The vast majority of people want the House of Lords reformed, because it is an undemocratic relic of times long past. The average age of the members of the House of Lords is 69 years old (the average!) and most of them are men.
It's time to replace the House of Lords with a representative, random sample of 650 everyday people - people just like you and me.
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In a Citizens' House selected using sortition (random selection) half of the people would be women, and half men. Many of them would be young, and some old. There would be one from every corner of the country, and their educational levels would also match the census data. In short, it would be a mirror of our society.
These people would serve two year terms (with one quarter of them rotating out every six months) and be paid twice the average full-time UK wage. They would have the same powers as the current House of Lords. During their term they would deliberate in a respectful setting, with expert facilitation and access to balanced information, and pass public judgement on all legislation. These people would not be constrained by the electoral or media cycles, and would act in the long-term interests of our country.
Why a Citizens' House in Parliament? Because we know these assemblies work. Because people trust the decisions these assemblies make. Because they come to the decisions that we all would come to if we had access to balanced information and the time to deliberate on the options together with a diverse group of people. Because the many are smarter than the few, and these people are free from the constraints imposed on today's politicians. Find out more below.
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. They 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 their prior work.
The people would be chosen using stratified random selection from everyone on the electoral roll. Here are more details:
1. 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.
2. All expenses would be covered (including childcare, lost wages etc) for those interested in attending an information day, located in various large cities around the country, where the details of serving in the House of Citizens would be explained and their questions answered.
3. 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.
4. 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.
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 applicable legislation be given adequate time and resources in the House of Citizens for the assembly to deliberate upon and make an informed public judgement of each bill.
The deliberative process would be very important. The layout of the chamber that the House of Citizens met in would be very different to the current layout of 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 table secretary. They would discuss proposals, listen to and question experts, and a qualified, independent 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 see 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 assembly and all the participants would have voting keypads to confirm (or not) that the options had been identified and ordered correctly.
The House of Citizens would be able to call experts or witnesses to present information to the entire assembly, or to present detailed reports, where questions and clarifications could be addressed.
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 deliberates together, and requests more information if desired.
- Decision phase: The assembly comes to a decision, recommending either acceptance, amendments, delay, or rejection of a 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 participatory and deliberative democracy experts.