How to enliven Lords reform

Guardians for future generations proposal: a new route to enlivening Lords reform


“Nick Clegg’s plans for a historic reform of the House of Lords are set to dominate the list of Bills [in the next Queen’s Speech], the Evening Standard tell us ( ).” At a time of frenzied media discussion of government plans to reform the House of Lords, ‘Guardians for future generations‘, a recent report by the ‘Green House’ think tank, may offer a refreshing insight into the potential for further constitutional reform. The report, authored by me and launched recently at the House of Commons, proposes the creation of strong ‘guardians’ to protect the needs of future generations. In order to achieve this, the ‘Guardians for future generations’ report suggests creating a ‘super-jury’, picked by chance (as juries are) from the population at large, charged with preserving the basic needs of future generations. This ‘super-jury’ could be part of the new reformed upper house (or alternatively could be placed above the upper house). 


Selecting some of the members of the reformed upper house in this way, by sortition, would reduce the controversy over the upper house being a rival to the House of Commons, if too many of its members are elected.


The Guardians’ central powers would be a veto over new legislation that would damage/ compromise the basic needs of future people, and a right to force a review of existing legislation that is already damaging their basic needs.


House of Lords reform needs a new impetus. It is flagging and facing implacable opposition. The proposal in this report – to make care for and representation of future people a central purpose of Lords reform – would dramatically enliven the process of reform of the upper House.


               The ‘Guardians’ report is available here:

          Further information about Green House think tank can be found at


Summary of report findings:


‘Democracy’ means ‘government by the people’; but who are ‘the people’?


Society exists over time and decisions taken today can have significant consequences for people yet to be born. This report argues that the interests of future generations should be formally represented within our existing parliamentary democracy. In other words: Future people should be included among ‘the people’.


Building on the precedent of Hungary‘s innovative office of Ombudsman for Future Generations, the report proposes the creation of a new legislative structure – Guardians of Future Generations. The members of this body would be selected by sortition, as is current practice for jury service, in order to ensure independence from present-day party political interests.


The Guardians would have a power of veto over legislation that was likely to have substantial negative effects for society in the future, and perhaps also the right to review major administrative decisions which substantially affected future people and the power to initiate legislation to preserve the basic needs and interests of future people.


The report argues that two facts make the proposal especially timely; first, the government’s intention to become ‘the greenest government ever’, contrasted with its closure of institutions designed to maintain our ecosystems for the future; second, the current process of radical constitutional reform (most notably, potential democratisation of the House of Lords).



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