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"The present make up and powers of the House of Lords are unsatisfactory and must be thoroughly re-assessed." Discuss.

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Introduction

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW SEMINAR # 4 "The present make up and powers of the House of Lords are unsatisfactory and must be thoroughly re-assessed." Discuss The UK legislature is bicameral, that is, consisting of two chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Until 1999, the House of Lords was the largest legislative body in the world, comprising - in theory - about 1200 members. Many of these members were holders of hereditary peerages - the result of honours conferred by kings on their ancestors. Complaints arose that the House was not a representative of the electorate and that it was a hazard to democracy which paved way for proposals for its reform in the 19th century. The House of Lords, till 1911 had the privilege of having co-equal powers with the House of Commons in passing any legislation except money bills which they could not reject as per a 500 year old convention. In 1907 the Government proposed measures to limit the power of the Lords, which they responded by vetoing the 1909 Finance Bill. This was a particularly confrontational step; as the Lords had breached the convention of not interfering with money Bills. Even after two general elections in 1910 had returned the same Government to power, the Lords were not prepared to accept the proposed limitation on its powers. ...read more.

Middle

The Salisbury Doctrine has been one major influence in keep the House alive, the Salisbury convention states that the House of Lords will not delay any legislation if it feels that the mandate of the electorate is with the Commons, therefore as a safeguard the House of Lords sits as a supervisory body to see that the government follows all the policies it had laid down in its manifesto. The White Paper of 1968 outlined the functions of the reformed House of Lords which were interalia to primarily provide a form for debate on matter of public interest, to scrutinize and revise Bills from the Commons, to preside over the matter of delegated legislation, scrutinize the executive and most importantly serve as the highest court (of appeal) in the land. The Wakeham Commission's report in 2001 proposed for reforms stating that the Upper House should consist of a mixture of both elected and nominated members of which 120 members should be elected and 400 should be appointed and advocated for the removal of the 92 hereditary peers remaining from the 1958 Peerage Act. The overall powers of the House were to remain largely unchanged. The labour government was in power with an extensive majority and it seemed as if the reforms that they had been hoping for would finally materialize but once again, things did not go according to plan. ...read more.

Conclusion

The inherent system of checks and balances of the democratic setup would be wiped out as the government in power could easily pass any arbitrary legislation they wanted as they needed only the support of the Commons, who were of course their own party members, to approve any Bills.. Till today, major proposals for reforms have come and gone. Some have achieved due success while most have miserably failed, the structure and functions of the House of Lords remains a complex issue yet to be fully solved. The problem is not insurmountable but possesses hurdles. A written constitution and a constitutional court as in the USA would go a long way towards limiting the functioning of the Commons but then the UK's unique feature is its unwritten constitution and the sovereignty of its Parliament; as a result no court of the land could question the validity of any legislation. Therefore, an internal system of checks and balances is essential to scrutinize the passing of any undesirable and arbitrary legislation. The second chamber as it stands today is merely a puppet; it needs thorough reforms in its composition and the extent of its powers. Of the various reforms that have been proposed for the upper chamber, all have been met with sufficient hindrance from either the Lords or the electorate and nothing concrete is yet to be envisaged as to the configuration of the duly awaited re-vamped version of the House of Lords. . IBAAD LARI GROUP 4 1 ...read more.

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