We seem to be going through a phase where people write to The Times detailing their pet schemes for the composition of the House of Lords. We are told that members should be appointed on the basis of nomination by professional bodies, or that some should be elected by this body or for that length of term, and so on.
There are two problems with the correspondence.
First, some of the correspondents seem unaware of the existing composition of the House and propose schemes that would produce basically the existing House, but without the flexibility and recognition of appointment on individual merit.
Secondly, and more pervasively, the correspondents ignore the essential starting point. Anybody can come up with ideas for how the House should be composed – it doesn’t exactly require much use of the grey cells. What is crucial is to start from first principles. That is, to determine what we expect of Parliament in our political system and therefore the role and relationship of the two Houses and their relationship to the other elements of our political system. Once we know what we expect of the second chamber as an integral part of our constitutional arrangements, then and only then can we start to determine the composition best suited to the fulfilment of that role.