segunda-feira, fevereiro 12, 2007

Nova reforma da Câmara dos Lordes

Da The Economist.

When pondering what a representative democracy should look like, one option the authors of America's Federalist Papers never entertained was to give eminent crime-writers a say in shaping the nation's laws. Yet that is what Britain's constitution currently allows: Ruth Rendell, creator of Chief Inspector Wexford, and P.D. James, who dreamt up Commander Adam Dalgliesh, are both members of the House of Lords.

The place is not short of such quirks. Since there is no formal way of calling speakers, the chamber decides collectively who should take precedence, by hollering. And whereas in most bicameral systems the upper house has fewer members than the lower, the Lords outnumber the Commons by 746 members to 639. Many seldom show up.

Yet for all that, the House of Lords is currently working better than it has for a long time. On February 5th it inflicted another defeat on the government, over a bill to hold managers responsible for deaths at work. The Home Office wanted an exemption for those who die in police custody or in prison; the Lords said no. Since a newish Labour government reformed the house in 1999, removing most of the (mainly Conservative) tweed-clad hereditary peers and leaving the appointed life peers in command, the assorted businessmen, scientists, party hacks and lawyers in the Lords have defeated the government more than 350 times.
They do a better job of scrutinising laws than MPs, debate more interesting subjects (on inheritance tax last week, on Chinese investment in Africa this week) and often produce better reports.

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