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The House of Lords: Outdated Wreckers or Invaluable Checks?
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