Memorandum by Ald Iris Robinson MP (LR
The composition of the reformed House of Lords
should be determined by the following rules.
1. The initial composition consists of most
of the current peers. This is to provide some continuity with
the existing system.
2. The term of office is for 15 years. This
is to minimise interference from the (stronger) House of Commons
and from the (even stronger) Government of the day.
3. There is a (fixed) maximum number of
members (eg 700), subject to rounding (see below). New members
are added after every UK General Election, to bring the total
membership up to the notional maximum. No new members are added
to replace members who die or retire in between General Elections.
4. Each party participating in the General
Election to the House of Commons submits a list of candidates
for the new House before the election. No person on any list can
also run for election to the House of Commons (at the same time).
5. In each constituency the ballot for the
new House consists simply of a list of parties, and these are
the same as the parties listed on the ballot for that constituency
for the House of Commons. Each voter chooses one party from the
list. (An alternative is to just use one ballot for both elections.
Thus the party selected on an individual's ballot is the same
for both seats.) This is to make the system simple and cheap to
6. The number of new seats awarded to a
specific party is its proportion of votes across the entire UK
multiplied by the number of members being notionally added to
the new House, rounded to the nearest whole number. (So, for example,
if 100 members were notionally being added, the threshold for
electing a single member would be 0.5 per cent of the overall
vote.) The persons elected for a particular party are chosen in
order from the pre-election list (nobody being allowed to drop
out in favour of someone further down the list). This is pure
These rules have the following advantages.
1. The new House is subject to political
choice only in determining its composition, a member is there
for life, so in principle there is no further political interference.
A member could change political allegiance after election. In
fact, the party system in the new House could be completely abolished
2. The overall composition is roughly in
proportion to the long-term popularity of the various parties.
Particular elections only effect the proportion of new members
added. This makes the new House stable politically.
3. There is no special role for the Government
of the day, other parties choose their own members to the new
4. There is minimal cost in determining
the composition of the new House.
5. The electorate can choose to vote tactically
in the election to the House of Commons yet vote for the party
they really support in the election for the new House. More people
might vote in those constituencies where the election to the House
of Commons is a foregone conclusion. (One way to save money and
make the voting system even simpler, but losing this advantage,
is to just use one ballot for both elections.)
In addition, election to the House of Commons
could perfectly happily remain as now (ie first past the post),
it is election to the new House which is based on proportional
representation. Finally, the legislative relationship between
the House of Commons and the new House could remain the same,
or there could be some alterations to make the new House more