Letter: Christian values keep our communities together

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The Independent Online
HISTORY TEACHES us - if it teaches us anything - that timely revision of a constitution is preferable to drastic reformation at the eleventh hour. But you seem to be in favour of overturning the way we are governed root and branch, with disestablishment of the church (whose establishment underlines our commitment to Christian values which, among other things, ensures our tolerance of other religions); doing away with the monarchy (which represents the long-term continuity of the state and disinterested concern for the well-being of the nation as a whole); and totally changing the constitution of the upper chamber without proper consideration of what its function ought to be and how its membership should be tailored to perform it as well as possible. A reading of Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, which sets out the arguments for adhering to well-tried structures, would be salutary in this context.

As regards the Lords, when it was set up it represented in parliament the powerful interests in the country - then almost entirely landed - to which it was deemed important to give an explicit and responsible constitutional role, rather than to allow them to exert their influence via rotten boroughs, bribery, blackmail or lobbying.

Nowadays there are many more such interests, including the professions, both sides of industry, the universities, major charities, etc - and not forgetting those landed proprietors who have hung on to their estates along with their titles, or the princes of the established church (however meagre, for the present, its congregations). Not only would a house comprising such interests ex officio serve to make them responsible for their undeniable power, it would also ensure that, in scrutinising proposed legislation devised by the largely professional party politicians in the Commons, practical experts in many different fields and representatives of those whose working lives might be affected would be deployed.

These reforms would seem to be the only way of changing the membership of the Lords to enhance its effectiveness and to restore its original raison d'etre. It is a mystery to me why no one among our soi-disant constitutional experts seems to have suggested it till now.

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