A 21st century Upper House?

Jack Straw has published proprosals for the reform of the House of Lords, full proposals here (pdf file). It advocates a 50% elected 50% appointed breakdown (60% political party appointees 40% independent appointments) and a reduction in its size to 540. Elections will be held at the same time as European Elections and on the same regional basis with a third of elected peers, 90 seats, up for election at any one time. Elected and appointed peers will have a 15 year term of office. There may be a new name and members would no longer be called Lords although peerages will continue as part of the honours system. Church of England representation would remain. Hereditary peers to be phased out. The proposals involve no changes to the present balance of powers between the two houses.

If the distribution of new seats between regions follows the distribution of Westminster seats, Northern Ireland would be entitled to 7.5 elected seats. This would mean election of 2 to 3 seats at each election with 7/8 elected positions overall plus an estimated 5 appointees. The likely split of elected members would be 4/3 or 5/3 in Unionism’s favour. On existing political representation at Westminster, the appointees would probably be a 3/2 Unionist-Nationatlist split, although there would be a question whether the SDLP and SF would take up the opportunity to appoint. The combination of European and Upper House elections could make the elections more competitive.

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