We want the House of Lords replaced with a representative, random selection of everyday people - a House of Citizens.
The number of people would be the same as the number in the House of Commons (650 at the moment). They would serve two-year terms, with one quarter of them (approximately 162) being replaced every six months, and would be paid twice the average full-time UK wage.
Extra provisions would be made for the primary carers of the young or the elderly, or disadvantaged citizens. Students would be given the option to suspend their studies, or postpone their appointment. All employees would be guaranteed a position at an equivalent level and pay to the job they were leaving for two years, and self-employed or small business employees would be given extra compensation to ensure financial security upon their return to normal employment.
The people would be chosen using stratified random selection from everyone on the electoral roll. Here are more details:
Every two years a large number of randomly chosen citizens (around 10,000 people, selected from the electoral roll) would receive an invitation asking if they are interested in learning more about serving in the House of Citizens.
All expenses would be covered (including childcare, lost wages etc) for those interested to attend an information day, located at various large cities around the country, where the details of serving in the House of Citizens would be explained and their questions answered.
Those interested in serving would give a few details: age, gender, home address and educational level attained. This is used to ensure that the random selection produces a group of people that match the latest census data - to ensure that it is a representative House of Citizens.
Finally a stratified random sample is selected from those willing, ensuring that as people are rotated in and out of the House of Citizens it remains gender balanced with a proportional number of people across all age groups and education levels, matching the latest census data.
For more details you can wait our forthcoming detailed proposal, or see the similar proposal put forward for a Citizens' Assembly in the Scottish Parliament.
We propose that the powers of the House of Citizens initially remain the same as the current House of Lords.
They will have the power to debate legislation and amend, delay, and in limited instances, reject a bill from the House of Commons. By custom and law the House of Citizens would not have this power on money bills (taxation and supply bills).
We would propose that all other legislation be given adequate time in the House of Citizens for them to come to an informed public judgement regarding the bill.
The deliberative process would be very important. The chamber that the House of Citizens met in would be very different to the House of Lords - a complete redesign would be needed.
The House of Citizens would typically sit at tables of around 10 people, together with a facilitator and a note-taker. They would discuss proposals, listen and question experts, and a qualified, independent table facilitator would ensure that everyone's voice was heard and no one dominated the discussion.
All the tables would be networked together. Technology can make it reasonably easy to what issues and options every table is discussing and top themes can be identified. These themes (or issues or options) would be presented to the entire parliament and all the participants would have voting keypads to confirm (or not) that the options had been identified and ordered correctly.
The parliament could call experts or witnesses to present information to the entire assembly, or present detailed reports. Questions could, of course, be asked.
The tables discuss and refine proposed amendments (or decide to accept, reject or delay the bill), finally voting for their preferred outcome.
Typically we would expect the House of Citizens to be given a few weeks to go through a detailed deliberative process with these stages:
- Learning phase: The assembly studies the history, options and complexities of the bill, with access to a wide array of experts.
- Consultation phase: The assembly consults widely, around the country and in their own constituency.
- Deliberation phase: The assembly deliberate together, and requests more information if needed.
- Decision phase: They come to a decision, recommending either acceptance, amendments, delay, or rejection of the bill.
Then the bill either passes or goes back to the House of Commons if required. Delay is limited to one calendar year.
This is obviously a brief and very simplified description to give the general idea. The exact process would be far more detailed and precise, and facilitated by participation and deliberation experts.