Memorandum by Professor Dawn Oliver, Professor
of Constitutional Law, University College London (LR 59)
I enclose a copy of my response to the Government
White Paper, which I am sending to the Lord Chancellor's Department.
I hope some of the points will be of interest to your committee's
investigation of the proposals for House of Lords reform.
A point that I did not make in my response but
which might interest you is as follows.
The Royal Commission's proposals for appointed
members seems to me to promote a form of deliberative and participative
democracy to run alongside our normal representative democracy
system. In my view it is highly desirable that such complementary
forms of democracy develop.
The representative system relies very heavily
on parties in Parliament, government and other elected bodies
to be the channels through which the public can participate in
government. Non-party members of the second chamber and appointed
members who support parties but are relatively independent of
them would be in a position to participate in debates about government
policy and general problems of the country and to influence the
scrutiny of bills and delegated legislation. They could give "voices"
to sections of society which are not normally represented through
election or party nomination. The Royal Commission's proposals
were designed specifically to secure that voices that are not
normally heard but which have contributions to make to debate
and scrutiny of government should be included in the reformed
second chamber. Nomination of members by the parties, as proposed
by the government, will not secure this kind of presence in the
An import out of respect in which participation
in debate etc. in the second chamber differs from the usual work
of pressure groups etc is that the government has to respond in
the second chamber to points made in debate, in the scrutiny of
bills etc. Government ministers are not required to respond to
points made outside Parliament in the same way.
So my feeling about the Royal Commission recommendations
was and is that they positively promote democracy. It saddens,
but does not surprise me, to note that most people assume that
the only way democracy can be promoted is by election and that
representative democracy is the only form that can legitimately
exist in this country. I disagree. I think ways need to be found
to enable a much wider range of voices to have an input into parliamentary
activity. In a way one role of the second chamber would be that
of a "civic forum" and this would be very beneficial.