The West Lothian Question

With the probability of Gordon Brown becoming UK Prime Minister, the West Lothian Question is returning to the political governance agenda.

This prompted an idea.  Assuming the UK wants to stay as a single country, I suggest the following.

House of Commons becomes English Parliament which continues to be elected on a “First past the post” system. House of Lords becomes UK “Senate” elected on a “single transferable vote” basis. Division of responsibilities between the two is based around the current Scottish devolution model. I’m relatively comfortable with the electoral systems other way round i.e. “first past post” for “Senate”, but I think that it is important to have both a single representative at a geographic level and the overall balance of public opinion represented. Using the two systems automatically creates a check / balance.

To remove a layer of politicians/ government/ bureaucracy, given that a new one would be created, it might make sense to move to unitary local authorities sooner rather than later. There is a drift towards this already.

When New Zealand changed to a unicameral (single chamber) system of government, which this would be in effect, they also moved to fixed, and shorter, parliamentary terms at the same time to improve accountability.

One other issue that this raises is what happens to the House of Lords role as the highest court of appeal in the UK. This has been diminished to some extent by the European Court and creating a separate court of final instance has been on the cards for years.

A by product of this is that it solves the “what to do with the Lords” issue as well.

This is of course assuming that the UK wants to stay as one country and begs the question “What is the purpose of the UK?”

The West Lothian Question
Category : Governance