An elected senate could replace House of Lords

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An elected senate could replace House of Lords

Post by Guest on Fri 21 Mar 2008, 2:47 pm

The House of Lords would be replaced by an elected chamber that could be called the Senate under plans being drawn up at Westminster.

Cross-party talks on reforming the Lords are nearing an agreement about replacing most of the existing members of the upper chamber with elected representatives.

The new chamber would be smaller than the Lords, with about half of the current total of 748 members.

In another break with tradition, the new members would be paid an annual salary, probably set somewhere lower than the 60,000 MPs receive.

Labour has struggled with Lords reform since promising a comprehensive overhaul in its 1997 manifesto.

Repeated failures to reach agreement between the parties and between the Commons and the Lords have meant reform has been limited to capping the number of hereditary peers allowed to sit in the upper chamber.

But raising the prospect of real change, the House of Commons last year voted decisively in favour of Lords reform, backing proposals for either all or 80 per cent of members of the upper chamber to be elected.

That vote was a defeat for Tony Blair, the then prime minister, who said an elected upper chamber would pose a threat to the primacy of the Commons.

By contrast, Gordon Brown has signalled his willingness to see a largely elected upper house.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, has been overseeing the cross-party talks.

Those talks are now expected to produce formal proposals before Parliament's summer recess starts in July.

People involved in the discussions said a consensus was emerging on the broad form of the chamber and its membership.

However, some issues remained contentious, such as how the constituencies of the elected "senators" would be drawn, and how the new members would be elected.

One proposal is for elections to be on a proportional representation system, with large, multi-member constituencies modelled on the regional seats used for European Parliament elections.

However, some Labour and Conservative figures have doubts about that plan and are resisting moves that could undermine the first-past-the-post system.

The timescale for reform remains lengthy. All three main parties would first put their own detailed proposals to voters at the next general election, which may not come until May 2010.

After that election, both the Commons and the Lords would have to vote for the reformed chamber.

Once the process began, existing members of the Lords would be replaced gradually, with a third of the new chamber being chosen in three elections over 12 years.

"We're talking about 15 years here, and even that may be too quick for some people," said one source involved in the talks.

Last night, Mr Straw's Ministry of Justice announced that the plans for reform would be published in the next few months.

A spokesman said: "We will be bringing forward proposals for House of Lords reform in due course."

Source: Timesonline -


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