Hot issue: Should the sector be allowed to nominate peers?

An internal Labour Party discussion document, leaked to the press, has suggested that voluntary organisations, faith groups and professional bodies, including the TUC, should make nominations for the House of Lords.

YES - Alex Markham, chief executive, Cancer Research UK

As one of the options to be considered in the process of moving towards further reform of the House of Lords, I support the proposal for voluntary organisations to be able to nominate new members.

Charities represent many aspects of society - from welfare to science and the environment - and have lots to offer, reflecting the diversity of British culture today. They are in contact every day with people who would make a valuable contribution to the House of Lords, be they volunteers or leaders in their field.

Recruitment of peers from the voluntary sector would help increase diversity within the House of Lords.

This would bring invaluable new perspectives to policy-making and ensure that the legislative process is more representative of modern British society.

NO - Lord Strathclyde, Conservative spokesman on constitutional affairs in the House of Lords

The third sector can already nominate peers through the appointments commission chaired by Lord Stevenson. This debate on composition hides Labour's real plans, which are to create a second chamber with fewer powers, less influence or independence, unable to fulfil its primary role to scrutinise and improve our laws and stand up for our nation's constitutional freedoms and liberties.

The average age of the members of the House of Lords is already well over 65, and Tony Blair has appointed 70 per cent of the Labour Party in the Lords - he has created more peers more quickly than any Prime Minister before him.

I believe it is time for the people to decide who should become peers (or senators). That's why I support direct elections for the political house (excluding crossbenchers, who should remain appointed).

Selection by other bodies is simply nomination by another name. Elections serve other countries well; if you don't like the present system, then trust the people, and give us all a say.

NO - Peter Facey, co-ordinator, Elect the Lords Campaign, co-director, Charter 88

Charter 88 and the Elect the Lords campaign believe that democracy requires the active consent of the people. Although we accept that a minority of seats in the second chamber could be appointed, we believe this should only be the case in order to include voices that could not otherwise be heard.

The idea that charities and not-for-profit organisations should be represented in the Lords is understandably attractive to the sector, but this is not an alternative to democratic representation. Simply replacing appointment by political leaders with appointment by the leaders of NGOs would not constitute progress.

Organisations can currently nominate people to the independent appointments commission. This could be formalised so that the commission would actively seek nominations, but the only sure way to ensure the diverse interests of the sector are represented is through an open and democratic process.

Going beyond this and guaranteeing the sector a set number of seats would open a Pandora's box of questions. How would they be apportioned? Who would select them? The voluntary sector is highly diverse, and any attempt to select a few individuals to represent it is doomed to fail.

YES - Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive, Turning Point

Members of the voluntary sector can nominate people now. The challenge for a nominated individual is to fill in an application form, be asked to an interview and, as a result, be offered a peerage - and that's exactly the process I undertook.

The second issue is about the voluntary sector influencing the Government and having power to create and amend legislation.

The sector needs to think about how it can better influence the Government and legislation. For example, the health and social care sector needs a trade body that can represent itself to ministers.

The voluntary sector needs to be smarter, clearer and more coherent.

It needs to present good ideas in efficient and effective ways. When we speak with one voice, then we will have the power and influence to help the people for whom we work.

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