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DEVOLUTION An Independent View


During the winter of 1994/1995 the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin attacked Chechnya simply because those peoples wanted self-determination, and the then UK Prime Minister said that Scots and Welsh aspirations for self-determination Were dangerous in the extreme and would lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom and hence “will be resisted with all vigour.” The Yeltsin action and the Major statement reveal the total lack of political understanding and moral thought of each of them.

What examples in all history can be cited where oppressed peoples praised and enjoyed their oppression. Self-determination is a “Back to Basics” fundamental moral right, and it is the Yeltsin Major denial of the people’s expressed will that will lead to the break-up of any Federation or United Kingdom.

On all the available evidence, no such danger exists from devolution, and the observable consequences are totally opposite to any federal disruptive scaremongering. Not only that, all such examples of devolved Government that presently exist around the world prove exactly the opposite of any disruptive tendencies.

The Federal Republic of Germany has State Legislatures, and the United States of America has State Governments. Why do these strong Federations not break-up, for they are clearly founded on “Dangerous devolutionary” concepts?

The evidence is that the contrary circumstance is true, as exemplified by, Australia, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and Switzerland, all stable parts of the world with devolved governing legislatures.

 

On all the available evidence the Labour Party’s proposal to set-up devolved Government was unchallengeable, and should have been promoted as a means of strengthening the Federation of the United Kingdom. Towards that end, I have devised a constitutional structure as described below which both extends devolved self-Government to Wales and Scotland whilst at the same time cements the existing Sovereign UK constitutional arrangement.

Firstly, for conceptual understanding I refer to the basic text book portrayal of the principle of separation of powers as depicted by the following diagram:

Building upon the below graphical example that areas of political domain and their inter relationships may be portrayed pictorially, the following diagrams describe a revised British constitutional structure providing for Devolved Regional Government within a strengthened Federal United Kingdom.

fig_a

Figure 1

 

fig1

The basic central concept is that The Queen maintains her Dominion over the House of Lords, and thereby over her Govermnent and the Union.

Figure 2

fig2
The Judiciary operates external to and independent of the Lords except when the Law Lords sit as the Final Court of Appeal.

Figure 3

fig3

Four Equal Independent Executives and Parliaments with the established principles of power separation and the same relationships between Legislative Executive,Judiciary, Lords and Monarch maintained.

The above Figure 3 represents a first option for four separate Regional Parliaments, each with the same constitutional relationship with the House of Lords and The Queen. Each Parliament would be passing its own legislation; independent of each other. Prima facie, some observers (naive) may presume an anomaly by assuming two tiers of Government dealing with the same subject, leading, for example, to the West Lothian question on education. Such is not the case as the areas of competence would be clearly and legally defined; without overlap.

The British Parliament’s responsibility would cover all Federal United Kingdom interests, ego Defence, Foreign Affairs, Treasury, Bank of Britain, Interest Rates, Federal Tax, International Transport, Customs, and Motorways etc.

The Regional, Country Parliaments would have responsibility for; eg Education, Housing/Social Services, Regional Tax/Treasury, Environment, National Resources, Local Transport/Roads.

Obviously, both of the above lists would be tailored dependent upon the level of devolvement desired, and the West Lothian question would never arise. Wales and Scotland would not necessarily need to have identical spheres of competence. Whatever model of devolved regional Government is adopted, the need to revise the House of Lords will be imperative. However, this is a simple matter, structurally, and does not require analysis in this first paper.

If, for political reasons, not here defined, it is judged not to be acceptable to create Regional Governments on an equal footing to the present and future British Parliaments, the above described model may be adapted whereby the Regional Governments are structured subservient to the British Parliament which would have the power of veto in specific circumstances. I would have in mind, and limit this to, areas touching upon British National Interest only, and only after a British Parliamentary debate and vote.

Figure 4

fig4


The superior, all embracing, British Parliament is shown external to the Judiciary/House of Lords.

NB. The Law Lords overlap is not shown for pictorial clarity.

This Second Option Model is given here below, and is seen to be an expansion of option one.

Figure 5
fig5

The British Executive is depicted with direct access to the Sovereign, as distinct from the Regional Executives, representing the established contacts via the British Prime Minister, Privy Council and Speaker (theoretical).

As the British Parliament will be dealing with a lesser range and magnitude of business it would seem reasonable that the total number of British MP?s should be reduced. There would, of course, be a commensurate creation of Regional Country Parliamentary representation and it would seem to be eminently reasonable that the membership of all four Parliaments should reflect the prevailing constituency structure thereby aggregating to the present six hundred and forty six members (approximately). The geographical area of all constituencies would be rather larger than at present but as there would be two elected members (British & National) each dealing with a separate sphere of activity, there would be no increase ofwork load. 

Whilst the above proposition(s) stand alone, and are each feasible in their own right, they both lend themselves to further refinement to cement ever stronger the UK bonding. This is achieved by establishing the British Parliamentary representation boundaries straddling the Welsh and Scottish geographic boarders with cross boarder constituencies: see the theoretical Exhibits A&B herewith. Such an arrangement not only binds the British Parliament geographically, but also ensures trans-national representation.

The above modelling lends itself to tailoring for any circumstance - the level and range of Devolution is infinite - so long as the concept of cross territorial constituencies is entrenched: at the top level only, and with total autonomy at the local level. Such a constitutional structure would solve so many ongoing problems and conflicts e.g. in Africa?s tribally fractured nations, suffering from the legacy of colonialism; by Britain and others. 

The FDP postulates, if Tito had structured the Yugoslav constitution on the FDP model for unified multinational autonomous territories, with cross border constituencies, Yugoslavia would not have fractured into its constituent parts; with all the attendant agonies. 

The FDP proposition is that such a proposal be piloted in a country, say Cyprus, a country with great potential for unification as one unified nation state whilst each constituent part retains its national independence. With mature diplomatic approaches to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus it may just be possible to generate sufficient international support, particularly so as Greece and Turkey have avowed to discuss their long term relationship vis a vis Cyprus, and for both to enter the European Union.

exibita

 

exibitb


House of Lords - Structure & Procedural Reform

The first FDP paper on Parliamentary Devolution states that House of Lords Reform would be imperative but deliberately remained silent on the subject, not wishing to cloud or confuse the essential simplicities of ?House of Commons? National Devolution. In the light of current government objectives to ?Reform? the House of Lords this supplementary paper is necessary to distinguish between preferred Reforms consequent upon National Devolution, and Constitutional Reforms as a government political objective. Additionally, the Prime Minister and many other conimentators have said, ?we want the people?s views and contributions on House of Lords reforms?. The original FDP perceptions centred only on Structural and Procedural Reforms of House of Commonsseats.

By reference to both the model options it is seen that all the proposed National and British Parliaments and Executives have a constitutional relationship with the existing House of Lords. There are two very sound reasons for this. Firstly, unicameral legislative chambers should never be contemplated because, lacking mature scrutiny, they almost always lead to poorly formulated legislation. Secondly, maintaining the present House of Lords functional links, further cements the United Kingdom British Federation as reflected in the Trans-National cross Border Constituencies.

Procedurally, it would seem sensible for the Lords to restructure themselves and establish National Sub-Assemblies to scrutinise and revise separately all National and British Bills in exactly the same manner and with the same authority as is done presently. All of the Lords Assemblies must remain ?domiciled? in LondonlWestminster, further underscoring the British Federal United Kingdom. The new English Parliament should be located outside London but somewhere central, not with respect to overall population density but rather with respect to social neutrality, ie. not in the Prime Minister?s constituency, bearing in mind this new ?Seat of Government? could develop into a de facto English Political Capital.

House of Lords - Constitutional Reform

Phasing out of hereditary peers was/is a cornerstone of FDP policy; by means of attrition i.e. no successor inherits a seat (now overtaken) coupled with immediate disqualification of any Peer not having contributed to the House?s parliamentary work during the preceding 5 years or since
the last general election. The number of Bishops to be curtailed to the two archbishops (or their nominees) but other religious leaders to be elevated i.e. the Chief Rabbi; Catholic Primate; Muslim; Hindu; & Sikh Leaders etc ensuring that all principal religions are represented.

The political nature of the House to be maintained by the offer of appointment to all retiring Commons Front Bench and Shadow Ministers. It is self evident that all the above class of members are - have been - at some time, elected or selected to represent a strata of society ie. are not ?unelected people?. Their very existence and ?political? pedigree demonstrates past Election I Elevation worthiness.

A sizeable proportion of the remainder of Members to be ?elected appointments? by the Leaderships of all those Political Parties winning any Commons Seats in the preceding general election, equal to the proportion of votes cast Nationally; eg.

Party A wins X Commons Seats, securing Y% of the National Vote
Party B wins N Commons Seats, securing Z% of the National Vote
Party C wins P Commons Seats, securing V% of the National Vote

Where Y: Z: & V = 100% of the Gross National Vote

Then Party A nominates Y% of the Residual Peers; Party B nominates Z% of the Residual Peers; Party C nominates V% of the Residual Peers: Irrespective of number ofCommon Seats won.

These residual members to be given life peerages and they would serve as voting/working members until they retired or were placed on a Party ?reserved List.? By the above means, the House of Commons remains a First Past The Post constituency based House whereas the House of Lords becomes a true proportional Representative House, truly representing the allegiance and aspirations of the whole voting population, and most importantly, those voters inclined to vote for minor Political Parties or Candidates of non winnable Commons Constituencies will know that their votes are not wasted votes as they count towards establishing Lords representatives.

There would also be a likely additional spin off with regard to the percentage participation in General Elections, which is presently lamentable. This new Lords element, negating wasted votes, would possibly generate more voter interest and hence strengthen democracy overall. Of course, the Queen/Monarch would maintain the right to nominate whomsoever she/he wishes.

Considering for a moment the present anomalous situation with respect to certain groupings of Lords, eg. Bishops and Law Lords; all nominated but they cannot be presumed to be an homogeneous group, and all are equally capable of harbouring extreme Left or Right political ( not spiritual) dispositions. The same circumstance could pertain with any other group, Law Lords even, when not considering legal issues. Therefore, if the political balance of the House of Lords is to be transparent to the electorate, then all nominated peers, not just Bishops, must be required to affirm, by written declaration, their political inclinations, and if they are identifiable as Left or Right, then they must sit on that side of the House, only occupying ?cross benches? if they declare no political leaning.

Whipping

On the premise that independence of the Party Machines is a desirable objective, and that must surely be so in a contemplative revising chamber, then whipping can only be interpreted as a contempt of the House of Lords and of its prime constitutional function, and should be banned under House of Lords Standing Orders. The merit of this innovation would be undermined if the term of office is short, and if re-selection to the Lords were a prospect, there would remain this constant awareness of one?s party image.

The Lords has functioned admirably throughout its long history on the basis of life membership and no logical argument was presented in the House of Lords debate on reform or the wider public community to set aside that tradition. The question has been raised of how the balance (political) of the House of Lords will be maintained ?after a landslide election?. Simple arithmetic solves this non-problem but, it is clear that a more detailed step by step analysis would be helpful for some to appreciate its simplicity.

The previously presented arithmetic gives the percentage of the ?residual? numbers of Lords members that the Party ?leaders? nominate to establish the political balance proportionate to the Gross National Vote - at a General Election. The apparent unknown is the unspecified ?residual? number but it is deliberately expressed so because it is, and always will be, a variable - but which becomes definitive upon the proportionate vote at each election.

Firstly it is necessary to establish ground rules: ie.
1. There shall not be a fixed number ofMembers.
2. a). There shall not be a maximum number ofMembers
b). There shall not be a minimum number ofMembers.
3. A target membership to be established; under the guidance of, say the Privy Council: for the purposes of this discussion let us say 600.
4. All Members must declare their Party allegiance (as explained above).
5. Voluntary retirement from active participation -Title Emeritus is recognised. Therefore such members are not counted in the Party apportiomnent, and are barred from voting in the House.
6. Compulsory retirement for any member not participating during the previous Government period. Right of appeal recognised for compassionate/health reasons. What a compulsory retiree calls himl/herself is an interesting point to ponder.
7. Agreement (Privy Council?) as to the proportion of nominatedlelected members to be established: let us speculate 50/50.

The above criteria enable the balance of the House membership to be identified prior to a General Election.

To theorise:
A. 600 Target Seats

300 Nominated & Declared, say 50 LIB/DEM     
50 LAB
50 CON
150 INDEPENDENT

300 Party Electees, say      

60 LIB/DEM
150 LAB
90 CON

B. Of the party affiliated Lords the party proportionality pre-election is therefore:
600 minus 150

LIB/DEM5O+60 = 110=24%]
LAB 50 + 150 =200 =44%] Percentages rounded to whole numbers.
CON 50+90 = 140=32%]

And the residual number is seen to be 450 even though only 300 are ?elected?.

C. Assume a post election proportional vote of:

LIB/DEM 26%
LAB 40%
CON 34%

And for simplicity no change in the nominated & declared of 50 each party & independents 150,
therefore the residual sum is still 450, ie. 600 minus 150 independents.

Therefore the party numbers eligible to vote would be

LIB/DEM 117
LAB 180
CON 153

And the Liberal Democrats would nominate 7 new Lords from their list; the Conservatives 13 from their list; and Labour would nominate 20 sitting members as NON voting members. The FDP propose that these 20 could participate in debates but would refrain from voting - to maintain the democratic balance - unless they ?paired? with another absent Labour Member; again this would maintain the voter?s democratic voice.

At first reading, the non mathematical person might view the above numerical analysis as a little daunting but in these days, once the ground rules have been set - by an all-party working group and enacted ? a simple computer sofiware programme would cough out the required balancing numbers instantaneously.

Also, as the system is just a simple ?feed-back loop? re-establishing voter proportionality, the
adjustment? numbers will almost always be very small; as seen in the above example. Even with a landslide General Election, on the first passed the post system, which distorts the numerical strengths of voter preference, the changed numbers of Lords would be far less dramatic, because of the lesser volatility of the national numerical voting patterns of the country as a whole.

Further, the apparent anomaly of a surplus of sitting Lords in a party securing a lesser proportionate vote (as in the example given) would almost certainly be ameliorated as a result of retirements - (age or volunteers) or deaths during the past session, so apart from the initial election under the new system, the various parties would only be searching for very small numbers to elevate fiom their party ?short lists? or to retire to the ?substitutes bench?.

The House of Lords is a deliberation and revision chamber, requiring maturity of thought, not rash hot heads with burning ambition and seeking notoriety if not glory. Any form of ?self nomination? always carries that attendant risk. Therefore, the FDP proposition is that each party sets up its own internal appointments committee, and draws up a spectrum of profiles of the range of people and talents they would wish to have speaking on their benches, and then actively seek out persons matching that profile, not necessarily party members, and invite them to be placed on the party?s Lords short list.

Further, it is recommend that the list be kept secret, and any person disclosing their inclusion on such list shall automatically be disqualified; we, the people, wouldn?t want such people. The FDP is not advocating closed Lists - just suggesting discretion.

Naturally, at the time of an election all Lists - from all Parties - should be open to scrutiny, for the people have a right to know who the likely nominees would be. Similarly the present Lords appointment committee should be given an expanded role, with specific terms of reference to seek out and make recommendations for additional nominated members, as the need arises, to maintain the 50/50 balance between nominated and elected members.

The House of Lords shall not be a clone of the Commons and it must have a separate source of political authority therefore, FDP proposals achieve both goals whilst relying upon a common General Election vote. Also, the underlying worry previously expressed by many Lords with regard to the risk of compromising the authority of the Commons has no force if the elected proportion is not predominant ie. the elected proportion should not be more than 50%, and similarly, the nominated element should not be more than 50%; so equality exerts itself.

Numerically a high Commons majority could theoretically (but very unlikely) be surpassed if a high proportionate vote led to a large number of opposition Lords appointments allied to a high degree of declared nominated Lords. But such a second chamber could not legitimately challenge the elected House because it would be relying upon unelected members that could never claim democratic superiority.

47There is no conflict of view here, even when a presumed fear is expressed as ?generating a microcosm of the House of Commons?. This would never occur under FDP proposals as the majority and or the relative strengths of the party political membership will never be equally balanced between the two Houses. And, furthermore there will always be a large wedge of non- party cross-benchers.

The theoretical model presumes 50% (for ease of arithmetic) party affiliations of the non-elected element. In reality, this would be very much less; there are already some 180 cross bench members, thereby making the party element an even lesser proportion of the whole House; ie. it would never become a microcosm of the Commons.

A further important point must be considered regarding the ?election of a truly independent (ie. non-party affiliated) person?. If this was not facilitated, such a system would be contrary to and an affront to democracy. Once again, under the FDP proposals and model, person(s) offering themselves as independent would create no perturbation to the procedure or arithmetic. Indeed, it would just mean that the political element of the House would be further compressed. In this connection the FDP proposition is that any person may present themselves to the Returning Officer of any Parliamentary Constituency as an independent Lords candidate, and the Returning Officer would present each voter with a separate Lords ballot paper; as happens when local and general elections coincide.

Not forgetting that Lords elections are to be on a proportional basis, but recognising that an independent will be offering himlherself to a constituency, for the purpose of the vote, the_FDP propose that there shall be two separate qualifying criteria for election, namely; a candidate shall be elected if he/she obtains a vote equal to or higher than the winning MP vote in the constituency in which the independent ?Lord? is standing; reflecting the first passed the post concept or equal to or higher than the average vote of all elected MPs, reflecting the proportional representation concept.

As there would be two qualifying thresholds, equity would demand a theoretical ?double victory? if two or more separate candidates each achieved one or other of the qualifying standards. A maximum limit of two ?winners? would be necessary (to contain ?theoretical? proliferation). If two or more tie on the same threshold standard then the ?short straw drawer(s)? lose: as is the present rule for General Elections.

In conclusion, reform of the House of Lords is a matter in which the people of this nation have a vested interest, and should therefore be accorded a voice that is listened to which is the purpose of this dissertation and which one trusts will invoke a wider range of thought. 

Last Updated (Friday, 09 April 2010 10:55)

 
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