An Elected Upper Chamber of the Devolved Nations and English Regions

30th January 2023

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Britain’s sufferance of an unelected House of Lords has expired. Reforms have been promised since 1911, but now Sir Keir Starmer has declared an incoming Labour government, as a manifesto commitment, will transform the Lords into an elected Assembly of the Nations and Regions.

The need for major constitutional changes are being forced by deep cuts to local government and the lack of any credible policy to close the yawning gaps in regional income and wealth. Also, with Scotland leading the way, the devolved nations threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Democratizing the Upper Chamber is not sufficient by itself. It requires explicit competencies and legislative powers as well as an electoral franchise consistent with its redefined purpose.

Based on a proposal by Andrew Black and Sam Whimster (Regionalizing Democracy in the United Kingdom – The Case for an Upper House of the Nations and Regions), the four speakers outlined their views. What are the English regions, should they have devolved powers and assemblies, on what electoral basis should they be represented in an Upper Chamber, would democratised regions be equivalent to the devolved nations, and what powers should the Upper House have to challenge the Executive and the sovereignty of the House of Commons? What lessons can be learned from other democracies?

Dr Andrew Black
Managing Director of Digit Ltd (financial consultancy firm), Senior Research Fellow at Brunel Business School, Senior Research Fellow at Global Policy Institute. He worked for many years in Germany, both in finance and academia.

Frances Foley
Deputy Director of Compass. Previously Project Director on the campaign for a UK Constitutional Convention. Author of recent Compass report on German decentralisation and “the great transformation”.

Cllr Simon Henig
Leader of Durham County Council 2008-2021, Chair of the Association of Labour Councillors. Member of Commission on the UK’s Future, chaired by Gordon Brown.

Professor Sam Whimster
Deputy Director of the Global Policy Institute, member of the Academy of the Social Sciences. Editor of international journal Max Weber Studies.