Camera dei Lords - Dibattito sulla riforma
The Government’s unease is understandable because the decisive vote on the 100 per cent
model has clear implications—at least it does for any person of common sense—for the
primacy of the House of Commons. That may be why such large numbers voted in another
place for the 100 per cent appointed and 100 per cent elected Peers. Some 70-odd did so, by
my calculations, including 60 or so of my own party. That is an impressive number voting for
two apparently contradictory positions—and, in time, those 70 will have to reach a decision to
back one option or the other. However, I think that their vote at present is defensible, because
this is an argument about hybridity.
The argument is that hybridity will confirm legitimacy because this House will have an elected
element, which my noble and learned friend claimed provided what he called democratic
connection, or the legitimacy claimed by many others. We can be legitimate, but not too
legitimate, because legitimacy would challenge Commons primacy. The 20 per cent appointed
Peers will be the bulwark claimed against a challenge to the primacy of the House of
The 80 per cent political or elected Members of this House will still believe that their individual
legitimacy is every bit as valid as the individual legitimacy of those elected to another place.
They will recognise that the cap put on the elected element in this House will be there to
protect those in the Commons to the disadvantage of the electoral mandate that they have in
this House. Moreover, the first time that a vote in this House turns on the 20 per cent
appointed votes, there will be a constitutional crisis. An elected majority will simply not
tolerate being overruled by an unelected minority, nor should they.
What of the relationship between the two Houses? Why should an elected Member in this
House subvert the mandate from his own electorate to the mandate of an MP in another place?
That is not democracy; it is a doctrine of, “all elections are equal, but some are more equal
than others”. It is this that will be used to protect the primacy of the Commons. That primacy
is not challenged—it is right that the Commons has primacy, and there is no question of it.
Members in the Commons are elected, we are not—end of story. But sooner or later—and,
given the vibrancy of our politics, it will be sooner—the 80 per cent elected Members of this
House will challenge another place, will feel an equal legitimacy with the all-elected Commons
and the 20 per cent artificial constraint will not hold. It will be attacked and defeated and
primacy will go.
The truth is that last week’s vote in the Commons has put primacy into play. The all-party
Cunningham committee said unanimously that at this point the
13 Mar 2007 : Column 573
conventions between the two Houses must be reconsidered. It was a unanimous committee
position, adopted by unanimous resolution in both Houses. How would this vital issue be
examined again? We already know what the Government want on the conventions: the status
quo. But who will they consult? Will there be another “understanding” with the Front-Benchers,
with no Back-Bench representation? Or will the Cunningham committee reconvene? There is
only one respectable answer: the issue must be dealt with by an all-party committee of both
Houses. No other means is acceptable, and I ask my noble and learned friend to confirm
unequivocally that that will be the case.
If this House has a majority of elected Members, the primacy of the Commons as currently
understood will go. The argument that it can be protected is both unsustainable and
undemocratic: unsustainable because neither electors nor elected will abide by it, and
undemocratic because it denies the elected the power to act on behalf of the electors.
Democracy is not just about voting, but about voting for people who will act on the basis of the
mandate that the electorate have given them. The election of political members of this House
will give them such a mandate. It is misleading to give the electorate the right to vote without
the right of the elected to deliver on that vote. A mandate without means to deliver is
meaningless; worse, it is a deceit.
I shall vote against all the options on hybridity. Hybridity is a connection not to democracy but
to constitutional uncertainty and electoral unfairness. I shall vote for a 100 per cent appointed
House. I could vote for a 100 per cent elected House, but only if there is a new settlement
between the two Houses reflecting that all elections to the British Parliament really are equal,
without some being more equal than others.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, with whom I
served on the Joint Committee on Conventions. I find that her main point is one that I would
It is a privilege to speak in this debate. Yesterday, we had many fine speeches. There were
outstanding speeches from the government Benches by the noble and learned Lord, Lord
Irvine, from the Conservative Benches by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe and from the
Cross Benches by the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd. They all agreed, and I agreed with
what they said. I shall not repeat their arguments, but there is a consensus across the
Benches that ought to be followed.
The voting in the House of Commons last week was not, as was feared, a train crash; it is
probably better described as a nuclear missile that went off at half-cock. Yesterday, the noble
and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that we must take the vote on 100 per cent elected
at face value. That would be extraordinarily naive. In reality there was an enormous amount of
tactical voting. It is important to analyse how people voted last week, and I shall do so,
reinforcing the point made by the noble Baroness a moment ago.
13 Mar 2007 : Column 574
I first make one or two simple points. First, I support the views expressed, as quoted
yesterday, by Mr Alan Williams in another place. He was my pair for some 33 years, succeeded
me as chair of the Liaison Committee and is now Father of the House. He pointed out that
hybridity is not only the worst of all possible worlds, but intrinsically unstable. At the end of
the day, the choice can only really be between wholly elected or wholly appointed.
Secondly, the idea that democracy would be increased in this country if we had elected
Members of this House is false. We already have a system that is 100 per cent democratic;
one cannot make it more than 100 per cent. Having elected Members of this House would
change the balance between the two Houses. We would lose what is now an effective system,
both in revising legislation—I see the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, opposite, with whom we did
a great deal—because the Commons is no longer revising and scrutinising legislation as it
should, and in holding the Government to account. It is inconceivable that this House would
hold the Government to account—let us say at Question Time last week, on defence or the
National Health Service—with the same expertise if we had elected Members.
The Government, in support of their view that an elected element in this House would be all
right, points out that other countries have elected double chambers. However, they did not
point out in the evidence to the Select Committee that all those countries have written
constitutions. As far as I know, the Government do not propose that for this country, although
given the rather oracular remarks of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor yesterday,
I am not sure that he is not moving in that direction.
As to the future and the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, the noble and
learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said yesterday that we will reconvene the cross-party group.
+1 anno fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Politica comparata e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Milano - Unimi o del prof Giuliani Marco.
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