Friday, August 12, 2016

Lord Salisbury on Referenda

I wrote a piece on possible reform of the House of Lords on this blog here, and posted a shorter version to Facebook where it sparked a debate which you can read by following this link:



Following on from this it was interesting to read today on the Reactions blog a piece by the present Marquis of Salisbury -  who I knew when he was Lord Cranbourne - called

"After Brexit Britain needs to sort out its referendum-rules."

He's written about the balance between direct democracy and parliamentary sovereignty, noting the paradox that one of the main motives of many of those who supported a "leave" vote was to restore the supremacy of the British parliament yet they had to use a mechanism which over-rode that supremacy.

He suggests that

* we need to get a clearer set of rules about who can call a referendum and when -

* points out that a post-legislation referendum is generally far better than a pre-legislation one (because you know what exactly you are voting for or against) and

* suggests that one entirely democratic way of giving an unelected upper house a stronger check on legislation would be to give them the power to call a referendum on it.

I am still inclining towards an elected upper house but I must say that is an interesting idea.

Lord Salisbury also suggests that the government commission a senior academic or expert such as Professor Robert Hazell of UCL to review the rules on referenda. Again, I think this is a good idea.

Of course, an alternative route to open up decisions to democratic choice would be to have a referendum on all non-budget legislation of the sort Lord Salisbury suggests - should this legislation come into effect or not.

That might work. An even more radical solution, which they have in California and in my opinion does not work, would be to give the public the power to call referenda.

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