The final legislative business of the House of Lords last Thursday, prior to prorogation, was Royal Assent to several Bills. These included what is now the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act. This gives the House the power to expel members and also to extend the power of the House to suspend members. It constitutes the second success of those of us who have been pressing for some years to achieve practical reform of the House. The first was enactment last year of the House of Lords Reform Act. This provides for the expulsion of members convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twelve months or more, thus bringing us into line with the House of Commons. It also provides that peers who fail to attend for a whole session (lasting six months or more) cease to be members. This will take effect in the new Parliament. The other principal provision is to enable peers to retire from the House. This has already started to be employed. Peers who give notice of their intention to retire are able to give valedictory speeches. Lord Jenkin of Roding made use of this facility, making a much admired speech, achieving an unprecedented round of applause. In addition to those who have already retired, such as Lords Grenfell and Cobbold, the session ended with eleven peers listed as having given notice of their intention to retire. They include Lord Joffe (who pioneered the Assisted Dying Bill), Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and Lord Eden of Winton. More peers are expected to be created at the start of the new Parliament, adding to what is already a very large House. It is important to recognise that there is at least some movement in the other direction.
I mentioned in my previous post that my next publication to appear in print is my co-authored chapter on Parliament and the constitution. However, it is not my next publication to appear. As regular readers, will be aware, I have variously posted comments on the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. I have also written two articles on the subject. One has already appeared in print: ‘From Flexible to Semi-Fixed: the Fixed-term Parliaments Act’, in a new legal journal, JICL: Journal of International and Comparative Law, vol. 1 (2), Dec. 2014, pp. 203-20. That looks at the arguments for introducing fixed-term parliaments and the passage of the Act. My next, ‘The Fixed-term Parliaments Act and Votes of Confidence’, is to appear in Parliamentary Affairs. It will be some time before it appears in a print edition of the journal, but will be available online shortly. The title is self-explanatory. It examines the impact of the Act on the convention that previously governed how the House of Commons could express its lack of confidence in the Government, how that changed during the passage of the Bill, and the consequences of the Act for the powers of the Prime Minister. The focus has tended to be on the capacity of the PM to trigger an opportunistic election. However, it also has a significant impact on the Prime Minister’s ability to affect parliamentary behaviour.
I shall do another post once the article is available.
UPDATE: The article is now available here.
My next publication in print will be a chapter, co-authored with Louise Thompson, on Parliament and the Constitution, which is to appear in Matt Beech and Simon Lee (eds), The Conservative-Liberal Coalition: Examining the Cameron-Clegg Government. The book is being published next month by Palgrave Macmillan.
Given that the two parties to the coalition embrace notably different ideological views of the constitution, the measures embodied in the section on ‘political reform’ in the Coalition Agreement created the basis for notable tensions. In the chapter, we address key issues giving rise to conflict, within or across the coalition partners. We do so under the headings of compromises, concessions and unplanned reforms.
Again, I trust that has whetted your appetite. The book is published in paperback. Get ready to rush to your bookseller….
I have a number of articles and chapters now in the process of being published. I have already drawn attention to my chapter on the oratory of Enoch Powell. Another chapter is on the Conservative Party during the period of coalition. It is being published in The Coalition Effect 2010-2015, edited by Anthony Seldon and Mike Finn, and published today by Cambridge University Press.
My opening short paragraph: ‘The effect on the Conservative Party of being in a coalition government from May 2010 onwards was profound. It challenged the essence of the party’s approach to government. It did so in two respects.’
Hope that’s whetted your appetite. The book is a substantial one and is available in paperback.
My paper on the oratory of Enoch Powell has now been published in the volume Conservative orators from Baldwin to Cameron, edited by Richard Hayton and Andrew S. Crines. In the chapter, I utilise the three modes that form the basis of the book: ethos, pathos and logos. Powell’s oratory was not characterised, as many believed, by pathos – of appealing to the emotions – but rather defined by ethos (appealing to character) and logos (appealing to logic). I address the impact he had, which may have been substantial in terms of mobilising support, but limited in terms of affecting policy outcomes. In the concluding paragraph, I quote Roy Lewis: ‘The principles and passion that made Powell a force in politics unmade his career as a man of office and power’. The book is published by Manchester University Press at, I fear, the princely sum of £75.
I have just been reading the article, ‘Who governs Britain?’ by Simon Heffer in the latest issue of The New Statesman. He falls into the category of those who get wrong the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. He thinks that if a Cameron Government faced a new Parliament, lost the vote on the Queen’s Speech and then resigned, Ed Miliband would have 14 days in which to get a Queen’s Speech through, otherwise there would be another election. Er, no. The Government would have to be defeated on the motion ‘That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government’. No other wording counts. Only if defeated on that motion, and that motion alone, is the 14-day provision triggered, within which a new government has to be formed and gain a vote of confidence from the House or else an election takes place. The resignation of a government does not trigger the 14-day provision. It leaves open the potential for negotiations which are not time limited – indeed, they could go on and on and on…