Letter: Peer pressure

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Confronted by the pitfalls of Lords reform, the Government seeks a time-honoured escape route - appointment of a Royal Commission. We could find ourselves saddled with a debased and supine Commons, dominated by an overweening executive, with an ersatz upper house attempting to acquire the gravitas of its predecessor.

The alternative is to follow the precedent set by Sweden and Denmark since 1945, and New Zealand since 1950, by abolishing the upper house. This would require introduction of direct democracy as an essential constitutional initiative to provide oversight on the legislature and the right of veto on constitutional change. And at the heart of direct democracy lies the right of referendum.

As the jurist A V Dicey opined, the referendum gives "formal acknowledgement of the doctrine which lies at the basis of English democracy - that law depends at bottom for its enactment on the consent of the nation as represented by the electors". In a unicameral parliament, those entrusted with deliberating on national affairs will be aware that their deliberations are on sufferance to the electorate, representing the ultimate authority of a working democracy.


The Referenda Society

Newark, Nottinghamshire