As bad as one another…

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, appeared before the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in the Commons on Thursday.  On the issue of the House of Lords, he followed the line taken by Hilary Benn earlier in the week, arguing that it could be wholly elected but without it necessitating any change in its existing responsibilities.  The Guardian reported:

“The coalition’s planned elected second chamber will not seek or need extra powers, and wil remain a strictly revising chamber, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister has told the political and constitutional reform committee.”

How does one prevent an elected second chamber from seeking more powers?

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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11 Responses to As bad as one another…

  1. Dave H says:

    To me, if the second chamber is fully elected then it should have powers equal to the first. If a proposal for a fully-elected chamber is presented to the Lords then I hope they’d immediately vote to amend it to make sure that was the case.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Dave H: One could argue that an elected second chamber should not necessarily have equal powers, not least if the Government is not elected through the House, but it is difficult to argue that it should have the powers of the existing chamber. It would be quite legitimate for it to demand more powers than the existing House. The present House is limited by the provisions of the Parliament Act 1911, which was enacted precisely in order to ensure the capacity of the elected House to get its way over an unelected House. Elect the second House and the rationale for the Parliament Act disappears. At a mimimum, the existing conventions would disappear, as the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in the Commons recognised in its report earlier this week.

  2. ladytizzy says:

    First, do those who think along the lines of Messrs Benn and Clegg anticipate paying for an elected second House and second, what benefits do they perceive in keeping a bicameral legislature?

  3. franksummers3ba says:

    Lord Norton,

    Reduplication in the UK will be vastly more likely because the Houses have no reference to what federalist elements you have nor is HoL likely to become federal. So let us be clear:
    This is not only matter of electtions I gather. Rather, it is a matter of reelections as well by the general electorate in the capacity of general voters. This will fully involve itself in purelu partisan concerns as its primary occupation. I will say that honestly 20% of the aristocratic principle would be very distinct from zero percent. However, the UK will have to accept that it has moved far beyond the crowd towards unchecked acceptance of what is really a slender and fashionable trend in politics. Even in our degraded Senate, governors name replacements and Senators are well aware of State voters more than the House of Reps who vote in state boundaries. In addition confriming appointements is very important and keeps up a distinction but your cabinet is in parliament almost entirely and so this way of having the most federal body approve is doubly irrelevant. The Senators all are elected by an entire state and are part of a state team of two. I think it should be clear that the odds of something emerging that is as useful or functional even as what Canada, Germany, Australia much less the USA at its peak have developed would take a great deal of effort. I peronally think the HoL for all its imperfections is a great institution but leaving its quirks behind one cannot simply jump into someone else’s house. Quite likley one ends up on the street or in some lowly rental. Those proposing election must bear the onus of showing how a distinct character can be preserved….

    The onlu sensible way to elect the HoL would be to have slates qualifed in categories and have the elctorate choose among those listed who had been listed by undemocratic means. However, the result would be very distinct from either what seems to me to be proposed OR the status quo. I think it would be something as different from one as the other.

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      I see (despite losing the text before being finished) that there was language about a single term of membership equal to three parliaments. So it may be that reelections are not an issue after all. I would not have expected such term limiting and so seem to stand corrected there. I will of course check again if Carl H. does not clarify the matter (or someone else).

  4. Carl.H says:

    David Cameron said “In a modern democracy it is important that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those to whom those laws apply. The House of Lords performs its work well but lacks sufficient democratic authority” .

    Does the House actually MAKE the laws of the land ?

    • ladytizzy says:

      Parliament makes the laws and the Lords are part of Parliament, a part that is not elected. However, even if the Lords today were wholly elected, Bills still require royal assent…

      If you didn’t see today’s debate on the House of Lords Reform (draft Bill) try to find it on one of the catch-up mechanisms. An underwhelming performance from Mr Clegg who, believing the committee he chaired had found a round peg for a round hole, discovered that the rest of the Commons were quite happy with the existing square peg in a square hole. His lapses of logic and coherence were truly jaw-dropping.

      • Carl.H says:

        I thought Parliament passed the laws, the Lords scrutinised & revised but has no choice in the manufacturing process ?

        My whole take is that the executive alone decides what to make and the rest of Parliament and the Sovereign gives assent or not. The Parliament Act denotes that the Lords may not have any say in that process when used.

  5. ladytizzy says:

    The executive is not alone in ‘making’ laws although they will generally have their say in the over-arching process. For example, byelaws are a form of delegated authority under enabling legislation whereby your council may further interpret Acts by way of…yes, my bêtes noires, those Codes of Practice, Guidelines, and Regulations!! Similarly, the Courts endlessly engage in ‘interpreting’ laws to the point of ‘unintended consequences’.

  6. Carl.H says:

    If, as is my understanding of the draft, the Parliament Act is kept, would this not totally disenfranchise democratically elected politicians from any say on Bills ? As it stands Lords members are not allowed to vote in elections nor would they have any say under the above action, this is total disenfranchisement and possibly against their Human Rights.

    “The executive is not alone in ‘making’ laws”.

    This is a huge debate and brings into question what is or is not Government. Taking Lady Tizzy’s points one can say that the Lords will lose their American case previously debated here. How far does one go in stating someone has a hand in “making” laws ? Does the successful voter also fall into the catagory ? Certainly one could deem it so if it were a manifesto bill.

    Does everything have to be democratically popular to be legitimate ?
    We know for certain Governments don’t and cannot act in this manner. Present cuts proving this point. So could one say the present Government has no legitimacy at this present moment in time ? Certainly this gives the Lib-Dems and Nick Clegg in particular absolutely no legitimacy.

    Why the difference in terms of Office ?

    5 years for an MP but 15 years proposed for a member of the HoL. Both having the power to vote against or alter bills why the smaller number of years accountability for MP’s ? Infact why two Houses if they are both to be accountable and democratically elected in a ballot of popularity not of ability, knowledge and judgement ? Surely both will be equal except the longer term of office, less accountability, and the fact the Lords Human Rights maybe affected if the Parliament Act is used.

    In terms of enlightened thinking, judgement, the good of the people and country the draft bill shows the very real difference between a top politician, Nick Clegg Deputy Prime Minister and members of the House of Lords. The question appears to be ” Should the lunatics take over the running of the asylum ?”

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      Carl H.,

      On the last, pehaps it depends on the context. Frederick Law Olmstead who designed New York’s Central Park and over 500 among the greatest green or public spaces in the USA had a very sad life. Finally very depressed he was admitted to a well-regarded insane asylum the grounds of which he had designed. Already very depressed he may have been driven to an early grave by their failure to properly execute his plans for the patients lawns. I suppose I wish he had been running that part of the asylum. But there are lunatics and there are lunatics …

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