The House of Lords Introduction: The United Kingdom Parliament is composed of two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Both houses are independent of each other. Although they often clash in principles they complement each other in the process of law-making…
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By the 13th century, composition of the King’s council was expanded to include representatives from the different counties, cities and boroughs of the Kingdom.12 In 1295, Edward I established the first formal parliament.3 In the 14th century, the parliament was divided into two distinct houses. The representatives of shires and boroughs made up the House of Commons while the religious leaders, magnates and feudal landowners made up the House of Lords.4 The membership of the House of Lords is further divided into the Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal. The former is composed of Bishops and ranking churchmen while the latter is composed of Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and Barons whose seats in the upper house are hereditary. 5 From the time the House of Lords was organized, it had been subjected to constant calls for reforms. Its composition and powers have changed overtime; it even survived abolition and managed to resurrect itself into the realm of the British governmental structure. By the end of the 19th century, the Lords had equal powers to the House of Commons with regard to the passage of public and private legislations. The only exception is the “Commons financial privilege” which gives the lower house total control with regard to initiating bills that grant aids to impose charges on the citizens.6 However, it was in the 20th century when the Upper House saw a great number of moves to institutionalize reforms, most of which were initiated from the House of Commons. Legislations were introduced to reform the composition of the Lords especially on the matter of hereditary peers. Reforms on the Lords’ powers are also constantly proposed especially on the abolition of its powers to delay legislations introduced by the House of Commons. Within the span of 88 years, there were five legislations that made significant changes in the composition and powers of the House of Lords, namely, the Parliament Act of 1911, The Parliament Act of 1949, the Life Peerages Act of 1958, the Peerage Act of 1963 and the House of Lords Act of 1999. The Parliament Act of 1911 Prompted by the Lords’ enormous powers when the Upper House rejected the Lloyd George’s budget by a landslide vote in 1909, the House of Commons sprang into action and introduced bills and resolutions that aim to limit the powers of the Lords. After much debate in both chambers, the Parliament Act was finally enacted into law in August 1911.7 The Parliament Act of 1911 instituted limitations on the powers of the Lords, especially its power to delay or reject bills it does not like. Firstly, Money Bills which have been certified by the Speaker as such shall receive Royal Assent even without the consent of the Second Chamber.8 Money bills are legislations on taxation and government spending where the Lords do not have any veto power.9 When the Commons transmit to the House of Lords a money bill, it shall receive Royal Assent if a month had passed and the Lords had not acted on it. Secondly, Parliamentary Act of 1911 virtually eliminated the Lord’s power to perpetually delay and archive legislations passed by the House of Commons. One of its salient features is the provision which makes public bills into an Act of Parliament, with or without the consent of the House of Lords. When a bill is passed by the lower house in three consecutive sessions and with an interval
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