The UK Government thinks it appropriate to review the role of the House of Lords.
Good idea, but to avoid a repeat of the rushed and unsatisfactory English Votes for English Laws legislation, any proper review of the House of Lords should address a range of fundamental questions much wider than this week’s spat.
For example, do we want, or need, a revising second chamber?
Some countries have one, some do not.
If the answer is yes, and this chamber is to be democratically accountable, should it be elected, appointed, or a mixture of the two?
If elected (wholly or partly), how can we avoid it just being an extension of the Commons?
There are many ways to construct a second chamber. For example, the US Senate is elected but has a defined role and maintains an independent stability by electing only one third of Senators at any one time.
And there is equal Senate representation for each of the states irrespective of their size.
If appointed (wholly or partly), who should do the appointing? Instinct says certainly not the Prime Minister or government of the day. That way lies potential corruption.
Some form of independent appointment body sounds much less party political and opportunistic.
What do we not want in a reformed second chamber? I would suggest: (a) any hereditary members (does this really need explanation in the 21st century?), and (b) any automatically appointed Bishops of the Church of England.
The UK has many citizens who are followers of other religions, and of none. And Church of England Bishops hold no “authority” outside England. A fully written UK constitution would define roles and responsibilities, and boundaries of authority for the Commons, any second chamber, the Prime Minister and the government.
Most other countries in Europe and in the Commonwealth have come to this conclusion – our UK is very much the odd one out on this.
It should not be up to the government of the day to rush through legislation on fundamental constitutional arrangements.
Glamis Place, Dalgety Bay
Let’s use the Royal High School building for a Scottish Senate.
This could offer advice to the parliament, but the parliament would decide whether to follow that advice.
Blacket Place, Edinburgh