Thursday, March 30, 2006

House of Lords Reform

In the wake of the lolly for lordships scandal, all the talk is of reforming the upper house. Who could object? It is, to say the least, an anachronism that our upper house of parliament is partly hereditary, partly selected by the powers that be and partly sold by the seat to fund our political parties. Of course it should be reformed. But it won't, I guarantee, be improved.

Why? Because the House of Commons will never approve a democratic competitor. If the Upper House were elected on some rational basis, it would make no sense for its powers to review and amend legislation to be restricted any longer. Since the early twentieth century, the powers of the Lords have been steadily eroded in favour of the Lower House. If it had a democratic basis they should be restored. If they were restored then it would not be enough for the Executive to control the House of Commons through the party whips in order to function as an elected dictatorship.

I would like to see an English Parliament added to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. The members of those parliaments could sit separately as local parliaments and together as the Upper House or Senate. They would be entirely democratic, but on a different electoral cycle. This could be part of a new written constitution for the United Kingdom, which could be entrenched by requiring a two thirds majority of the Senate to approve any amendments.

Full review and supervision of legislation could be returned to such a Senate. No need to exclude money bills or have overriding powers for the House of Commons.

Sensible? Yes. Rational? Yes. Respectful of the national aspirations of the home nations? Yes. Will it happen? Never in a million years! Why? Because the present parties like things the way they are. They like to be able to sell membership in the House of Lords for money or political favours. They like to sweep away ancient liberties without any checks or balances; without even pause for reflection. They may be betraying the nations of Britain on a daily basis, but they like it that way.

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