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VivatReginaScottorum

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After the discussion cropped up on another thread a while ago about the House of Lords in the UK and its reformation, I thought that the topic might merit a thread of its own; I've only just gotten around to actually posting it. Personally I am very much against the idea of abolishing the upper house completely, since this would essentially create a unicameral parliament with the House of Commons having absolutely no restrictions on its power whatsoever, besides the monarch's right to refuse royal assent which realistically can't be used in any but the most extraordinary circumstances due to political realities. At the same time, replacing the Lords with an elected senate as the Labour Party have advocated for seems redundant to me. The Lords are supposed to be a counterbalance to the democratic lower house, not a clone of it. Whilst I'm sympathetic to the idea of restoring the fully hereditary House of Lords I don't think it's politically feasible, nor am I convinced that such a house would be the best option for providing the "sober second thought" and expert criticism of bills that the upper house is supposed to.

With that in mind, I have developed my own proposal for reform of the Lords, though I am quite cognisant that my plan is quite unlikely to be discussed outside of this forum let alone implemented. I took some inspiration from the House of Peers in pre-1947 Japan and the modern Canadian Senate. My proposed House of Lords would consist of:
- 92 hereditary peers elected to represent the hereditary peerage in general, as in the current House of Lords
- 26 bishops of the Church of England
- 115 life peers appointed by the monarch on the advice of an independent commission
- 10 academics in the area of the arts and humanities, elected by the British Academy
- 10 academics in the area of the natural sciences, elected by the Royal Society
- 12 law lords appointed by the monarch on the advice of a select committee following the same procedure currently in place for the appointment of Supreme Court judges, whose role the law lords would once again assume as the constitutional absurdity that is the UK Supreme Court would be abolished.

This would make for a total of 265 peers, who would be required to retire at the age of 75 as members of the current Senate of Canada are. Additionally, I would repeal the restrictions placed on the Lords in the 1911 Parliament Act that reduced their power to veto bills to simply delaying them, perhaps with the exception of the budget so as to avoid the kind of deadlock and government shutdowns that the US has repeatedly fallen victim to recently. I think that this would create an effective check on the powers of the Commons with a broad range of perspectives whilst keeping the upper house at a manageable size. The proposal could also be introduced gradually by retiring current members of the Lords as they reach the specified retirement age and purging peers who fail to meet a minimum threshold attendance rate, whilst placing a moratorium on the appointment of new life peers until the number of life peers is reduced to 115 (the actual numbers of appointed life peers and peers elected by the BA/RS are somewhat arbitrary and thus flexible). 

Though I'm sure it wouldn't please everyone (and possibly won't please anyone, except me), I'd love to hear what others think of this proposal and possibly alternative plans for reforming the Lords.

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Peter

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Reply with quote  #2 
At first sight I quite like it, certainly as compared with the horrible, sprawling mess we have now. Whether it would actually happen, considering how useful the power of patronage is to the Prime Minister and to a lesser extent leaders of other parties, is of course another question. But leaving it in the realm of the theoretical, your mention of a threshold attendance rate would presumably continue to apply after the desired numbers were reached? With a view to ensuring at least reasonably frequent if not daily participation by the reduced number of peers. Another specific point is that while I would not be averse to a modest increase in the Lords' powers I would to a full veto, except where that already exists. As for the Supreme Court, if I could dance a jig upon its abolition I would. But instead of doing myself a mischief trying I'd just raise a glass to the happy news.
azadi

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Quote:
Originally Posted by VivatReginaScottorum
With that in mind, I have developed my own proposal for reform of the Lords, though I am quite cognisant that my plan is quite unlikely to be discussed outside of this forum let alone implemented. I took some inspiration from the House of Peers in pre-1947 Japan and the modern Canadian Senate. My proposed House of Lords would consist of:
- 92 hereditary peers elected to represent the hereditary peerage in general, as in the current House of Lords
- 26 bishops of the Church of England
- 115 life peers appointed by the monarch on the advice of an independent commission
- 10 academics in the area of the arts and humanities, elected by the British Academy
- 10 academics in the area of the natural sciences, elected by the Royal Society
- 12 law lords appointed by the monarch on the advice of a select committee following the same procedure currently in place for the appointment of Supreme Court judges, whose role the law lords would once again assume as the constitutional absurdity that is the UK Supreme Court would be abolished.

Your proposed House of Lords resembles the State Council of Tsarist Russia. The Tsar appointed half of the members of the State Council. The Russian nobility elected 18 members of the State Council. The Russian Orthodox Church elected 6 members of the State Council. The Russian Academy of Sciences elected 6 members of the State Council.
I will prefer the life peers being appointed by the monarch on the advice of an independent commission to the the life peers being appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The powers of the House of Lords ought to remain unchanged. The House of Lords being able to veto bills is unacceptable, if the House of Lords isn't democratically elected.
Why do you dislike the UK Supreme Court?


Wessexman

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I liked Vivat's proposals. One thing that has occurred to me is House of Lords could be elected on a different geographical basis to the Commons, rather like the US senate. I personally would like to see the ceremonial counties represented. Or perhaps regions could be used. It is probably a forlorn hope, but perhaps, in Scotland and Wales, giving regions representatives in the Lords might help weaken separatism. If, for example, the Western Isles had a couple of representatives, then these this might do a little for them thinking of themselves, and as part of the UK, rather than as Scots.
AaronTraas

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Quote:
Originally Posted by azadi
The powers of the House of Lords ought to remain unchanged. The House of Lords being able to veto bills is unacceptable, if the House of Lords isn't democratically elected.


(Emphasis mine)

Really? Unacceptable? To whom and on what grounds? 

It's odd that you admire autocrats and thugs, but a non-elected body having veto power over the creation of laws is somehow unacceptable?
azadi

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronTraas


(Emphasis mine)

Really? Unacceptable? To whom and on what grounds? 

It's odd that you admire autocrats and thugs, but a non-elected body having veto power over the creation of laws is somehow unacceptable?

Russia isn't a true democracy, but Putin is elected by the Russian people. I'm opposed to abolition of democracies, but I'm not opposed to benevolent dictatorships in countries, which lack democratic traditions. Granting the British House of Lords veto power will a major setback for democracy in Britain, because the British House of Lords currently lacks veto power. Most Britons will be opposed to the House of Lords obtaining veto power, because they are democrats.

Wessexman

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Was Gaddafi one of these benevolent dictators, his sex dungeon not withstanding?
azadi

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wessexman
Was Gaddafi one of these benevolent dictators, his sex dungeon not withstanding?

Gaddafi wasn't a benevolent dictator. He was a ruthless tyrant. I admit that I like him, because he was eccentric. I prefer a funny tyrant to a boring tyrant. Assad is a boring tyrant, but I support him, because he is the least bad option in Syria. 
Gaddafi supported African monarchies. Gaddafi was a republican, when he was a Pan-Arabist, but he was a monarchist, when he was a Pan-Africanist.
DavidV

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This thread should be moved to British Isles and Commonwealth.
Peter

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Not really. If you read the specification for that section, its purpose is to discuss the British monarchy and also those (same sovereign, different monarchies) of the other 15 Commonwealth Realms. This seems to me to be the appropriate section for discussion of other matters of British governance. Actually, it could be argued that your long-running Brexit thread should be here rather than there. Not complaining, just saying there's no need to be over-fussy.

I must admit I find the idea that dictators should be assessed on their entertainment value bemusing. Also the idea that the man who overthrew an African monarchy was a supporter of African monarchies. But no matter. I didn't say why I was opposed to any large extension of the Lords' veto powers, just that I was, but essentially it was on the grounds that it would be a sure-fire guarantee of constitutional conflict and crisis.
MatthewJTaylor

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I'm probably quite unusual in that I believe both of the following:

  1. The Upper House should be primarily entered by Hereditary means
  2. The Upper House should not contain the bishops of the Church of England

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Peter

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I'min favour of the first, as Vivat said he was in the opening post. But, like him, I know it ain't gonna happen. I'm not in favour of the second, since it seems to me that if you have an established church it is only reasonable that it should be represented in some way in the organs of government. And despite my fairly well-advertised religious views I wish to keep an established church as a matter of tradition and continuity.
AaronTraas

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter
I didn't say why I was opposed to any large extension of the Lords' veto powers, just that I was, but essentially it was on the grounds that it would be a sure-fire guarantee of constitutional conflict and crisis.


I'm not a subject of the British crown, so my opinion isn't strong, as it frankly isn't my place to tell a people how to govern itself, unlike our resident troll.

However, on purely theoretical grounds, I do like the idea of a strong veto power from a body that is separate from the body who makes and executes laws. In the US system, that belongs to the president. In the UK, you have a parliamentary system which is more efficient than our system, in that the party in charge chooses the prime minister, so there's not the same potential for conflict between the highest executive office and the lawmaking body, which can lead to the party in power making large and sweeping changes and running roughshod over the minority.

Now in saner times, the crown could actually weild veto power. In my opinion, that would be superior. But absent that, the Lords having veto power would seem like a sane check against abuses by the current ruling party.

Please correct my ignorance if I'm plagued by any misunderstanding on my part.
Peter

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Reply with quote  #14 
No, everything you say is perfectly correct. However, that's the way we've been running things for over a century now and we seem to be still standing, so while I admit the theoretical advantages of a non-elected body (or person) holding such a veto I feel it would be difficult to make a strong case for introducing it here.
azadi

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter
Not really. If you read the specification for that section, its purpose is to discuss the British monarchy and also those (same sovereign, different monarchies) of the other 15 Commonwealth Realms. This seems to me to be the appropriate section for discussion of other matters of British governance. Actually, it could be argued that your long-running Brexit thread should be here rather than there. Not complaining, just saying there's no need to be over-fussy.

I must admit I find the idea that dictators should be assessed on their entertainment value bemusing. Also the idea that the man who overthrew an African monarchy was a supporter of African monarchies. But no matter. I didn't say why I was opposed to any large extension of the Lords' veto powers, just that I was, but essentially it was on the grounds that it would be a sure-fire guarantee of constitutional conflict and crisis.

Gaddafi was a republican Pan-Arabist, when he overthrew the Libyan monarchy in 1969, but he abandoned Pan-Arabism and embraced Pan-Africanism in the 1990's. Gaddafi supported traditional African monarchies, such as the monarchies of Toro and Bunyoro in Uganda. 
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