Posts Tagged ‘Phil Hunt’

Flawed bill, floored coalition

11/07/2012, 11:03:15 AM

by Phil Hunt

Lords reform faces a hugely uncertain future with the failure of the Coalition government to even put its timetable motion to the vote in the House of Commons last night. The humiliating climb down was a sight to behold. As the Coalition partners slugged it out over a long two day debate, it became abundantly clear that a mass of Tory MPs would not support the Bill. Equally clear during the debate, was the catastrophic failure by Nick Clegg to produce a coherent piece of legislation.

Whatever the controversies over whether the second chamber should be 80% or 100% elected, once only terms of 15 years or the place of bishops, the focus of most MPs was on the powers of an elected Lords. And the lack of any convincing argument from Ministers as to how legislative gridlock was to be avoided between two elected chambers was rapidly exposed.

Potentially, the House of Lords has a lot of muscle. The pre-legislative scrutiny undertaken by the Joint Select Committee it reported back: “if the Lords chose to use its powers, it would be one of the most powerful second chambers in the world”. Yet it hasn’t done this for many years, precisely because its current members know they lack democratic legitimacy. Conventions have developed to help Peers exercise a voluntary constraint. An all or mostly elected chamber will give short shrift to that.

One of the more fanciable claims made by the government about its Lords Reform Bill was that Mr Clegg had dealt with the fear of many MPs that Commons primacy would be challenged by an elected second chamber. In fact, all the Bill does is to say that the Parliament Acts will apply. Without the conventions however, there will be little to hold back a confident and assertive House.


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