House of Lords reform debate refers to Leicester law scholar

Posted by pt91 at Jul 16, 2012 04:23 PM |
Work by University of Leicester academic mentioned in House of Commons Debate
House of Lords reform debate refers to Leicester law scholar

Dr Paul Paul Behrens of the School of Law.

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 16 July 2012

An academic of the University of Leicester was one of very few constitutional scholars mentioned in the recent House of Commons Debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill.

Work by Dr Paul Behrens from the School of Law was mentioned in the House of Commons on 9 July by Mr Ian Lucas MP, formerly Under-Secretary of State for Business and Regulatory Reform.

Mr Lucas referred to the fact that a purely mathematical approach to the allocation of seats in the House of Lords did not take into account the different nations of the UK and explained that that point had been “well made by Dr Paul Behrens of the University of Leicester, who refers to the very different approaches taken in the United States and German constitutions.”

On the same day, Dr Behrens discussed the Bill in an article published by the Belfast Telegraph. He drew particular attention to the fact that the new House of Lords was hailed as a chamber with “regional representation”, but that it fell short of the aims of true regionalism.

Dr Behrens, who teaches international law, said “This is a deeply flawed Bill. A regional chamber is a promising idea – but this Bill does not provide for one.”

Dr Behrens noted that the allocation of seats was weighted considerably in favour of England. The Bill envisages three elections before the House would reach its full strength. At each of these elections, Scotland will get 10 peers, Wales 6 and Northern Ireland 3, whereas England will get 101. It would take the combined power of Northern Ireland, Scotland and four Welsh peers just to outvote the South East of England.

In his article, Dr Behrens drew the comparison to the German Federal Council, in which the 16 States of Germany are represented. Each State is given a minimum of 3 seats, and States whose population has reached a particular size (2m, 6m and 7m respectively) are given additional seats. The maximum number of seats a State can have, is 6.

“A formula along similar lines might be feasible in the United Kingdom as well,” said Dr Behrens. “It does not remove all disparity – England, the most populous nation within the UK, will probably still be underrepresented, and Northern Ireland overrepresented. But it might be a workable compromise.”

The reference to Dr Behrens is recorded in Hansard here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120709/debtext/120709-0004.htm#12070945000161

Notes to editors:

For further information, please contact Dr Paul Behrens on pk124@le.ac.uk

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