I have spent the past few days in Switzerland advising members of the Iraqi Constitutional Review Committee on the establishment of a second chamber. Agreement has been reached on creating a second chamber. The committee has responsibility for recommending the form it take.
My role has essentially been twofold. One has been to explain the second chamber in the UK. The House of Lords is a unique institution but there are features that have relevance for comparative purposes, not least its functions, the relationship between the chambers and the variables that enable it to fulfil its functions. The Committee has been looking not only at UK experience, but also at that of other nations, including Switzerland (at the other end of the constitutional spectrum to the UK), Germany, South Africa and Canada. One interesting feature of the discussion was the extent to which one aspect of the House of Lords – as a chamber with an expert, or informed, membership – had influenced thinking in the formation of new second chambers in places such as South Africa and Iraq.
My second role was to identify the key questions that need to be addressed in establishing a second chamber. The Committee had given thought to powers and composition; I focused on the prime task of enumerating the principal functions to be fulfilled and what flowed from that. Some functions require certain powers in order to be carried out effectively and some functions may not necessarily be compatible.
The discussions were both interesting and productive. I was in awe, as I normally am, of the skills of the translators: we had simultaneous translation which made the exchanges fairly spontaneous. I was also impressed by the members of the Committee, many if not most of whom work under difficult conditions.
There is the likelihood of continuing contact. There was even mention of a possible invitation to Baghdad….