Monday, May 08, 2006

Are the Lords Next on Government's Hit-List?

Having backed down from their dubious Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, expect the Government to seek other ways to augment its power base.


For example, consider Gordon Brown’s recent intention to ‘reform’ the House of Lords. The Parliament Act of 1949 (a dubious piece of secondary legislation) makes it possible for the House of Commons to prevail when there is disagreement with the Lords. Nevertheless, the Upper Chamber (House of Lords) still occupies a crucial function in checking the power of the ruling Government. This is because the Lords are able to scrutinize legislation without the time restraints the Government places upon the Commons. Also, because no party holds an overall majority in the Upper Chamber, the ruling Government is unable to control this House as they can the Commons. Further, because the Lords are unelected, they are less easily swayed by the demands of mercantilism and party politics.


Given that the Upper Chamber plays an invaluable role in sustaining democracy and balancing the weight of power, it is not surprising to find the Lords next on the Government’s hit list. In an article on 27th February, the Brown expressed intentions to continue ‘long-term Lords reform’ based ‘on the primacy of the Commons and enhanced accountability of the second chamber.’ As the Commons already enjoys primacy, Brown may be hinting at intentions to finish the radical and irresponsible reforms begun in Labour’s first term of office when they removed the rights of 662 hereditary peers.
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