Letter from Dr Nick Palmer MP (LR 19)
I've been taking broad soundings on this in
the constituency (through a 1,000-strong e-mail list) and with
fellow MPs. Some conclusions:
There is general dissatisfaction
with the proposed 60 per cent appointees, which is not seen as
fulfilling the pledge of democratisation.
There is less general support for
a fully elected Second Chamber than one might think from press
coverage. The need for appointed expertise (realistically, 100
per cent elected Chambers will be full of people like ushard-working
party-selected generalists) in a revising chamber is widely acknowledged.
To quote a personal comment from Lord (David) Clark. "The
terrifying thing about speaking in the Lords is that, whatever
your subject, Britain's leading expert is in the Chamber listening
to you". It would be a shame to lose this capability.
There is grudging acceptance of the
need for some party appointees to provide a link to the Commons
and the main parties.
On balance, therefore, the concept of a mixed
formula on the lines the Government suggested does seem to have
a reasonable chance of acceptance, but not with the proportions
proposed. I suggest 50 per cent elected, using open regional lists,
25 per cent appointed independently, 25 per cent appointed by
party nomination with independent review. The independent nominations
should be made after consultation with the widest possible range
of outside organisations, with the ambition to have a specialist
on every conceivable subject in the Chamber.
The opportunity should be taken to clear up
ambiguities and peculiarities in the relationship between Commons
and Lords. The farce of potentially infinite "ping-pong"
should be replaced by a revised Parliament Act giving the Commons
the power to force legislation through it if is confirmed three
times. This weakening of Lords delay powers could be compensated
for by greater revising/scrutiny power. For instance, a one-month
period off pre-scrutiny for all Bills during which the relevant
Lords Committee would be allowed to examine any proposed legislation
before it entered the Commons process.