Letter: After the Lords

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While one cannot but agree with you about the recommendations of Lord Wakeham's commission on the reconstitution of the Upper Chamber (leading article, 2 November), you have a bee in your own bonnet about the desirability of it becoming a rival elected chamber to the Commons, with equal legitimacy. A recipe for stalemate in government if, as seems only too likely, your proposed senate turns into a haven for time-expired politicians.

If a second chamber is to scrutinise proposed legislation from another point of view than ideology or party advantage, this requires a membership based not on party affiliation but on worldly experience in the occupations that make the nation a going concern, interests which would otherwise have to resort to lobbying, covert bribery or the purchase of rotten boroughs to get their point of view across, and which in practice are more important to most of us politically than where we live.

When Parliament was first set up, these were almost exclusively landed interests - the noblemen and princes of the Church who made up the House of Lords; but now they include both sides of industry, the professions, the universities, major charities, the City, what remains of the truly landed gentry, etc, with an electorate based on occupation rather than domicile.

It could be chosen from amongst applications by representative bodies such the CBI, TUC and medical colleges, by an independent body such as the Privy Council with the right to appeal to the "Lords" itself. The Established Church should retain its representation, as well as ex prime ministers and those who have held high offices of state, with retired civil servants, High Court judges, very senior officers in the services and so on. That is, those with experience of public service at the highest level.

Such an Upper House would complement the Lower, not rival it.

Professor JOHN A DAVIS

Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire