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OPINION: Knight’s Days - Life at Westminster with Sir Greg Knight MP

The House of Lords is examining the EU Withdrawal Bill.
The House of Lords is examining the EU Withdrawal Bill.

As the House of Lords starts its work examining the EU Withdrawal Bill, they have a dilemma which they should not have.

The British public voted by a clear majority to leave the European Union in the national referendum in 2016 and now Parliament is seeking to put into effect those wishes.

Sir Greg Knight MP.

Sir Greg Knight MP.

However, it appears that many members of the House of Lords support the UK remaining within the European Union and some of them are going to use the opportunity now before them to try to thwart Brexit.

If they do, it will be seen as a case of ‘the peers against the people’.

No doubt some sections of the press will express outrage that an unelected Parliamentary chamber should seek to thwart the wishes of the electorate.

This in effect, sums up the problem with our constitution.

The fact that the Lords is unelected means that it is criticised when it votes against the wishes of the elected House of Commons.

Whilst I support the result of the EU referendum, I do want to see a House of Lords that is robust and effective and that is why I, along with the late Robin Cook and others, voted to introduce an elected element into our Upper Parliamentary chamber.

Only by the Lords being composed of a majority of elected politicians, can it regain its legitimacy.

Of course, the answer from some is to say ‘abolish the Lords’ but this is not satisfactory either because this could leave a House of Commons where one party had a big majority totally in the hands of the Prime Minister of the day, who could de-select any dissident voices.

We need balances and checks in our system to enable opinions which do not accord with the Government of the day to be expressed and to sometimes to be able to force that Government to think again.

That is why I backed House of Lords reform taking place and I still do. It is a matter of disappointment that it is not to be seen anywhere on the Government’s agenda.

Of course, at present there are more important things to consider, but that statement can always be made, whatever the economic weather.

My fear is that if we do not reform the Lords and bring it into the 21st Century, then it will always be at risk of abolition.

This is unfinished Parliamentary business that needs to be addressed.