Thursday, March 8, 2007

Elected second chamber - most of the answers can be found in the US

It is always entertaining when there is a debate about the House of Lords. We get all sorts of pompous fossils who legislate on our behalf, such as Lord Strathclyde and that funny bloke whose ancestor got drunk with Pitt, coming out of the woodwork. Lord Redesdale is an exception to this observation - what a marvellous man!

Lord Strathclyde said last night that, although he was in favour of a 80/20 elected second chamber, he thought the House of Lords would vote against the Commons' favoured option because it would mean voting themselves out of jobs.

If the House of Lords, starting a debate about its future, was a council, all the members would have to declare a pecuniary interest and withdraw from the chamber. Any member who didn't leave would be reported to the Standards Board.

And we are getting all the usual arguments wheeled out: an elected second chamber would cause impasses between the two houses, it would all be political hacks, it would be just like the Commons, not distinctive...etc etc

The answers to all these questions are: "Well, it seems to work pretty well in the USA."

However, there is one rather dodgy thing about the US Senate. As Shirley Williams once said, more or less exclusively, you need to be a millionaire to get elected to it. In fact, I once read (can't find the link) that a US Senator has to raise $100,000 every single week, from the day he or she is elected, to get re-elected. And they have six-year terms.

So, we need campaign finance reform in parallel with any second chamber reform.

2 comments:

  1. Steve RutherfordMarch 8, 2007 at 4:54 AM

    A 'House of Representatives' sounds a great idea, but this is what the House of Commons should already be.

    Don't get me wrong, I am in favour of Lords reform, but it has to go hand-in-hand with Commons reform.

    As the THE party of Democracy this is a great chance to put forward something radical. Let's rise to the challenge.

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  2. the Liberal Democrats' Better Governance Working Group is currently looking into updating our policies on Re-engaging citizens, Scrutiny and accountability, Devolution and decentralisation, Defining the boundaries between the state and citizen and A modern constitutional settlement. Take a look at http://consult.libdems.org.uk/governance/ and share your comments, thoughts and views.

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