Comment posted at Liberal Democrat Voice [1]

2010 August 7

In response to the article Julian Huppert says all MPs should brush up on their science, and the comment by Belinda BG: Scientific understanding like any understanding needs to be underpinned by the political courage/ independance to make and stand by sometimes controversial/unpopular decisions.

Agree with Belinda BG, we need politicians with the courage to say and do what may, at first sight, be counter-intuitive. But few MPs ever will because democracy, by definition, requires that they express what is popular.
This is one reason why the second chamber should be appointed from the chartered professions: we need a house of representatives (The Commons) to speak for public opinion, AND a Senate of those with the education, knowledge and experience to foster and promote logical reasoning.

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Comment posted at newstatesman.com and hmg.gov.uk

2010 June 7

The following comment…

We urgently need fundamental political reform, including a referendum on electoral reform.”

But no referendum on House of Lords Reform?

We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation.”

…then Parliament will vote on it and we, the people, will get what we’re given.

The most important decision we make is how we make decisions.

The issue of Lords Reform, not just electoral reform, must be debated and decided by the people.

…has been posted at
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/05/care-health-support-give#reader-comments
and
http://programmeforgovernment.hmg.gov.uk/political-reform/comment-page-1/#comment-2222


Comment posted at CaSE

2010 June 4

In response to:

The Queen’s speech: cap on migrants, science education, and Lords reform

House of Lords Reform

The Queen said that her Government will “propose Parliamentary and political reform to restore trust in democratic institutions”. It’s been speculated that these reforms might include changes to the House of Lords.

Currently, the Lords are all appointed, hereditary, or religious, and it’s been suggested that they should instead be wholly or partially elected.

Many people see one of the strengths of the current House of Lords being its wealth of scientific expertise. Lords May, Rees and Krebs are just a few examples of individuals with rich STEM backgrounds who sit in the Lords.

Peers such as these play a key role in scrutinising legislation from a scientific or engineering perspective, and it’s not clear that they would be in a position to do so if they had to run for election to the Lords.

No specific reforms have yet been announced, but CaSE will be looking at them when they are, and making the argument for retention of scientific and engineering expertise in any reformed upper chamber.

House of Lords Reform is more than speculation: We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation (The Coalition: our programme for government).

With respect, looking at the reforms when they are announced will be too late.
It is imperative that we have the debate now, make the arguments now, and demand a referendum.


First draft of the Reasoning posted

2010 May 22

The first draft of the argument for an appointed Senate to replace the House of Lords has been posted here.

Please read and comment to join the debate.


Responses to senateforbritain.org [1]

2010 April 18

http://senateforbritain.org/blog/about/

The Senate for Britain campaign believes that there is no room for life or hereditary peers in Britain today.

Agreed.

The British people deserve a parliamentary chamber which is representative of the broad political parties and opinions presiding in this country.

The British people have this — it’s called the House of Commons.


http://senateforbritain.org/blog/myths/

A ’senate’ is a US-import – No. More than 50 countries around the world have national senates. If anything, it’s an import from ancient Greece. Like democracy.

True.

We can’t do without appointed experts – While it is useful to have experts from different fields or professions in parliament, it is not a panacea for good legislation…

Antiretroviral drugs are not a panacea for HIV, but you are probably better off with them than without.

…An expert on plant biology might be useful for a bill on GM foods. But is it right that that expert has the right to vote on bills about crime or immigration?…

Most members of the Commons are not experts on anything, yet they have the right to vote on everything. The expert on plant biology will have a good grasp of logical reasoning which is applicable to all issues.

…What if their personal views on social issues are abhorrent?

This can equally well apply to someone who is elected.

Reform would strip Lords of their titles – No. Many peers received their title due to their immense contributions to public life in Britain. They still deserve to be recognised. Abolishing a House of Lords and the entitlement of Lords to sit in Parliament is not the same as abolishing Lords themselves, nor this system of honours.

Agreed.


http://senateforbritain.org/blog/why-abolish-the-lords/

Renewal – The image of the House of Lords has been tarnished irreparably in the eyes of the public by the expenses scandal.

The image of the elected House of Commons has been just as tarnished. Democracy is not a cure for corruption.

Anti-democratic – Few, if any, modern democracies retain hereditary peers as parliamentarians.

Indeed. But this is argumentum ad numerum; just because many nations do, or do not do, something is a poor indicator of its efficacy.

Unrepresentative – Britain needs a chamber which reflects its broad spectrum of political opinion.

Britain has a chamber which reflects its broad spectrum of political opinion — it’s called the House of Commons. STV proportional representation would, of course, improve this.

Cronies – Life peers, for all their individual merits, are appointed on a highly calculated, tactical and partisan manner.

Agreed.

Yesterday’s men and women – Most life peers won their appointments years or even decades ago. What right has a friend of the prime minister from the 1960s or 1970s to remain in parliament today?

Quite.