The House of Lords

The Centre's Evidence to the Commission

PART 11: Indirect election.

Indirect election by subsidiary bodies would allow a lesser exercise of power by citizens than would direct election. It is to be expected that it would produce something of a mirror of the institutions which elected the senators, rather than allowing an alternative expression of the will of the people. The inconsistencies in the ways in which regional bodies are constituted and in the powers that are devolved to them might also make for distinctions in the authority between Senators from different regions.

One must wonder who would fill the seats in the Senate if this approach were to be followed. If regional bodies elected the Senators it is doubtful that those serving on those bodies would also have the time or energy to sit also in the Senate. What alternative pool would they draw from and could they be relied upon to elect the most imaginative or thoughtful of their cohorts?

Unless the Senators were to be delegates of these bodies it is unclear why this approach should be preferred to popular election. The main disadvantage is that which applies to all the alternatives to popular election: the removal of power and responsibility from the people and the undermining of confidence in democracy that may follow from that.

Lottery.

Selection by lottery has a number of demerits. It is likely that few persons chosen at random would be free to take on the responsibilities or would want to. Those willing and able to do so are likely to those with the strongest or most marginal views on political issues. The chief advantage that is advanced for this approach would thereby is likely to be lost: those taking office would not be a representative cross section of the nation.

We should expect responsibility, sustained commitment, and accountability in our legislators. A lottery would militate against those virtues.

Conclusion.

What we advocate may seem radical. It is not. It is a full expression the popular sovereignty has been practised elsewhere in the world for many years. Indeed, as long ago as 1911 the British government indicated that it intended to replace the House of Lords with a chamber with a popular basis.

We therefore invite the commission now to recommend reforms that would make the legislature more truly the people's legislature, undercut those who would resort to undemocratic means and fulfil this country's boast that its Parliament is a model for the world.

End of evidence.

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