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Debates Forum

  1. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    05 Sep '10 23:12 / 1 edit
    I'm not going to bother asking "why do they have it?" We all know they have it because it's always been there and there's too much inertia and tradition to simply get rid of it, in spite of the way its power has been systematically shredded.

    My question is: Should the HL be given some real power, maybe as a check over the House of Commons? Britain has no Constitution. Would it make sense to have an appointed body that could check Parliament if it got out of control, especially if a government were controlled by a single party?

    Of course, maybe they could:

    1) Restore the judicial authority of the House of Lords AND give it the authority to check Parliament and to throw out laws that violate basic principles.

    2) Restore the real, not just ceremonial, executive power to the sovereign, except they could have an elected sovereign.

    Oh, wait, there is a system like that in a country I once heard of... I believe that country is...


    the United States.
  2. 06 Sep '10 03:27 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by sh76
    I'm not going to bother asking "why do they have it?" We all know they have it because it's always been there and there's too much inertia and tradition to simply get rid of it, in spite of the way its power has been systematically shredded.

    My question is: Should the HL be given some real power, maybe as a check over the House of Commons? Britain has no Con ...[text shortened]... hat in a country I once heard of... I believe that country is...


    the United States.
    Why should they have a Constitution like the US? I mean, it grows tiresome for the federal government in the US to continually ignore and usurp its verbage. Why should the UK have to do the same? Then again, it does make a nice decoration where it sits today.
  3. Standard member bill718
    Enigma
    06 Sep '10 07:33
    Originally posted by sh76
    I'm not going to bother asking "why do they have it?" We all know they have it because it's always been there and there's too much inertia and tradition to simply get rid of it, in spite of the way its power has been systematically shredded.

    My question is: Should the HL be given some real power, maybe as a check over the House of Commons? Britain has no Con ...[text shortened]... hat in a country I once heard of... I believe that country is...


    the United States.
    I have thought of this now and then. The House of Lords seems like only a semi-functioning part of the British government. On the other hand, this is an internal matter for the Brits, so I'd be happy to let them deal with it, in addition the American government is not exactly a model of efficency either.
  4. Subscriber FMF
    a.k.a. John W Booth
    06 Sep '10 11:09
    Originally posted by sh76
    I'm not going to bother asking "why do they have it?" We all know they have it because it's always been there and there's too much inertia and tradition to simply get rid of it, in spite of the way its power has been systematically shredded.

    My question is: Should the HL be given some real power, maybe as a check over the House of Commons? Britain has no Con ...[text shortened]... hat in a country I once heard of... I believe that country is...


    the United States.
    Britain does have a de facto constitution. It is spread across various documents.

    The "House of Lords" is a work-in-progress.

    One of Blair's historic achievements was to finally set in motion the process of getting rid of it, at least in its former configuration.

    We await its replacement with something fully elected and legitimately democratic.
  5. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    06 Sep '10 12:09
    The House of Lords is a remnant of feudalist times. It's mind-boggling how so many Brits not only accept it but also think it's a good thing.
  6. 06 Sep '10 12:18 / 1 edit
    1) Restore the judicial authority of the House of Lords AND give it the authority to check Parliament and to throw out laws that violate basic principles.

    As soon as we have an elected house of lords, then yes, it would be a good thing to have its authority bolstered. The trick is to provide safeguards without ending up with legislative gridlock. However, it's not necessarily the Lords' responsibility to throw legislation out for being unconstitutional; we do now have a supreme court (recently established) that has assumed the House of Lords' judicial functions - including dealing with violations of the Human Rights Act.

    2) Restore the real, not just ceremonial, executive power to the sovereign, except they could have an elected sovereign.

    Plenty of European countries have a constitutional monarch like us, and others have an elected President, usually with few powers. What I think is vital is that the head of state is not also the head of government (France has a few problems because the constitution was written for De Gaulle and thus gave sweeping powers to the president). It seems to work pretty well for us having a monarch who barely uses her constitutional powers. While you have separation of powers in the US, it has seemed at times that the President has become a focus of patriotic sentiment, as with Bush after 9/11. Because Bush was head of state as well as head of government, some Americans seemed to find it difficult to criticise his specific policies. I know this was an exceptional time, but in Britain, no one has ever felt unpatriotic about criticising the Prime Minister. Some people might feel that about the Queen, but as she has no meaningful power, she can exist as a focus for patriotic sentiment without this having political consequences.
  7. Subscriber no1marauder
    It's Nice to Be Nice
    06 Sep '10 12:19
    Originally posted by Palynka
    The House of Lords is a remnant of feudalist times. It's mind-boggling how so many Brits not only accept it but also think it's a good thing.
    What do you expect? They still have Kings and Queens and Princes and Princesses. Can't they afford guillotines across the pond?
  8. Subscriber no1marauder
    It's Nice to Be Nice
    06 Sep '10 12:21
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    [b]1) Restore the judicial authority of the House of Lords AND give it the authority to check Parliament and to throw out laws that violate basic principles.

    As soon as we have an elected house of lords, then yes, it would be a good thing to have its authority bolstered. The trick is to provide safeguards without ending up with legislative gridlock. ...[text shortened]... she can exist as a focus for patriotic sentiment without this having political consequences.[/b]
    You really need a parasitic figurehead to feel "patriotic"?
  9. 06 Sep '10 12:59
    Originally posted by no1marauder
    You really need a parasitic figurehead to feel "patriotic"?
    I don't feel much need to feel patriotic; but for those who do, I think the Queen is a kind of harmless reservoir for that kind of emotion. European countries with an elected, but relatively powerless president do something similar. The Prime Minister is a party figure; the monarch or president represents the country. I certainly think it's good for the head of state to be deprived of most political power.
  10. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    06 Sep '10 13:32 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    [b]1) Restore the judicial authority of the House of Lords AND give it the authority to check Parliament and to throw out laws that violate basic principles.

    As soon as we have an elected house of lords, then yes, it would be a good thing to have its authority bolstered. The trick is to provide safeguards without ending up with legislative gridlock. use of Lords' judicial functions - including dealing with violations of the Human Rights Act.[/b]
    The US Supreme Court is unelected and we rely on it to curb the excesses of the other branches. There's no inherent reason that cannot be done by an unelected legislative body instead of a court (though, of course, the HL used to serve as that too). Obviously, you want to give the lion's share of the power to the elected legislature; but there are worse ideas having appointees check the legislature to ensure that things don't get out of control for political reasons.

    If you start electing the House of Lords and then give it power, then all you have is a bicameral legislature. That's all fine and good, but doesn't materially change the system as it is now.
  11. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    06 Sep '10 13:34 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by bill718
    I have thought of this now and then. The House of Lords seems like only a semi-functioning part of the British government. On the other hand, this is an internal matter for the Brits, so I'd be happy to let them deal with it, in addition the American government is not exactly a model of efficency either.
    I did not mean the OP as a criticism of the UK system or as a suggestion that we invade, topple the government and force them to deal with it our way (though, now that I think about it, it could be fun).

    I think discussing internal matters of countries apart from the US is a healthy thing for this board every now and then, as I was telling FMF... just the other day.
  12. Standard member DrKF
    incipit parodia
    06 Sep '10 15:15
    Along with the West Lothian question, HoL reform is the constitutional elephant in the room. I am interested to see how - even if - the current coalition government will go about HoL reform.

    Labour, with thumping majorities, managed to make a half-arsed job of it, and I wouldn't envy any government that inherited it as an ongoing problem, let alone a coalition with parties fairly far apart of many constitutional issues. Whether or not to retain hereditary peers and Lords Spiritual at all will probably divide them at a fundamental level, for example.

    Besides which, inertia in HoL reform is continued through the institutionalisation of revanchism: the opposition will always cry foul when the HoL is flooded with government-friendly life peers, but will provide a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why, when in government, it is wholly necessary to do the same.

    Moving towards an elected HoL seems inevitable, at some point, though, but just as important will be (re)defining its role and powers - and the HoC is acutely aware that almost all proposed reforms (even the minority view that what would be best would be a return to the status quo ante bellum) would take power from the lower chamber in some respect. Again, inertia becomes the order of the day.

    Were it not for other pressing, largely economic, matters at hand, I would suggest a Grand Constitutional Convention of some sort. But in the face of those economic problems, the nature of the governing coalition and the disincentive to real reform, it will probably remain where Labour left it, in the long grass.
  13. 06 Sep '10 16:25 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by sh76
    The US Supreme Court is unelected and we rely on it to curb the excesses of the other branches. There's no inherent reason that cannot be done by an unelected legislative body instead of a court (though, of course, the HL used to serve as that too). Obviously, you want to give the lion's share of the power to the elected legislature; but there are worse ideas h gislature. That's all fine and good, but doesn't materially change the system as it is now.
    Well - we have an independent judiciary too - now including, as I pointed out above, a supreme court. Also, though we don't have a written constitution, we have long had documents that serve such a function - going back, indeed, to 1215 when Magna Carta was signed! And including most recently the codified provisions of European law, and a human rights act that sets clear limits on the power of the legislature.
  14. 06 Sep '10 16:49
    Originally posted by sh76
    I did not mean the OP as a criticism of the UK system or as a suggestion that we invade, topple the government and force them to deal with it our way (though, now that I think about it, it could be fun).

    I think discussing internal matters of countries apart from the US is a healthy thing for this board every now and then, as I was telling FMF... just the other day.
    Just be careful with that kind of talk "sunshine "or we might just go over to you lot and burn your Whitehouse down for you ! AGAIN
  15. 06 Sep '10 16:56
    Originally posted by phil3000
    Just be careful with that kind of talk "sunshine "or we might just go over to you lot and burn your Whitehouse down for you ! AGAIN
    Yeah - you may think you're safe after what happened in that South Park episode, but let me tell you, sh76, the Queen is not really dead! And the invasion's only on hold. The humiliations of 1776 will be avenged!