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PUBLIC LAW - Essay Example

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The call for reforms in the House of Lords (the "Lords") has always provoked intense debate and policy initiatives that spans for over 100 years. The paper outlines some of the proposals with a set of principles underlying the process: the primacy of the House of Commons (the "Commons"), complementarity, legitimacy, no dominant party, a non party-political element, diverse representation, and continuity…
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Download file to see previous pages... While the primacy of the Commons was originally derived from its electoral mandate, it continuing relevance is furthered by its functions and roles. The Government cannot govern without the support of the Commons because it has final say on legislation. As the Royal Commission chaired by Lord Wakeham emphasised, "The House of Commons, as the principal political forum, should have the final say in respect of all major public policy issues" and "it would be wrong to restore the fully bicameral nature of the pre-1911 Parliament."3 The primary role played by the Commons rests on several factors. First, its mandate as the direct representatives of the people means that it has greater democratic legitimacy than the Lords. The Commons' power to grant or withhold supply (public expenditure) is the source of its ability to uphold or dismiss the Government. Without the Commons' consent, the Government cannot function because the Commons approves expenditure. It is thus undesirable for the reformed Lords to undermine this primacy. Changes in the Lords composition might lead to this undesirable outcome.4 The Lords cannot have the same power of public expenditure because there must only be a single route through which the Government secures its authority to govern. The Lords should have less power over the Government although it can ask the Government to reconsider a proposal without questioning the Government's authority. The primacy of the Commons is enshrined in the Parliament Acts, which limit the power of the Lords to veto legislative proposals, contain specific provisions relating to Bills on national taxation, public money or loans or their management. In a dispute between the two chambers on primary legislation, the Commons is supreme.
The Lords should neither be a rival nor a mirror of the Commons. The Lords should not also be a rubber stamp of the Government's proposals. The primary function of a second chamber is the scrutiny of proposed legislation to provide a second opinion. In order to secure the highest possible quality of legislation, a government must provide this second opinion. A second chamber is the appropriate unit to provide such second opinion as it has additional advantages in terms of the other functions, such as, examining and checking the effectiveness of the executive through questions and committees, being a forum for debate, and a representative of different interests5. In addition, the Lords complements the Commons, having a different kind of membership and providing a distinct voice in scrutinising legislation. To ensure this complementary role, no party in the Lords should have a majority of either the party-political members of the House or the House as a whole. At least 20% of the Lords should be non party-political appointments with a diverse experience. The Lords has traditionally provided a complementary function to the Commons through its composition considering the large portion of non party-political members, and the fact that its members sit as individuals rather than representing a constituency. Our political system is built around the idea of a complementary second chamber.
If the Lords is to be partly or fully elected, it maybe possible that independent candidates would be elected increasing the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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