Dr Stephen Watkins
1. SUMMARY This evidence builds on the evidence
calling for part time members of the House of Lords submitted
by the Programme for Popular Participation in Parliament of which
I am Chairman. It calls for the House of Lords to sit for twice
its current number of hours per year both by sitting for longer
each day and on Saturday (amounting to 80 hours per week) and
sitting through the recess. It proposes that there should be 312
whole time equivalent non-voting seats filled by modestly reforming
the current membership of the House of Lords and 312 whole time
equivalent elected voting members. This amounts to twice the number
of whole time equivalents proposed by the Government because the
House would sit more and therefore each seat would be 2wte. Non-voting
members could hold proxies for absent voting members. The various
whole time equivalent seats would be divided between a number
of people elected from diverse democratic mandates. Specifically
100 voting seats would be filled by about 1,000 members called
aldermen elected to serve one day a fortnight in the House of
Lords and also to serve on their local council, 96 voting seats
would be filled by 240 senators elected in the way the Government
proposes but for two days a week, 12 voting seats would be filled
by 30 people elected by faith groups, 5 voting seats would be
shared by the members of the UK Youth Parliament, there would
be 27 citizen's jurors at each session and 100 voting seats would
be divided between the non-voting members by a list system election
structured to favour cross party and crossbench lists.
2. I am Dr. Stephen Watkins. I am a public health
doctor. I am a libertarian socialist and a member of the Labour
Party. I have held various offices in the past in the Medical
Practitioners Union and the Socialist Health Association and both
in the past and currently in the British Medical Association and
the Transport and Health Study Group. However this evidence is
personal and is unconnected with any of those offices.
3. I am Chairman of the Programme for Popular
Participation in Parliament. This small organisation which seeks
to promote part time membership of Parliament has given evidence
to your committee.
4. In that evidence it has asked the committee
to maintain the House of Lords as a House of part time members.
5. It has said that this could be done by creating
a larger number of seats but making them part time or it could
be done by providing for the 312 seats proposed by the Government
to be job shared.
6. It was not appropriate for PPPP as an organisation
to go further than this. It exists only to advocate for the availability
of part-time seats in Parliament and does not have any specific
policy on any other aspect of reform of the House of Lords.
7. However I am submitting personal evidence
suggesting how this might be implemented.
8. In this evidence the abbreviation wte means
"whole time equivalent". For example 5 members each
attending one day a week amount to 1wte, as do two members each
attending for half the time. If the House meets for double the
time that a full time member could be expected to attend then
one seat amounts to 2wte.
9. PPPP's evidence drew attention to various
options. Those options were intended to stimulate debate as to
how an elected House containing part time members might be constituted
and to point out that it opens a much wider range of options than
a full time House.
10. This evidence contributes to that debate.
MY PERSONAL PROPOSALS
11. It is possible to opt for a simple system,
perhaps of the kind that might have been implemented for full
time members, and then modify it by introducing jobshares or by
increasing the number of people elected. This approach has the
advantage that it is easier to understand. I am aware that my
Deputy Chairman, Dr. Helena McKeown, favours this option and will
be giving evidence accordingly.
12. Another option is to exploit the wider range
of possibilities that part time members open up and to balance
them so as to create a more balanced chamber. This is the approach
I have taken in this evidence. I believe that it offers a more
balanced membership representing a wider range of interests and,
most importantly, a range of different forms of democratic mandate
varying in the extent to which national political parties will
be able to influence them.
13. The PPPP evidence listed various options.
In this evidence I give one example, the one that I personally
would choose, for balancing these various options.
14. One of my considerations has been that nobody
has ever criticised the quality of debate in the present House
of Lordsthey have only criticised its democratic mandate.
15. I would have a House of Lords which sits
for about twice its current number of hours per year, partly by
sitting for longer each day and partly by sitting on Saturdays
and during the recess. To fill 312 seats it would therefore require
624 wte members. If each of these wte is made up of several part
time members then it would be a House that has more members than
at present, not fewer.
16. I would suggest that the 624 wte should be
made up of 312 wte elected members who would be voting members
and 312 wte unelected members who would be non-voting members
but would be able to hold proxies for absent voting members. Every
vote cast in the House would therefore derive from a democratic
mandate, but at the same time the current House with its high
standards of debate and its considerable expertise would be retained.
THE VOTING MEMBERS
17. In suggesting the ways to elect the voting
members I have had regard to the desirability of ensuring that
there are a significant number of cross benchers and also of ensuring
that the party members operate in a milieu which is not that of
the Westminster Village and its associated think tanks.
18. I suggest that the 312 wte be made up of
- 100 wte made up of about 1,000
members who would be elected to a seat (usually 0.1wteeight
hours on one day each fortnight) in the House of Lords linked
to a seat on a local council, with the title alderman. This would
link local and national government and would ensure that those
holding these seats operated in the milieu of local community
politics rather than of Westminster.
- 96 wte made up of 240 members who would be elected
in accordance with the Government's proposals for election for
single terms of 15 years from regional constituencies using STV
with quota. These would be elected in three tranches of 80 and
would each be 0.4wte (eight hours on each of two days a week).
They would be called senators.
- 12 wte made up of 30 elected Lords Spiritual
- 10 wte made up by sharing 5 seats amongst the
members of the UK Youth Parliament (because the jobshared seats
would be filled all the time by one of its jobshare holders without
needing recourse to non-voting members as proxies each such seat
would amount to 2wte)
- 54 wte made up by having at any given time 27
citizen's jurors selected by a random process. Some jurors would
attend on specific dates and times for which they were selected.
Others would be selected for a particular Bill and would attend
on each occasion that that Bill was being considered.
- 40wte made up of 100 seats divided between the
non-voting members according to an election held by the list system
concurrently with alternate European Parliament elections and
organised so as to encourage crossparty and crossbench lists.
There is an interesting question of how many wte this amounts
to. On the one hand as seats filled on a rotating basis each seat
is 2 wte so there is 200wte here. On the other hand as these seats
are filled by people who also hold non-voting seats it is arguable
that it is 0wte. I have assumed that the need to fill the list
seats will add to the attendance of non-voting members by about
20% so I have counted these as 40wte.
19. Voting should be on the basis of 1 vote
for each 0.1wte. Thus an 0.1wte alderman would have 1 vote, an
0.4wte senator would have 4 votes, a jobshared seat that would
be filled all of the 2wte that the House sits would have 20 votes,
except for the list seats restricted to non-voting members which
would have 10 votes (mainly to achieve balanceit would
give this form of electoral mandate about the same voting power
in total as aldermen and senators). Voting members who were absent
could appoint proxies but there would be a limit of 30 votes on
the number of votes that a member could hold.
20. When the number of members wishing to attend
exceeds the capacity of the House members who do not intend to
contribute to the debate but simply to listen to it and vote could
be allocated to overflow meetings, which need not be in London,
Indeed with appropriate telecommunications they could be in the
21. I will discuss the arrangements for elections
in a later section
THE NON-VOTING MEMBERS
22. Initially the non-voting members would be
the members of the current House and during the transitional period
of two Parliaments before the elected membership is complete they
would not be entirely non-voting as they would be able to allocate
the voting seats yet to be filled amongst themselves as in the
23. Currently the House's attendance pattern
is the equivalent of 388wte. 312 wte non-voting seats in the permanent
proposed membership plus 40 wte allowed for the list seats plus
56 wte transitional voting seats to represent the senators to
be elected in 2020 and 2025 means that it would need 408wte members
in the 2015 Parliament. This is not grossly out of line. Indeed
some decline in attendance is likely if members feel no compulsion
to attend on occasions when they do not intend to speak and do
not hold a proxy so it is possible that there is scope for some
24. Over time as existing members reduce their
activity the non-voting membership should be reshaped so as to
- 75 wte appointed by political
parties. These could be made up of life peers, Ministerial members,
and members appointed for only a single Parliament. It would be
up to political parties how many individuals shared these seats
but they would need to agree the level of activity expected of
each so that they could match those appointed to the number of
wte. The number of wte allocated to each party should be proportional
to its average support over elections held in the last 15 years.
- 75 wte life peers appointed by the House of Lords
Appointments Commission, mainly crossbenchers. Each appointment
should include an agreement about the expected level of activity
so that the number of wte can be calculated and these would be
- 1 wte shared between a number of offices of state
that should have the right to participate in debate when they
have distinctive professional contributions to make. These should
include the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Nursing Officer, Chief
of the Defence Staffs, Comptroller and Auditor-General, Ombudsman,
Local Government Ombudsman, Health Services Ombudsman, Commissioner
of the Metropolitan Police, Poet Laureate, Controller of the Queen's
Music, Lord Chamberlain, Earl Marshal, Cabinet Secretary, Court
Jester (an office that should be revived) and Governor of the
Bank of England.
- 75 wte representatives of organisations chosen
by the House of Lords Appointments Commission to represent the
range of civil society, like the CBI, TUC, BMA, Academy of Medical
Royal Colleges, RCN, Council of Engineering Institutions, Bar
Council, Law Society, Royal Society, Royal Academy, Royal Institute
of British Architects, Women's Institute, National Trust, CPRE,
Liberty, Amnesty etc. Each appointment should include an agreement
about the level of activity so that the number of wte can be calculated
and these would be reviewed periodically. Persons appointed by
these organisations would be known as "representatives"
and would place the initials RP after their name.
- 74 wte made up of 370 representatives, each 0.2wte
(attending for eight house on one day a week), elected by or appointed
from particular professions or economic groups. 10 members could
be elected by and from amongst each of the following professional
groups:- registered medical practitioners, nurses, allied health
professionals & chartered environmental health officers, social
workers, chartered civil engineers, chartered mechanical engineers,
chartered electrical engineers, other chartered engineers, Fellows
of the Royal Society, qualified architects, solicitors, barristers,
chartered accountants, qualified public finance accountants, registered
teachers, academics of the rank of senior lecturer or above in
the natural sciences, academics of the rank of senior lecturer
or above in the social sciences, academics of the rank of senior
lecturer or above in disciplines other than the natural or social
sciences, and University Vice Chancellors. 5 members could either
be elected by and from amongst the members of their discipline
or alternatively appointed by the House after advertisement and
competitive interview from each of 8 disciplines which have particular
relevance to the whole range of issues before the Househistorians,
economists, public health specialists, academic experts in Government
and politics, constitutional and human rights lawyers, organisational
psychologists, social and behavioural psychologists, and experts
in the interpretation of scientific evidence for policy purposes
(including two statisticians, two academic experts in social policy
and one scientist). Organisations of various types involved in
the economic world would also elect representatives with ten representatives
being elected by each of the following groupings of organisations:-
FTSE200 companies and private companies of equivalent size, smaller
companies that are still larger than SMEs, small and medium size
enterprises, mutual organisations and social enterprises, large
registered charities, trade unions of over 1,000,000 members,
trade unions of between 100,000 and 1,000,000 members, smaller
trade unions, and farmers. Holders of large landholdings or aristocratic
titles could also form a group electing 10 members. 30 members
could be chosen in some way by and from amongst those engaged
in the arts, entertainment, media and sport. 10 members could
be elected by and from amongst those honoured by the Crown or
included in recognised lists of achievement and standing such
as Who's Who, Debrett's People of Today, recognised Rich Lists
and recognised celebrity lists.
- 12 wte Lords Spiritual, made up of 8wte allocated
to the General Synod of the Church of England (4wte to the House
of Bishops and 2wte to each of the other Houses), 1wte to other
Christian churches, 1 wte to other Abrahamic religions, 1wte to
other religions and 1wte to secular faiths like humanism and Marxism.
25. Senators would be elected by STV with quota
from regional constituencies as proposed by the Government.
26. District councils and their equivalents would
be allocated aldermen in the ratio 1 session of 0.1wte per 65,000
27. In councils with between 3 and 7 sessions
STV with quota would be used and the number of sessions rounded
to the nearest whole number. One alderman would be elected for
each session. These aldermen would also have a seat on the council.
28. In councils with 1 or 2 sessions entitlements
would be calculated over a group of councils so that one alderman
was elected for each Council and the remaining seats used for
additional top up sessions for proportional representation by
the AMS system. The top up seats would be allocated to parties.
They would be allocated firstly to candidates who were runners
up in the election in a council which, if considered alone, would
be entitled to 2 sessions and secondly to candidates who were
runners up in a smaller council. As between two or more such candidates
priority would be given to candidates where the party in question
is underrepresented on the council in question. These rules apart
prioritisation would be order on the party list. If it was necessary
to go beyond candidates who were runners up then the seats allocated
to those aldermen on their local council would be non-voting,
although their seat in the House of Lords would be voting.
29. No Council would have more than 7 aldermen.
Instead if a council is larger than 500,000 population its Leader
(or elected Mayor), its Chief Executive and its ceremonial head
(ie Mayor in a council which does not have an elected Mayor) would
be members of the House of Lords for 0.1wte. If a Council is over
1,000,000 population each of its 7 aldermen would be 0.2wte (one
day a week). Over 1,500,000 and this would move to 0.3wte (three
days a fortnight) and over 2,000,000 to 0.4wte (two days a week).
30. A small number of councils would have an
entitlement which rounded to the nearest whole number is 0 sessions
because they are smaller than 32,500 population. They would be
entitled to one alderman of 0.05wte (about one day a month). In
the case of the City of London this seat would be held by the
31. It would left to councils to decide the terms
of office of aldermen (but this must not be less than 4 years
nor more than 12 years), whether they are to take place at the
time local government elections take place or whether they are
to be concurrent with Parliamentary elections or with European
elections and the years in which the elections take place if they
are to be at the local government date. All aldermen in each council
would need to be elected together so that proportionality can
operate and in councils which are grouped for AMS purposes the
terms of office and dates of election would need to be the same.
32. These elections would take place concurrently
with alternate European elections starting in 2018.
33. Non-voting members would organise themselves
34. 100 voting seats would be allocated to lists
by the d'Hondt system. Those at the top of the list, to the number
of seats won, would become voting members but other members on
the list would be available to deputise for them.
35. Peers and representatives could be on more
than one list (for example a scientist sitting as a Conservative
peer might well appear both on the Conservative list and on a
science list). If a list failed to gain any votes peers and representatives
who were only on that list would be purely non-voting.
36. Lists could be named after organisations
that sponsored them or after some common interest shared by those
on the list or after the peer or representative leading the list.
37. To strengthen the crossbench and cross-party
lists and allow lists that were rooted in civil society
- voters would be able to vote
for, say, seven lists
- the law should specifically disapply, for this
election only, any rule that a party may have preventing its members
supporting opposing lists
- the laws restricting the fielding of candidates
by charities and by trade unions should also not apply to this
Elected Lords Spiritual
38. These elections would take place in two parts.
Firstly voters would be asked to indicate their faith and denomination
concurrently with alternate European elections starting in 2023.
30 seats each 0.4wte would be allocated to groupings of religions,
denominations and secular faiths such as humanism based on these
indications. Some time later and separately from any political
election an election would take place to those seats by STV with
quota with voting taking place at places of worship for the religious
group concerned at times appropriate to the groups in question.
At this stage candidates would need to be members of the religious
group in question. Everybody would be free to vote in one of the
religious groups only and would receive a poll card which they
would surrender when they vote.
12 October 2011