Replace the House of Lords with Sortition

The problems with the House of Lords are hard to count - their number, their supposed independence, and their method of appointment all invite criticism. Instead of the Lords, a jury of citizens should scrutinise legislation. There's ample evidence to suggest that with the right support a group of non-experts can achieve a high standard of deliberation and perform effective scrutiny - the Irish constitutional convention being a highly effective, assertive body which exemplifies this. Around the world groups of citizens are asked to assess the validity of claims in courts, as well as being brought together for constitutional conventions. It is a rare occasion when fault is found with the manner that citizens drawn by lot make their decisions. Expertise in these cases is not expected, but is provided by relevant experts. As such, I would like to suggest that a jury of representative composition be convened for each bill passing through Parliament, with powers equal to or greater than those of the House of Lords. I believe this would solve the questions of selection, independence, and quantity of peers. It would also invite participation, and could form the basis for a new sense of connection with politics which representative democracy has failed to yield down the years.

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  • Sue Fewster
    commented 2016-07-30 20:26:09 +0100
    Judie Sutherland: I’m not sure we have a panel of experts in the Lords currently. Although I do believe a panel of experts is necessary and should be included in any discussion as facilitators to inform the participants, but experts on the particular issues being debated and MPs too to ensure deliverability.
  • Sue Fewster
    commented 2016-07-30 20:22:13 +0100
    Real deliberative democracy in the making: it would educate and inform citizens about politics and the difficulties involved in governing the UK. Might make us warm to our hard working politicians… A nightmare to pull off though.
  • Sue Fewster
    tagged this with like 2016-07-30 20:22:12 +0100
  • Ivor Middleton
    commented 2016-07-11 18:50:21 +0100
    Clearly quite a few people thinking along similar lines. Despite Dan Marks valid criticisms there is something in this worth taking into consideration when devising new system.
  • Ivor Middleton
    tagged this with like 2016-07-11 18:50:20 +0100
  • Peta Cuttell
    tagged this with love 2016-05-04 21:11:08 +0100
  • Dan Marks
    commented 2016-05-03 19:09:41 +0100
    I think this is a really interesting idea, introducing a very direct kind of check. However, I suspect it could not work in practice. A jury is asked to assess the evidence against an existing concrete object (the law), jurors are subject to myriad laws and procedures, and they are directed to some extent in their proceedings by a judge. Often, none of these would be true under the system you are proposing; policy and the policy making process is fundamentally different from the law. Similarly, the procedural costs of court cases and expert witnesses should never be underestimated!

    Following this it seems to me to some extent undemocratic to allow a randomly selected body of citizens to deny policies advocated by a democratically selected chamber. Random selections might throw up committees which are politically partisan. Similarly, the lower house might simply sit on rejected legislation until the citizen committee was disbanded and then resubmit it in the hope that the next committee might be more favourable. Double jeopardy prevents this in the law, but such a rule would prevent bills being iterated between the houses in a positive way.

    So while I think the idea is very interesting and would be fascinating to consider in other areas – and I also agree it is time the Labour Party thought more carefully about what its vision for the House of Lords is – I don’t think the former could ever be a solution to the problem of the latter.
  • Dan Marks
    tagged this with like 2016-05-03 19:09:39 +0100
  • Neil Stretton
    tagged this with neutral 2016-05-03 17:59:19 +0100
  • Judi Sutherland
    commented 2016-04-06 13:28:40 +0100
    Well… I’m not sure that the ignorance of MPs is a reason for adding another layer of ignorance! Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a panel of actual experts who know what they are talking about – who can advise an on the pros and cons and the unintended consequences of what is about to pass into law? However – I do think we need to look carefully at the Lords’ expenses. They seem to have got so good at signing in, staying for 15 minutes, and getting a whole day’s pay that I’m minded to recommend a clocking-on/off system!
  • Terry Kinnard
    commented 2016-04-06 12:59:40 +0100
    We’d save millions of pounds in payments and expenses and a small randomly selected jury of voters would deliberate. As the original suggestion says expertise is not required so a futher level of elections is not required. If jury service can be effected by ballot I see no reason that this couldn’t work here. After all most MPs and ministers are far from experts in the fields in whcih they are called on to pontificate.
  • Terry Kinnard
    tagged this with love 2016-04-06 12:59:40 +0100
  • Judi Sutherland
    commented 2016-04-03 15:32:18 +0100
    I’d like to appoint the Lords based on their expertise in some specialist field or other. There would be an electoral college consisting of trade unions, learned societies, etc. who would nominate experts in their field. The public would then vote on those nominees. The Lords would become less party political and their job as a scrutinising chamber would be strengthened. In fact I wonder whether there should be a limit to the number of former politicians who can be nominated.
  • Judi Sutherland
    tagged this with dislike 2016-04-03 15:32:16 +0100
  • John Hackett
    published this page in Join the debate 2016-04-02 12:38:57 +0100