Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Reverend A Pyke (LR 1)

  I am writing to you in your capacity of Chairman of the Public Administration Committee to say that I find the government proposals for the reform of the Upper House completely unacceptable. The area in which New Labour, in my opinion, lacks the most credibility is that of its handling of election issues with the London Mayor and the Regional Assemblies being cases in point. Constitutional reform should not be a party political issue. Every effort should be made to reach cross party agreement, but in any case, to ensure that sufficient checks and balances be built into the system to hold the executive to account. It seems to me that the ideal Upper House in the eyes of some would be a rubber stamp.

  I believe that the Lower House should continue to be elected by a "first past the post" system to ensure the direct link between the electorate and the Member of Parliament. Because this system can deliver what might virtually amount to an elected dictatorship there has to be a strong counter balance. This means having parliamentary committees that have real independence. It also means a strong Upper House.

  To have any legitimacy this House must have at least 51 per cent of its membership elected by the people, preferably, by proportional representation. This would give the political parties as much scope as they need to assign members from their lists according to the strength of the vote. The remainder should be appointed by an independent electoral commission and should be drawn from people who have significant contributions to make by reason of their proven expertise in the field from which they come.

  I suggest that such an Upper House would command general support in the eyes of our people and would be a fitting conclusion to the reform process.

  I would very much like to know what you think about this matter?

November 2001

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