Letter: Power without peer

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article 'Putting the Upper House in order' (6 November) was a welcome contribution to the debate on the form of the second chamber. It posed the two key questions - first, the powers of a second chamber, second, its composition.

The powers of a new second chamber should remain the same as at present and only be adjusted by the mutual consent of the two Houses. The political priority should be to ensure that the second chamber is properly elected. The Labour conference and the party leadership have endorsed the proposal by the Plant Committee that the second chamber be elected by the regional list system of proportional representation.

The urgency of this for an incoming Labour government lies not merely in the symbolism of Labour finally tackling Britain's most obviously anachronistic 'democratic deficit', but in the memory of the 350 defeats suffered by the last Labour government at the hands of the largely hereditary Lords. A few much-trumpeted delays to Tory legislation spread over 14 years hardly bears comparison.

With a new constitutional settlement to create a genuinely pluralist political society there remains an important role for a revising chamber, alongside independent local government, a Bill of Rights, a reformed judiciary and a more relevant House of Commons. A new government will have to break with Britain's one-track, command politics if the follies of executive-dominated politics - from the poll tax to rail privatisation - are to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Yours sincerely,

GRAHAM ALLEN

MP for Nottingham North (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

The writer is opposition spokesman on democracy and immigration.

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