20 November 2019
By Martina Bet
41 percent of national parliaments, like the UK, use a bicameral system, meaning that Parliament contains two separate chambers. It is another democratic innovation, started in England, developed over time within the UK and then exported worldwide. However, according to many, it is an aspect of British democracy that has barely progressed from the century it was set up to.
With its 776 members, it is the largest second chamber in the world – France and Italy have 348 and 321 respectively – and apart from Iran and Vatican City, the UK is the only state that allows clerics to play a part in lawmaking.
During a recent event attended by Express.co.uk, Lord Peter Hain, a former Labour Cabinet minister, called for the House of House of Lords to be scrapped and replaced with an elected US-style senate.
Explaining the radical reform, the peer said: “The number of the people in the House of Lords is ridiculous.
“It should be at least smaller than the House of Commons.
“I believe in an elected House of Lords, or at least 80 percent elected 20 appointed.
“I think the quality of debate in the Lords is far higher than the Commons, but I think that the second chamber should represent the country.”
Lord Hain added: “For example you could, at the same time you cast your vote for the general election, also elect a proportion of peers or senators from Wales or Yorkshire.”
When asked whether it would make sense to use the European constituencies after Brexit, the peer said: “That’s actually where the working model is.
“To use the European constituencies. You would get a number around about 300.”
When asked whether he would stand, if an election was tomorrow, Lord Hain responded positively.
Lord Hain’s comments came at an event organised by the London Grill Club last week..
Lord Hain is not the only peer who backs a reformed House of Lords.
Lord Salisbury, the former leader of the House of Lords, is currently advocating the Act of Union Bill – the first attempt to “devise a coherent plan for what should happen after many powers return from the European Union”.
The blueprint proposes a federal structure for the continuation of the Union, establishing the principle of self-determination among all four parts, as well as radical reforms in Westminster.
One of the most fundamental reforms, the group says, concerns the upper house, the House of Lords.
The bill offers two alternatives, either reforming the House or abolishing it altogether.
Talking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Lord Salisbury explained: “I have always thought the House of Lords needed reform.
“In fact, it’s a bit of a family failing.
“My great-great-grandfather wanted to reform the House of Lords in the 1860s.
“I think that there are also sorts of ways you can reform the House. You get three people in the room, and there are at least four different solutions proposed.
“I am probably alone in our group, as I would favour the abolition and its replacement by a federal chamber within an English House of Commons.
“I think it has the merit of simplicity and coherence about it.
“My labour party colleagues are less radical as they would prefer to see a reformed House of Lords – our option B, which would be directly elected.”
The peer added: “I wouldn’t be against that if I can’t get my own way, which I suspect will be the case.
“But I would also like to see, which is not in this Bill, a reformed house of lords, which has the power in its own judgement to trigger referendums if it considers that the question in hand is either irreversible like joining the euro or by common consent with enormous political importance.”
Lord Hain is also on the steering committee of the Constitution Reform Group and advocates for the Act of Union Bill.
The Bill would only come into force if approved by a referendum with a majority of votes cast in the UK as a whole at 65 percent and on a majority in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The full article is on the Express Online website and can be accessed here.