Lords reform looks set to be one of the more contentious issues in the current Parliament. Pressure for progress from the Liberal Democrat leadership looks likely to meet opposition from a combination of elements from the Conservative and Labour parties. This, despite all parties expressing manifesto support for reform of some kind. Given that, a compromise seems desirable, so I humbly offer one here.
In short, I propose that the reformed chamber should be directly elected, but that abstentions should count as ‘votes’ for an Appointments Commission list of candidates.
The Commission would only be charged with producing a list of potential legislators of experience and expertise, not ‘winning’ elections. However, citizens should be able to ‘positively’ vote for such a list, as well – which they may well do if they value this apparent feature of the existence of such peers in the current chamber.
By adopting this approach, I suggest it is possible to achieve a chamber that is:
- directly elected;
- broadly representative;
- a deliberative body in which contributions are made by people of experience, expertise, and specialist knowledge;
- subordinate to the House of Commons.
The first two are achieved by electing the members of the chamber using a broadly proportional method. The deliberative character of the chamber are achieved by ‘abstention-votes’ ensuring that ‘experts’ are present. Finally, the very fact that there would be members of such a chamber without a direct democratic mandate would provide for the de facto subordination to the Commons that seems to be of such concern to reform opponents.
For a more detailed discussion of the proposal, together with some examples of how vote shares and turnout would map onto seat shares, please see my post here.
* Tim Hicks is an Ussher Assistant Professor of Political Economy at Trinity College, Dublin. He received a DPhil in Politics at Nuffield College, Oxford, in 2009. You can view his web site here and he can be reached by email at [email protected]