Creating a second chamber

Lord Norton
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….

3 comments for “Creating a second chamber

  1. Matt Korris
    22/08/2008 at 9:44 am

    Sounds immensely interesting. Do the Iraqis have any preconceived ideas of what they want from a second chamber? Are they talking about specifics at this stage, or is it mostly a theoretical/evidence gathering process at the moment for them?

    Reminds me of Lawrence Lessig’s work assisting Georgia with drafting its new constitution, which was later portrayed in an episode of the West Wing.

  2. Adrian Kidney
    22/08/2008 at 2:00 pm

    I’d love to read up on those discussions, Lord Norton – I don’t suppose they’re publicly available anywhere, are they? How seriously would the Iraqis seriously consider an appointed second chamber?

    What type of questions did they ask you, and did they throw any criticisms on the British system at you?

    On a separate subject – I note you are a Doctor of Philosophy. I am considering one day following your route into becoming an authority in constitutional law. Would Philosophy be the most suitable course for this? Any advice you could give me?


  3. lordnorton
    23/08/2008 at 12:28 pm

    Matt Korris: They are very much getting into the specifics. There is a clear role for a second chamber given the component elements of the country and they are already advanced in giving thought to the detail of the arrangements.

    Adrian Kidney: I don´t know yet whether details of the proceedings will be made available. I will have to report in due course. On your second question, most doctorates in the arts and social sciences are doctorates in philosophy (PhDs). Philosophy in this context is essentially a generic term, reflecting scholarship rather than the specific academic discipline in which the research was undertaken. My PhD was in political theory & institutions: the subject matter was intra-party dissent in the British House of Commons. For research in constitutional law, one could come either through the discipline of politics or law.

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