Consensus on senate?

The FT is reporting that a cross-party consensus on a 400 member senate (80-100% elected using STV or list) is near with proposals to be published before the summer recess. ‘Senators’ will be paid but will not receive office allowances and serve for terms of 12 to 15 years. While the article is somewhat short on detail the proposals for a phased replacement of the existing Lords and described areas of consituency (80 to 100 constituencies) could raise issues for smaller parties including in Northern Ireland. To reach those levels NI and Scotland would have to be treated as one constituency, making it difficult for local parties to get elected in their own right or have to make some interesting alliances. In rough population terms NI should have 11/12 senate seats, leaving some scope for a smaller regional constituency. this would work out at 3/4 senate constituencies (depending on the number of multiple members 3 or 4). However with 80 to 100 multi-member constituencies across the UK, Northern Ireland has scope for 2.1 or 2.7 such constituencies. Thus 3 constituencies is probably the most likely although the phasing could still cause issues with representativeness. (H/T Beano)

  • Also I managed to get the story (via Google News) without signing up to at

    “Batches of three or four senators would each represent 80 to 100 “multi-member” constituencies. Existing life peers would be gradually replaced as the senators are elected in stages every four or five years.”


    “To reach those levels NI and Scotland would have to be treated as one constituency, making it difficult for local parties to get elected in their own right or have to make some interesting alliances”

    I don’t understand. Why couldn’t NI consist of 3 constituencies electing 4 members each?

  • BTW that’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see an excuse for the mainland parties having a real crack at elections here.

  • fair_deal


    I may be misinterpreting however, I took the reference to 80 to 100 multi-member constituencies as referring to westminster constituences grouped together.

    Also the staged replacement of the present Lords means that the 11/12 will not be elected all at once, rather in (most likely) three separate elections. A senatorial constituency would not go from 0 to 12 rather, 4, 8, 12.

  • joeCanuck

    I have my doubts about an elected senate unless their powers are somehow constrained. Could lead to arguments over who has the “mandate”.
    I know it does work in the USA but occasionally leads to paralysis there with government employees being sent home because no budget has been passed and there is no money allocation to pay their wages.

  • FD, I don’t see why the constituencies would need to be co-terminus with Westminster ones – or did you interpret “multi-member” as multi-constituency?

    I do see what you mean about the staging though, but I still think NI could form a single constituency even if only electing 4 people at a time.

  • Considering their Lordships receive an attendance allowance and not a salary, has anyone calculated the increased cost of their abolition? How will the Parliament Acts reflect the increased legitimacy of the Senate versus the current Lords?

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    I assume the Parliament Act(s) would still hold that the Commons has primacy – if there’s any thought it would be open to interpretation after the change to a Senate, surely they could add to the provision a point that states “the Senate is – as the Lords was – secondary to the Commons”…?

    No surprise to see the government’s continued preference for PR in all its various flavours to be implemented everywhere except where it would really make a difference, i.e. The Commons…

  • The 11/12 would not be representative in this case. There would be say 3 separate groups representing the largest parties elected at three different elections.

  • fair_deal


    “did you interpret “multi-member” as multi-constituency”

    Yes I did. Get your point looks like I have misinterpreted. I will correct the thread.

  • slug

    With a PR system the NI parties will have more influence.

  • Bob Wilson

    ‘With a PR system the NI parties will have more influence.’
    Why? They will consistute the same proportion of the overall Chamber.
    Also you are assuming the current parties will remain dominant.
    This move will increase the pressure of UK parties to seek seats in NI – ulitmately decreasing the influence of NI parties from next to none to negible

  • slug


    Well I suppose I really mean NI members not NI parties. They will have more influence because there is much less likely to be the same number of Labour and Conservatives as currently. Rather, an array of parties will be elected, rather like happens in the EU elections. In these settings coalitions are needed.

  • Bob Wilson

    Slug – fair comment. This is the same dynamic that will force the UK parties to vigorously contest NI