Headlines: June 13th, 2006

A think tank is suggesting that the House of Lords should be reformed on a regional basis through the creation of a local government electoral college. This, says the New Local Government Network, would make the House second chamber more accountable to the public. The idea has come in a new pamphlet, “Lords reform for a purpose”, which advocates the majority of the new Second Chamber being made up of regional representatives reflecting the political parties share of the vote at a General Election.In detail the pamphlet suggests a large proportion – possibly two-thirds – of the members of the new chamber being regional representatives, selected by an electoral college of elected local councillors in each region. It says the primacy of the House of Commons would be maintained but the Second Chamber would be made more relevant by giving it a devolved dimension.

The new chamber would be based on a secondary mandate plus system, which would allocate seats to parties based on the General Election results in each region. Individuals would be selected to take each of these seats by the local councillors from that political party in that region.

Chris Leslie, Director of NLGN, says in the pamphlet, “Parliament is crying out for voices representing a broader cross-section of all parts of the UK, rather than the alarmingly centralised arrangements which see peers from wealthy inner London neighbourhoods dominating the current membership. Not only do we need gender, race and age diversity – we need national diversity too. The solution we advocate would achieve a far more representative chamber.”

Mr. Leslie adds that in giving Jack Straw responsibility for Lords reform, the Prime Minister had apparently indicated that he was keen to solve this long-standing issue. “We believe they could deliver the right result and go further, linking the local and national elements of our constitution more closely together.”

If the system proposed by NLGN had been in place at last year’s General Election, Labour councillors would have nominated 168 seats, followed by Conservative councillors nominating 151 and Liberal Democrats nominating 105.

A copy of the pamphlet can be downloaded from the ‘Policy Brief’ section of the NLGN website http:www.nlgn.org.ukĀ