Memorandum by Paul Stinchcombe MP (LR
Consultation Response to the White PaperThe
House of Lords, Completing the Reform
The continued presence in the legislature of
peers selected only by the accident of their birth was an affront
to a modern democracy and had to end. I therefore applaud the
decision to start the reform of the House of Lords during the
last administration. I dohoweverhave concerns about
the current proposals for the completing of that reform.
Do we need a second chamber?
I believe strongly that we do need to have a
second chamber. There is a massive need for scrutiny of Government,
and members of the House of Commonswith so many other constituency
responsibilitiesdo not have either the time or the expertise
to undertake that exercise on their own. The second chamber has
a vital role to play in imparting that expertise, providing that
scrutiny, and being a check and balance on government itself.
Should its membership be directly elected?
Nonetheless, I believe also that the second
chamber should complement rather than compete with the first chamber
and that if the second chamber were entirely and directly elected,
there would be a real risk of competition to the grave detriment
of good government.
In particular, we already have an elected first
chamber chosen by the people and given a democratic mandate. I
fear that if we create a second directly elected chamber, it would
claimunderstandablyan equal democratic mandate and
thereby claim powers beyond those of revision and scrutiny. As
such, the real risk would be created by legislative impasseif
the two chambers had different parties in the majorityas
two equal chambers asserted the right to impose their will.
Moreover, I believe that a wholly and directly
elected second chamber would also become increasingly the creature
of party politics, losing much of its independence and expertise.
Indeed, there would be a real risk if the second
chamber were to be entirely directly elected of even greater party
control of the second chamber than of the House of Commons. In
particular, any chamber full of directly elected members without
constituencies would likely be elected through some sort of party
list system. There would thus be created a very real risk that
candidates for election would be selected not by local parties
or associations but by the central party machines. Party leaders
could thereby exert massive control over the party lists, thus
ensuring their preferred candidates had the best chance of being
Should its membership be appointed through exercise
of political patronage?
I object equally to all other exercises of political
patronage over the membership of the legislature. I am, accordingly,
far from happy with the suggestion that any proportion of the
second chamber be directly appointed by party leaders. Moreover,
for the reasons given below I believe this could be avoided entirely
without causing any of the problems described above of a second
chamber directly elected in its entirety.
An alternative modelindirect elections/an
It seems to me that the preferred solutionone
which would be democratic but which would avoid: (1) the risk
of the second chamber seeking to usurp the first; and (2) the
risk of the second chamber losing its independence and expertise
to become a creature of party politicswould be to create
a second chamber whose membership would be largely made up of
representatives indirectly elected by various groups and bodies.
For example, there could be a second chamber
of 200 members of which between 50-90 would be directly elected
by the general public and the remaining 110-150 indirectly elected
by various organisations and representative bodiessuch
as the CBI, the city, small businesses, the TUC, local government
representatives, doctors, teachers, university lecturers, various
other professions not mentioned above, the Church and other major
faiths, ethnic minority communities, the elderly, the young, the
This would ensure democratic accountability,
avoid patronage, minimise party politics in the second chamber,
ensure that the legislature was more representative of our pluralistic
society, and better ensure the input of real expertisewith
experts being chosen by their own peersin the legislative
I have suggested above that my preferred solution
would minimise party politics in the second chamberthis
seems to me to be the very likely consequence of the second chamber's
membership being largely made up of people indirectly elected
by different organisations and representative bodies many of whom
would have no party affiliation. For the reasons given above I
perceive this to be advantageous.
I appreciate, however, that wherever there are
elections to any part of the legislature the various political
parties will seek to organise. Moreover, some of the suggested
participantsthe CBI, the TUC, Local Governmentwill
be readily amenable to party political influence, whether overt
or otherwise. Various "slates" will doubtless be drawn
It seems to me that it would be wrongin
any participatory democracyto seek heavy-handedly to curtail
or prevent all such party political activities. Nonetheless, some
protections seem to me to be necessarysuch as limits on
the amount that can be spent by candidatesto prevent the
party political machines from taking the process over.
If the above solution were broadly to be accepted
in preference to the deeply divisive proposals currently being
consulted upon, it is on this kind of detailtogether with
the exact make-up of the electoral collegeto which I believe
detailed consideration should now be given and upon which I would
then wish to see full consultation.
It is apparent from the above that my own preferences
depart so significantly from the proposals that are currently
being consulted upon that my comments do not fit neatly as answers
to the various questions posed under the White Paper's Summary
of Issues for Consideration. Nonetheless, I do address those issues
as best I can below.
Is the overall balance between elected, nominated,
and ex-officio members right, and the balance between political
and independent members?
No. The majority of the second chamber should
be indirectly elected as above. I have suggested that with 200
members, between 50-90 members be directly elected and between
110-150 be indirectly elected by various organisations and/or
Should elections for regional members be linked
to elections to the European Parliament or elections to the House
of Commons? Is a link with regional elections realistic?
It would be entirely feasible (and probably
desirable) for wholly different arrangements to be established
in respect of the various indirect elections suggested above.
If my preferred solution were adopted, this would therefore mean
establishing a timetable and other arrangements for the direct
election of between 50-90 members only.
So far as these direct elections are concerned,
I accept that it would be desirable to have these elections on
a regional basis to ensure equity in representation between the
various regions of the UK.
As to timing, I would prefer directly elected
membership to the second chamber to be for a fixed term. This
rules out linkage to elections to the House of Commons andpracticallyto
local elections also, so divergent are the various local electoral
practices in the UK. Moreover, I would not favour linkage to the
European Parliamentary elections either since this would inevitably
influence the elections in an inappropriate way by focusing campaigns
on one set of issues to the exclusion of others.
I therefore favour an entirely separate timetable
for these direct elections to a second chamber. This solution
would also serve to emphasise the discrete importance of the second
chamber in the new constitutional settlement.
For how long should regional members be elected?
Five years. There is no reason why they should
be elected for longer than any elected member of the first chamber.
For how long should appointed members serve?
There should be no appointed members.
What should be the rules for disqualifying members?
All elected memberswhether elected directly
or indirectlyshould be treated the same, identically to
elected members of the House of Commons. There would be no appointed
members to be treated differently from the elected members.
Is it necessary to change the system of remuneration?
As above there would be no appointed members
to be treated differently from other members. There wouldhoweverbe
two types of elected members: those elected directly and those
elected indirectly. Both types of elected member should be properly
remuneratedeither by an annual salary or by remuneration
for actual days attended. My preference would be for daily remuneration,
with the total payable upon attendance every working day being
equal to the MP's annual salary.
Paul Stinchcombe MP