Letter: Lords reform

Sir: Since the reformed Upper House may be in place before we have a House of Commons elected on a proportional system, it would be inappropriate for its members to be elected on such a system with geographical constituencies, or it would be seen to be more representative than the Commons.

A better arrangement would be for most members to be elected by specified interest groups, such as professional associations, trades unions, employers' confederations, consumer and environmental organisations, and the like. There is precedent for such a system in the European Union's Economic and Social Committee which, although largely unknown to the public, often questions proposed European legislation with exemplary thoroughness because of the professional knowledge of its members.

Another precedent is the Church of England's representation in the House of Lords by a limited number of bishops. Clearly there would need to be extensive consultation on which groups should be represented and how new ones could replace ones of declining importance. This process would best be started by a Royal Commission, followed by debate in Parliament.

It would be useful to continue to have some appointed members, like the present life peers, chosen from the ranks of men and women of distinction. They would provide continuity and would also be a source for ministers, as it would be necessary for the Government to be formally represented in the Upper House

Such a revised Upper House would hardly be content with the limited current powers of the House of Lords. There would be more frequent clashes with the Commons and more need to compromise to ensure that legislation was soundly drafted. In a mature democracy that is what Parliament should be doing.


Richmond, Surrey