Party members' lords

Published: 17/09/1999   by: Published in The Daily Telegraph Letters page: 17 September, 1999

SIR - It was predictable that Sir Robin Day should opine that all other options apart from an all-appointed House of Lords are "simply not on" (article, Sept 2). Rather than party mandarins making nominations to a selection committee, would it not be possible for the parties themselves to draw up lists of nominees for the reformed Upper House?

Membership could then be constituted by taking all of the votes cast in the Westminster election and distributing them proportionately among these party lists. This would eliminate the need for further elections and, as members of the Upper House would not have a direct mandate from constituents, the pre-eminence of the House of Commons would be preserved.

Furthermore, as no party this century has ever won 50 per cent of the popular vote, the government of the day would never attain a majority in the Upper House.

The presence of an independent or crossbench element is in impossible to guarantee, even under a system of appointment. However, I believe that, if the right conditions are set by the Royal Commission, an independent element would evolve as it has done under the present arrangement. By far the most attractive feature of this system is that a reformed Upper House so constituted would be a genuine expression of the democratic will of the British people.

Billy Bragg
Philadelphia, USA

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