• And now for something completely different: Constitutional Reform!

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    Today (http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86868), Doctor North makes mention of Mr Stephen Hammond the Member for Wimbledon. Mr Hammond appears to be moving towards the realisation that EFTA + EEA is the only way the UK can “Brexit” without trashing the economy.

    Commenting upon this, Doctor North is ploughing a field he has already ploughed on many occasions before. This is not a criticism. Just an observation. We happen to know that he is getting tired of this and so are we! There comes a point at which a person asks: What is the point of banging my head against this particular wall?

    So, insofar as the member for Wimbledon is concerned the British Gazette will wait and see.

    Meanwhile, we will turn our attention to the matter of Constitutional Reform.

    Why?

    Because IF Brexit is a complete Horlicks, then the political shock-waves will not only bring down the government (which for Madame will be a merciful release) it will undermine the credibility of the entire British political system because the whole edifice will have been demonstrated to be “unfit for purpose”.

    The British Gazette has commented before about the subject of constitutional and electoral reform but this latest commentary takes the institutionalised imbecility into account!

    So, let us start at the top: HM the Queen.

    Although above politics, HM has a very real role in the government of the country. This is because it is she who actually appoints a government and ministers – although in practice this is done through the Prime Minister which she appoints. After a general election it is necessary for one of the party leaders to be in a position to be able to tell HM that they can form a government.

    In the past this has generally not been much a problem as the one advantage of the First Past the Post electoral system ensures that a majority government can generally be formed.

    Whilst FPtP has delivered majority governments it has led to a situation where coalitions are formed within parties and not parliaments. Thus dissent and division have weakened the system. It has produced MPs who are fiercely tribal to such an extent that many have become trapped in a bubble of their own reality.

    So what we need to achieve is two things which appear to be in conflict.

    One is to ensure that following a general election, HM can call upon a person to form a majority government.

    The other is to have a democratically elected legislature that is fully proportional.

    Now these two are in conflict as proportional representation especially when the closed party list aka the D’Hondt / Jefferson system is used. GOTO: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%27Hondt_method
    What the British Gazette proposes is this:

    Radically reform the House of Lords to transform it into a fully elected chamber. This will give it a democratic mandate equal to the House of Commons and therefore enable it to have equal power with the Commons. This will have the very great advantage of legalising the situation as the 1688 Declaration of Rights ratified into law by the 1689 Bill of Rights was breached in 1911 and again in 1949 with the Parliament Acts.

    It goes without saying that abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with a Senate is unconstitutional and unlawful!

    So let us address the question of how to turn a non elected house of peers into a fully elected house. This requires us to go into detail about the make-up of the Lords at present.

    At the moment there are two types of peers. Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. The Lords Spiritual are the bishops of the Church of England. The Lords Temporal are the remainder!

    The temporal peerage is composed of two types of peer: hereditary and life. Life peers are those created under the Life Peerages Act 1958. Hereditary peers comprise those peers who are, (a.) peers of England, (b.) Peers of Scotland, (c.) Peers of Great Britain, (d.) Peers of Ireland, (e.) Peers of the united Kingdom. There are five degrees of peer: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount and Baron (Lord of Parliament in Scotland). After the reforms of the 1990s hereditary peers (but not Irish peers) can put themselves forward for election (by their fellow hereditary peers) to take up around 90 seats in the chamber. With the exception of some ancient English baronies, hereditary and life peers are created by legal documents known as “Letters Patent of Creation”. In the case of hereditary peers these are in two parts. Part one creates the peerage on the individual and defines the degree (Duke/Marquess/Earl/Viscount/Baron) and the second part which is called the Remainder sets out how the peerage descends to the peer’s heirs. In the case of a life peerage, there is only part one and no part two. In order to sit and vote in the House of Lords, the Sovereign issues a legal document known as a “Writ of Summons”. This used to be a legal right but after the recent reforms is no longer the case. In the past there was a class of peer who did not possess Letters Patent but who nevertheless was accepted as possessing a peerage and had the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. These were the ancient English baronies that were created purely by the Sovereign issuing a Writ of Summons and not bothering with Letters Patent of Creation. Why? You may ask.

    Well in the days of the Wars of the Roses resources were strained and computers and laser printers were not invented. Thus the monarch had to rely on scribes and sheets of velum. It was much easier to commission the scribe to issue a Writ of Summons and dispense with the LP!

    At this point you may ask: What the [redacted] has this to do with the 21st Century???

    A lot! Because those long dead English sovereigns did a very important thing: They established a precedent. That it is NOT necessary to issue Letters Patent of Creation to establish a peer’s right to sit and vote in the House of Lords!

    It is the above LEGAL FACT which will help the country dig itself out of the hole it is in.

    This is because the UK must continue to operate a bi-cameral legislature but with one chamber producing a result which will enable HM to appoint a PM who can form a majority government with the other a chamber that can fairly represent the views of the electorate but with the inevitable result that those elected will fight like ferrets in a sack!

    What the British Gazette proposes is that a fully elected House of Lords becomes the chamber which can produce majority governments and the House of Commons is where the ferret fighting takes place.

    Before discussing which system the new democratically elected peers are elected by it is important to address two issues.

    Firstly, in order to make the House of Lords fully elected, it will be necessary to remove the Lords Spiritual (the bishops) which will mean disestablishing the Church of England.

    Secondly, before deciding on the method of election it is necessary to define how the peers are created. It has already been established that it is not necessary to issue LP. Therefore we suggest that the peerage should be created by the monarch issuing a Royal Warrant that would do the following:
    - Raise the person (the elected member) to a rank and precedence equal to the younger son or daughter of a Duke for the term of the Parliament.
    - Thus ennobled, the person (the elected member) would receive the Writ of Summons and be able to take their seat.
    - That these temporary peers should be styled as “Lords in Parliament”.
    - That these temporary peers would be formally styled as the younger sons and daughters of Dukes but informally they may wish merely to have the suffix “LP” after their surname.

    Making the Lords the effective chamber of government – where most of the minsters will sit – will have the advantage of television reflecting reality (see above image).

    Clearly, we do not propose Party List PR for the Lords. Instead, we propose the Supplementary Vote invented by Lord Campbell-Savours and is used at present for electing the Police and Crime Commissioners.
    GOTO: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contingent_vote#Supplementary_vote
    We suggest that the number of “Lords in Parliament” should be 500. From 500 single member constituencies which as far as possible are of equal size in terms of population.

    We will now address the detail of the election process. At the moment, candidates for a Commons seat must put up a £500 deposit, which is returned if a candidate gets at least 5% of votes cast. In addition the signatures of 10 registered electors (known as subscribers) from the constituency are required on the nomination form. The former Liberal party leader, Lord Steel suggested that the £500 deposit should be abolished and in it’s place a larger number of signatures (nominees) from people in the constituency be required. If this number was raised to 100, it would present a challenge to joke candidates and also small extremist parties with little support.

    Before addressing the reform of the House of Commons, we must address the question of the fate of the hereditary and life peers. They will have lost their right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. However, the British Gazette is firmly of the opinion that there should be some small degree of privilege that applies to a person in possession of a peerage. Not because of some sense of deference but out of a desire to avoid pointless constitutional oddities. Therefore, we suggest that holders of peerages (should they wish to stand for election) should be exempted from the requirement to get nominated; but subject to the following conditions:
    - that the peer at the time of their election is not a member of a political party.
    - that, if elected, the peer shall sit as an independent.
    - that, if after being elected, the peer shall take a party whip or become a party member they will be recalled (i.e.; have to re-fight their seat in a by-election).
    Of course, there would be nothing to stop a peer from standing as a party member LP after getting the required number of nominees.

    Addressing the reform of the House of Commons, we suggest the same 500 member maximum as for the Lords. That the closed party list system (the way MEPs are elected) be used in four constituencies (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and that the 500 seats be divided between them in proportion to their populations. The result would be highly proportional but apart from Northern Ireland, be devoid of a meaningful link with constituents. However, the H of L would have taken over that role.

    What the revised constitution would do is to provide majority government but would allow a meaningful influence for those in “minor parties” without having these minor parties holding a whip hand insofar as coalitions are concerned.

    Furthermore, the ease with which peers could stand for election would assist democracy for it is a good thing to have independents in Parliament.

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