Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Professor Dawn Oliver, Professor of Constitutional Law, University College London (LR 59)

  I enclose a copy of my response to the Government White Paper, which I am sending to the Lord Chancellor's Department. I hope some of the points will be of interest to your committee's investigation of the proposals for House of Lords reform.

  A point that I did not make in my response but which might interest you is as follows.

  The Royal Commission's proposals for appointed members seems to me to promote a form of deliberative and participative democracy to run alongside our normal representative democracy system. In my view it is highly desirable that such complementary forms of democracy develop.

  The representative system relies very heavily on parties in Parliament, government and other elected bodies to be the channels through which the public can participate in government. Non-party members of the second chamber and appointed members who support parties but are relatively independent of them would be in a position to participate in debates about government policy and general problems of the country and to influence the scrutiny of bills and delegated legislation. They could give "voices" to sections of society which are not normally represented through election or party nomination. The Royal Commission's proposals were designed specifically to secure that voices that are not normally heard but which have contributions to make to debate and scrutiny of government should be included in the reformed second chamber. Nomination of members by the parties, as proposed by the government, will not secure this kind of presence in the chamber.

  An import out of respect in which participation in debate etc. in the second chamber differs from the usual work of pressure groups etc is that the government has to respond in the second chamber to points made in debate, in the scrutiny of bills etc. Government ministers are not required to respond to points made outside Parliament in the same way.

  So my feeling about the Royal Commission recommendations was and is that they positively promote democracy. It saddens, but does not surprise me, to note that most people assume that the only way democracy can be promoted is by election and that representative democracy is the only form that can legitimately exist in this country. I disagree. I think ways need to be found to enable a much wider range of voices to have an input into parliamentary activity. In a way one role of the second chamber would be that of a "civic forum" and this would be very beneficial.

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