Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Dr Nick Palmer MP (LR 19)

  I've been taking broad soundings on this in the constituency (through a 1,000-strong e-mail list) and with fellow MPs. Some conclusions:

    —  There is general dissatisfaction with the proposed 60 per cent appointees, which is not seen as fulfilling the pledge of democratisation.

    —  There is less general support for a fully elected Second Chamber than one might think from press coverage. The need for appointed expertise (realistically, 100 per cent elected Chambers will be full of people like us—hard-working party-selected generalists) in a revising chamber is widely acknowledged. To quote a personal comment from Lord (David) Clark. "The terrifying thing about speaking in the Lords is that, whatever your subject, Britain's leading expert is in the Chamber listening to you". It would be a shame to lose this capability.

    —  There is grudging acceptance of the need for some party appointees to provide a link to the Commons and the main parties.

  On balance, therefore, the concept of a mixed formula on the lines the Government suggested does seem to have a reasonable chance of acceptance, but not with the proportions proposed. I suggest 50 per cent elected, using open regional lists, 25 per cent appointed independently, 25 per cent appointed by party nomination with independent review. The independent nominations should be made after consultation with the widest possible range of outside organisations, with the ambition to have a specialist on every conceivable subject in the Chamber.

  The opportunity should be taken to clear up ambiguities and peculiarities in the relationship between Commons and Lords. The farce of potentially infinite "ping-pong" should be replaced by a revised Parliament Act giving the Commons the power to force legislation through it if is confirmed three times. This weakening of Lords delay powers could be compensated for by greater revising/scrutiny power. For instance, a one-month period off pre-scrutiny for all Bills during which the relevant Lords Committee would be allowed to examine any proposed legislation before it entered the Commons process.

November 2001



 
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