I have been doing more work on the House of Lords Reform Bill and the Government’s proposals. I have drawn up a list of problems deriving from them. There isn’t space to reproduce them all here – it’s a long list. I thought I would identify one or two which may be of interest.
The Government’s proposals are incoherent even in their own terms. According to the Government, those who ‘make the law’ should be elected. The Impact Assessment asserts: “An elected House of Lords will create a second chamber that has democratic legitimacy while maintaining an element of independent expertise through the appointment of 20% of its members by the Independent House of Lords Appointments Commission.” In other words, not all those who ‘make the laws’ will be elected. There is no explanation of how ‘democratic legitimacy’ will somehow waft over the members who are not elected.
The Government wish to keep the relationship between the two Houses as it presently exists. It sought to do so through Clause 2 of the original Bill. That was rejected unanimously by the Joint Committee. The new Clause 2 states that the Parliament Acts will continue to apply. There is no mechanism included for dispute resolution between the two Houses, nothing to prevent the second chamber using to full the existing powers, or to stop it demanding more. Asserting the primacy of the Commons through the Parliament Acts does not prevent the relationship changing between the two Houses, especially given the new House will, on the Government’s own argument, enjoy democratic legitimacy.
Stating that the Parliament Acts remain in place does nothing to address the fact that there is no rationale for them remaining in place. The preamble to the 1911 Parliament Act recognised that a House constituted on a more popular basis would need to have its powers and functions re-examined. This Bill repeals the preamble to the 1911 Act. As a preamble has no legal force, the reason for repealing it appears to be to hide the Government’s failure to acknowledge that an elected second chamber cannot continue on the same basis as an unelected chamber.