencies. The most suitable are local authority areas; where there are two tiers, use the upper tier (i.e. counties).

8. Rather than electorates, use total population (taking the figures from the census).

9. Make it easier for non-politicos to become their local representatives. This can be done, for example, by allowing certain people the right to automatic nomination, whilst politicians have to get their nomination paper signed by a lot of people.

10. As an extra twist, rather than a uniform system, why not allow each area to choose how it will be represented? Or how people will be nominated?

Example

11. One senator per 150,000 people gives a chamber of about 410 senators. Each of the 4 nations gets (population÷150,000)+1 senators. The 2011 census returns for England and Wales have just been published and they would give England 354 seats and Wales 22, as follows:

Durham 3
Northumberland 2
Newcastle 2
Sunderland 2
Darlington 1
Hartlepool 1
Middlesbrough 1
Redcar & Cleveland 1
Stockton 1
Gateshead 1
North Tyneside 1
South Tyneside 1
Lancashire  8
Manchester & Tameside 5
Oldham & Rochdale 3
Salford & Trafford 3
Cumbria  3
Liverpool 3
Sefton 2
Bolton 2
Stockport 2
Wigan 2
Cheshire East 2
Cheshire West 2
Wirral 2
Blackburn & Darwen 1
Blackpool 1
Halton 1
Warrington 1
Bury 1
Knowsley  1
St. Helens 1
Leeds 5
North Yorkshire  4
Sheffield 4
Bradford 3
Kirklees  3
Wakefield 2
Barnsley 2
Doncaster 2
Rotherham  2
East Yorkshire 2
Hull 2
North East Lincolnshire 1
North Lincolnshire 1
York 1
Calderdale 1
Derbyshire  5
Lincolnshire 5
Northamptonshire 5
Nottinghamshire  5
Leicestershire  4
Derby 2
Leicester 2
Nottingham 2
Rutland 1
Birmingham 7
Staffordshire  6
Worcestershire  4
Warwickshire 4
Shropshire 2
Stoke 2
Coventry 2
Dudley  2
Sandwell  2
Walsall 2
Wolverhampton 2
Solihull 1
Herefordshire 1
Telford & Wrekin 1
Essex  9
Hertfordshire 7
Norfolk 6
Suffolk 5
Cambridgeshire  4
Central Bedfordshire 2
Bedford 1
Luton 1
Peterborough 1
Southend 1
Thurrock 1
Barnet & Harrow 4
Greenwich & Bexley 3
Camden & Westminster 3
Hackney & Islington 3
Havering & Barking 3
Croydon 2
Ealing 2
Haringey 2
Lambeth 2
Lewisham 2
Newham 2
Southwark 2
Tower Hamlets & City 2
Wandsworth 2
Brent 2
Bromley 2
Enfield 2
Hillingdon 2
Hounslow 2
Redbridge 2
Waltham Forest 2
Kensington & Chelsea 1
Hammersmith & Fulham 1
Kingston 1
Merton 1
Richmond 1
Sutton 1
Kent  10
Hampshire  9
Surrey 8
West Sussex 5
East Sussex  4
Oxfordshire 4
Buckinghamshire  3
Brighton & Hove 2
Southampton 2
Medway 2
Milton Keynes 2
Isle of Wight 1
Portsmouth 1
Reading 1
Slough 1
Bracknell 1
West Berkshire 1
Windsor & Maidenhead 1
Wokingham 1
Devon  5
Gloucestershire  4
Somerset 4
Cornwall & Scilly 4
Wiltshire 3
Bristol 3
Dorset  3
South Gloucestershire 2
Plymouth 2
North East Somerset 1
Bournemouth 1
North Somerset 1
Poole 1
Swindon 1
Torbay 1
   
   
Anglesey 1
Gwynedd 1
Conwy 1
Denbighshire 1
Flintshire 1
Wrexham 1
Powys 1
Ceredigion 1
Pembrokeshire 1
Carmarthenshire 1
Swansea 1
Neath Port Talbot 1
Bridgend  1
Vale of Glamorgan 1
Cardiff 2
Rhondda Cynon Taf 1
Merthyr & Ebwy 1
Caerphilly 1
Torfaen 1
Monmouthshire 1
Newport 1

12. In a very few cases I’ve combined local authority areas. I’ve done it in Greater Manchester, where by a quirk of fate there’s a lot of boroughs where there would be 1.5 senators, and in London, where it seemed a bit unfair that some boroughs would get 1 senator and some would get 2 even though they have similar population, and in Merthyr Tydfil/Ebbw Vale. 

13. Nomination

Imagining an AV election… All lords resident in the authority are automatically nominated unless they withdraw the nomination. Each authority can nominate one candidate. In a two-tier authority, the county and each district can nominate one candidate. All nominees and nominators must reside in the local authority area. Voters can “write in” the name of any resident of the authority.

example: Warwickshire (4 seats)

any current or past member of the House of Lords (listed first on the ballot paper); up to one county nominee (listed second on the ballot paper); up to five district nominees (listed third on the ballot paper)

listed next on the ballot paper, in random order:
up to one nominee of any organisation with at least 1360 members (0.25%); anyone nominated by 544 residents of the authority (0.1%); people who can self-nominate, viz. past members of the House of Commons, any GBE, KBE, DBE, MBE, OBE, CBE, QC, JP, OM, CH, VC, GC, FRS or professor, any bishop or religious leader (no religious group may nominate more than 80 people in the country)

example: Coventry (2 seats)

any current or past member of the House of Lords (listed first on the ballot paper); up to one city nominee (listed second on the ballot paper)

listed next on the ballot paper, in random order:
up to one nominee of any organisation with at least 798 members (0.25%); anyone nominated by 319 residents of the authority (0.1%); people who can self-nominate (see above).

Or something like that.

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Two wrongs don’t make a right

In boundary changes,House of Lords,Lib Dems on July 16, 2012 by dadge

I’ve voted Liberal Democrat many times, and I was happy at the prospect of a Tory-Lib Dem coalition, but the party is losing all respect and the coalition is descending into farce.

For over a year, commentators have been suggesting that Lib Dems might vote against the 2013 boundary review, but I dismissed this as naive prattling. Therefore it’s with increasing dismay that I’ve started hearing the same idea coming from the horse’s mouth. I suppose this is a result of increasing frustration at the way the coalition cookie is crumbling.

Some in the party are sore at what’s happening to Lords reform (after already having suffered humiliating defeat over AV) and, from a position of extreme weakness, are looking for a way of asserting themselves. But they only have themselves to blame: the package of constitutional change they got into the coalition agreement was half-baked.

To wit: no-one really wanted AV. And we don’t want a House of Lords elected by PR that’ll be more representative than the House of Commons. We don’t want a House of Lords with 15-year terms. We don’t want a House of Lords full of party apparatchiks. And we don’t want an elected House of Lords with unelected bishops. I support the coalition but I would run a mile before voting for the bill that Nick Clegg has laid before parliament.

Menzies Campbell has been on TV saying he’s against he’s “against tit-for-tat politics” but counters this by saying that “if you’re a Lib Dem MP whose seat has been carved up as a result of the boundary proposals, then the idea that you would simply march into the lobby in support of the Conservative government’s particular anxiety to obtain this piece of legislation is one that may be very hard to swallow. I don’t believe that it will be accepted that we will simply form up in the way that some people think. I think there’ll be a lot of hard talking going on.”

It’s not hard to see what’s wrong with this line of argument. First, he’s suggesting that MPs might vote against the boundary changes for personal reasons. Second, he’s saying that the boundary changes are nothing to do with me, guv. So desperate is he to dissociate himself from the policy that he refers to the coalition as “the Conservative government”!

Don’t forget we’re not comparing like with like here. As far as the Lib Dems are concerned, the Boundary Review bird has already flown. They voted for the bill two years ago, and all that’s going on now is that an independent commission is enacting the reforms they supported. I think a judicial review is required to check that that commission is doing its job properly, but once the review is complete the job of parliament is simply to rubber-stamp the new boundaries. Anything else is politicking of the worst kind, the kind demonstrated by the Labour Party in 1969.

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Lords Reform

In House of Lords,News on April 23, 2012 by dadge

The House of Lords doesn’t excite me very much. It’s not ideal but it seems to do its job reasonably well. It’s old-fashioned, but so’s having a Queen, and I’m not a republican. In a spirit of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” I’m happy to let some of these some-would-say outmoded institutions keep going. After all, the alternative is usually worse.

Even if change were a good thing, the new (majority) report on Lords reform gets almost everything wrong. Firstly, the idea that we should have a referendum on this topic is absurd. At least 90% of the population couldn’t give a monkey’s – surely even a career politician can see that?

450 members? A tad on the high side. Elections only every 15 years? Not often enough. 20% appointed? Too arbitrary. 12 bishops? You’re joking. Mostly elected by PR? Er…

I agree with David Steel (who’s just been on Newsnight) and the minority report that no change should be made that damages the primacy of the House of Commons. Electing the second chamber by PR would do just that, since its members would be more representative than their counterparts down the corridor, who are elected by FPTP.

Although David Steel seems to prefer a method of indirect election in order to avoid questions of primacy, I think the American model is possibly the one we should adopt. Each county, unitary authority and metropolitan borough should elect one member (or possibly 2 in the case of very large counties like Kent) to the new chamber by first-past-the-post, while the Commons could either stay as it is, or, preferably, be elected under STV.

p.s. How about not allowing members of the upper house to be members of political parties? That’d be something…