Mention the word ‘Parliament’ and most people think of the House of Commons, but the Commons is only one half of the equation.
In the UK, we have a bi-cameral system, comprising two Houses of Parliament: the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Anyone seeking to change the law needs to first obtain the approval of both Houses, following which the Queen’s signature is needed and then the newly approved proposal becomes law.
There are certain occasions when the consent of the House of Lords is not necessary, provided the House of Commons votes again on the measure. This power, under the Parliament Act, allows the elected House of Commons to override the House of Lords and was introduced in the last Century to deal with the ‘democratic deficit’ – namely, that the House of Lords is not an elected chamber.
Some people argue that the fact that the House of Lords is unelected is part of its strength, that its members are able to view an issue dispassionately and are not always looking over their shoulder pondering what the electorate might think.
That argument does not cut much ice.
The fact that the House of Lords is not elected is undoubtedly its huge weakness, often causing Peers to hold back from defeating a measure for fear of upsetting the elected House of Commons.
A few politicians take the view ‘if it’s not broken don’t fix it’ and are happy for the House of Lords to remain as it is, as works, even on a ‘sort of’ basis.
On this issue I am with the radicals. I believe that reform of the House of Lords is long overdue and that we do need to introduce an elected element if it is to survive.
I have no issue with having a minority nominated element, but do believe the vast majority of Members of the Upper House should face election.
Only by doing this, can we give the House of Lords more power to rebalance our lopsided parliamentary system.
The Government say they have no current plans to reform the House of Lords, but if that unelected House decides to try to thwart the will of the British people over our upcoming exit from the EU, then this scenario may change.