Friday, February 09, 2007

A tri-cameral legislature

A few days ago I blogged about my thoughts on a type of tri-cameral legislature.

I have read other blogs and they don’t seem to think that we need hereditary peers. Some think it is unfair that they get the job by being born into it. I agree, it is unfair but these people are doing a very good job. If it wasn’t for them we would have compulsory ID cards by now. Instead they are not compulsory. This is all down to an unelected Lords.

Unelected lords don’t have to be concerned about their political party which is why the party whips find it almost impossible to keep control of them. A wholly elected Lords would just be full of more politicians who put their parties first and vote along party lines. It would essentially become a clone of the House of Commons. Do we want that? Of course we don’t. This would undo any checks and balances that actually have.

Instead of having them mostly elected I think that that some should be elected as well as appointed for 15 year time periods and we would keep the life and hereditary peers.

The elected Lords would have more powers than the unelected Lords and would be elected in each county. This would create a type of tri-cameral legislature as mentioned in an earlier blog post. In the earlier blog post I only mentioned a few of their powers, I have now thought of some more powers. These new powers are designed to take some powers away from the Prime Minister and the House of Commons who have become too powerful. Both the Prime Minister and Parliament need to have fewer powers to safeguard our rights and the checks and balances.

First of all the power to declare war will be given to these elected lords. However this must be started by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will have to ask the elected Lords to declare war. While they are debating this the Prime Minister will be allowed in the debating chamber to debate with the Lords. This will hopefully stop future wars like Iraq from ever been thought of by our leaders.

Second, this is stolen from America; they will have the power to appoint ambassadors to any country.

The appointed Lords who will be appointed for 15 years will be chosen by the Prime Minister. The elected Lords will have to vote on those lords and will have the power to reject them. After rejecting 5 in one year the elected Lords will have the power to choose their own. This will hopefully stop anything like the Cash for Honours as power of making lords will actually lie with the Lords.

The ratification of treaties will also be given to them. The Prime Minister will choose which treaties that he wants signing and it will be up to the elected Lords to decide if they should ratify them. This will hopefully stop us from joining anything like the European Union ever again.

The Parliament Act will also be neutralised too. If the government uses it then the legislation will bypass the unelected Lords and go straight to the elected Lords to vote on.

The Lords will be granted one additional power and it will be for all the Lords. They will be granted their own Prime Ministers Question Time and Ministerial Question Time.

For everything that only the elected Lords are allowed to vote on the unelected ones will still be allowed in the chamber to debate to try and change the minds of the elected Lords to their way of thinking.


james higham said...

I agree completely that the Lords is the last bulwark against these bstds. That's why my Defend the Lords banner.

Stan said...

I'm very much of the school of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". When it comes to the Lords it seems to me that it functions EXACTLY as it is supposed to and therefore does not need to change.

If you have both houses elected you almost invariably end up with each house being dominated by one party or the other. You only have to look at the US to see the problems with that.

When the Republicans controlled both houses there was nothing to stop them doing as they wanted - in other words no checks or balances to the political party that dominated. Now the Democrats hold Congress and the government are unable to do anything at all. It's either too powerful or a "lame duck". Why does anyone want to move to that sort of system? It sucks!

There are far more important constitutional issues of concern - like the fact that the English don't have a parliament. The government should be dealing with that and a host of other things (electoral fraud for example) before they even consider the Lords.

On the subject of how the Lords should be reformed - if we want elected Lords then lets do it along county lines and elect them for life. Keep the Lords spiritual as they are, but have each county elect 10 Lords to represent them for life. When they need to be replaced the county elects the new representative.

youdontknowme said...

It isn't broken? So you are happy that they can bypass the Lords with the Parliament Act? Of course it's broken.

Thon Brocket said...

Two legislatures, separately elected. Legislature-1 legislates, but can't legislate taxes to pay for it all. To raise the money, they apply to the (separately-elected) taxing Legislature-2, who deal only with taxes - nothing else.
L-2 (taxing) reps run for election on tax-policy alone - so they'll keep the L-1 porksters on a tight leash.
Separation of powers (taxing and spending) and a double dose of democracy. Everybody wins.

Neil Craig said...

The original idea was that the Lords represented the rich & the Commons well...the commons & if they both disagreed with the king he was probably wrong. To get back to such a separation of powers how about selling peerages.

No party bungs, no vetting to keep out Paul Raymond just filthy lucre.

Stan said...

Sorry, youdontknowme, but I don't see the governments increased use of the Parliament Act a symptom that the Lords is broken. If anything it demonstrates that the Lords works pretty much as it should.

My point about an elected second house still stands though. The US demonstrates that such a system causes more problems than it solves. Either all powerful or utterly sclerotic.

Sal said...

An odd feature of Westminster is that it does not follow the Westminster System.

Another is (I quote from various but consistent media shows, all of which cited Hansard) that around three quarters of all the UK's Socialist legislation was ORIGINATED by the old House of Lords. So it was doing the job intended, its original purpose (matching that of making judges unsackable) of allowing and encouraging incumbents to take a long-term whole-country view was clearly working.

Sadly, you no longer have a House of Lords, you have a House of Friends of MPs. That is, it is an extension of the house of representives, an extension of the populist mood of the (election-time) moment.

So the UK is presently practically a single-house government and has been for over a decade.

Also, the UK does not currently practically have a separate head of state. The queen can no more sack the government or influence the policies of the day than I can. So the practical head of state is, again, popularly elected.

In other words, the UK has been, structurally, for over a decade a fascist state.

The hard part for the UK in establishing a viable long-term upper house though, is identifying a non-populist basis for each member's constituency. America chose Political Regions as the basis and Australia chose Economic Regions as the basis (though not explicitly). America's voting system is utterly hijacked by procedural issues so the result is not related to the nominal high-level structure. But Australia's old boundaries are still moderately correlated with current longterm economic consequences, and the forced out-of-step elections are still neatly adding drag to Professional Parasites' Personal Power Aspirations while still contributing to the actual interests of the actual electorate.

Personally, in a fresh-start context, I believe an explicit Long-Term Quality-Of-Life basis is the most appropriate in drawing up a non-political long-term set of boundaries for an upper house's electorates. I would suggest maybe the UK consider a combination of GDP and Population. For example, a high-GDP/few-people area would be apparently over-represented because, in a progressive taxation regime, it is disproportionately more important for the whole country than an average region since it contributes more. Similarly, a low-GDP/many-people region would also apparently be over-represented because, in a humane regime, it is disproportionately more vulnerable than an average region.

I don't see any need for a head of state to have powers much beyond sacking the government -- this returns power to the people: an election. It also eliminates all the very nasty issues of legal liability (a President/Immanent-Head-Of-State logically CAN NOT be liable for any crime, for example. Think about it.). It also eliminates head-up-own-arse syndrome on the part of the head of state. Your Queen/King monarchy setup actually works quite well, in that sense -- they have no aspirations so near-zero drive to bend the rules. And they're subject to the law, since they only act as replaceable representatives of the state rather than any one individual being the State's Immanent Manifestation. AND they pay more than 50% tax due to a PR cockup by George. Never underestimate the benefit of a free figurehead. Or in this case, a figurehead who pays you.

You may get some ideas or amusement by wandering through this very old vaguely-related post of mine:
"Like a parachute or insurance, it's a complete waste of time and space, until you need it."
>Voting is compulsory, to prevent disenfranchisement of the jaded by the obsessed, and so the newly created government is a more accurate reflection of the actual wishes of the people they are nominally supposed to represent.