Power of British upper chamber should be reduced: review

17th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

The power of the House of Lords, Britain's upper house of parliament, should be scaled back to let the lower house to have a "decisive role" in legislating, a review commissioned by the government found on Thursday.

It comes after the House of Lords, where the ruling Conservative party does not have a majority, infuriated the government of Prime Minister David Cameron by blocking a plan to cut state support for the low paid in October.

The report recommended that the House of Lords be stripped of the power to veto so-called secondary legislation -- laws that are not passed as an act of parliament, and touch for instance on administrative or regulatory matters.

Instead, the unelected chamber of 822 religious figures, hereditary and appointed peers should be only able to "invite the Commons to think again" on this area of legislation, with the lower house having the final say.

The review was led by senior Conservative politician Lord Thomas Strathclyde with a panel of former senior parliamentary officials.

"I believe that my recommendations strike the right balance between preserving the vital role of the House of Lords in scrutinising legislation, and enabling the elected House of Commons to have a decisive role on statutory instruments," Strathclyde said in a statement.

The review rejected two other options it considered for limiting the chamber's power: clarifying and coding existing practice or removing the House of Lords' role in secondary legislation altogether.

"I will consider his recommendations carefully before responding in the New Year," Cameron said in a statement after the review was released.

A spokesman for the prime minister said the Lords' snub to the House of Commons in October was "unprecedented" and "raises serious constitutional questions about the primacy of the elected House of Commons".

It went against convention that the Lords does not go against the lower house on financial matters or on statutory instruments, meaning smaller policy amendments that have a speedier passage through parliament.

Graham Allen, an opposition Labour lawmaker, criticised the proposal as "undemocratic".

"Major alterations in our system of governance should not be the product of a closed and narrow internal process," Allen said in a statement, adding that ideas for reform should consider changing the House of Lords to an elected body.

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© 2015 AFP

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