.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Another desperate throw of the dice

Today's Guardian tells us that Tony Blair intends to move to curb the powers of the House of Lords to wreck his government's legislation programme after a series of bitter clashes between the Commons and the unelected house over terrorism laws, ID cards and hunting.

In doing so he has rejected a deal negotiated by Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, to balance changes in the powers of Lords with plans for a newly elected House. Instead, he wants to end a century-old agreement that, imperfect as it is, has prevented the abuse of power through rational argument and the force of debate.

I would favour bringing some democratic accountability to the process by introducing elections to a second chamber, but there have to be checks and balances in the system that prevent a Prime Minister, who can only command the support of 21% of the electorate, from abusing his majority in the House of Commons.

If Blair gets his way he will have established himself as an elected dictator, subject only to the will of his own party. What will be next? The electoral process itself?


If the House of Lords were elected, surely the whole basis of the Parliament Acts 1911, 1949 would disappear and so should the Act.
Yes, and an elected second chamber would have genuine legitimacy in revising legislation and blocking measures that were not contained in the Government's manifesto. It is the proposal to abolish that function that I object to as it would leave the Prime Minister with unchecked power.
Gavin hits the nail on the head. The dilemma for an elected Lords with equal - if not greater if it were elected via some form of PR - legitimacy to the Commons is that the two Houses might come under the control of different parties resulting in legislative gridlock. Let us remember why the Act came about - as a consequense of the Tory Lords repeated refusal to pass the 'People's Budget' Finance Bill. This is not something which fits terribly easily with Britain's system. The 1911 Parliament Act was a classically British piece of legislation (preserving the form whilst stripping away the essential powers) which had become inevitable with a more or less democratic franchise and the development of disciplined political parties.

However the HoL is reformed, my view is that primary responsibility for supply must be retained by the Commons. This would be consistent with the tradition that the Party that controls the Commons automatically forms the government. Otherwise in a situation of split control of the two Houses where both enjoy democratic legitimacy there would be no obvious way of determing who Her Majesty should invite to form her government and all sorts of horrible constitutional dilemmas would result.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?