Draft House of Lords Reform Bill - Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill Contents

3  Electoral System, Size, Voting System and Constituencies

6. Ratio of elected to appointed members
Relevant section of the draft Bill: Clause 1


95. Part 1 of the draft Bill provides for 80 per cent of members of a reformed House to be elected and 20 per cent to be appointed. The ratio of appointed to elected Members after the first two elections would be affected by the draft Bill's transitional arrangements. After the third election an 80:20 split will deliver a House composed of 240 elected members, 60 appointed members, up to 12 Lords Spiritual and any ministerial members. The Government has indicated that it is prepared to consider other options including a wholly elected House. The Deputy Prime Minister stated that "I am a supporter, of course, of a fully elected House of Lords, but I do not want to make the best the enemy of the good. If the centre of opinion across parties is such that the 80 per cent option, which we very deliberately proposed in the White Paper alongside the 100 per cent model, gains more favour and support, in the cause of consensus and cross-party work, I would support that because, bluntly, 80 per cent is a lot better than zero per cent".[116] The White Paper states that the presence of elected members reflects the "fundamental democratic principle", while the inclusion of an appointed element would enable the contribution of "independent, non-party political voices" and those who are "pre-eminent in their field and have done great things", and who would not seek election.[117]


96. A number of witnesses were against a fully elected or hybrid House. Lord Cormack argued:

"If we have a 100 per cent elected second Chamber, Senate or whatever it is called, there will not be many independents in it. It will be elected mainly on party-political lines and the Cross-Bench element will virtually disappear. If, on the other hand, we have an 80 per cent elected Chamber with 20 per cent appointed, we would create a situation where the will of the elected could be frustrated by the non-elected".[118]

Lord Cunningham of Felling was against what he termed the "the muddle in the middle": "You cannot be half democratic. You have to be either democratic or not".[119] Several other witnesses argued in favour of a fully appointed House,[120] such as Paul Murphy MP who stated that the role of a reformed House would be "best performed by people with wisdom and experience" and who were not elected, but "nevertheless could have an influence on an elected Chamber by virtue of who they are".[121]

97. The written evidence suggested a range of views regarding the ratio between elected and appointed Members. Several submissions supported a fully elected House. Democratic Audit maintained that once the principle of direct election was accepted it would be difficult to "justify any unelected presence within the second chamber". It also dismissed the notion that appointed Members could provide qualities that might be lacking amongst elected members, such as expertise and independence, as anti-democratic.[122] The Electoral Reform Society and others also supported a fully elected Lords.[123]

98. Several witnesses who supported a fully elected chamber were prepared to accept an 80:20 split. Damien Welfare argued that elected members afforded the House legitimacy and accountability and gave it "weight within Government so that its views count".[124] Though his organization was mainly in favour of a 100 per cent elected House, he supported the Government's 80:20 split. This was because it would allow an independent element and a strand of expertise in a House which would "be less likely to develop the aggressive tendencies that some fear".[125] Though Unlock Democracy questioned the notion of appointed expertise and generally preferred a fully elected House, it agreed that a larger reformed House with a 20 per cent appointed element that was not full-time would be preferable to the current Lords. Unlock Democracy could not support a reformed House if fewer than 80 per cent of the members were elected.[126]

99. Other witnesses preferred a hybrid House. The Minister said that the 80:20 split was to "make it clear that the House of Lords has to be predominantly or mainly elected to change its nature" whilst an appointed element "would help reduce the ability of the House of Lords to challenge the Commons as the primary Chamber", as the former would not be as accountable and as legitimate as the latter.[127] He argued that an appointed element would allow the Lords to be more independent.[128] It would also bring a different perspective, as did the Cross-Benchers in the present House,[129] although he did not think that a largely elected House would lead to a deficiency in expertise and experience: "If you had a House of 300 people—240 of who were elected and 60 appointed—I just do not accept that you would not have people in a debate on the NHS who were directly experienced practitioners, or who had a lot of life experience to bring to those debates".[130]

100. Lord Adonis thought that elected Members could, as he believed was the case in the Commons, provide "a wide spectrum of experience and expertise" and that if there was a concern that certain types of expertise would not be brought forward by election then an 80:20 solution could address this.[131] Dr Alan Renwick broadly agreed with the Government's proposals, arguing that the 20 per cent appointed element would allow some retention of expertise and, alongside long, non-renewable terms and staggered elections, would help to maintain the primacy of the Commons.[132]

101. Lord Jay of Ewelme, the Chairman of the Appointments Commission, thought that elections would provide some expertise and experience but suggested that it would be different from the expertise found in the current House and amongst the proposed 20 per cent appointed element.[133] Other witnesses agreed.[134] We consider the question of expertise among appointed members further in section 15 below.

102. Other submissions accepted a hybrid House but supported a larger appointed element. The Muslim Council of Britain was worried that if "the majority of members of the new Lords are elected on party lines, then the level of scrutiny and debate on legislation will be reduced if a single party holds the majority in both Houses". It called for a reconsideration of the 80:20 split.[135]


103. The Minister did not think that an 80:20 split would lead to tensions between different types of Members, or appointed Members being seen as second-class. In the current House hereditary peers, Bishops and life Peers were not treated differently and evidence from other legislatures did not suggest that this would be a problem. He also did not think that it would be a problem if appointed members voted against the government, as governments would need to listen to the strength of the arguments following a defeat, rather than be concerned about the complexion of the opposition vote.[136]

104. Lord Cormack was concerned that appointed Members would be regarded as second class Members.[137] Both he and Lord Cunningham of Felling also feared that appointed Members could tip the balance in votes against elected Members with constitutional consequences.[138]

105. Dr Meg Russell did not think that there would be major issues between elected and appointed Members noting that tensions had not arisen in the current House between Hereditary and Life Peers: "You might have expected that, in the last 12 years, we would have heard a lot about how the hereditary Peers have been the ones to swing the balance of votes. I have heard nothing about that". She also suggested that public opinion was mixed on the issue of elected and appointed Peers, with polls showing that many people valued the presence of independents and experts in the current House.[139]

106. Some members of the Committee would prefer a fully appointed House. They hold the view that as the House of Commons has primacy it holds ultimate responsibility for legislation. That being the case, they do not consider it necessary for the members of the House of Lords to be elected. However, a fully appointed House is not being proposed in the draft Bill.

107. If there are to be elections, the Committee agrees on a majority with the proposal for a 80 per cent elected and 20 per cent appointed House as a means of preserving expertise and placing its mandate on a different footing from that of the Commons.

7. Size
Relevant section of the draft Bill: Clause 1

108. Part 1 of the draft Bill provides for a reformed House of 300 members consisting of 240 elected members, 60 appointed members, up to 12 Lords Spiritual and any ministerial members. Part 1 of the draft Bill and the White Paper also make provision for several transitional options, which could result in the House being substantially larger than the current House of Lords before reform is completed. The Government rests its case in part on the fact that the average daily attendance in 2009-10 was 388, many of whom had other commitments, and that 300 full-time members in a reformed House would be able to fulfil the same range of duties as the present House. The current average attendance in 2010-12 is 480/90—but this is deemed by Members to be too large.

109. The Minister said that the existing House of Lords over recent sessions had had an average daily attendance of about 400 Members and that the Government believed that 300 full-time members could cope with the workload of the present House. This number did not have to "be set in stone" and the Government was willing to listen to the Committee's recommendations on this point. He thought that the proportion—80:20—was most important, not the overall number, which was open to discussion.[140]

110. Several witnesses agreed with the Government's proposal regarding a reformed House of 300 Members. Dr Alan Renwick said that if the House was full-time "then 300 is a sensible number" though he added that if there was an expectation that some Members would be part-time "then increasing the number to something like 400 or 450 makes a lot of sense".[141] Professor Vernon Bogdanor saw 300 as "not a bad number", though he also thought that it might need to be larger if part-time Members were included.[142]

111. Others disagreed. Dr Meg Russell was concerned that 300 would "not be an adequate number to do the work of the House as now".[143] Lord Cormack thought that the Government's estimation of average attendance—388—did not take into account that not always the same people turned up. He thought that the aim should be "somewhere between 450 and 600—probably nearer the smaller number than the larger one—but that should be achieved over a period".[144] Lord Cunningham of Felling thought that 300 would not be enough to cover key functions such as Committee work: "If one looks at the Committee structure in the House of Lords now—at the Select Committees and other Committees—it just would not be possible to run an effective second Chamber scrutiny process with that small a number of people".[145]

112. A number of written submissions agreed with a cap of 300 members. For instance, Unlock Democracy argued that though it would result in a significant reduction in the size of the second Chamber it "would not undermine the current structures and methods of working" and "would take into account that all members would serve on a full time basis and would be given adequate staffing support to carry out their roles".[146] Others were content with slightly higher ranges. Lords Dubs agreed with 300-350 members,[147] while Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean saw 300 as within the "normal and reasonable range for upper houses" but were relaxed about a House of 450.[148] Several submissions argued that a House of 300 might be too low if it were to maintain its present functions and deal with new pressures.[149]

113. A number of others, such as the Campaign for a Democratic Upper House and the Electoral Reform Society recommended a House of 400-450 members.[150] Some submissions suggested larger numbers—500 members and more, especially if the House was to contain many part-time members.[151] Conversely, several called for a House that contained fewer than 300 members; Rt Hon Lord Maclennan of Rogart, for instance, proposed a House of 111 members.[152]

114. The Committee agrees that a House of 300 members is too small to provide an adequate pool to fulfil the demands of a revising chamber, for its current range of select committees, and for the increasingly common practice of sitting as two units: the main chamber and Grand Committee. In addition, we have recommended that appointed members should not have to attend as frequently as those who are elected. Accordingly, we favour a House of 450 members.

8. The electoral system

Relevant section of the draft Bill: Clause 7


115. The Government propose that the House of Lords be elected by a form of proportional representation (PR). Under PR the proportion of the seats won by any given party closely corresponds to the proportion of the votes cast for that party at the election. The draft Bill provides for the single transferable vote (STV) system, but the Government state that they recognise that "a case can be made for other proportional systems and the arrangements set out in the draft Bill to underpin the use of STV could be applied to an open list system".[153]

116. Proportional systems are based on multi-member constituencies, and the draft Bill proposes electoral districts returning between five and seven members each, with a floor of three seats in a district. Elections to the House of Lords would be staggered, with a third of the House elected in each Parliament (under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 this would, in normal circumstances, be every five years).

117. The Government state that using a form of proportional representation combined with elections staggered over three parliaments would "make it less likely that one particular party would gain an overall majority in the House", and would ensure that members of the reformed House "never collectively have a more recent mandate than MPs". Large multi-member constituencies would "protect the important link between constituents and their Member of Parliament in the Commons," and establish a role for elected members that "is complementary to the important work undertaken by MPs".[154]


118. Direct elections are not the only means of determining the membership of second chambers. An alternative is indirect election: the election of members by a group of people who were themselves chosen by the public. This might mean, for example, election by local councillors (as in France). A comparative study of 76 national second chambers worldwide by Dr Meg Russell showed that a form of indirect election is used (to a greater or lesser extent) to elect the membership of second chambers in 34 countries. Of these 34 second chambers, 16 are wholly indirectly elected.[155]

119. The Committee received proposals for a type of indirect election where the votes cast for party candidates at General Elections for the House of Commons are translated into a proportionately representative upper House or its elected element (as originally espoused by Billy Bragg).[156] This would be a similar system to a national closed list which we consider below (paragraphs 127-9). Other submissions proposed elections by "constituencies of expertise" or "functional constituencies", rather than geographical electoral districts. These suggest elections for candidates within particular categories on a national basis, for example science, the arts, faith, academia and education, and so on.[157] There were varied proposals as to how such functional constituencies could be chosen or defined.

120. The draft Bill proposes direct elections to the upper House. As a result, we did not consider these forms of election in detail and we therefore do not take a view as to their merits or otherwise. We note that in making these proposals for indirect elections or election by constituencies of expertise their proponents have argued that they would counteract perceived risks of constituency conflicts, confusion and weakening of MPs' constituency link with electors that might be thrown up by direct elections. The Committee examines these issues in section 14 below. However, the Committee would like the Government to give further consideration to a nationally indirectly elected House as an alternative in the event that Parliament does not support direct elections with geographical electoral boundaries.


121. Some witnesses questioned whether the use of a proportional voting system was appropriate, given that the public recently voted down the proposal to use the alternative vote system for elections to the House of Commons in a national referendum.[158] The Minister argued that:

"If you are electing a Government, my own view is that the challenge with voting systems is that the system which you choose should be one that is weighted towards getting a Government with a majority, who are able to take decisions and where the voters are then able to make a judgment at the end of the term of office ... But if you have a revising or scrutiny Chamber where you do not want the Government to have a majority, you need to use a different voting system. If you were to have first past the post for a second Chamber, all you would do is create a replica of the first Chamber and you would have one of two outcomes. Depending on when you had the elections, you would either give the Government of the day a majority in the second House, in which case there would be little point in having one, or you would give the Opposition a majority ... you would then set up a bloc in the upper House of people who were fundamentally opposed to the proposals that the Government were bringing forward because they were of a different political party".[159]

122. Other witnesses drew attention to the downsides of a House elected by first-past-the-post.[160] A House elected by a proportional system is unlikely to be dominated by one political party,[161] and we note that the various reports published on House of Lords reform over the past 15 years that have recommended election have all recommended a proportional system.[162] Professor Gavin Phillipson, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Durham, summed up much of the evidence when he told us that it was "vital to ensure that the party balance in the chamber is different, and more proportional from that in the Commons, to prevent one-party domination ... the use of first past the post would not be suitable for the second chamber".[163]

123. The Committee discussed the form of election at some length. Some members of the Committee agreed with those who thought it was inappropriate to recommend electing part of the legislature on any basis other than first-past-the-post so soon after the British people had decisively rejected AV in a referendum on the method of election of members of the House of Commons. Other members thought that the referendum result was not relevant because elections to the House of Commons determine who will form the government and who has the final decision over legislation, while the House of Lords would not determine the government of the day.

124. A majority agreed with the Government's proposal to use a form of proportional representation for elections to the House of Lords. A proportional system will best preserve the independence and political diversity of the current House of Lords and ensure that it retains a different character from that of the House of Commons. It is less likely to lead to elected members challenging the link between MPs and their constituents. We consider these issues in more detail below. Most importantly, however, it makes it unlikely that any one party will achieve and maintain a majority in the upper chamber.


125. We heard evidence on three main types of proportional systems: closed lists, open lists and the single transferable vote (STV) system.[164] All three systems are based on multi-member constituencies.

  • Under a closed list system members of the upper chamber are chosen from lists drawn up by parties based on the share of votes those parties received. Electors can cast a vote for a single party, but not for individual candidates. Voters thus "determine how many of each party's candidates are elected, but not which these candidates are".[165]
  • Under open list systems parties still draw up a list of candidates in a preferred order and electors can still vote 'above-the-line' for a single party, indicating their support for the party's list of candidates. As an alternative, electors can cast their vote 'below-the-line' for one or more of their party's candidates and so influence the order of candidates on their party's list.
  • Under STV parties do not order their candidates at all. Voters rank the candidates on the ballot paper in their order of preference—this can be for candidates from a single party or for several candidates from different parties. Candidates must reach a certain threshold of votes to be elected, with the threshold depending on how many candidates are being returned in that constituency. Voters' preferences are used to determine the total allocated to each candidate.

126. The key difference between the open list systems and the STV-based systems is how they interpret voters' preferences. Dr Alan Renwick and Professor Iain McLean told us that:

"list systems always count a vote for a candidate in the first instance as a vote for the candidate's party, whereas STV systems count a vote for a candidate solely as a vote for that candidate. Under STV, therefore, a voter can vote for one candidate from a party without giving any advantage to any of that party's other candidates, whereas under a list system a vote for a candidate can help secure election for another candidate from the same party".[166]


127. We asked our witnesses about closed list systems, whether at a regional level or through a national party list, but this electoral system received little support from our witnesses. The Minister argued that under closed lists "you effectively give all the power to the party leaderships ... Technically, people would be elected, but in reality I do not think that that would take is much further forward than we are at the moment".[167] Professor Bogdanor asked whether national closed lists would "have any advantage over the current method by which the party leaders choose working Peers for their parties? Would such people have any more legitimacy than the current working Peers? It seems to me a roundabout way possibly of achieving the same result".[168] Other witnesses also opposed such a system as being too similar to appointment.[169]

128. There was little support from our witnesses for a closed list system, and it was generally agreed that it would be much the same as the current system of political appointments. There are better systems for elections at regional level, which give voters more choice. We note however that a national list system would avoid any potential intrusion by elected members into the relationship between MP and constituents (see section 14 below). Systems which offer more voter choice such as open lists and STV are less practical at national level. We have not considered whether or not this outweighs the disbenefits identified by our witnesses, because a national list system is not proposed in the draft Bill.

129. We do not support the introduction of a closed list system for the sort of regional elections proposed in the draft Bill.


130. We received substantial amounts of evidence on these merits or otherwise of the STV and open list systems. This evidence focused on the following issues:

  • the election of independent candidates;
  • the election of party candidates relatively free from party control;
  • diversity; and
  • complexity.

Independent candidates

131. One of the key differences between STV and open list system is the extent to which independent candidates, who do not belong to a political party, are likely to get elected. Dr Alan Renwick stated that "with regard to the electability of independents, the evidence is pretty clear that that is more likely under STV than under an open list system," and he was optimistic about the possibility of this happening: "I would be very surprised, given the fact that British voters like having independents in the second Chamber, if no independents were elected under the proposed system".[170] The Minister was more cautious, noting that "it is not incredibly likely that you will get independents elected," but nevertheless he agreed that "STV is a system under which you maximise the chances of independent, non-party candidates being elected".[171] Other witnesses agreed.[172] Professor David Denver, Professor of Politics at the University of Lancaster, argued that list systems are "simply a party stitch-up, because the parties control who gets elected and non-party candidates are virtually excluded ... Party list systems are awful, in my view".[173]

132. Other witnesses were more sceptical about the possibility of independents being elected under any system, whether that was open list or STV. Professor Sir John Baker felt that "a candidate without substantial means, unless very well known to the public already, would not be brave enough to stand and certainly would not be elected",[174] echoed by Professor Gavin Phillipson who stated that "experience has shown that it is extremely difficult for independent candidates to gain election; even under a PR system".[175] Other witnesses agreed.[176]

133. Professor Jonathan Tonge, Professor of Politics at the University of Liverpool, noted that while STV had struggled to provide for independents in Northern Ireland, he suspected that this was "due to the party and ethnic bloc loyalties of the electorate." In respect of elections to the House of Lords, he concluded that "multi-member regional contests for the House of Lords, conducted in a less partisan environment than that in Northern Ireland, could offer the prospect of independents being elected".[177]

Independence from party

134. It was maintained by some witnesses that members of political parties who were elected under STV arrangements tended to be more independent-minded vis-a-vis their parties. Professor John Curtice described the issue:

"the House of Lords has at least developed, perhaps partly by accident, a role [as] ... a revising Chamber that occasionally is willing to tackle the detail of a Bill without necessarily debating it entirely on party lines, and considering whether the technical merits of the Bill are adequate ... Certainly an obvious danger is that, whatever electoral system we have, the expectation in most elections is that most elected representatives are going to be representatives of parties, so the elections tend to be about party. There is therefore a clear risk a system of election will increase the partisanship of the upper Chamber ... if we are to preserve its ability to do the job for which it has become renowned, we need to try to minimise the extent to which partisanship becomes a problem ...".[178]

The STV system, in his view, helped to promote a non-partisan approach because "... all votes are for candidates, formally they are not for parties ...".[179]

135. Independence from party was often held up as an advantage of the current House of Lords.[180] Professor Sir John Baker, for example, commented that the Lords "works reasonably well at the moment. Peers who are appointed have shown a certain independence which the Commons certainly does not",[181] although some questioned whether this was accurate. The Hansard Society, for example, suggested that the independence of party-affiliated peers was could be overstated and that despite weak whipping and the absence of constituency pressures most peers tended to vote along party lines.[182] Looking forward to an elected chamber, the Electoral Reform Society noted that it was "important, especially in terms of having a distinctive second Chamber that it very different in terms of look and feel from the other chamber, that you get a good mix of independent-minded people, both from within political parties and from outside them".[183] Other witnesses agreed.[184]

136. Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean stated that STV would help promote candidates who were independent from the party whip since it was a strongly 'candidate-centric' electoral system which encouraged candidates to campaign directly to voters.[185] Candidates have to distinguish themselves not only from candidates from other parties, but from candidates within their own party. David Howarth explained the result: "a good thing about STV is that it makes it easier for independents and party dissidents to get elected, and if dissidents get elected they might think their job is to defy the whips".[186] Rt Hon Lord Lipsey, however, questioned whether this might cause tensions as candidates from the same party would seek to offer "individual constituents and groups of constituents boons whereby they could distinguish themselves from, and show themselves superior to, other candidates".[187] Thus candidates from the same party compete against each other for votes.

137. Under open lists, by contrast, a candidate's ranking is likely to be more influenced by their position on the party list rather than by elector's votes—a candidate's primary concern therefore is ensuring they are highly placed on the party's list. A study of European parliamentary elections by Professor Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London, and Joshua Payne showed that elections using open list systems (although just over half of all MEPs were elected under closed list systems) in western Europe rarely succeeded in altering the parties' rank order of candidates, giving little incentive to candidates to campaign for personal, as opposed to party votes. They did note that in Eastern Europe voters were far more likely to use preference votes to overturn parties' preferred order, but argued that "the UK is more likely to follow the Western European pattern".[188]

138. We wondered whether it was likely that elected members would genuinely be more independent of the party whip than MPs, given that it was likely that parties would select individuals who they thought would follow the party line once elected. The Electoral Reform Society stated that:

"In the House of Commons, party discipline is arguably important because, after all, people do elect governments, not just MPs. In the Lords, it should be different. The forces of party loyalty and constituency interest should be weakened and the members' independent judgements about morality, ideas and the national interest should be relatively strong".[189]

139. Other witnesses thought that the long non-renewable terms would be more important in fostering independence, rather than the electoral system used. The Minister argued that "the party would have a fair amount of sway prior to the candidate getting elected, because the party would have some kind of process by which someone would become a party candidate. But the logic of having single, non-renewable terms is to have members who are a little more independent of their parties".[190] Other witnesses agreed.[191] Dr Alan Renwick did not see any reason why "elected members would be more constrained by the Whip than they are at present ... under the proposals there would be some sense of loyalty towards the party. I do not see any reason to think that would be particularly greater or less than it is at present".[192] We consider this argument further later in this chapter when considering electoral terms (see section 9 below).

140. Penny Mordaunt MP thought it "disingenuous" to suggest that STV would ensure independence from the party control inherent in list systems because candidates were chosen by political parties,[193] an argument also put forward by the Hansard Society.[194]


141. The Minister set out the dilemma: "The challenge for us … is that a number of mechanisms in place, particularly for dealing with gender, are ironically not at all easy to deliver if you are going to have a system which maximises voter choice".[195] He suggested that it would be up to parties to "get their act together and have a more diverse set of candidates".[196]

142. Unlock Democracy argued that "the most effective means of increasing the representation of under-represented groups is to move to a proportional electoral system".[197] Other witnesses were slightly more cautious, if still supportive. Counting Women In and the Fawcett Society both stated that a proportional system, whether STV or an open list system, would make it easier for women to be chosen as candidates. They argued that such electoral systems needed to be used in conjunction with additional positive action measures, such as quotas, all-women-shortlists, zipping or twinning shortlists to ensure a gender balance.[198] Other witnesses agreed.[199]

143. While much of the evidence on diversity centred on gender balance, the diversity issue goes much wider. The current House of Lords is, in many ways, a very diverse chamber, and it is by no means certain that election under a proportional system will of itself preserve that characteristic, although it should at least lead to greater geographic diversity. The three characteristics of the House of Lords which a new system of election should aim to achieve are independence, diversity and expertise (see section 15 below). Evidence suggests that each of these will continue to be difficult to sustain. The Committee's recommendation of a larger House of 450 members will help in this regard. The Committee considers that it will be for the political parties to address the diversity issue in their selection of candidates so that a reformed House will be no less diverse on gender, ethnic or disability grounds than the present one.


144. Compared to first-past-the-post any proportional system will be more complicated—at least for English voters who will have had no experience of it. Bernard Jenkin MP was among those who commented that STV is a "much more complex electoral system than that used for the House of Commons".[200] Professor David Denver admitted that "one disadvantage also seems to be that STV might seem complicated," although he argued that "it worked very well in Scotland when it was introduced in 2007 for the Scottish local elections. 1.8 per cent of ballots were rejected, which is a bit more than you would get on first past the post".[201] Professor Jonathan Tonge and Joshua Payne noted that "healthy turnouts" had been recorded under STV in Northern Ireland, and that spoilt ballot papers were "uncommon". He suggested this should "provide reassurance in terms of prospective use for elections to the House of Lords".[202] Under an open list system voters can, rather than ranking individual candidates, simply put a cross next to one party if they wish, making it a simpler alternative.

145. Professors David Denver and John Curtice raised the issue of 'alphabetical voting', described as when "people placed at the top of the list clearly do better" under STV.[203] Professor David Denver suggested randomising the order of the candidates on the ballot paper as a potential solution. The issue does not arise under open lists as candidates are generally listed in the order that they have been ranked on their party's list.

146. A proportional system of election based on STV or open lists will be new to English voters, less so to voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government must publicise the new system so as to maximise electors' understanding and to avoid confusion arising from the use of different voting systems on the same day.


147. In the Committee's view, the voting system chosen should give voters the widest choice possible of where to cast their preferences, whether that is within a single party or across candidates from multiple parties and yet be as intelligible as possible to the voter. We also believe that voters who wish to simply vote for a political party, rather than individual candidates, should be free to do so. We looked into the potential, therefore, for a voting system that would encapsulate these two conditions. It would:

  • allow voters the option of casting a simple party vote; and
  • allow voters to express preferences among individual candidates across, as well as within, parties.

148. Dr Alan Renwick and Professor Iain McLean produced a paper at our request, outlining possible voting systems meeting these criteria. This paper is attached as Appendix 6. The paper details four options. We have considered these options against further criteria. First, we think it desirable that the system should maximise voter choice and enable—at least in theory—independent members to be elected. Secondly, we think it desirable that the role of party in the distribution of 'excess' party votes should be minimised.

149. Of the four options, two are based on the open list system and two are based on STV. Of these, option 4, a system of STV currently used in New South Wales, is similar to the pure STV proposed by the Government except that as an alternative to ranking individual candidates by voting below-the-line, voters can rank the parties by voting above-the-line. As an STV system, it has the following advantages:

  • a vote for a candidate is solely a vote for that candidate, whereas under a list system it would be primarily be a vote for that candidate's party. This means that a voter can vote for one candidate from a party without giving any advantage to other candidates from that party.
  • it is easier (if not necessarily easy) for independents to be elected than under a list system.

150. As an additional attraction, since voters can rank parties in order of preference as an alternative to candidates, voters control where their 'excess' party votes are allocated (i.e. if all of a party's candidates were either elected or eliminated before the count was completed, voters would determine to which party they wished their excess votes transferred to). Under the standard system transfers are determined by parties in a way that is unlikely to be transparent to voters, or such votes are wasted.

151. We recognise the concerns that have been expressed about the complexity of proportional systems, and we note that Dr Alan Renwick and Professor Iain McLean state that all four options "are complex compared to most other electoral systems … in the sense that they increase the range of choice available to voters".[204] We consider that by providing an 'above-the-line' option, and by allowing voters to cast as many or as few preferences as they wish, voters can make voting as simple or as complicated as they wish. For example, if a voter wished, they could effectively vote as if it were first-past-the-post by simply placing one vote next to a party above the line. Critical to this process will be a suitable public information campaign, as recommended by the Electoral Commission,[205] to ensure that the electorate is familiar with the new system. Concerns were raised about 'alphabetical voting' under pure STV; in our proposed system candidates names would be listed according their order on their parties list, eliminating any such problems.

152. For the above reasons, the Committee recommends that the Government should consider introducing the version of STV currently used in New South Wales, as an alternative to the pure STV system currently proposed in the draft Bill.

153. Given the relative complexity and novelty of the system, compared with first-past-the-post, we recommend that the Government should ensure that ballot papers are not regarded as spoiled where a clear intention has been expressed, reflecting the practice at other UK elections.

9. Non-renewable terms
Relevant sections of the draft Bill: Clauses 6 and 36

154. The draft Bill proposes that elected members should serve a single non-renewable term of three normal parliaments. The provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 means that this would normally equate to a 15-year term. The rationale behind this is that by not having to face re-election members of the reformed House will be more likely to be independent-minded and less likely to get involved in individual casework in competition with members of the House of Commons.[206] It will also ensure that the mandate of the reformed House is never more recent than that of the House of Commons.


155. At the heart of the debate on non-renewable terms is the question of the independence of members versus accountability to the electorate. The White Paper explains the Government's position: "a single term, with no prospect of re-election would enhance the independence of members of the reformed House of Lords". Indeed, it could be said that a non-renewable term would afford a reformed House its distinguishing characteristic from the House of Commons. The Minister nevertheless acknowledged that while Members would be more legitimate "because they had been put there by voters", non-renewable terms would mean they were "less accountable than members of the House of Commons".[207]

156. Many witnesses agreed that non-renewable terms would promote independence.[208] The Electoral Reform Society summed up the reason why: "long, non-renewable terms of office mean that members will be insulated from the pressures of party and constituency which would apply if they were seeking to be re-selected and then re-elected".[209] Dr Alan Renwick and Professor Iain McLean stated this would be the "most important factor" in determining the "independence of spirit" of elected members.[210] Others were not convinced.[211] The Hansard Society, for example, said that it could not be "assumed that the independence of members will be enhanced because they will not face election", noting that current members of the House of Lords tend to vote with their party.[212] Unlock Democracy suggested that at present, since members were appointed for life, parties instead tended to pick individuals who are "a safe pair of hands".[213] Still others pointed to the loyalty that members were likely to show to the party which had provided the route through which they were elected,[214] or argued that it was "inconceivable that elected 'Senators' could maintain their expert, detached and national view of issues when they were in regular contact with those who had elected them".[215]

157. Others disagreed strongly because of the lack of accountability to the electorate inherent in non-renewable terms.[216] Professor Vernon Bogdanor contended that "there is no incentive for members elected for a single 15 year term, to make themselves accountable". This was counter to one of the purposes of having elections, which was the ability "to remove representatives who prove unsatisfactory".[217] Lord Cunningham of Felling put a little more strongly, calling it "preposterous. I see no relationship between that [non-renewable terms] and democratic accountability".[218] The Minister suggested that the reforms would be an improvement on a House filled by political patronage with members "who are accountable to no one and are there for the whole of their natural life".[219]

158. Dr Alan Renwick summed up the arguments:

"On the positive side, lack of accountability would promote independent-mindedness. Members would be freed from the game of calculating the effects of their every move upon their prospects for re-election ... On the negative side, members, once elected, would be free to do as they wished. They might disregard the interests of those who elected them".[220]

159. Both of these arguments have merit. On the one hand election for a single non-renewable term might encourage members to act more independently than if they were required to seek re-election. They might also be expected to take a longer-term view of policy issues, unfettered by the electoral round, thus preserving some of the characteristics of the present House. On the other hand they will not be accountable to their electors in the sense that they will be answerable to them at a future election. Accountability will have to be delivered by other means—through party, the media, and by any recall mechanism (see section 12 below). Fixed-terms do not exclude the possibility of responsiveness to party patronage. At the end of their term, members may expect some preferment from their party, other than in the form of a candidature for election to the House of Commons. The proposals in the draft Bill do not preclude responsiveness to party in preference to that of the electors who put the members there. Members may thus privilege party loyalty over independence. Whether the emphasis should be placed on independence or accountability comes down, in the end, to a matter of judgement.


160. For those who feel that the draft Bill should place more emphasis on accountability, there are two options. The first would be to retain non-renewable terms but to put in place some form of accountability mechanism. This issue is dealt with later in this chapter. The second would be to require elected members wishing to stay in the House for longer than a single term to stand for re-election, as MPs do.

161. Although many witnesses expressed concern about the lack of accountability provided by non-renewable terms, most of them expressed this concern in the context of opposing elections to the House of Lords. Few, therefore, proposed allowing members to stand for re-election as a solution. Unlock Democracy suggested that members should be able to stand for re-election once. This would allow "for some accountability", but would ensure "that members of the second chamber will move on". They noted that of the nearly 4000 people who responded to their survey on House of Lords Reform, just over 75 per cent supported members being able to stand for re-election. The Campaign for a Democratic Upper House proposed allowing members to stand for re-election—but only after a period away from the House. They suggested the length of a Parliament, which in normal circumstances would be five years.[221] Supporters of re-election maintain that continued accountability to the electorate is a key feature of democratic election.

162. There is of course a contrary view. Non-renewable terms were cited by several witnesses as a factor that would contribute to maintaining the primacy of the House of Commons, since only MPs would be accountable to the electorate for their actions.[222] The Minister, for example, argued that the fact that there will be "a House with Members who are legitimate because they are elected but are less accountable because they cannot be re-elected is one of the things that will militate against that House being able to assert that it can wrestle with the Commons over primacy".[223] Indeed, the concept of election for a non-renewable term has a long pedigree—Lord Mackay of Clashfern's Constitutional Commission in 1999, Breaking the Deadlock in 2006, and the 2008 White Paper. Furthermore, members who had to stand for re-election would inevitably become more involved in constituency matters to build support for their re-election. This would not only interfere in the link between MPs and their constituents (see section 14 below for more detail) but would distract members from their primary role as careful scrutinisers and revisers of legislation.

163. Dr Alan Renwick thought that the non-renewable terms would contribute to making the upper chamber distinctive from the House of Commons. He argued that "to stand for election for a Chamber where you will not be involved in a life of constantly seeking re-election and playing party politics ... is a very different thing from standing in the elections that we have. Many people who want to play a part in debating the legislation of the country would be interested in standing for this chamber, even if they loathe the thought of standing in our current Commons elections".[224]

164. Non-renewable terms have the potential to make members of a reformed House of Lords more independent, both from public opinion and from party structures (since they would not be standing for re-election on a party ticket). They would do much to distinguish the character of the reformed House from that of the House of Commons. Although political parties would continue to be accountable to the electorate at the ballot box, individual members would not.

165. Allowing members to stand for re-election would make them feel more individually accountable, but would have the disadvantage of members of the reformed House of Lords having a similar electoral mandate to those elected to the House of Commons and might encourage them to undertake more constituency-based activities. It would, however, allow the electorate the choice of keeping an elected member of the Lords they support rather than being deprived of that option.

166. The Committee is divided on whether election should be for a non-renewable term or whether a single further term—say for ten years—might be available for any member wishing to stand again.

167. A majority of the Committee agree with the Government's proposal for non-renewable terms.

10. Length of term
Relevant section of the draft Bill: Clauses 6

168. If elected members are to serve non-renewable terms, the question arises how long those terms should be. The White Paper suggests that a 15-year term would be "sufficiently long" to "attract able people", while the Minister added that one of the "really important" results of such a long term would members who held the Government to account on long-term projects, such as infrastructure or social programmes.[225] Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean supported this view, stating that 15-year terms would "help to recruit the sort of people likely to be able to help the house with its work".[226] Other witnesses agreed.[227]

169. The Hansard Society, while agreeing that a "15-year term length for elected Peers allows for a long-term perspective", noted that a term of 15 years was "significantly beyond international norms".[228] Other witnesses agreed that 15 years was unusually long,[229] or noted that a 15-year term would deter professionals with careers from putting themselves forward for election.[230] The Deputy Prime Minister noted that "some people may say that 15 years is a long time. It is a whole lot shorter than life membership".[231]

170. An alternative proposal was put forward by the Campaign for a Democratic Upper House who suggested that, since "a period of 15 years is ... extremely long in terms of both a mandate and of keeping in touch with the electorate", 10-year terms might be more appropriate.[232] Other witnesses supported this suggestion.[233]

171. The Committee considered the arguments in favour of 15-year terms. It should be noted that the transition period (see section 18 below) will be determined by the length of term, and as such was a significant factor in the Committee's deliberations. With a 15-year term, transition would end in 2025, allowing for more members of the current House to remain for longer thus guaranteeing continuity and the preservation of the current ethos of the House. Fifteen-year terms would also enable election by thirds, which make it less likely that short-term electoral swings would shift the party balance in the reformed House dramatically. And the longer the term, the weaker the mandate of the House of Lords as a whole compared with the House of Commons.

172. A 10-year term would have some of these characteristics, but to a lesser degree. On the other hand, a 10-year term might be more appealing to candidates who wished to stand for election in mid-career. It would also make the House as a whole more accountable, allowing the electorate to influence its composition to a greater extent at each election since half of the House would be elected at each general election.

173. A majority of the Committee consider on balance that a 15-year term is to be preferred.

11. The timing of elections
Relevant section of the draft Bill: Clause 4

174. The Government propose that elections to the House of Lords should be held at the same time as elections to the House of Commons. They suggest that this would maximise voter turnout, provide the "least disruption to the work of Parliament", and would be the most "efficient" option.[234]

175. A number of witnesses supported the Government's position. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, echoed by other witnesses,[235] noted that "if you are having the election the same day as the general election turnout will be higher, obviously, than it would be if you were having it at some intermediate point".[236] Democratic Audit stated it was a "sensible proposition" as holding elections for the House of Lords in between general elections "might result in exaggerated results arising from 'mid-term blues'", and disrupt the legislative timetable.[237] John F H Smith added that "staggered elections ... could easily produce an upper house antipathetic to the lower, with the risk of direct conflict between two houses".[238] Professor David Denver noted that it would be more expensive to run elections to the Lords and Commons separately.[239] The 2005 report by a cross party group of MPs Breaking the Deadlock and the last Labour Government's 2008 White Paper on Lords Reform also proposed holding elections to the Lords on general election day for the same reasons.[240]

176. Others witnesses were less convinced. The Electoral Reform Society pointed to four drawbacks[241] which were echoed in other evidence. First, if held at the same time as the more "decisive and important" general election, the House of Commons "would dominate media and public attention" which would make it more difficult for voters to make a considered assessment of potential candidates for an "independent-minded chamber of expertise and legislative revision". Secondly, it was likely that the voting patterns for the upper chamber would mirror the votes cast for the Commons, and the supremacy of the Commons could be "eroded" if the Lords were considered to have a "superior mandate" due to its election by a form of proportional representation. Thirdly, it would be harder to "promote knowledge and understanding of the new electoral system". Finally, it would increase an already "complex and heavy administrative load", particularly if the boundaries of Commons constituencies and Lords electoral districts did not match up.

177. Other witnesses added to this list of concerns. The Campaign for a Democratic Upper House was concerned that "if similar patterns of voting produced different outcomes (as could be expected as between a proportional system and first past the post) there could be criticism of the result produced by whichever system was perceived to be less fair".[242] Professor Jonathan Tonge, drawing on his experience of Northern Ireland, stated that holding two elections on the same day, one using first-past-the-post and one using a form of proportional representation, might lead to more spoilt ballot papers, and could add to the length of the count.[243] Unlock Democracy, while recognising that holding the elections on the same day would reduce the cost of elections to the second chamber and potential increase turnout, decided that on balance holding the elections on different days would reinforce the primacy of the Commons, and emphasise "the different roles that the different chamber play in the legislature".[244]

178. The Electoral Commission did not take a view on when the elections should be held, but issued a general call for more evidence and research: "there are questions about the potential impact on voters that will need to be addressed where elections (especially new elections like these) are combined with others".[245]

179. Of those witnesses who recommended holding the elections on a separate day from the general election, many advocated synchronizing elections for the Lords with European Parliamentary elections instead. These are due in June 2014, and then every five years thereafter. Assuming that the next general election takes place in May 2015, and subsequently every five years, the European Parliamentary elections will take place early in the fifth year of each Parliament cycle. The Campaign for a Democratic Upper House argued that "members of the second chamber would serve for the majority of the term of a Government, while the election would doubtless be seen as a forerunner of the General Election due less than one year later". In addition, it argued that "there is no reason ... to assume that the turnout in elections for the second chamber would be poor, given their significance at national level ... a higher turnout in those elections could assist the level of participation in the European election".[246] Other witnesses also proposed aligning with the European Parliament elections.[247]

180. Donald Shell suggested that an alternative would be to elect members of the second chamber by thirds on a three year cycle for nine year terms. Such elections could take place on the same day as local elections for most of the electorate. If adopted, it might allow individuals to serve a maximum of two terms and "would slightly re-balance the electoral system from independence towards accountability".[248]

181. We recognise the concerns expressed by some witnesses over the prospect of holding elections to the House of Lords at the same time as elections to the House of Commons, in particular the likelihood that it might lead to elections to the Lords being overshadowed by the general election. On balance, we consider that the arguments in favour of doing so—the reduced cost, the avoidance of mid-term 'protest voting' and minimum disruption to the Government's legislative programme—outweigh these drawbacks. We support the Government's proposals to hold elections to both Houses of Parliament at the same time.

182. We observe that under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 there are circumstances in which general elections could take place before five years have elapsed. Those circumstances are covered in the draft Bill.

12. Accountability mechanisms

183. As discussed earlier in this chapter, electing members for a fixed non-renewable term ensures continuity and independence, rather than electoral accountability. Since members will not be accountable to the electorate once they are elected, the Committee considered whether other measures should be instituted to hold elected members to account. Dr Alan Renwick described such measures as "a kind of stop against the worst abuses that could arise from a lack of accountability without removing the overall ... gain to be had from non-renewable terms".[249]

184. We considered two such measures: minimum attendance requirements and a recall mechanism. If either were triggered during a Member's first two five-year terms it would force the member concerned to stand for re-election at the next set of elections to the House. This would mean that these measures could not be applied to members serving the last five years of their term. Such members would simply be in the same position as current members of the House of Commons who had decided not to stand for re-election. The alternative, of holding a by-election, is not a practical solution. As the multi-member constituencies proposed by the Government would contain millions of voters by-elections would be extremely expensive and would violate the principle that members of the reformed House of Lords should be elected by proportional representation (see section 13 below on vacancies).


185. The White Paper notes that the Government are "committed to bringing forward legislation to introduce a power to recall MPs where they have engaged in serious wrongdoing" and that they "will also consider whether elected members of the reformed house of Lords should be subject to a similar system". In December 2011 the Government published a draft Recall of MPs Bill which proposes that a petition to recall an MP could only be initiated in two circumstances: where an MP is convicted of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of 12 months or less, or when the House of Commons resolves that an MP should face recall. The draft Recall of MPs Bill suggests that 10 per cent of the registered electorate in an MP's constituency would need to sign a petition for the recall to go ahead.[250]

186. We received little evidence on this issue, but a few witnesses indicated their support for a recall mechanism based on constituency petitions.[251] Dr Alan Renwick noted that a petition requirement of 10 per cent of a constituency electorate would be difficult to achieve in large multi-member constituencies, but he thought they might provide "an ultimate constraint against unrepresentative behaviour".[252] Unlock Democracy supported a model of recall in which, if 5 per cent of an electoral district signed a petition, a recall ballot would be held on the same day as the next second chamber election. This petition could be initiated at any time, and would not require Parliament to have already disciplined the member as envisaged in the draft Recall of MPs White Paper. If 50 per cent of voters then voted to recall that member they would be excluded from the chamber and the number of members to be elected for that constituency in the subsequent election would be increased by one.[253]

187. The Electoral Reform Society opposed a recall mechanism altogether, arguing that it could be used by well-organised interest groups to target public figures who opposed their agenda.[254]

188. We consider that a recall mechanism would be an appropriate way to ensure elected members can be held accountable by the electorate in exceptional circumstances. We do not attempt to set out the details of a scheme in this report, but we recommend that the Government make provision in the Bill for a recall mechanism, tailored to multi-member constituencies, based on constituency petitions that could force members serving the first ten years of their 15-year term to stand for re-election at the next set of elections to the House of Lords. The Government should consider how to minimise the risk of the recall mechanism being manipulated for frivolous or vexatious reasons.


189. In addition to a recall mechanism, a few witnesses proposed a minimum attedance requirement for elected members. Dr Alan Renwick suggested that "it is reasonable to expect ... that members should regularly participate in the work of the House. Minimum service requirements might therefore be set as a condition for continuing membership beyond five years".[255] He proposed a minimum participation rate of 20 per cent. The Electoral Reform Society also suggested that members should be subject to "rigorous and properly enforced standards of conduct, including attendance",[256] while Michael Keatinge, writing in the context of an appointed rather than elected House, suggested that "it is important for public confidence that members of the second chamber should be seen to be contributing actively ... It is necessary therefore to provide a mechanism for members to retire either voluntarily or if they fail to maintain a minimum level of activity".[257]

190. We agree that members should be required to participate regularly in the work of the House. In section 15 below we recommend that appointed members should not have to commit to the same level of activity as elected members of the House. Elected members, however, will be salaried and expected, as a general rule, to spend most of their time on their parliamentary duties while the House is sitting. In addition, unlike members of the House of Commons they will not have to deal with a large volume of individual casework. We consider it reasonable, therefore, to set high expectations for their expected level of participation. We recommend that elected members should have to stand for re-election at the next general election if they fail to attend over 50 per cent of sitting days in a session. A decision to force a member to stand for re-election on these grounds would have to be agreed to by the House, on a report from the Privileges and Conduct Committee, to ensure that members with extenuating circumstances were not penalised inappropriately.

13. Filling Vacancies
Relevant sections of the draft Bill: Clauses 10—15 and Schedule 3

191. The White Paper states that "it is the Government's intention that vacancies in the House of Lords should not be left open until the end of the departing member's term, as this could mean that voters were under-represented for significant periods of time". It adds that by-elections would be inappropriate as they would be costly and would have to use a majoritarian, rather than proportional, system of election.

192. The Government therefore propose that "an elected member would be temporarily replaced by a substitute member until the next election". This would be the candidate from the same party who at the last election achieved the highest number of votes without actually gaining a seat. If they were unable to take up the seat it would go the candidate in the same party with the next highest number of votes, and so on. If no candidate from the same party were available the seat would go to the candidate with the highest number of votes outside the party. If an independent vacated their seat, the candidate who received with the highest number of votes without being elected would be offered the seat, irrespective of party.

193. The substitute would hold the seat until the next House of Lords election. If the departed member would have stood down at that election, the vacant seat is filled as usual. If the departed member had one or two electoral periods still to serve, a replacement member would be elected for those one or two periods.


194. An analysis of different proportional electoral systems used in European parliamentary election by Professor Robert Hazell and Joshua Payne found that it was "uncommon for countries to make provision for by-elections" if an MEP's seat became vacant. Under list systems, the usual practice was for the candidate who had the next place on the list to take up the seat.[258] Witnesses agreed that by-elections were not a sensible option, with most commenting on the cost,[259] while Democratic Audit added that by-elections "will tend to be won by the predominant party in the region, even if the vacant seat previously belonged to a party in the minority locally".[260]

195. Professor Hugh Bochel, Dr Andrew Defty and Jane Kirkpatrick, from the University of Lancaster, were sceptical about the use of previous unsuccessful candidates to fill vacancies instead of running by-elections. They noted that parties might find their candidates unwilling to fill vacancies years later, for example if they had moved area or changed jobs, or simply did not wish to leave work in order to fill in as an interim member of the House of Lords.[261]

196. We agree with the Government's view that by-elections should not be used to fill vacant seats. The multi-member constituencies proposed by the Government would contain millions of voters making by-elections extremely expensive, and they would violate the principle that members of the reformed House of Lords should be elected by proportional representation.

197. In the circumstances, we agree with the Government proposal to replace departed members with substitute members only until the next set of elections to the House of Lords.

198. There are several possible ways to fill vacancies:

i)  The seat could remain vacant until the next election, when an additional member could, if necessary, be elected in the electoral district to serve out any time remaining of the departed member's term;

ii)  The votes of the election of the departed member could be re-run, removing the votes for the member whose departure had caused the vacancy.

iii)  The seat could go to the candidate with next highest number of votes in the same party at the last election (the Government's choice) ; or

iv)  The seat could go to the candidate with the next highest number of votes at the last election, irrespective of party.

v)  A fifth possibility is suggested by current practice in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections) (Amendment) Order 2009 introduced a new system for replacing members of the Northern Ireland Assembly who vacate their seats: the "nominating officer" of the party that the vacating MLA belonged to at the time of his or her election may nominate a replacement for the vacant seat at the time the vacancy arises. An independent MLA may submit lists of substitutes who may be approached to fill his or her seat should it become vacant.

199. Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean suggested that it would be acceptable to leave vacancies unfilled until the next election (option 1),[262] as did Unlock Democracy and Jim Riley.[263]

200. Dr Alan Renwick noted that the Government's proposal to fill vacancies with unsuccessful candidates would give parties a "strong incentive to run more candidates than they expect initially to secure election", thus widening voter choice.[264] He told us that this might mitigate the possibility that "parties might put up only as many candidates as they thought would be elected and voters would not be able to choose among candidates from the same party".[265] Other witnesses also commented on this effect,[266] which would apply under options 2, 3 and 4.

201. Democratic Audit suggested that a 'count back' system (option 2) in which the original election was re-counted ignoring the candidate whose departure causes the vacancy was a "possible different approach". They argued that this would "tend to preserve the balance of opinion as originally expressed in the election".[267]

202. Professor David Denver spoke out against the Government proposal (option 3), stating that it "bespeaks a fixation with party that is contrary to the spirit of STV, and I fail to see why the replacement should not simply be the next person in line, as it were, irrespective of party".[268] David Le Grice, on the other hand, argued that it would be "completely wrong" if a vacant seat was filled by someone from another party (option 4).[269] Professor Hugh Bochel and his colleagues agreed, noting that "the idea that if a party is unable to find one of its previous candidates to take a seat it should lose it would seem to go against the fundamental democratic principle expressed elsewhere in the White Paper".[270]

203. We note that both Democratic Audit and the Electoral Reform Society contended that the Government's proposed method of determining the substitute candidate, the candidate with "the highest vote without being elected" was "crude".[271] Both recommended instead the "final preference count" procedure, which produces a ranked order result under STV, as devised by Colin Rosenstiel and as used in internal Liberal Democrat elections.

204. Option 1, leaving a seat vacant, would not be appropriate unless the interval before the next election to the House of Lords was relatively brief. The Committee recommends, however, that if a vacancy should occur within a year of the next set of elections to the House of Lords, the seat should remain vacant and an additional member should be elected at the next election to fulfil the remainder of the departed member's term.

205. A "count back" system (option 2) in which the original election is re-counted ignoring votes for the departed member has some merit, but we do not consider that it is feasible given the long, multi-parliament terms of elected members. If a vacancy arose 13 years into a 15-year term, it would mean re-running election results from over a decade ago. Apart from any other considerations, we think it unlikely that many of the candidates from the original election would be in a position, or willing, to take up a seat in Parliament for a relatively short interim period such a long time after the election took place.

206. Options 3, 4 and 5 are viable. Of these, the Committee prefers option 3—the Government's preferred option—in which the seat would go to the candidate with next highest number of votes in the same party at the last election. This would not disrupt the party balance in the House mid-term. (We note that an exception to this rule might occur if a seat was vacated by an independent member. Under the Government's proposals the seat would be filled by the candidate with the next highest number of votes at the last election, irrespective of party. This could result in a change to party composition). Even this arrangement has its shortcomings in that sometimes reliance will have to be placed on electoral information several years old.

207. We note this whole area is complex and the way in which it will operate is sometimes difficult to predict. We invite the Government to consider further the technicalities of its proposals for replacement and substitute members. For example, it seems anomalous that arrangements for substitute members rely on parties having candidates who are unsuccessful at the initial elections, but that Clause 9(2)(h) confers on the Minister an order making power to limit "the number of persons who may be nominated as candidates for election in the name of a registered party in an electoral district to the number of elected members to be returned for that district in the election".

14. Constituency issues

208. The Committee is agreed that an electoral mandate will bring with it a representative function. The Committee discussed the scope and nature of that function and in particular constituency responsibility. The White Paper states that the Government does not want elected members of a reformed House of Lords to affect the relationship between MPs and constituents:

"The Government wishes to protect the important link between constituents and their Member of Parliament in the Commons, and we believe that establishing larger, multi-member constituencies as the basis of representation in the reformed House of Lords will provide a role and mandate for members of the reformed second chamber that is complementary to the important work undertaken by MPs".[272]

The White Paper states that a Member of the reformed House would be paid a lower salary than that of an MP to "recognize that they would have responsibilities for UK-wide legislation but would not have constituency duties".[273] Fears that Members of a reformed Lords might seek to build a base for future election in the Commons are addressed by Clause 55 of the draft Bill which would disqualify a former Member of the Lords for 4 years and 1 month from standing for the Commons.

209. In the Welsh and Scottish devolved legislatures Members are elected to represent both regions and constituencies, illustrating how relationships between Members of the same legislature whose representation overlap can be governed. The guidance given to regional and constituency representatives in Scotland and Wales sets out how Members must describe themselves—regional Members, for example, cannot describe themselves as 'local' representatives. It states that it is up to constituents to decide whom to approach with their cases. Regional MSPs are told that they have a responsibility to all those in the region for which they were elected, and they "must therefore work in more than two constituencies within their region".[274]

210. The Minister acknowledged that elected Members would have some correspondence from constituents. He noted that unelected Members of the current House were lobbied already. He accepted that if somebody reached an unsatisfactory outcome with an MP they might approach a Member of the upper House and could write to the latter in relation to legislation and the scrutiny of government. He thought that Members might become involved in issues of a regional nature and he gave the example of the High Speed 2 rail link, where an elected Member of the upper Chamber could engage in debate as to whether such a policy delivered benefits to their part of the country or whether it delivered benefits to only certain parts of the region they were representing.[275] He maintained that the primary focus of constituency case work (in the sense of constituents' personal problems) would be Members of the Commons and that the workload for Members of the upper House would not be of the same magnitude.[276]

211. The Minister did not think it advisable to legislate for the roles of Members of the upper House, including those in relation to individual constituency casework, as it would become justiciable.[277] He thought instead that there would be some conventions that would make it very clear that the expected role of elected Members of the upper House would be to hold the Government to account and scrutinize and improve legislation. This would be a very different role from that of Members of the House of Commons, which the public would quickly understand.[278] Convention could also suggest that elected Members of the upper House should direct a constituent towards their Member of Parliament so that they might pick up casework. Prospective Members of the upper Chamber standing for election could also explain to the electorate what their role was and the balance between to be struck as to constituency issues between Members of both Houses.[279]

212. The Minister considered other things that would militate against elected Members of the second Chamber actively picking up constituency work. The expenses regime for members of a reformed House could make it clear that the lesser resources available to them compared to those for MPs were a "limiting factor" on their ability to undertake casework.[280] The significant size of the regions and the non-renewable terms would also dampen appetite for such responsibilities.[281] In addition, the cooling off period, which prevented Members of the Lords standing for election to the Commons for 4 years and one month, would help deter Members from building up support in a particular constituency.[282]

213. The Committee took evidence by video-link from three Australian Senators, who gave their views on constituency issues and their relationship with Members of the House of Representatives. Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens, a Member of the government of Australia, said that the "people of Australia believe the House of Representatives to be their local representatives" and that they "identify very clearly with their local Member, who works his or her constituency very hard". She thought that there was "a generally held view that the Senate performs the role of review". [283] Senator Lee Rhiannon, a Member of the Australian Greens, had a slightly different view. She said that as a minor party, with nine Senators and only one Member in the House of Representatives, the issue of working with constituents was very important and took up a lot of their time.[284] Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson, a Member of the opposition Liberal Party, thought that elected Members of the Lords might engage in constituency-type work if in an area with other elected representatives from another party: "If you are a Member of the non-ruling party, the Lords might find that they have more people knocking on their doors than they might otherwise have anticipated".[285] He also said that in terms of elections, Senators did not campaign as Senators but campaigned for one of the lower House Members of their own party in a marginal seat or against a marginal lower House Member from another party.[286]

214. A number of witnesses feared that elected Members of an upper Chamber would become involved in constituency work, causing tension with Members of the Commons. Lord Cormack thought that in cases where a Member of the Commons could not satisfy a constituent there "would be an inevitable tendency to turn to the Senator and there would be an inevitable temptation, so far as the Senator was concerned, to get involved and put his or her name on the issue.[287] He said that MEPs had clashed with Members of the Commons but that this "would be as nothing to what would happen if we had two elected bodies" at Westminster.[288]

215. Paul Murphy MP argued that he could not see a situation where "high-flying Senators" would not have any constituency work and whose job would simply be to revise legislation.[289] Such Members would have been selected by their parties to represent people and would "have been returned by a different method of election which they might well regard as more legitimate".[290] Lord Grocott was similarly concerned that such elected Members might claim a greater legitimacy and have a higher profile than Members of the Commons.[291]

216. The Clerk of the House of Commons, Robert Rogers, said that though it might be expected that the issues that elected Members of the Lords might engage in would be of a bigger and broader character, such as regional and economic issues, "hard cases come to individuals, and individual representatives then decide how they are going to raise them". He was "quite certain" that Ministers would be answering more questions on such issues from the Lords than they did now if its Members were elected. He also raised the possibility for confusion surrounding "constituency case tourism" where a constituent might go to the member whom they believed would give a satisfactory outcome to a problem.[292]

217. Other witnesses did not think that there would be issues between elected Members of both Houses in terms of constituency work. Dr Alan Renwick said that non-renewable terms and the very large regions covered by elected Members of the upper House would mean that there was not a "significant danger" of a constituency focus and that there would be "little opportunity to vote for people who are selling themselves as doing the best job in terms of bringing the pork back home to this little local area".[293] Professor Vernon Bogdanor stated that the large regions of 500,000 would make it difficult for people to get know their representatives, as was currently the case with MEPs.[294] He was of the opinion that electors would have little difficulty in continuing to consult their constituency MP over problems they might have with housing, education and other such issues, while elected Members of the upper House would not seek to trespass on the functions of the lower House. [295] Similar views were expressed by the Electoral Reform Society and Professor David Denver.[296]

218. Graham Allen MP thought that both Houses between them could "work out clearly how things could happen and who would be responsible for what" and that on the specific question of who should do casework this could "be worked out very easily by people of good will".[297] The Campaign for a Democratic Upper House said that it would be difficult to stop elected Members of the second Chamber from carrying out constituency work, though the large regional constituencies would make it quite unlikely. It suggested that concerns regarding this issue could be addressed if the political parties "could create a culture in which the public expectation is not that that is what they are there to do". [298]

219. Several written submissions stated that elected Members of the Lords would engage in constituency work. The Hansard Society was concerned that newly elected peers would come into conflict with MPs at a constituency level: "There is a risk that peers will find themselves to be the next stop on the constituency casework conveyor belt, as constituents who cannot find satisfaction with one representative move on to another until they have exhausted all avenues".[299] Rt Hon Lord Low of Dalston and Lord Lipsey were both worried that the election of members based on geographical constituencies could lead to possible "turf wars" at a constituency level between MPs and peers.[300] Dr Julian Lewis MP thought that there would either be friction between MPs and elected members of the Lords or "justifiable resentment" towards the latter on the part of those who elected them if they ignored constituents' approaches.[301]

220. Professor Hugh Bochel and his colleagues also thought that it was "inevitable" that elected members of the House of Lords would develop some form of constituency ties and work. They suggested that the adoption of STV, with its attendant large constituencies, might lead to work that was quite different to that of MPs.[302] To address such issues, Unlock Democracy recommended "that members of the second chamber be resourced in such a way that discourages them from establishing constituency offices and competing with members of the House of Commons for casework".[303]

221. The Committee considers that elected members will inevitably be concerned with, and be approached about, regional, local and legislative matters.

222. The Committee believes that in general it would be inappropriate for elected members to involve themselves in personal casework of the kind currently undertaken by MPs on behalf of their constituents.

223. The Committee observes that the level of engagement with constituency work will be governed by the resources available to elected members. Accordingly, we recommend that IPSA should make no provision for members of the reformed House to deal with personal casework, as opposed to policy work, or to have offices in their constituencies. The Committee believes that the practical difficulties of large regional constituencies, together with a lack of resources, will make any substantial level of individual casework less likely. We anticipate, however, that some elected members will seek to carve out a constituency role for themselves even without dedicated resources and we do not see how this can be prevented.

224. The Committee considers that no further action should be taken to define the manner in which elected members of the reformed House carry out their representative role. As the Minister suggested it will be for the members of the two Houses to come to a mutual understanding on these matters.

116   Q 742 Back

117   Cm 8077, page 12 Back

118   Q 591 Back

119   Q 685 Back

120   David Blunkett MP (Q 703), Professor Dawn Oliver (Q 149), Professor Sir John Baker QC, Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, Jonathan Boot, Christopher Hartigan, Michael Keatinge, Lord Jenkin of Roding, Bernard Jenkin MP, Pauline Lathan MP, Julian Lewis MP, Lord Howarth of Newport, Viscount Younger of Leckie, Lord Luce, Edward Choi, Lord Peston, Lord Barnett and Baroness Gould of Potternewton, James Moore Back

121   Q 594 Back

122   Democratic Audit  Back

123   Electoral Reform Society, Alice Onwordi, Professor Hugh Bochel, Dr Andrew Defty and Jane Kirkpatrick, Liam Finn, RC Dales, Green Party, Unlock Democracy  Back

124   Q 570 Back

125   Q 579 Back

126   QQ 363-4 Back

127   QQ 4, 6-7 Back

128   Q 5 Back

129   Q 4 Back

130   Q 12 Back

131   Q 496  Back

132   Q 196  Back

133   Q 387 Back

134   Donald Shell, Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean, Dr Alan Renwick. Damien Welfare and the Campaign for a Democratic Upper Chamber, Professor Gavin Phillipson Back

135   Muslim Council of Britain. See also Cecilie Rezutka Back

136   Q 13  Back

137   Q 607 Back

138   QQ 607, 685 Back

139   Q 194 Back

140   QQ 12, 79 Back

141   Q 200  Back

142   Q 115  Back

143   Q 192 Back

144   Q 602 Back

145   Q 692 Back

146   Unlock Democracy. See also Alice Onwordi, RC Dales, Imran Hayat  Back

147   Lord Dubs Back

148   Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean Back

149   Donald Shell, Mark Ryan, Jesse Norman MP, Lord Howarth of Newport, Professor Hugh Bochel, Dr Andrew Defty and Jane Kirkpatrick, Michael Winters, Hansard Society Back

150   Electoral Reform Society, Damien Welfare and the Campaign for a Democratic Upper Chamber. See also Craig Whittaker MP, Viscount Younger of Leckie  Back

151   Lord Lucas, Programme for Public Participation in Parliament, Lord Howarth of Newport, Michael Winters, Christine Windbridge, Phillip Bradshaw, St Philip's Centre Back

152   Lord Maclennan of Rogart. See also David White, Daniel Shintag  Back

153   Cm 8077, page 14 Back

154   Ibid., page 14 Back

155   Dr Meg Russell Back

156   Christopher Hartigan, James Hand, Philip Bradshaw Back

157   Lord Lowe, Lord Desai, Frank Field MP, Professor Reg Austin, Richard Douglas, John FH Smith, Martin Wright Back

158   Bernard Jenkin MP Back

159   Q 26 Back

160   Lord Low of Dalston stated that if the same electoral system were used the Lords would "duplicate" the Commons, while Bernard Jenkin MP noted that, were the same party or parties to dominate both Houses they would be more likely to "rubber stamp" legislation. Back

161   Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean Back

162   Cm 4534; Cm 5291; Cm 7027; Public Administration Select Committee, 5th Report (2001-02), The Second Chamber: Continuing the Reform, (HC Paper 494) Back

163   Professor Gavin Phillipson  Back

164   Because the intention of the Government's proposal is to avoid members having constituency responsibilities, we have not examined the additional member system (AMS), which entails an element of constituency representation, although it can be offered as a system with the potential to be more proportional than the others we address. Back

165   Political Studies Association, House of Lords Reform: A Briefing Paper, July 2011 Back

166   Supplementary evidence from Dr Alan Renwick and Professor Iain McLean Back

167   Q 21 Back

168   Q 101 Back

169   Unlock Democracy (Q 349), Meg Russell (Q 177), Unlock Democracy, Simon Gazeley, Dr Alan Renwick, Electoral Reform Society Back

170   Q 196 Back

171   Q 19 Back

172   Electoral Reform Society (Q 279), David Howarth (Q 231), Unlock Democracy (Q 345), Professors Simon Hix and Iain Mclean Back

173   Q 308 Back

174   Q 222 Back

175   Professor Gavin Phillipson Back

176   Lord Wright of Richmond et al, Dr Julian Lewis MP  Back

177   Professor Jonathan Tonge Back

178   Q 309 Back

179   Q 309 Back

180   Bernard Jenkin MP Back

181   Q 223 Back

182   Hansard Society  Back

183   Q 279 Back

184   Unlock Democracy (Q 345), Simon Gazeley Back

185   Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean  Back

186   Q 231 Back

187   Further written evidence from Lord Lipsey  Back

188   Professor Robert Hazell and Joshua Payne  Back

189   Electoral Reform Society  Back

190   Q 276 Back

191   Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean, Peter Riddell (Q 138)  Back

192   Q 216 Back

193   Penny Mordaunt MP Back

194   Hansard Society  Back

195   Q 23 Back

196   Q 23 Back

197   Unlock Democracy  Back

198   Fawcett Society, Counting Women In  Back

199   Electoral Reform Society (Q 293), Hansard Society, Professor Hazell and Joshua Payne Back

200   Bernard Jenkin MP Back

201   Q 308 Back

202   Professor Jonathan Tonge  Back

203   Q 308 Back

204   Supplementary evidence from Dr Alan Renwick and Professor Iain McLean Back

205   Electoral Commission  Back

206   Cm 8077, page 13. See also Deputy Prime Minister (Q 716) Back

207   Q 273 Back

208   David Howarth (Q 231), Donald Shell, Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean Back

209   Electoral Reform Society  Back

210   Supplementary evidence from Dr Alan Renwick and Professor Iain McLean  Back

211   Dr Julian Lewis MP, Lord Howath of Newport Back

212   Hansard Society  Back

213   Q 376 Back

214   Michael Keatinge, Christopher Hartigan, RC Dales Back

215   Lord Jenkin of Roding  Back

216   Lord Cormack (Q 594), Sir Stuart Bell MP, Mark Ryan, Christopher Hartigan, Pauline Latham MP, Penny Mordaunt MP, Democratic Audit, North Yorkshire for Democracy, Christine Windbridge, Lord Peston, Lord Barnett and Baroness Gould of Potternewton, Lord Howarth of Newport, Campaign for a Democratic Upper House, Conor Burns MP Back

217   Professor Vernon Bogdanor  Back

218   Q 695 Back

219   Q 273 Back

220   Dr Alan Renwick Back

221   Campaign for a Democratic Upper House Back

222   Graham Allen MP (Q 642), Dr Alan Renwick (Q 196) Back

223   Q 28 Back

224   Q 196 Back

225   Q 3 Back

226   Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean Back

227   Lord Goodhart QC, Dr Alan Renwick Back

228   The Hansard Society Back

229   Democratic Audit, Mark Ryan Back

230   Lord Cunningham of Felling (Q 695)  Back

231   Q 724 Back

232   Damien Welfare and the Campaign for a Democratic Upper House Back

233   Peter Riddell (Q 126), The Law Society of Scotland, Unlock Democracy, Green Party Back

234   Cm 8077, page 13 Back

235   Peter Riddell (Q 125)  Back

236   Q 108 Back

237   Democratic Audit Back

238   John Smith Back

239   Q 309 Back

240   Breaking the Deadlock, Cm 7438 Back

241   Electoral Reform Society Back

242   Campaign for a Democratic Upper House Back

243   Professor Jonathan Tonge Back

244   Unlock Democracy Back

245   The Electoral Commission Back

246   Damien Welfare and the Campaign for a Democratic Upper House Back

247   Unlock Democracy, Electoral Reform Society (Q 299) Back

248   Donald Shell Back

249   Q 196 Back

250   Under the Representation of the People Act 1981, imprisonment for more than a year in the British Islands or the Republic of Ireland carries an automatic disqualification from being a Member of the House of Commons. Back

251   Mark Ryan, Dr Alan Renwick, Unlock Democracy  Back

252   Dr Alan Renwick  Back

253   Unlock Democracy Back

254   Electoral Reform Society Back

255   Dr Alan Renwick  Back

256   Electoral Reform Society Back

257   Michael Keatinge Back

258   Professor Robert Hazell and Joshua Payne Back

259   Dr Alan Renwick (Q 563) , Professor David Denver (Q 309)  Back

260   Democratic Audit Back

261   Professor Hugh Bochel, Dr Andrew Defty and Jane Kirkpatrick Back

262   Professors Simon Hix and Iain McLean Back

263   Unlock Democracy, Jim Riley Back

264   Dr Alan Renwick Back

265   Q 561 Back

266   Democratic Audit Back

267   Democratic Audit Back

268   Q 309 Back

269   David Le Grice  Back

270   Professor Hugh Bochel, Dr Andrew Defty and Jane Kirkpatrick Back

271   Electoral Reform Society, Democratic Audit Back

272   Cm 8077, page 12 Back

273   Cm 8077, page 24 Back

274   For Guidance issued by the National Assembly for Wales see: Code on Different Roles and Responsibilities of Constituency Members and Regional Members. For Guidance issued by the Scottish Parliament see: Code of Conduct for MSPs, Volume 2, Section 8: Engagement and Liaison with Constituent Back

275   Q 84  Back

276   QQ 254, 258  Back

277   Q 258 Back

278   Q 270 Back

279   Q 271 Back

280   Q 265 Back

281   QQ 7, 17 Back

282   Q 267  Back

283   Q 412 Back

284   Q 412 Back

285   Q 414 Back

286   Q 424 Back

287   Q 596 Back

288   Q 597 Back

289   Q 591 Back

290   Q 591 Back

291   Q 702 Back

292   Q 655  Back

293   Q 565 Back

294   Q 108 Back

295   Q 109  Back

296   QQ 285, 320 Back

297   Q 645 Back

298   Q 587 Back

299   Hansard Society Back

300   Lord Low of Dalston, Lord Lipsey, Ken Batty Back

301   Julian Lewis MP, Thomas Docherty MP Back

302   Professor Hugh Bochel, Dr Andrew Defty and Jane Kirkpatrick Back

303   Unlock Democracy  Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 23 April 2012