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Monday, July 09, 2012

Lords Reform - Constitutional Amendments 16

  Some time ago I had a letter published on Lords reform and said I would get round to suggesting the ideal. John Redwood has asked toe same question so, belatedly, here is my view.

   It is generally accepted that a bicameral legislature provides a separation of powers of government and thus makes unitary dictatorship more difficult. For this reason the vast majority of countries now and at least since the Middle Ages in Europe, have been bicameral.

   The British House of Lords is what remains of Britain's bicameral legislature but in practice, it has little real power and no democratic legitimacy and thus serves more to create the illusion of such separation than the actuality. This is fairly satisfactory to those in the Commons who have all the power which is why, after more than a century of almost everybody agreeing that reform is needed we haven't had it. Indeed the MPs are almost unanimous in fearing that a democratic Lords would be a rival for the Commons.

   What should the purpose of a 2nd chamber. It should be an impediment to useless regulation. It should also assist in making government more competent and less parasitic. If we want a government of liberty and democracy I think it should also be representative of the people (ie democratic). On the other hand if elected in exactly the same way as the Commons & with powers either the same or subset of the Commons powers, it would serve no extra purpose.

   I would therefore not give it the power to introduce new legislation. Nor the power to bring the government down through a vote of no confidence. It therefore could not be the primary chamber or indeed any significant influence on the executive part of government.

   Instead its power should be that of pruning useless bits of government. By having only that power it would concentrate on it. I would give the Lords the power to introduce the repeal of laws (I would not prevent the Commons doing so as well but they rarely do).  The Commons would also have to debate and pass the repeal initially, as now, but if they did not and the Lords reintroduced and passed it again a year later a Commons veto would have to be passed by 60%. This is roughly the reverse of the power the Commons have now to override a Lords veto.

   I am here lifting from Heinlein's Lunar Assembly speech though I am afraid I am not being as radical as he.
1 proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent - the more impediment to legislation the better. But instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a 2/3rds majority ... while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere 1/3rd minority. Preposterous? think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command 2/3rds of your consents is it not likely to make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as 1/3rd is it not likely that you would be better off without it?

   I would also add to that the :ords should have power to close down any branch of government found to have lied to enhance its power; produced regulations whose cost/benefit ratio is at least 4 times greater than that of the restrictions applying to a comparable field; or funded a quango/charity which used that money and could reasonably have been expected to use that money, to advertise/"raise awareness" of the need for more government regulation; or which had broken its Charter or articles of association by lying or grossly exaggerating. The Lords would also have the power to permanently exclude anybody involved, or anybody involved in any personal overuse of their powers, from any form of government employment.

   This is again taken from Heinlein
if his intention is to govern as little as possible-as that means he must keep a sharp eye out and his ear tuned for signs that subordinates are doing unnecessary governing. Half my time is used in the negative work of plucking such officious officials and ordering that they never again serve in any public capacity.
    This would mean that the government parasite who assured us Children just aren't going to know what snow is,” by now because of catastrophic warming would, along with the social workers who kidnap kids for no good reason, the promoters of the evidence free LNT theory and other scares and the BBC, who continuously break their Charter duty of "due balance" would at least have to consider that their jobs could be on the line. Ditto Ed Davy who lied to the Commons that the "experts in the shale gas industry" had told him and Cameron how dodgy their predictions were when in fact it was, quite deliberately, only their competitors he had chosen to speak to.

     To do all that we have to have a chamber with a democratic mandate. I propose that the chamber be made up of 300 Senators. 100 chosen every 5 years at the same time as the general election. The choice proportionately with the entire country serving as 1 constituency, Israeli style. This means that anybody who agree with as much as 1% of the country is going to be represented. I would not go for such a fully representative system for a chamber that was going to form a government, since e it is likely to be so splintered (though it must be admitted that Israel has survived it).

     I don't think it can be seriously denied that this would serve to, with at least some degree of success, prune our government of the parasitic growths which are directly sucking up half the national wealth and destroying at least as much of the potential economy as actually gets produced. There are a previous 15 such controls over government that I have suggested that could also be considered.

     OK now for something a bit controversial. Limiting the franchise.

    On the one hand the argument that democracy cannot long withstand having the free loaders voting themselves "bread and circuses" and that "every election is a sort of advance sale of stolen goods" (Mencken).

    On the other virtually every proposal to limit the franchise and exclude those unworthy tends, coincidentally, to leave those in the group the proposer is in, whether this means limiting it to the intelligent, the educated, the rich, heads of families, people whose grandfathers lived here, Aryans, self styled "technocrats", believers in catastrophic warming, or the urban proletariat.

    So here is something original. Let people sell their votes to the Lords. Let the government offer, say £500 to everybody willing to give up their vote for a 5 year term & sell them on at the same price to anybody who wants to buy, with a minimum of 5 votes per person. Government simply carries out the exchange. Government is instructed to vary the amount annually by 5% (plus growth and inflation) to bring it to a balance of 25% of the population disenfranchising themselves.

   I think it not unreasonable that somebody willing to see their vote is not likely to consider the national interest much when choosing who to vote for. The cynical might think that £500 would have far more than 25% of the population lining up, particularly when it is the 2nd chamber we don't have any say in at the moment. However I am idealistic enough to think the cynical might be in for a surprise. In any case I am quite certain that it would see a higher electoral turnout. People value what they have paid for (Heinlein again) and I doubt if many who had paid that money, or foregone getting it, for their vote, wouldn't use it and use it with some thought.

    Finally, the decision to reform the Lords should be by a multiple choice run off referendum, or more likely 2 rounds of such, with proper broadcast debates on each version. I do suspect that my option would be a bit to much for most people but that is how it goes. Another stitch up where the people are simply bystanders in how our "democracy" is stitched up by those already in power, would not have legitimacy, or deserve to.

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And the pigs gathered all the animals of animal farm together and said: "we have made mistakes, from now on the farm will be a democracy and you will be free to choose which pigs run the farm".

Elections are not democratic. We have a choice of one group of pigs with snouts in the trough, or another group.

Juries are democratic. They are ordinary people (the demos) and they are the most respected institution.

Less than 2% of the population belong to a political party. That group has over 99.7% of MPs.

The result is that parliament has almost no engineers, scientists or anyone else that can understand the crap about global warming. Instead it is full of lawyers, accountant and others on the make who have consistently voted to destroy UK manufacturing.

Why anyone would support a second house full of the same illegitimate bunch of politicians is beyond me. The upper house does not need the anti-democratic system of voting. Instead, we can use democratic systems like random selection, or at least a jury panel can appoint members. In other words, whereas the lower house is overwhelmingly filled with politicians, the upper house should as far as possible exclude anyone who is political -- or at least a panel of ordinary people should decide that their contribution as a person, outweighs the unfairness of having more politicians.
The pure PR system, with the ability to get in with only 1% of the vote, would weaken the stranglehold party organisaqtion would have. It could even let publicly known individuals without party backing be elected. Hopefully this would be Richard Branson or Roger Penrose rather than Posh Spice. I suspect that, if the vote sale system were included, it would.
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