The House of Lords: Outdated Wreckers or Invaluable Checks?

The House of Lords: Outdated Wreckers or Invaluable Checks?

Articles, Opinion

Oliver defends the House of Lords following the criticism it has faced in recent months, particularly over Brexit.

The House of Lords: Outdated Wreckers or Invaluable Checks?

picture from Parliament UK.

In recent days, the House of Lords has come under significant fire for their amendments to the Draft Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union. These amendments, many of which have been tabled and passed, have gained cross-partisan support from Peers in the Lords as the Bill passes through its report stage of the Lords. Some of these amendments exist to prevent the Government from leaving the EU without any kind of exit deal in the event of soured negotiations. Therefore, I deem their criticism unfair.

There is a danger that one views the House of Lords in the wrong light. The House of Lords is not, in my opinion, a Chamber of any great power. The real power in the UK lies with the Commons. The Lords have very little power and, since the passing of the 1949 Parliament Act, they have little power beyond tabling their own Bills (which Commons can easily reject) or pushing back legislation for one year. Indeed, then it can be bypassed straight to Royal Ascent, and is then formed into a law. The House of Lords is unable to veto laws, and hence one would be wrong to state that they were a Chamber of any significant power. Surely this simply makes the Lords a check on Parliament?

Checks within politics are there to ensure that one area of the legislative/executive do not ‘run away’ with power. In other words, they are controlled and moderated so that they act in the best way for the people and the nation.

The House of Lords is the check on the Commons because those in the Commons are subjected to their Party Whip and hence can act on Party lines, not on those lines that would effectively work in the national interest. The Lords aren’t elected into office on any such manifestos and hence they are able to step away from the Party politics and consider options on their merit rather than simply obeying the Party Whip.

The Lords suffer great criticism since they go against governmental policy on Brexit, however one must remember that their actions in terms of amendments enable the Commons, whom we elect, to vote on areas of the Withdrawal Agreement. The Lords – the ‘unelected wreckers’ – are simply enabling those in Commons to have a vote on a Bill that will dictate the future of the UK, allowing them a say on the behalf of the people who voted for them. The whole purpose of acting as a check, as a moderator, is to challenge policy, to challenge views and decisions; to ensure that they have been properly examined and considered before they are rolled out. Therefore surely the Lords are just fulfilling their mandate…aren’t they?

By Oliver Bramley

Campaigning Training Session – COMPLETED

Campaigning Training Session – COMPLETED

Events

Following the success of our pilot training workshop and launch conference earlier this year, YouthPolitics is excited to announce a free of charge hands-on campaign workshop where you can learn what makes a successful campaign and explore the issues which you’d like to advocate for. We’re also offering some exciting opportunities to get involved with our organisation, so come along, meet our team, and see how you can contribute to giving young people the opportunities they need to get involved in the political process and shape their future.

What: Panel discussion on running a campaign, what makes a campaign successful, and what you can achieve, followed by a Q&A where audience members can grill our experts and voice their own opinions. Learn how to run a campaign effectively and lobby decision makers to make a change. You’ll then have the chance to plan the key points of your own campaign on an issue which means something to you.

We’ll also be announcing upcoming opportunities to get involved with YouthPolitics UK, so come along to hear about those.

Where: Event space, Manchester Central Library

When: Saturday 5th May 2pm – 4pm

(We ask that audience members arrive promptly so that the event can run smoothly for everyone!)

Why: Learn the basics of successful lobbying and think about the issues which matter to you, and find out about how you can become a bigger part of our organisation.

Central Library is a 5 minute walk from Oxford Road train station, St Peter’s Square tram stop, and several bus routes. Hot drinks and snacks will be available at the cafe on site.

What does the recent ‘Windrush’ controversy show about Britain?

What does the recent ‘Windrush’ controversy show about Britain?

Articles, Current Affairs

Katie explains the scandal surrounding the recent treatment of British immigrants of the Windrush generation, and why it has led to mass criticism and ultimately the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

What does the recent ‘Windrush’ controversy show about Britain?

picture from Express.

In the past weeks we have seen the most recent of the government’s crises play out, as it has been exposed that the children of ‘Windrush’ migrants who arrived before 1973 could face deportation if they can not prove their right to live in the UK. Alongside this there are many reported cases of members of the ‘Windrush’ generation being subject to societal negligence, from loss of legitimate employment to being refused access to radiotherapy, due to their inability to prove their residence. This controversy has exposed holes in the Conservative Party’s management of immigration statistics and information and was certainly the cause of ex Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s resignation. However, not only has it exposed holes in our political system, the tragedy of the treatment of ‘Windrush’ migrants and their descendants, the majority of whom are of Afro-Caribbean descent, has raised the pressing issue of the racism and prejudice that still exists in Britain.

The ‘Windrush’ generation refers to people of Caribbean heritage who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971, often following the call for labourers to aid in British government plans to rebuild infrastructure after the Second World War. The term ‘Windrush’ originates from the name of the MV Empire Windrush which arrived here in June 1948. New immigration laws introduced in 2012 require people to have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits, including healthcare, has left people fearful about their status. This is because in 1971 when all Commonwealth citizens living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain, by the Immigration Act, The Home Office did not issue any documents confirming this. The result is there are thousands of people living in Britain who, despite complete legal right to be here, have no documentation to prove this. Even though the facts point to this being a problem that the government has the responsibility to solve and that the people living in the UK without this documentation should suffer as little as possible, for some reason, despite this being 2018, this has not happened.

There are significant numbers of horror stories of people of the ‘Windrush’ generation being racially discriminated against and their lack of documentation being used as an excuse. Londoner Sylvester Marshall, who has lived in the UK for 44 years, was asked to pay £54,000 upfront for radiotherapy treatment for his prostate cancer. Even though many representatives of the NHS have condemned this handling of Mr Marshall’s cancer care and the nine year delay of his treatment has been described as “morally indefensible” by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA council chair, the question still begs of how did something like this happen? There is definitely a substantiated argument that systematic and institutional levels of racism have contributed to the grave mistreatment of ‘Windrush’ migrants and that the recent controversy has simply shone a light on the ugly side of Britain. The misconception that ‘Britishness’ equals ‘whiteness’ has fed into a administrative problem and turned it into one that demonstrates the depth and breadth of racism in this country.

To answer the question of what the ‘Windrush’ controversy shows about Britain, maybe it is that beliefs about what Britain is are varied and complex and that whilst some people are deluded enough to believe that racism no longer exists, it is clear that many ‘Brits’ still reinforce racial stereotypes and make vast assumptions based on racial identity. Those of the ‘Windrush’ generation have been victims of this evidently racist society, as despite many coming here to rebuild this country their ‘Britishness’ is being questioned and their access to services which their tax has helped pay for is being denied. In the wake of the 25th Anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence we must ask how far Britain has come since five white men were not even tried for the murder of an eighteen year old black man that they had all undoubtedly committed. Surely we would hope that Britain has learnt from past mistakes and that now justice would be served? However, I wonder if Sylvester Marshall would have so much faith in the justice system or even in his fellow ‘Brits’?

Looking forward, there is surely no choice but to try and be hopeful. We must have hope that the plight of the ‘Windrush’ generation will not be in vain and that more and more people will become ‘woke’ to issues of racial identity, discrimination and the experiences of ethnic, religious and cultural ‘minorities’. Only time will tell how quickly progress will be made, how many months or years it is needed for ‘Brits’ across the country to open their eyes to the existence of racism, in our police, schools and media. Let’s make sure it is sooner rather than later that being ‘British’ can truly mean anything.

By Katie Wharton