Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Letter by Richard Wilkins (LR 35)


The appointment of "Nominated Political Members"

  I am an active Labour Party member, having been parliamentary candidate for Cotswold in 2001. I am also a barrister with an interest in constitutional matters. The House of Lords White Paper is full of interesting proposals; some welcome, others not.

  I understand your committee will be taking evidence on Lords reform from this week. Whilst I am sure the debate about election versus appointment will continue, I am keen that another, in my view very important, issue is not obscured by that debate. If, as seems likely, the Lords will remain predominantly appointed, thought must be given to how that appointment is to occur; in particular the relative power of party centres and back bench MPs.

  The White Paper appears to accept that the nominated political members are to be appointed by party leaders, (see paragraph 67). This misses an important chance to widen the field of such appointments and reduce the power of party leaderships and prime-ministerial patronage. This could be achieved within the scheme of the White Paper if MPs were able to fill the vacancies allocated to their party by the Appointments Commission. In a small way, this would help redress the balance between the front and back benches.

  I have considered procedures that could be adopted to this end. There are a number of alternatives. However, at this stage the important thing is to obtain some consensus on the principle. I would be interested to hear your views.

  Finally, I enjoyed your speech on Graham Allen's Prime Minister Bill. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

January 2002

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