19 comments for “The Lords and engagement

  1. Gareth Howell
    06/11/2011 at 6:06 pm

    The word engagement strode across the meeting, every speaker emphasizing the need for their Lordships’ house to do so.

    Parliament itself is nearly always seen as an exclusive place, by people with whom I talk,
    (and then get on to the subject. Many are well versed in the bills and acts in progress, such are the news casting skills of the various BBC channels, but those many are generally at a loss where visiting the buildings and attending debates are concerned.

    As for the house of Lords I sat musing as the
    Lord spoke considering the two different ways in which people do engage with the house of Lords, one) of peers as an item of romantic fiction dating far more to the 17thC or well before, than to the real world of the 21st, and 2) of complete disengagement with
    modern democracy of any sort whilst pretending to be so, and being cheek by jowl with a chamber that certainly is.

    The romantic fiction aspect has hopefully gone for good with the departure of the hereditary peers, and their 19thC come medieval halls.

    The best opportunities for the house of lords in the real world of the 21stC are as lord Norton describes….. all those things that can be done in as modern a way as possible, electronically.

    I repeat what I said on another thread, that
    digital and electronic democracy, which would allow debate and amendment and voting to be done online, with nobody as much as near the
    Palace of Westminster while doing it, should be of prime value.

    I think it was Lord Norton who replied that it would be a very long time before it is done.

    My own opinion of the cause of that length of time is that people like meeting and that they like expenses for doing it, whilst there would be no real need for meeting at all.

    The European parliament is not digital of course not. It is electronic par excellence
    at the seats of the members concerned, but it is a very dated place now that the digital age has arrived.

    I went to the previous fortnight’s meeting supposing that Dr Williamson was going to chair a meeting on electronic digital democracy of the above sort, but poor man, bless ‘im, is bogged down hopefully at the end of it,discussing mainly local government websites “engaging” with their people locally.

    I thought he was concerned with electronic digital democracy, [the terms I have used here, are inadequate to describe how much of a change it would be from attending in “real time” (that is almost certainly the wrong expression)], but no such luck!

    I first got it wrong when parliament decided to allow more postal voting in 2001, and I thought
    “Marvellous! an up to date labour government! On the ball! electronic postal voting ie by pressing a button on the screen of your pc and using a previously allocated number to do it, just like the coop!”

    NO SUCH LUCK! I may say that the coop introduced it in about 2001 and it is used by less than 1% of its member voters, so there is not much enthusiasm amongst the workers either!

    Ah! well!

  2. Twm O'r Nant
    07/11/2011 at 7:25 am

    My enquiry to a highly experienced, if not gifted IC London software programmer, as to whether programmes could be designed for the whole of debating,enacting,select committee investigating, so that no attendance at the Palace of Westminster, were necessary, was given the courteous replies,

    “All too easily!”
    “Would it?”
    “Why not?”
    “Not sufficiently intelligent!”

    I don’t think I agreed with him, but the
    secure internet select committee rooms
    a secure Lords chamber, with the lord speaker as moderator, secure voting as secure as online banking (Random number pin sentry)
    would allow the House of lords to be turned in to a museum of democracy for the hundreds of thousands of people who want to visit it every year.

    Meanwhile their elected lordships could sit in their offices at home, debate, vote, get expense fees of one tenth of what they are getting to day, and do something of use to the community as a whole.

    Why the subject is not discussed I canno t imagine except for the fact that politicians to a man and woman, are there for the money, and not for the ethical/moral principles, not for the wisdom at all.

    The Estonian govt organised online and even
    mobile phone voting for a referendum in 2001, which was deemed a success. We have heard very little since of other governments doing the same.

    Off topic
    The problem with expenses now is that several
    things can be done while up in town, which have nothing what soever to do with the journey for which expenses are paid. Were the other journeys not planned, the attendance in the second chamber would not be made.

    If the expenses applied only to intellectual work done at home, they would be rather different. If expenses were applied and use of the House of lords as a club were merely a perk of elected membership then that would be a sensible way forward.

  3. MilesJSD
    07/11/2011 at 10:11 am

    * Kindly treat every one of my ‘neologistic’ terms herein as being “on the definiens-deciding work-table between The Leading-Experts & Parliaments and The People & Mosty-Life-Experienced-Plebs
    (you there, Blagger ?)…

    Surely by now more and more truly ‘democratised’* persons can see that E-democratisation* is not only ther ‘sitting-duck’ challenge but the 0nly way of both achieving multi-way demo-information-sharing*, demo-discussion*, and demo-graded-participation*
    laterally-as-well-as-vertically comprehensive Parliamentary governance itself ?
    on anything like the scale of a true and totally effective (effectivised*) Democracy ?

    • Lord Blagger
      07/11/2011 at 3:40 pm

      It’s the only way. Cut out the middle man.

      Now there will clearly be some, the sheep, that want other’s to make their decisions for them.

      That’s why I’ve proposed referenda by proxy. It’s cheap.

      1. Abolish the house of lords. 150 million a year saved.

      2. Everyone nominates a proxy mp to cast their votes. This doesn’t have to be their constituent MP. It’s proxy votes that count for approval of bills.

      This solves the problem of a Labour voter in a Tory seat, not having an equal say.

      3. You can change your proxy vote. You don’t have to wait up to 5 years.

      It’s a partial solution to the thieves in parliament. They lose their proxy votes, and have no say. The real solution to this is the right of recall. Or if your proxy votes fall below a certain number, then you are out. One way of curtailing the number of MPs. It also deals with the unpopular government hanging on.

      4. For those that don’t want to nominate an MP, then all it takes is for one MP to set up a website, where you can cast your vote, and everyone who wants it, has a direct say.

      This deals with the manifesto problem. MPs lying directly or by omission to get elected, and doing something they didn’t tell you about (the omission), or not doing something they promised.

      It also deals with another problem with manifestos. Having to vote for a package. If you don’t like part of a manifesto, tough, it will be implemented against your wishes. At least with referenda by proxy, you can try and get rid of it.

      It also legitimises decisions. The population is more likely to accept decisions if they have had a say. Look at Greece. They aren’t allowed a say. Same as the UK with the EU referenda. Same completely with the lords.

      So what are the costs? Voter registration is 100 million a year now. Say 20 million on top for registering your nominee.

      Savings per year, 130 million.

      Now, why are the Lords against? Yep, they lose their perks and allowances.

  4. Reuben
    07/11/2011 at 12:56 pm

    Lord Norton, I am an American reader of this blog (I’m actually an interested high school student). What exactly is an SI and how is it distinct from regular legislation?

    • Lord Blagger
      07/11/2011 at 3:42 pm

      It’s where the law is changed by dictate. No one gets to vote on it, ministers just say, now the law has changed.

      Ermächtigungsgesetz is the most famous example of this.


      The Lords were going to allow ministers to do this with any legislation.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      07/11/2011 at 8:16 pm

      Reuben: Acts of Parliament may confer on ministers the power to make orders to achieve particular decisions. These orders, generally referred to as constituting secondary legislation, take the form usually of what are known as Statutory Instruments.

      Important Statutory Instruments do not normally come into force until approved by a vote of both Houses (known as the affirmative resolution procedure) while some others come into force automatically unless a motion is introduced into either House to reject them and the motion is carried (known as the negative resolution procedure). As mentioned, when SIs have come before the Lords, the practice has been to approve them and not to vote them down.

  5. ladytizzy
    07/11/2011 at 2:38 pm

    Re SIs: excellent news, please implement plan immediately or at least start with anything to do with employment law; the UK can’t wait for ever for this gvt to light the promised fire.

    Also, maybe put an expiry date on all bits of Acts that haven’t been implemented within six months(?) of Royal Assent and remove them -they are SIs by stealth.

  6. maude elwes
    07/11/2011 at 5:14 pm

    @Lord Norton:

    I watched the video. And was hopeful that in truth more exposure to and interaction with the electorate was the genuine aim of the meeting.

    However, what has lingered in my mind was the body language and a certain feeling of tenseness came across which exposed a sense of reluctance there.

    As if they were being pulled by a ring through the nose to accede to such invasion of ‘their’ domain.

    However, I did like the story of the Baroness who had to admit her garden was inappropriate for selling tickets to. When others around were complaining of the practice for their own. That must have been a riot. Did they do the polite, ‘not quite our class, darling,’ after they realised her garden had bins you had to fight your way through to access it?

  7. MilesJSD
    08/11/2011 at 12:06 am

    Whilst a few here are putting forward positive elements for an improved, nay perhaps even longest-term sustainworthy paticipatorily-democratic Governance, the overwhelming majority of both Parliamentarians and People are de facto against such.

    Therefore my summary synopsis comes:
    Since it is more than ‘possible’ that The Earth and the Human-Race upon it are on a slippery-slope into Non-Renewable Resources Over-Destruction, and Living-Renewable Lifesupports Over-Extinction, the only sustainworthy course open to us Humans is that of Thrifty Striving (Thrival-through- Strival),
    which means a radical new Waste-Not-Want-Not paradigm-change beginning with Top-Governance Workers –
    the while remembering that the lowest income recipients are (thereby) already proportionately more sustain-worthy than are, and will-ever-be, higher & more-than-one-human-living income recipients.

    Therefore it is most urgent and absolutely important to be majorly establishing both people-upwards-e-sites, democratic participation, and inter-parliamentarian operationally secure e-channels and networks –
    not forgetting that far too many real-life lifesupports such as the rainforests are being irreversibly wasted upon such human-spirit-corruptions as the daily newspapers, when e-sites could do a better, cleaner, and far-less-costly job.

  8. Twm O'r Nant
    08/11/2011 at 8:04 am

    My pleasure at being introduced to Frances, Baroness D’Souza was only marred by discovering that the ticket I had bought from
    SWT was a “fake” ticket, ie a single ticket that went nowhere, or at least nowhere I wanted to be until the next 10 hours later, for a 2 1/2 hour journey, and having to sleep on Bournemouth station from 0200 until 0730.

    In the summer time this would only be refered to, as Sodom’s virginity,for young teenagers interested in electric trains, a deliberate ticket lure to be stranded at Bournemouth Station, while all other sensible mortals are asleep.

  9. Gar
    08/11/2011 at 12:55 pm

    Some interesting ideas from Blagger there!

    I get the impression that he does not have the time or inclination to refine his ideas sufficiently to “bring them to the birth” that Plato would like!

    Interesting none the less.

    I can’t quit see that proxy voting theory
    but I am sure I soon shall!

    I don’t know what it is about parliament and public transport but the speaker system on the train mentioned above, was calling Baroness Speaker by some very offensive names,and I had not been drinking any of my home brew cider on the way home either.

    I shall not be paying the £50 surcharge for
    Sodom’s Virginity nor the £1000 for the maximum fine. It is a civil matter, and National Express have solicited my business
    in the most courteous and gracious way.

    Baroness Speaker’s grace will remain intact.

  10. Lord Blagger
    08/11/2011 at 9:10 pm

    Looks like the lords are being priced out of the market for amendments for cash.

    MPs are undercutting the likes of Truscott with is 100K to change legislation.


  11. Twm O'r Nant
    10/11/2011 at 5:32 pm

    I should also like to know whether M&S Tesco,Sainsbury’s, Curry’s and any other consumer retail organization will now have the power to Taser their customers for short changing?

    I have always been under the impression that short changing is done by those proffering the change and not by those giving the money
    in the first place.

    There must be a case for DTI/ trading standard regs to be amended accordingly.

    I would be obliged for some feedback to the question.
    Approaching the Ombudsman is one obviously sensible way, whichever one that is.

  12. Frank W. Summers III
    10/11/2011 at 11:15 pm

    Lord Norton,
    That was an excellent panel discussion. I was interested to hear the audience member who most passionately defended the House of Lords who appeared to be of Northeast Asian extraction and I could not help wondering what experiences might be behind his ideas.

    These are indeed times when change is almost inevitable and I think the House of Lords being able express itself more forcefully is a modest change which may be useful…

  13. MilesJSD
    13/11/2011 at 1:58 am

    “The Lords and engagement” clearly seeks new rules-of-engagement
    (I am tempted to add ‘how to further sq

  14. MilesJSD
    13/11/2011 at 2:07 am

    ueeze one-way-upwards support from The People)

    but shall limit myself to asking (such as FWS III) whether the Lords needs to be “able” to express itself more forcefully, or needs-to-be-enabled (to so do) ?

    and much important supplementarily,
    whether the main-body needing participatory-democracy enablement is first and fortemost The People ?

  15. 15/11/2011 at 5:49 pm

    but shall limit myself to asking (such as FWS III) whether the Lords needs to be “able” to express itself more forcefully, or needs-to-be-enabled (to so do) ?

    Your concern perhaps motivated by your concern over constitutional capacity and my ability to understand the complexities as a foreigner certainly rings a bell. Let the bell sound I say, though I do not say it eye to eye – I do say it to you as you eye this text. Whether one feels that the House of the Lords need to be further enabled by statute or whether one feels they need to feel more able by means of adjusting to possibly changing conventions this in no way is to imply that the House of Lords is not a convention of the able nor that Commons is not a house of more than commonly able persons serving as Members of Parliament in that other organic member of the able body of the mostly able bodied and minded which is the continuing institutional convention which is the British Parliament at Westminster. Having made that clear as I am able let us go on.
    Under communication theory a bell is meant to be heard and not merely to ring. The work of my own countryman A. Bell was of course one of the great pioneering efforts in defining modern communications. However, the issues are ancient and go back even to Cain and Abel when Abel’s eloquent blood cried for vengeance and Cain conversing with God could not produce him but was only able to produce the protest “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Thus responsibility and ability have always been at issue in communication even as in these cases where apparatus developed by A. Bell cannot be used to communicate the message. So I am able to say that perhaps Lords have not been fully able to communicate their message lately.
    However, I would not have us focus too much on a few words and their form and meaning. In every bell there is a tongue or striker. In our shared tongue it is striking that enabling and “being able to” or not always so clear as a bell’s distinct tone in their tone of distinction. I recommend you consider the words of song by a belle named Bell who explores the relative definite quality of words here:
    In the tenth track, “Boyfriend” in which a girl or woman asks if she can call her boy or man her boyfriend or something else. I hope I am able to satisfy you in able rhetoric about the rhetoric of enable and able. If not then I am simply unable.

  16. Gareth Howell
    16/11/2011 at 11:22 am

    So much for milesian or summersian semantics.

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