THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Blair To Set Out Nuclear Missile Plan
Now child benefit will start in late pregnancy

Praguetory: Rock da House

Link: Praguetory: Rock da House.

Always good value, Praguetory kicks off a debate about House of Lords reform. Every new proposal from the Government and what passes for HM Opposition seems to be less and less democratic, so some new ideas are certainly needed. The whole issue is, of course, complicated by the West Lothian Question and the need to avoid new layers of government and further waste of public money.

I made my own humble suggestion just over a year ago, the updated crux of which is (amended to include Northern Ireland):

The present House of Commons should remain, but with fair representation for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (i.e. fewer Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh MP's). The House of Lords should be abolished. An English Senate should be elected. The Welsh Assembly should become the Welsh Senate, the Northern Ireland Assembly the Northern Ireland Senate and the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Senate. The four "Petty Senates" should meet separately on issues solely relating to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales respectively as unicameral local parliaments with specific delegated powers (identical in each case, rather than the present mishmash).

The four Senates combined (the "Grand Senate") should fulfil the present functions of the House of Lords.

The appointment of judges should be delegated to the chairmen of each of the Petty Senates, so that independent local judiciaries can emerge over time. The Grand Senate should be charged with forming a new constitution for the United Kingdom. That constitution could include entrenched provisions (e.g. on civil liberties) which could only be amended with the consent of all four Petty Senates. This would prevent any repetition of the kind of onslaught on liberty that has happened in the last 10 years.

In the short term this would provide fairness and improve parliamentary democracy. In the long term it would create "constitutional perforations" which could later be torn to separate one, two, or three of the nations if they so require.

I anticipate it would be England that first decides to go. At least its Petty Senate, rather than the Scots-infiltrated House of Commons, could then provide the negotiating team for the constitutional settlement that would follow.

This idea is thoroughly democratic, yet avoids any conflict between the roles of the lower and upper houses of Parliament. It has the virtue of requiring only one new election to implement - that to elect the "Petty Senate of England". It integrates the Scottish "wee pretendy Parliament", the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly into something useful. It answers the West Lothian Question and it avoids the need (as both the English Senate and the Grand Senate would meet in the present House of Lords Chamber) for any expensive new Parliament buildings, while using the existing ones in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

It also provides England with a team to negotiate the terms of Scottish Independence, which cannot surely now be long in coming. Views?