Les rendez-vous constitutionnels by wanghonghx

VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 41

									          Les rendez-vous constitutionnels
                 franco-britanniques

 “Des chambres hautement menacées..?”
             Reform of the House of Lords
          and the model of the French Senate


                    Tuesday 7 December 1999
                   The British Council France



A public debate chaired by

Meg Russell                     Didier Maus
Senior Research Fellow,         President, Association
The Constitution Unit           Française des
                                Constitutionnalistes

With the participation of

Lord Ivor Richard               Patrice Gélard
Former Leader of the            Sénateur (RPR)
House of Lords                  Seine-Maritime
Foreword

In December 1999 the UK stood on the threshold of a modern revolution. After
more than a century of debate and over 700 years of participation, hereditary
peers had been expelled from the House of Lords and the form and structure of
government in the UK had reached a significant turning-point. Weeks before the
publication of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Lords Reform,
Des chambres hautement menacées…?, the second debate in the British Council‟s
series of Rendez-vous Constitutionnels offered a unique opportunity to share
opinions and experiences of other systems and preferences of modern governance.


Les Rendez-vous Constitutionnels were conceived by the British Council France as
a response to each major step in the British government‟s programme of
constitutional reform and have been designed to provide an informal framework
in which to encourage reciprocal exchange and dialogue between policy actors,
commentators and public on the evolution of our respective civil structures.
We were delighted to welcome Lord Ivor Richard QC, a Life Peer and former
Leader of the House of Lords alongside Sénateur Patrice Gélard and an invited
audience of policy actors and commentators to juxtapose the parallels of the
functions and future form of the House of Lords and French Senate as part of Des
chambres hautement menacées…? Under the expert Chairmanship and European
experience of Meg Russell and Didier Maus, the debate not only considered the
future of second chambers, but also turned attention towards how the new and
increasing number of competing constitutional jigsaws might fit together on a
national, European or international scale.


In the spirit of Les Rendez-vous Constitutionnels, this account has been prepared
to provide a flavour of the constitutional reform programme in the UK. As part of
this report, we have also chosen to include a complete list of questions raised by
the debate as well as those which were answered by the panel. We hope this will
encourage yet further enthusiasm for the diversity of issues common to all
systems of modern governance and an even greater appetite for European
contemplation of our constitutional futures.
Introduction

Sir Michael Jay
Je suis ravi que nous ayons réuni ce soir de grands orateurs aussi prestigieux et
une assistance de pareille qualité. Je félicite le British Council d‟avoir organisé ce
débat, le second dans la série des rendez-vous constitutionnels.


La réforme des institutions est aujourd‟hui partout à l‟ordre du jour. Au sein de
l‟Union Européenne elle sera examinée par le conseil européen ce week-end à
Helsinki.    Au sein de l‟OMC la nécessité d‟une réforme du mode de
fonctionnement devient criant au lendemain de l‟échec des négociations de
Seattle. En France aussi, l‟on remet en cause, entre autres questions, le cumul des
mandats ou la réforme de la justice. C‟est partout, tout à fait d‟actualité.


On sait le grand chantier sur le front des institutions qu‟a engagé Tony Blair et
son gouvernement du New Labour depuis deux ans et demi. L‟Ecosse et le Pays
de Galles se sont prononcés par les référendums pour une certaine autonomie. Le
parlement écossais et l‟assemblée galloise ont été instauré en mai dernier par les
élections au suffrage universel direct.    La semaine dernière, ce fut le tour de
l‟Irlande du Nord de se doter d‟une administration autonome dans le cadre des
nouveaux dispositifs institutionnels mis en place avec l‟aval du gouvernement
britannique et du gouvernement irlandais, et déterminé par référendum pour le
vote de la République d‟Irlande et la province de l‟Irlande du Nord.           David
Trimble, le « First Minister » de l‟Irlande du Nord, se verra remettre demain, à
Paris, la légion d‟honneur des mains du ministre des Affaires européennes, Pierre
Moscovici. Les élections du parlement européen de juin dernier ont eu lieu pour la
première fois en Grande-Bretagne au scrutin proportionnel et l‟introduction de la
proportionnelle est également un fait marquant aux élections du Parlement
écossais et de l‟assemblée galloise. Le 4 mai 2000, Londres élira son maire et son
assemblée municipale au suffrage direct pour la première fois. D‟autres grandes
villes, comme Liverpool, semblent vouloir lui emboîter le pas.
Le mois dernier le gouvernement a annoncé quatre nouveaux projets de loi de
réforme des institutions : la liberté d‟accès aux documents administratifs, la
réforme des collectivités locales, le financement des partis politiques et la réforme
du code électoral. Le projet de loi sur l‟accès des documents administratifs, «the
Freedom of Information Act»         est venu en dernière lecture au parlement
britannique aujourd‟hui. Dans ce catalogue déjà fourni, bien évidemment, s‟est
rajoutée la réforme de la chambre des Lords qui est l‟objet du débat de ce soir.
Gladstone, Lloyd George, Harold Wilson, tous s‟y sont essayé, tous s‟y sont cassé
les dents. La voilà aujourd‟hui en œuvre. Fonctionnera-t-elle ? Aura-t-elle des
enseignements à tirer du Sénat français ? Quel est l‟objet des chambres hautes ?
Quel doit être le mode de désignation des représentants qui y siègent ? Ce sont là
autant de questions qui j‟en suis sûr seront âprement discutées ce soir. D‟avance
je me fais un plaisir d‟assister à ce débat.


Meg Russell
It is a pleasure to be here this evening, participating in this important debate. As
you may know the Constitution Unit is an independent think-tank producing
practical research for policy makers. During the course of our recent work on the
reform of the House of Lords, we have noticed that the majority of debates on the
reform process have focussed, rather predictably on British history and British
traditions rather broader European or international contexts. With this in mind,
we decided to undertake a comparative study at the Constitution Unit which
would look at second chambers around the world to see what could be learnt from
the process of Lords reform. I‟ve been leading this study for the past year and will
publish its results next week in my book Reforming the Lords, which looks at the
experience of second chambers in seven countries including France.


I think it is important that we begin tonight‟s debate by briefly detailing a few of
the less subtle similarities and differences between the situations in the UK and
France.
My first and perhaps most obvious observation relates to the House of Lords and
the French Senate as descendants of traditional hereditary chambers, albeit that
links were broken with the chambre des pairs rather longer ago in France than in
the UK, both chambers were originally set up as conservative institutions and
continue to wield conservative influences within their respective government
systems. Indeed, the House of Lords and the Sénat have been dominated by right-
wing politics which have obstructed the political left of both countries for over a
century. Now that reform minded, centre-left governments are in place in France
and the UK, similar levels of interest are being demonstrated in both countries for
a change in the role and structure of their respective upper houses. The continued
prevalence of conservative attitudes and influences, even after significant changes
to political balances of second chambers, has indicated that both countries face
considerable difficulties in addressing or successfully implementing a popular
process of reform.


Even after the implementation of reforms set out in the House of Lords Act, the
most striking difference between the second chambers remains the fact that the
interim House of Lords still includes 92 hereditary peers and reserves 26 seats
purely for the Bishops and Archbishops of the Anglican Church. As the House of
Lords is also the UK‟s highest Court of Appeal senior members of the judiciary
including 12 active Law Lords and 15 former Law Lords also sit as active
members of the British second chamber.
While these are salient areas of contrast, in the context of this evening‟s debate,
perhaps the most striking area of difference between France and the UK are the
powers accorded to each chamber.
Many of you may have been surprised by the speed of reform in the UK, and the
way in which, despite 100 years of debate on the removal of hereditary peers, the
Labour government under Tony Blair has successfully managed to implement
significant change with very little resistance. Despite periods of Socialist, reform-
minded government, the same is not true of France where the upper house
remains very much as it was in 1958. The key explanation for this and other
differences in the developments of our respective upper houses, is the constitution.


As the UK does not have a written constitution, the upper house has no special
protective power over the constitution. Consequently, the House of Lords is not
able to stand in the way of attempts to reform the constitution any more than it is
able to block the passage of ordinary legislation where at the most extreme, bills
can only be delayed for a maximum of one year. The UK has embarked upon the
current programme of constitutional change with the objective of making the
process of government in the UK more democratic and accountable. In light of
this, I would suggest that in order to protect the new, emerging constitutional
structures thought should be given to bringing the new second chamber closer to
the model of the French Senate when we are re-defining the role and structure of
the British upper house.


Didier Maus
Je voudrais d‟abord remarquer dans mon introduction, combien l‟étendue du
programme de réforme constitutionnelle, mis en œuvre depuis deux ans et demi
par le gouvernement britannique, a de quoi étonner quelques constitutionnalistes
français. Je crois qu‟il y a de la part des français un très grand intérêt et une très
grande interrogation sur l‟ensemble de ce programme de reforme constitutionnelle
au Royaume-Uni.


Meg Russell vient de dire que la réforme de la chambre des Lords avait été menée
à bien sans beaucoup de résistance ou beaucoup d‟opposition, et que cela tenait
pour une part à l‟absence de constitution écrite. Ceci est évidemment une très
grande différence entre le Royaume-Uni et la France, ainsi qu‟entre le Royaume-
Uni et l‟ensemble de ses 13 autres pays voisins de l‟Union Européenne.
La situation britannique est particulière.         Si dans certaines négociations
internationales récentes, la France a tendance à parler de l‟exception culturelle
française, je crois que nous pouvons, d‟un point de vue comparatif, parler ainsi de
l‟exception constitutionnelle britannique.    Nous remarquons que       l‟exception a
souvent beaucoup d‟avantages et c‟est peut-être autour de la souplesse avec
laquelle les Britanniques font évoluer leur système et leur architecture
institutionnelle, que nous avons à réfléchir et à apprendre. Le Royaume-Uni a
passé en revue beaucoup de thèmes et aujourd‟hui on parle de la Chambre des
Lords.
La première interrogation des Français sur ce sujet est certainement
« pourquoi ? » Quelles étaient les raisons, peut-être autres que symboliques (les
symboles ayant bien une importance en politique) qui ont mené aussi vite à la
suppression des pairs héréditaires au Royaume-Uni ?
Nous avons expliqué que les Lords ne siégeaient pas uniquement quand ils
siégeaient dans le hall et qu‟ils formaient une assemblée d‟opposition. Les pairs
héréditaires comme les pairs à vie, n‟avaient qu‟un pouvoir de retardement et pas
véritablement un pouvoir de blocage sur les textes législatifs.       Ces constats
mènent à un certain nombre d‟autres questions. Le premier élément de
considération comparatif, et à mon avis typiquement britannique et totalement
différent de ce qui se passe en France, est le processus. Les Britanniques ont
supprimé les pairs héréditaires sans savoir par quoi ils seront remplacés. Il y a
une commission royale qui réfléchit actuellement à comment recomposer une
Chambre des Lords, puisque ce n‟est plus recomposer pour l‟histoire. Faut-il que
cette nouvelle chambre soit composée des célébrités du moment ou par les
personnes qui à un certain âge sont considérées comme étant la conscience du
Royaume ?    Sans doute ces interrogations peuvent nous ramener en France à
quelques propos du type saint-simonien, ils soulèvent une grande question en
France car personne ne proposerait de supprimer quelque chose sans prévoir
immédiatement le remplacement. Où le vide nous fait horreur en France, en
Grande-Bretagne il est accepté.


La deuxième piste de réflexion française est sans doute centrée sur la
question « Par quoi va-t-on remplacer la Chambre des Lords ? »            Là, nous
retombons sur la problématique classique des deuxièmes chambres dans le monde
entier dont nous aurons l‟occasion de reparler à travers ce débat. Pour ma part, je
suis très frappé par toutes les questions qui sont de l‟ordre de cette question-là.
Les enjeux sont exactement les mêmes que celles que l‟on pose ailleurs, où on se
demande à quoi sert une chambre haute, comment la composer, etc.


Enfin, le troisième et dernier sujet d‟étonnement en France est la variété des rôles
de la Chambre des Lords. Meg Russell nous a rappelé qu‟il y a 26 archevêques qui
siègent à la Chambre des Lords. En France, car il y a une séparation de l‟Eglise
avec l‟Etat, nous avons quelquefois un ecclésiastique, mais certainement pas en
fonction d‟ecclésiastique, mais à ma connaissance il n‟y en a pas en ce moment.
Les derniers furent le chanoine Kir et l‟abbé Audrain, qui avaient été élus.
Nous constatons également le rôle judiciaire de la Chambre des Lords qui est
extraordinaire. En France nous avons redécouvert cette fonction de la deuxième
chambre britannique à la télévision à travers le rôle des Law Lords dans l‟affaire
Pinochet,    et quel ne fut pas notre étonnement.            Je crois qu‟il y a plusieurs
membres de la magistrature parmi nous ce soir, qui peuvent parler de leur
sentiment quand ils voient successivement ces cinq Lords se lever devant leurs
collègues en civil, et dire My Lords, voilà mon opinion.              Dans le jugement
Pinochet, il y avait deux Lords pour, deux Lords contre, et un cinquième qui
finalement s‟est levé pour exprimer qu‟il partageait l‟opinion de son collègue
distingué, qui a fait la décision. Pour l‟observateur français c‟est extraordinaire.
D‟abord     par   le   raisonnement,    ensuite   par   la    procédure   et   enfin   par
l‟individualisation de l‟opinion, qui vont au-delà de l‟opinion individuelle et que
l‟on souhaite sur quelques points de s‟introduire au Conseil Constitutionnel. En
tout cela ce n‟est plus que l‟opinion de la décision individuelle mais la décision
collective qui n‟est que la somme des décisions individuelles. Nous reviendrons
certainement sur ces questions au travers de notre débat ce soir pour apprendre
ainsi sur un de nos voisins les plus proches mais qui demeure à beaucoup d‟égards
mystérieux, notamment sur tous les points constitutionnels.


Patrice Gélard
Je dirai que pour moi il n‟y a pas de démocratie sans seconde chambre. L‟histoire
constitutionnelle française a démontré que les périodes révolutionnaires, les
périodes où les        libertés étaient mises en cause, étaient des périodes
monocamérales. A chaque fois que nous avons eu la démocratie c‟était parce que
nous avions deux chambres.


La deuxième remarque que je ferai c‟est qu‟en France nous avons essayé toutes les
sortes de secondes chambres :          l‟âge, avec le conseil des anciens du premier
directoire, les grands bois de la nation avec le premier et le second empire, les
témoins du temps (que l‟on pourrait dire un peu décatis mais tout de même les
témoins du temps), le système des Lords héréditaires, et le système non-
héréditaire avec la monarchie et la monarchie de juillet, et puis la représentativité
des collectivités territoriales avec la Troisième, Quatrième et Cinquième
République. On a donc tout essayé, et c‟est le système de la représentativité des
collectivités territoriales qui a duré le plus longtemps. Heureusement on a un
statut protégé, doublement protégé.


D‟abord la deuxième chambre française est protégée par la constitution. En effet,
l‟article 24 de la constitution comprend deux principes. D‟abord que le Sénat est
élu au suffrage indirect, et le deuxième principe, que nous assurons la
représentation des collectivités territoriales de la république. Par conséquent si
on veut modifier ces deux principes qui gouvernent le Sénat actuel, on serait
obligé de réviser la constitution avec l‟accord et l‟appui du Sénat existant, ce qui
n‟est pas évident.
La deuxième protection est garantie par la loi organique qui ne peut être modifiée
qu‟avec l‟accord du Sénat, et là nous avons un certain nombre de protections. Ceci
comprend la durée des pouvoirs du Sénat, le nombre de membres, actuellement
321, et le montant de l‟indemnité, où actuellement on ne fait pas pire !         Les
Sénateurs travaillent comme les députés en ce qui concerne les conditions
d‟éligibilité, d‟inéligibilité, d‟incompatibilité et de remplacement. Pourtant, ces
conditions sont le sujet de la réforme en cours de la loi organique. C‟est à ce point
où la loi risque d‟échapper car il y a la loi ordinaire pour ce qui concerne le mode
de scrutin applicable à l‟élection des sénateurs qui nous toucheront directement
au Sénat dans le sens où nous n‟avons pas de droit de veto dans ce domaine et
l‟Assemblée nationale décidera.


Alors quels sont les arguments en faveur du mode de scrutin ? D‟abord on dit que
le Sénat est toujours à droite mais il ne faut pas oublier que le Sénat au début de
la Cinquième République, de 1958 à 1969, était résolument dans l‟opposition à la
Présidence de la République et s‟opposait à ce que faisait le Président. C‟était là
où tous les leaders de gauche s‟étaient retrouvés, y compris le Président François
Mitterrand qui y était pendant ce moment-là sénateur. Il y avait également une
période où le Sénat était à gauche et au centre-gauche. Par conséquent je dirais
qu‟ il n‟est pas vrai de dire que le Sénat a toujours été à droite.


La deuxième remarque que je voudrais faire sur ce point concerne les villes qui
sont sous-représentées par rapport à la population urbaine. Il faut faire attention
à ce phénomène car au Sénat nous ne représentons pas la population mais les
collectivités territoriales.   D‟ailleurs il est peut-être gênant que nous ne
représentions pas les régions (une nouvelle collectivité territoriale) et que nous
représentions beaucoup plus les départements et pas assez les grandes villes,
mais nous ne sommes pas là pour être la copie conforme de l‟Assemblée nationale.
Si nous devions le devenir, il n‟y aurait plus aucun intérêt à maintenir les
différences entre les deux chambres.
Qu‟est-ce qui nous attend ? A l‟heure actuelle le gouvernement a trois lois qui
concernent directement ou indirectement le statut du sénateur. La première loi
est la loi électorale portant réforme à la désignation des Sénateurs.
Essentiellement cette loi désigne deux dispositions. La première d‟étendre le
scrutin proportionnel au département à trois sénateurs et plus et la deuxième
consiste à augmenter le nombre des grands électeurs dans les villes. La première
disposition ne changera pas grand chose car actuellement, à une exception près, il
y a plus que cinq Sénateurs par département. Une limite imposant trois
Sénateurs par département ne fera pas beaucoup de différence à la composition
du Sénat à l‟heure actuelle, avec l‟exception qu‟un scrutin proportionnel permettra
de mieux représenter certains départements. La deuxième réforme, par contre,
peut avoir des conséquences. Cette disposition consiste à élever le nombre de
grands électeurs à 1 sénateur pour 500 habitants au lieu de 1 sénateur pour 1000
habitants. Les conséquences de cette réforme peuvent être évidentes en
particulier dans les départements fortement urbanisés qui n‟ont pas un nombre de
communes très important où il peut y avoir des changements relativement
importants. On a tenté de les mesurer d‟après les simulations et les derniers
résultats des élections où on s‟est aperçu que la droite perdrait entre 20 et 35
sièges avec l‟ensemble de ces dispositions ce qui ne lui fera pas perdre la majorité
qui est la sienne à l‟heure actuelle.
Or il y a deux autres réformes qu‟il faut constater, l‟effet de la loi sur la parité et
la loi sur les cumuls des mandats.
La première réforme de l‟obligation de la parité homme-femme dans les
circonscriptions de scrutin proportionnel va poser beaucoup de problèmes dans
certains départements, y compris ceux qui sont tenus par la gauche. Prenons
l‟exemple de Paris où il y a douze sénateurs et une seule femme sénateur, cela
veut dire que sur les 11 sénateurs hommes sortant, il y en aura quatre ou cinq qui
devront disparaître. Par conséquent il y aura des drames, y compris dans les
départements au scrutin majoritaire où il y a deux sénateurs car les militants
vont vraisemblablement exiger la parité. Quand on aura deux sénateurs hommes
du même parti, il y en aura un qui devra se dégager parce qu‟il va falloir mettre
une femme, ce qui est       une véritable révolution des mentalités.         Je dirais
qu‟heureusement on n‟est pas encore au système «chabababada», c‟est-à-dire un
homme-une femme-un homme-une femme, mais j‟anticipe que dans beaucoup de
départements nous aurons encore comme têtes de liste les hommes et en fin de
liste les femmes. Il faut remarquer que puisque le candidat sénateur est
généralement un notable, ce problème sera plus difficile dans certains
départements par rapport aux autres où il y a déjà un sénateur sortant, car il sera
très difficile dans ces endroits de trouver les femmes en nombre suffisant. Dans
tous les cas, il y aura certainement une grande bataille oratoire au mois de février
au Sénat quand on discutera de cette loi.


La deuxième loi qui nous concerne est la loi sur les cumuls des mandats, qui est
maintenant en commission ministérielle paritaire. A l‟heure actuelle, la règle
exige que les Sénateurs puissent avoir trois mandats : un mandat de Conseiller
régional, de Conseiller général et un mandat parlementaire. Le mandat de
Conseiller municipal ne comptant pas mais nous pouvons également cumuler les
fonctions de Maire, Président du Conseil régional et Président du Conseil général
avec ces mandats.
La nouvelle loi prévoit la loi ordinaire au niveau local et elle exige qu‟on ne puisse
avoir que deux mandats et qu‟une fonction : Maire (fonction et mandat)               et
Conseiller régional (mandat) ou Conseiller régional (mandat) et Président du
Conseil général (mandat et fonction). Le Sénat a accepté cette règle au niveau des
élections locales et la commission mixte paritaire devrait aboutir à s‟entendre sur
cette question.   Cependant cette disposition présente un problème sur la loi
organique déposée par le gouvernement, car la loi organique prévoit qu‟on ne peut
avoir que deux mandats et aucune fonction. Selon cette disposition un sénateur
ou un député ne peut plus être Maire, Président du Conseil général ou Président
du Conseil régional.


Notre conception du Sénat est qu‟il ne faut pas aller trop vite. Il y a des attitudes
qui disent qu‟il faut que les Sénateurs, qui sont les représentants des collectivités
territoriales, gardent leurs contacts avec ces collectivités territoriales. Par
conséquent nous proposons deux mandats et la possibilité de conserver une
fonction. C‟est à dire un mandat au niveau local et l‟autre au niveau national, et
une fonction, soit de Maire, Président du Conseil général ou Président du Conseil
régional.
Mais là nous sommes dans le domaine de la loi organique, c‟est-à-dire que le
gouvernement ne peut passer outre à l‟opposition du sénat, et l‟on risque d‟avoir
un paradoxe si la loi organique n‟est pas modifiée et que l‟on continue de pouvoir
être, en tant que sénateur, plus qu‟on était auparavant et que d‟autre part, qu‟on
ne puisse plus avoir, au niveau local, que deux mandats. Même si je ne sais pas
comment ces choses vont évoluer, le Sénat ne me semble pas hostile à la réforme.


Pour conclure j‟aimerais remarquer qu‟heureusement nous avons le Sénat en
France. Imaginez un peu ce que seraient les lois françaises si le Sénat n‟était pas
là pour les corriger. Les lois arrivent dans un tel état, tellement bâclées au niveau
de l‟Assemblée nationale, que même si l‟assemblée nationale ne suit pas les
modifications politiques que nous apportons, elle est tout de même tenue de
respecter la forme et les règles du droit que nous mettons en place dans les
amendements que l‟on dépose et qui n‟ont pas de portée politique.


J‟ajouterai, hélas, heureusement que le Sénat est là, et je pense que ce sentiment
aurait été soutenu par l‟ancienne Chambre des Lords car nous pouvons prendre de
temps dans ces propositions de loi quand le gouvernement et l‟Assemblée
nationale n‟ont pas le temps de le faire.
Lord Ivor Richard
Listening to Senator Gélard, I have concluded that there is very little in common
between the House of Lords and the French Senate. As Meg Russell has already
said, we obviously have two very different constitutional systems and I would
agree with Didier Maus, that the French are indeed most fortunate in having a
written constitution. Nevertheless the difficulty is that even when there is total
agreement that change is for the best, written constitutions are often so very
difficult to change. I‟m happy to say that this is not the experience in the UK as
the non-written constitution offers a flexibility that has proved very useful to the
course of British politics thus far in our history.


Prior to our most recent reforms 1200 individuals were entitled to play an active,
legislating role in the House of Lords. This is a number of individuals which
appeared excessive for any effective modern legislature, especially given that the
UK constitution sets out identical legislative functions for the upper and lower
chambers of Parliament. Similarly, it seemed absurd that two-thirds of these
legislators, roughly 800 members of the House of Lords had no other qualification
to legislate other than having been born male and surviving the death of their
fathers. Over the centuries, this form of selection has produced very clear political
consequences. On average, the House of Lords defeated Conservative government
amendments to legislation between 10-12 times a year, compared to 17-18 times a
year for amendments proposed by Labour governments. When we then approach
the reform question from a left-wing perspective, this record points towards a
significant, built-in political irrationality.
When considered together, these three elements (the size of the chamber, the
impossibility of justifying the hereditary principle and the inequality of the
resulting political consequences) represent the principle arguments fuelling the
reform process. At the outset of discussions, it was decided to agree upon reform
recommendations that would reflect and react to these key issues.               Our
recommendations advised firstly that the hereditary basis of appointment was
unjustifiable in the 21st century. Secondly, that the UK needed to retain a bi-
cameral legislature and thirdly, that the power and status of the independent,
“cross-benchers” should be preserved in the reformed upper house. While I see
little reason in explaining why hereditary appointment is unjustifiable, I think it
is worthwhile to briefly explain a little more of the logic behind the latter two
recommendations. A second chamber is invaluable in the UK, principally because
of the mass of legislation passing through parliament, where it becomes
invaluable to ensure fresh interpretations and new approaches to legislative
propositions.
Until recently the “cross-benchers” represented nearly 300 peers without
allegiance to a political party who were situated within an overall composition of
roughly 500 Conservative, 150 Labour, and 70 Liberal peers in the upper house.
Given this strong political presence, the cross-benchers represented a source of
independent thought and diversity of experience which was capable of adding
significant value to the legislative process.


The key feature linking the different attempts to reform the House of Lords this
century, is the fact that they have all uniformly failed.
Lords reform was first attempted in 1911 when it succeeded partly, but not
permanently. It was re-addressed in 1948 but failed and attempted in 1968 only to
fail again. In my opinion the main explanation behind these successive failures
was that reformers aimed to change everything at once, reforming the composition
and powers with, as we say in English, “just one bite at the cherry.”
Having learnt the lessons of the past the present government decided the most
sensible strategy was to adopt an incremental approach to reform which dealt
with the hereditary question first before conducting a major public consultation
exercise through a Royal Commission. As I don‟t know if there is an equivalent in
France, I should explain that Royal Commissions are bodies of distinguished, and
„not-so‟ distinguished individuals, presided over by someone „very distinguished
indeed‟. A Royal Commission has the power to listen to the evidence of all
individuals groups and associations expressing interests on an issue. They then
consider all the points of view expressed, alongside the issues presented and make
non-binding recommendations to Parliament.
We are currently at the stage of reform where the problem of the hereditary peers
has been tackled and the Royal Commission has consulted and considered the
evidence.   In the coming weeks, the Royal Commission will publish their
recommendations which will be then considered again by the political parties and
pressure groups. From this process we hope to construct concrete proposals for a
final model of reform. The basic decisions, currently being prepared by the Royal
Commission are not straightforward as they deal with a number of questions on
which it is difficult, if not impossible to produce unanimous agreement. An elected
or partly elected second chamber? Two-thirds elected and one-third nominated,
with or without party ties? Could the reformed upper house be a wholly non-
elected chamber? What are the advantages of a wholly elected or a wholly
nominated second chamber? If members were elected what would be the basis of
elections ? Direct or indirect ? If by proportional representation what should be
the electoral unit?
These questions are not easy and require time and the widest possible
consultation of interests to be sensibly and constructively answered. Indeed, once
answered, they only raise further questions. For example, in a reformed house
what should be done about the Bishops since despite having no jurisdiction on
religious matters the House of Lords allows 26 bishops to sit as members.
As things currently stand, I know one bishop who attends the House of Lords on a
daily basis to pray for the “good health” of the Lords. Others, but not all, call in on
the upper house from time to time to take part in debates. While there might be a
very good argument for the participation of these members in the House of Lords,
they are far from representative of the cross section of religious and spiritual
beliefs in modern Britain and therefore, this seems to be just one example of
where sensible justification for or against the status quo, will prove very difficult
to reach.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

What sort of Assembly will eventually replace the House of
Lords ?


Lord Ivor Richard
Well that‟s the question on everyone‟s mind at present!
I can tell you what I would like to see replace the existing chamber but I can‟t tell
you what the Royal Commission will recommend nor what Parliament and the
government might suggest after their report has been published.
My opinion is that the House of Lords should be two-thirds directly elected and
one-third nominated. As the House of Lords is a political chamber, not just a
forum for exchanging views, and because politics cannot be avoided when it comes
to legislating and passing laws, politics is bound to enter into the composition and
this can at least be regulated if it is channelled through elections.


In my opinion the political element of the House of Lords should be directly
elected by proportional representation based on a party list system. To be really
heretical, I also think that members should be elected on fixed terms of 4 years, so
that the second chamber is made entirely different to the first. That said, MPs
would obviously throw-up their hands at this proposal as it seems to suggest
removing power from the House of Commons. In reality however, this solution
actually proposes removing power from the executive, more than from the House
of Commons. As such, it offers a solution to the single most important
constitutional problem in the UK at present whereby the House of Commons
cannot control the executive and up until now the House of Lords has not been
able to. The programme of constitutional reform in the UK offers an opportunity
to devise a legislative structure in which the executive is held to account more in
the future than they have been in the past and this opportunity should be seized.
C’est en observant le fonctionnement des institutions anglaises
que le Français Montesquieu avait élaboré une sage théorie des
contre-pouvoirs sociologiques.
N’est-il pas curieux que ce soit précisément en Grande-Bretagne
et en France, où le gouvernement et la chambre basse ne font
déjà plus qu’un, que l’on cherche encore à éliminer le seul
(léger) contre-pouvoir qui existe ? N’est-ce pas la traduction
d’une certaine “tentation totalitaire” ?


Les secondes chambres m’intéressent en tant que contre-
pouvoirs, peu importe leur composition, peu importe les choix
que l’on fait : n’y a t il pas une certaine tentative en ce moment
d’éliminer actuellement ces contre-pouvoirs ?


Lord Ivor Richard
Well it is certainly true that all governments like to control, that‟s the essence of
being in government isn‟t it!
While I don‟t think there is anything particularly wrong with governments
wanting to control and put their policies into action, there is a danger that Prime
Ministers might chose to use this potential to pack a wholly nominated second
chamber with their own political allies. This would obviously help ensure that
government policies were put into practice, but it would also produce a totally
unrepresentative chamber. Coming from the left-wing of British politics, this is
actually a scenario which is quite difficult for people like me to grasp as the
Labour party has always been in a position of permanent minority in the House of
Lords. Until two weeks ago, the Labour party sat on one side of the House of
Lords looking at 450 Conservative members who represented a permanent
majority. It was unthinkable that the Labour party would ever be in a similar
position and this only serves to reinforce the idea that an “unrepresentative,”
totalitarian tendency has been exercised in the House of Lords for over a century.
In order to over-come this consequence of the nomination process, in its evidence
to the Royal Commission the government proposed that an independent
appointments commission should be set up with the power to vet nominations.


Patrice Gélard
De temps en temps je pense que c‟est bien d‟attaquer les contre-pouvoirs puisque
ça les empêche de dormir. Je ne suis pas mécontent qu‟au Sénat il y ait une
agression assez vive.


Alors que pendant un certain temps les Français ont attaqué le Sénat pour tout et
pour rien, à l‟heure actuelle, l‟on s‟aperçoit qu‟il y avait une évolution dans la
presse et plus précisément la grande presse comme Le Figaro, Le Monde et
Libération où l‟ont constate une attitude beaucoup plus positive à l‟égard du Sénat
qu‟il y a quelques mois. Je vois que ces attaques étaient une bonne chose parce
que le Sénat a réagi relativement intelligemment. Or, c‟est quand on est attaqué
qu‟on démontre vraiment qu‟on est indispensable.


Lorsque le Général de Gaulle avait voulu réformer le Sénat, on a vu comment il a
su se mobiliser. Je crois que nous sommes en train de faire une démonstration
pareille au Sénat ces derniers temps qui est tout à fait utile. Nous nous montrons
bien en tant qu‟un contre-pouvoir nécessaire à la démocratie. En fin de compte
nous sommes en train de faire passer ce message dans l‟opinion publique.
D‟ailleurs, le sondage d‟opinion engagé par le Président Poncelet est une
illustration en soi de cette rénovation et de changement. Le président a fait ce
sondage d‟opinion pour voir comment était ressenti le Sénat par l‟opinion
publique, et ce sondage a montré l‟attachement du corps électoral et des Français
à cette institution.


Didier Maus
Le Sénat est un contre-pouvoir quand il n‟aime pas la majorité de l‟Assemblée
nationale.
Patrice Gélard
Oui, mais le Sénat est aussi un contre-pouvoir quand il y a la même majorité car
on a l‟habitude de faire le travail de correction des mauvaises copies.
La réforme de la composition de la Chambre des Lords
s’accompagne-t-elle d’un accroissement de ses pouvoirs ?


Où en est le projet de réforme du mode du scrutin pour l’élection
de la Chambre des Communes?

Lord Ivor Richard
I think the first question is very interesting, as there is nothing much wrong with
the existing powers of the House of Lords. The problem however is that up until
now the House of Lords hasn‟t actually had the confidence to use these powers.
As a result, I would say that if “increasing powers” means “making more use of
existing powers” then it is very likely that this will be one of the consequences of
the reform process. On the other hand, if “increasing powers” refers to increasing
the scope of powers on paper, then no, I don't think that the reform process either
could or should produce this result. Moreover, I would go as far as to say that
there is actually a case for reducing the powers of the House of Lords as they
currently stand and ensuring that they were put into use more often. For
example, I believe that if the reform process were to reduce the Lords‟ power to
delay legislation from twelve months to six months, then the power would not only
be used more often, but it would be healthier for the legislative system in the
longer term.


The proposal that the House of Commons should be elected on the basis of
proportional representation got nowhere.
A commission was set up under Roy Jenkins to investigate the proposal and while
their conclusions were favourable, the government has subsequently shown no
enthusiasm for the recommendations. Indeed, if there was to be any governmental
support at all for a move to proportional representation, the question would have
to be put to referendum and it strikes me as being very difficult to fight a
referendum on the intricacies of different PR systems.        In any case, as the
proposal isn't getting anywhere at the moment, I don't think much will be done
about     the    issue,    certainly     not    before     the    next     election.
In the long term will it be possible to maintain an unwritten
constitution in the UK?
Will it be possible to reform something as important as the upper
house without thinking of codifying the reform and protecting it
with a constitutional court which might also be able to contribute
to the protection of fundamental human rights and avoid
recourse to European jurisdictions?


If there were a non-elected part of the second chamber, who
would nominate these members? If it were the crown, this would
increase the monarch’s powers.                 If it were the government,
wouldn't it actually be the executive? Therefore doesn't 'non-
elected' actually mean that the majority has the power to appoint
people on grounds which are at least in part political?



Lord Ivor Richard
I have thought quite a lot about the final part of this question and as I‟ve already
explained, my proposal is for a two-thirds elected one-third nominated chamber.
The one-third nominated or non-elected members would be the cross-benchers,
who are independent, non-politically attached individuals to whom I referred
earlier. I believe that these people ought to have a place in our legislative system
as it is vital to have Field Marshalls who can add their perspectives when talking
about defense, or the contributions of Nobel Prize winners when talking about
science. The nominating process which is used to appoint these members of the
second chamber, will almost certainly have to involve the Prime Minister at some
stage, however, as I explained, the government has proposed that nominations
should be considered by an independent appointments commission before they are
approved by the Prime Minister.      This solution would allow anyone to make
nominations while also safeguarding against the Prime-Ministerial temptation to
make political appointments to this third of the House of Lords. I also believe it
could help secure independence of nominated members by freeing them from all
interaction or sponsorship by the machinery of political parties.


On the first idea, all I can say is that I hope the UK will not be forced to have a
written constitution!
As a lawyer, I can see that a written constitution would have definite advantages,
there being nothing more conducive to the production of work for my profession in
the United States than arguing over whether the constitution prevails over
individual states‟ rights. On the other hand, as a politician, I don‟t believe that a
written constitution could be at all coherent with the British parliamentary
system. This said, we have nevertheless begun to incorporate certain elements of
European legislation into our legal systems in the UK.           Together with the
incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights, this is beginning to
produce an outline of certain constitutional rights in the UK, which marks a
substantial change. It will certainly be very interesting to watch the evolution of
the interfaces between the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Irish
Assembly and Westminster, but as yet, I‟m not sure that anyone is very clear how
this will happen or what the outcomes might be. Detailed statutes were drawn up
to establish the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly but they did not tackle
the intricacies of how these institutions could connect or work with central
government. These questions will have to be worked out pragmatically, but I am
optimistic that this is possible because of the UK‟s un-written constitution, which
allows for pragmatic evolution of this kind.


Meg Russell
To a certain extent I think we can observe a move towards a written constitution
in the UK, albeit that this is not in one, single document, because, quite simply,
an increasing proportion of constitutional legislation is being written down. The
Scotland Act has set out the powers of the Scottish Parliament vis-à-vis
Westminster just as The Wales Act has set out the powers of the new Welsh
Assembly. As Ivor Richard mentioned, the UK now also has a Human Rights Act
and if and when a second stage of reform is implemented, the new House of Lords
Act will set down the powers of the House of Lords. This evidence suggests that
the new constitutional rules are being codified with increasing regularity, and
that they are being written down.


In relation to the House of Lords, I think that the interesting question is actually
whether the second chamber ought to have a specific status which makes
constitutional statutes more difficult to change than other laws. At present, the
UK is the only western democracy where it is as straightforward to amend the
constitution, as it is to change any other piece of legislation. Consequently, when
constitutional changes are proposed in the UK, there is no requirement to hold a
referendum, no obligation to consult with regions or provinces as there are in
some federal states and perhaps most significantly no additional powers for the
upper house to protect the constitutional status-quo. As a result, I would argue
that when we are considering how to reform the House of Lords serious attention
ought to be given to the issue of introducing a power to protect the constitution.
Far from providing a solution, without a codified constitutional document, this is
likely to produce serious problems, underlining the need to define the nature and
remit of the constitutional rules that require protection. Despite this, I would
suggest that this need not be an insurmountable problem as a number of practical
solutions can be found within the existing British system.


Since 1911 when the powers of the House of Lords were first reduced,            the
Speaker of the House of Commons has categorised all legislation dealing with
financial matters, under the title: “Money Bills.” The House of Lords is only able
to delay legislation classified as a “Money Bill” for a maximum period of three
months compared to twelve months for ordinary legislation. Although a little
messy, this example demonstrates the way in which it might be possible to endow
constitutional legislation with a different and more privileged status in the
statute book. It also gives some idea of the existing mechanisms in the UK that
could be used to identify and protect constitutional legislation.


When making its recommendations, the Royal Commission on Lords Reform has
been asked to pay particular attention to the constitutional changes established
by the Human Rights Act, devolution and the changing relations with Europe. I
would suggest that these examples indicate the relative health of the British
system and even go as far as to say that the UK can be seen as being healthier in
this respect, than a number of other countries with wholly nominated second
chambers.
The Canadian senate provides a case in point when we consider that the Prime
Minister and the members of his or her political party appoint all members of the
Canadian upper house. Although the British Prime Minister nominates members
of the House of Lords, this is not the case in the UK, where convention rules that
the Prime Minister also nominates individuals from outside of his or her political
party on the recommendation of opposition parties and independent individuals.


Like Ivor Richard, I would argue that these independent members of the House of
Lords are very valuable. Moreover, I believe there is a strong case for retaining
the nomination system as it stands given that it would seem difficult, if not
altogether impossible to find an electoral system which is capable of to selecting
independent individuals of the same calibre as the present house.
If a nomination system were therefore retained, I would argue that it would only
highlight the need for a parallel development of an independent appointments
commission. By assuring the presence of independent members of the second
chamber, this type of body might also be able to encourage both political
newcomers and party grandees to run for election to remaining seats in the House
of Lords. As a result of such composition, in turn, the new commission could help
discourage the tendency in the reformed upper house for one party to have overall
control and thus provide a solution to one of the most fundamental problems of
the House of Lords.


In the weeks which have followed the removal of the hereditary peers, the
independent, cross-benchers have held the balance of power for the first time in
the history of the House of Lords. It is a very interesting situation which presents
us with an excellent opportunity over the coming months to consider whether this
is actually a desirable composition which could be a possible model for the
reformed House of Lords.
In the light of devolution, could the House of Lords become a
sort of semi-federal chamber which might be able to compensate
for the eventual reduction or absence of representatives from
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland within the House of
Commons?

Lord Ivor Richard
Even though elements of federalism are beginning to emerge in the British
system, I'm not in favour of a federal structure for the UK. Perhaps in fifty years
time people will be able to say that the German second chamber is a good
representation of the Länder and that we ought to adopt a similar model in the
UK, but at the moment it is a little unrealistic. I would be very disappointed if
greater European integration resulted in representatives of the Scottish
Parliament and the Welsh Assembly being sent to sit in Westminster. I think the
introduction of a directly elected proportion of the reformed House of Lords would
be a far more effective constitutional glue, capable of pulling together the
constitutional structure without indirect elections of this kind, which strike me as
quite useless in the British system.


My first objection to indirectly elected representatives is that they question the
whole idea of representation. If, for example, someone were sent to Westminster
from the Scottish Parliament, it is highly probable that the particular individual
would represent the Scottish Parliament instead of acting as a UK legislator.
Another scenario might be that the Scottish Parliament could recruit individuals
to become members of the UK parliament. In my opinion this would present an
even worse prospect since the selection process would be completely un-
accountable and the mandates poorly defined. I am not in favour of indirect
elections because I believe they are actually disguised forms of unchecked
nomination. I do, however, believe that there is some sense in the argument that
continued devolution of power from central to regional government might in time
lead to the introduction of some sort of federal structure representing the regions
within the central UK parliament. Again, this is not yet a reality at the present
time.


Meg Russell
As part of my study of second chambers across the world, I visited Spain where a
large-scale process of devolution has been underway for the last twenty years and
I disagree with Ivor Richard on these points.
When considering the changing constitutional structures of the UK, I think that
in many ways we should look to other European examples such as Spain for some
sort of indication on the direction in which the UK is heading.


In retrospect, I think one of the more serious mistakes which was made in Spain‟s
remarkable transition to democracy, was not to have linked their upper house
more closely to the devolution process. As a result Spain is now experiencing a
significant degree of state fragmentation and realising that there is great
potential for the upper house to help tie the national parliament into the
framework of the sub-national legislatures.
Spanish regional assemblies elect a proportion of the Spanish upper house, and to
date there is no obligation upon these members to form any kind of formal
interface with the regional assembly. Members of the upper house are not, for
example, either called to account by the regional assembly or invited to question
sessions. Since there is consequently little or no accountability to the region,
members of the upper house have become principally representatives of their
political parties. I would argue, if we were to follow a similar model in the UK,
that the membership of the House of Lords would not necessarily evolve in the
same way. Ivor Richard has already mentioned the German model as a potential
blueprint for a “regionally focussed” upper house in the UK. One of the reasons
why the German system works so well is that members of the upper house who
are also members of regional parliaments, regularly report back to their state
parliaments to answer questions and participate in debates. This form of regional
interface with the second chamber also ensures that genuine issues of regional
concern are brought into the national debate.
No one yet knows how the UK system will evolve but I think that if there is
concern about growing pressure for regional independence, then there is a case for
arguing that the UK parliament should include some sort of interface with
regional assemblies, whereby members who are capable of bringing distinctively
regional issues to the national agenda also report back to regional assemblies. The
pace of constitutional reform in the UK has encouraged many people to think, like
Ivor Richard, that before the different strands of reform can be tied together there
should be time for things to settle and find their own direction. The Spanish
example shows that this is not necessarily the best solution. Rapid, widespread
constitutional change in Spain has devolved power from the centre out to the
regions in much the same way as in Wales and Scotland in the UK. However, lack
of forethought regarding the mechanisms that might construct an interface
between central and regional governments has led to calls for more extensive
constitutional reform, including reform of the upper house and even greater
pressure from areas like the Basque country for regional independence.
How are the Law Lords currently appointed and how would the
situation change if they were removed from the House of Lords?

Lord Ivor Richard
As you know the Law Lords are senior judges nominated by the Lord Chancellor
from the Court of Appeal who are given a peerage in order to participate as a
member of the senior court which sits in the House of Lords. The tradition of their
presence in the House of Lords dates back to Victorian times when Law Lords
were appointed as the very first Life Peers, appointed for life and unable to pass
on their titles to their heirs.


It is very difficult to provide sensible justification for the presence of these senior
judges in the legislature and the presence of Law Lords in the House of Lords can
be seen as yet another anomaly of the British parliamentary system since all
constitutional and academic arguments would advise against a system where
judges are legislating as well as judging. Personally, I can‟t see any justification
for the continued presence of the Law Lords in a reformed House of Lords. Given
that the Law Lords effectively act as a Supreme Court, I think they would conduct
their legal responsibilities in exactly the same way irrespective of their presence
in the House of Lords or another building. The Pinochet judgement, which I know
caused considerable interest here in France, is a case in point, as I am convinced
that their presence in the House of Lords was of absolutely no significance in
influencing the decision they made.
I don‟t believe that the prospect of reforming the House of Lords actually
questions the status of the Law Lords as judges. Instead, I would suggest that the
more pertinent question is the prospect of a House of Lords without the Law
Lords, as it my belief that the upper house would suffer if the Law Lords were
removed. As Law Lords continue to sit as members of the House of Lords after
they have retired, it could be possible for a reformed House of Lords to guarantee
the invaluable contributions they bring to debates, by nominating retired Law
Lords to sit as cross-benchers. Once again, the likelihood of this would depend
upon the recommendations that are made for the form and structure of
membership in the reformed upper house.
Patrice Gélard
En France en 1958, une situation comparable aurait pu être adoptée. Le Conseil
Constitutionnel aurait pu faire partie intégrante du Sénat et les membres du
Conseil Constitutionnel auraient pu être des sénateurs mais en statuant à part
dès qu‟il s‟agissait du contrôle de constitutionnalité. Cette situation aurait été
intéressante pour les Français parce qu‟on aurait eu une cohabitation
permanente, qui parfois nous manque un peu (c‟est une boutade). A ma
connaissance en tant qu‟ancien président de l‟Association internationale des
constitutionnalistes, il n‟y a qu‟un autre pays du monde, le Singapour, où un
certain nombre de membres d‟une assemblée parlementaire exercent une fonction
judiciaire suprême.


Questioner
I think that as a Supreme Court the House of Lords has a much broader role than
the Conseil Constitutionnel in France because it is both a Constitutional Court
and Supreme Court.


Meg Russell
People in the UK are only just beginning to think about the idea of the House of
Lords also having the legal function of a Constitutional Court, in the light of some
very interesting questions which have arisen since the introduction of devolved
government for Scotland and Wales. In the future, it is possible that disputes
between different regions of the UK or between a region and the national
parliament could be resolved by members of the House of Lords or the Law Lords,
who might also act as a constitutional court. However, before these proposals can
be seriously considered as part of the Lords reform programme, thought must be
given to the potential conflicts of interest between the roles of a member of
parliament and a member of the judiciary.
Lord Richard
I think it is important to explain that there is a convention in the House of Lords
where the twelve active Law Lords do not vote on normal legislation. They do not
vote and they will not vote on these matters. Once they retire, the leash is off and
they vote as they choose, in the same way as ordinary members of the House of
Lords.
Lord Richard has explained that the Jenkins report on electoral
reform was followed by “nothing”. Will the Royal Commission
report on House of Lords reform also be followed by “nothing”?


Right wing newspapers in the UK have suggested that this
year’s Queen’s Speech should have included a House of Lords
Bill. Will this be included in the next Queen’s Speech?



Lord Richard
I think timing is an important factor to remember when we consider the future of
the reform programme since unlike other countries, the UK does not have fixed
term legislative elections.
The Royal Commission report will be published in the coming weeks and time will
then be allowed for everyone to digest the report and agree on their responses.
The report's recommendations will then be scrutinised by a joint committee of
both Houses of Parliament and even though I am certain of the outcome at the
joint committee stage, I fear it is impossible to say quite how long this will take.
Whatever the time-scale, it would be highly unlikely for the government to
propose another House of Lords bill in the year before a general election.
Despite this, I think that the government will probably make a decision on their
position on Lords reform before the next general election. If they then go on to win
a second term of office, I would expect the introduction of legislation on the House
of Lords in the next Parliament, which suggests a total time-scale of between
three to four years.


Meg Russell
One thing that may be worth bearing in mind in relation to this question is the
preamble to the Parliament Act of 1911, which included a commitment to remove
hereditary peers from the upper chamber. Despite a series of “reform-minded”
Labour governments who were confronted with hostile majorities in the House of
Lords, it has actually taken 88 years for this original reform to be implemented.
When we recall that this reform was promised in the 1940s, 1960s and 1970s
before finally coming to fruition in the 1990s, it would appear that we might
require a significant level of public and political motivation in order to make any
move to the next stage of Lords reform. It is very important to bear in mind that
there is a considerable risk, that the British public might, at some point, get sick
and tired of constitutional reform and want to get on with what they consider to
be real politics.
What prevision has been made to give the franchise to peers
who are no longer Lords and what were the arguments in favour
of retaining hereditary peers ?


Lord Ivor Richard
The franchise will be returned to the hereditary peers who leave the House of
Lords once they no longer have the right to vote in the chamber. Remaining
members, like myself, will continue not to have a vote in parliamentary elections.


There were four main arguments to retain the hereditary peers and none of these
were actually very good!
The first argued that there was nothing wrong with the existing House of Lords,
so why change it? The second focused on the lack of concrete plans for the second
stage of reform, and argued that the first stage should not be attempted before
clear plans had been set out for a replacement upper house. Other critics based
their arguments on the independence of the hereditary peers acting as the
backbone of the British Constitution arguing that the constitution would be
irretrievable if they were removed. I actually made a speech in the House of
Lords on this subject during the course of our debates on Lords reform and said:
“hereditary peers sit independently, listen independently, weigh the arguments
independently and then independently vote conservative.”
Lastly, a number of individual hereditary peers argued on the basis of the service
that their families had given to the country over the centuries and how sad it was
to break that continuity. Personally, none of these arguments appealed to me, as I
believed the only sensible argument was to remove hereditary peerages in the UK.
The individuals concerned will still be able to keep their titles and pass them on to
their children but they will no longer have the right to legislate on the basis of
their name.


Meg Russell
Another argument in favour of the hereditary peers was that in many ways they
represented a random selection of what some may have called ordinary people.
Critics of this argument were nevertheless quick to point out that the hereditary
peers were in fact a random selection of upper class white men, who for most
people were not a random selection capable of ever being representative of the
ordinary population.
It has been suggested that there should be a truly random element of selecting
members in the new reformed House of Lords, but I don‟t think anyone is taking
the proposal very seriously.
Will the Lords who have left the House of Lords get any sort of
reward or benefits?



Lord Ivor Richard
No, they won‟t get any kind of golden handshake.      There is quite a heated
argument at present on whether the hereditary peers who are leaving the House
of Lords should be allowed to come in and use the dining rooms. I think some
provision will be made for them in this respect, but they will certainly not be
allowed to use the car park!
Is there an argument, as Johnathan Freedland has recently
suggested, for an American-type republic in the UK and what do
you think we could learn from the American republican
example?


Meg Russell
Johnathan Freedland is a British journalist who has recently written a book
entitled “Bring Home the Revolution”, where he suggests that the UK should
adopt an American-type constitution.
While we comment on all matters constitutional at the Constitution Unit, we do
not consider the monarchy, as this is a highly contentious issue in the UK. It has
been suggested that removing the hereditary peers from the House of Lords will
bring an end to the hereditary monarchy, but I don‟t think there are any serious
indications that this will happen. The British people tend to be rather fond of
their monarchy, which by and large does not interfere in political affairs.
Similarly, there are certain elements of the American constitution and the
American Republican model such as the right to bear arms, which I am fairly sure
the British people wouldn‟t want to become involved with and should not do.
Que va devenir, My Lord, la tenue des Lords?


Lord Ivor Richard
I don‟t actually mind what we wear or what we are called. When I was a boy I
wanted to be called a “ Senator” because it had all sorts of Roman connotations.
Although I now don‟t mind what I am called, it should be understood how difficult
it is to change names in the UK as it often raises issues that people are prepared
to die for!
In essence, a decision has to be taken as to whether we want a real functioning
second chamber or something that‟s the sort of „pet‟ of the constitutional family.
People dressing up colourfully when the Queen comes to visit is very good for the
tourist trade but doesn‟t necessarily have any modern function. While it is
perfectly legitimate to have a celebratory side of a second chamber, it is not what I
have in mind. I want a second chamber which is properly constituted, properly
functioning with good, decent powers that it is prepared to exercise and in the end
that is what this whole argument is all about.


Didier Maus
Pour conclure, je veux simplement observer une chose qui me frappe, ce sont les
hésitations. En France et au Royaume-Uni on est dans un processus de réforme
important. Il a commencé, mais on ne sait pas quand il se terminera et à quoi il
aboutira. Je crois que ce débat nous a fourni une merveilleuse illustration de ce
qu‟est le pragmatisme britannique.
A few years ago at seminar in Paris, one of Lord Richard‟s colleagues in the House
of Lords was asked to respond to the question: “What is your constitution?” He
said, “Our constitution is our history.”
The UK is building its constitution at the moment and its history still remains its
constitution.
LIST OF QUESTIONS

 There has been much thought in the UK about the future shape of the House of
  Lords but has there been much consideration of parité which is proving central to
  debate in France on the reform of the Sénat ?

 Dans l‟avenir y aura-t-il une évolution du rôle juridictionnel de la Chambre des
  Lords?

 How can we justify the existence of Second Chambers where there has never
  been changes in political power, like the built-in Conservative majority of the House
  of Lords and the long-term majority of the Right in the French Senate ?

 A quelle autre institution de “sages” confiera-t-on la possibilité de bloquer les lois
  “non financières” pendant un an, les lois “financières” pendant un mois, et celle de
  rédiger des documents d‟information et de réflexion issus des „select committees‟ ?

 Dans le débat actuel au Royaume-Uni, évoque-t-on la possibilité d‟un système
  “mono-camériste” sans chambre haute ?

 La partie judiciaire de la Chambre des Lords (Law Lords) deviendra-t-elle
  désormais une juridiction autonome (Cour Suprême du pays) ?
  Les Law Lords auront-ils un rôle à jouer dans le cadre du “Human Rights Act”?

 La chambre haute n‟a-t-elle pas vocation à donner une vision organique de la
  représentation ? N‟est-ce pas cette vision qui est visée à travers elle ? Pourquoi ?

 Le poids politique de la Chambre des Lords ayant été considérablement réduit
  depuis les Parliamentary Acts de 1911 et 1949, la réforme projetée par le
  gouvernement visant à démocratiser sa composition, a-t-elle pour objet de lui
  redonner un véritable pouvoir? Ne serait-il pas plus simple de conserver une
  chambre haute “folklorique” et impuissante?

 Si le Sénat français respecte une représentation géographique au pro-rata des
  habitants, qu‟en sera-t-il dans la nouvelle Chambre des Lords? Quels seraient les
  critères retenus pour prouver son rattachement à une région (lieu de résidence,
  lieu de naissance, etc) ?

 Quel est l‟impact de la dévolution (Ecosse et Irlande) et de l‟Europe sur la
  souveraineté du parlement britannique ?

 Qu‟en est-il actuellement du débat autour de l‟introduction d‟une constitution écrite
  et soumise à des procédures de modification spécifiques en Grande-Bretagne ?
  Une Chambre est évidemment d‟autant plus “menacée” que son existence dépend
  du bon vouloir d‟une autre chambre. Quelles options sont actuellement les plus
  discutées et les plus plausibles pour la nouvelle chambre haute ?
 La chambre des Lords devrait-elle être démocratique ou responsable de ses
  actes? L‟idée de se débarasser du principe d‟hérédité n‟est pas nouvelle, alors
  pourquoi maintenant ? La réforme récente de la chambre des Lords semble n‟avoir
  éveillé que peu d‟intérêt dans le pays, pourquoi cela ?

   Les pairs héréditaires annoblis peuvent-ils prendre leur retraite de la chambre
    haute et retrouver leur titre (purement honorifique) quand ils seront las de leurs
    tâches de working peers ?
Biographies

Sénateur Patrice Gélard was elected as Sénateur (RPR) for Seine-Maritime in
1995 and sits on the Commission des lois. He is a Conseiller géneral of Seine-
Maritime and a Conseiller municipal for Le Havre. Honorary chair of the
International Association of Constitutional Law, he has taught at the universities
of Lille II, Rouen and Le Havre.

Didier Maus is the chair of the Association Française des Constitutionnalistes
and has directed the Revue Française de Droit Constitutionnel, since 1990.
Amongst numerous political and academic functions, he has taught at the
University of Paris I, the Institut d‟Etudes Politiques de Paris and the Centre de
Recherche du Droit Constitutionnel. Didier Maus has published widely on
political institutions and parliamentary and constitutional law.

Lord Ivor Richard QC was elected to Parliament as MP for Barons Court in
1964. He served as UK representative to the UN from 1974-1979 he was named
as opposition spokesman on Broadcasting and Telecommunication by Harold
Wilson and was deputy spokesman on Foreign Affairs in the Wilson Government
until 1974. He served as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords from 1992
until 1997 when he was named Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords
by Tony Blair until the cabinet reshuffle last year. Lord Richard has co-written
Unfinished Business, reforming the House of Lords with Damien Welfare (1999).

Meg Russell is senior research fellow at the Constitution Unit of University
College London, an independent think tank carrying out research around the
governments programme of constitutional reform. She published the findings of
her research on seven comparative upper chambers around the world, examining
mixtures of federally and unitary states, and their direct, indirect election and
appointment of upper houses, as Reforming the House of Lords: Lessons from
Overseas (2000).
The British Council


The British Council
9 rue de Constantine
75007 Paris

Telephone   +00 33 (0)1 49 55 73 00
Fax         +00 33 (0)1 47 05 77 02
Email       information@britishcouncil.fr
Internet    http://www.britishcouncil.org/france

The British Council is the United Kingdom‟s international organisation for
educational and cultural relations. Our purpose is to enhance the UK‟s reputation
in the world as a valued partner. We do this by creating opportunity for people
worldwide with programmes in education, English language teaching, the arts,
science, governance and information through a network of 254 offices and
teaching centres in 110 countries. In everything we do we value individuals,
promote internationalism and demonstrate integrity.


…Our Work in Governance & Society
The British Council's work in governance and society is people centred and
emphasises equality and social inclusion. It is about the groups and structures of
people who make up our societies in Britain and France and about the differences
as much as the similarities between us. Our aim is to build partnerships and
networks so that ideas can be shared and debate exchanged between people with
living and working experience of the issues in civil society. We engage with
diversity and respect difference. We promote the status of women, the protection
of child rights and the inclusion of marginalised groups, supporting access to
justice and the realisation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

								
To top