Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 11 years since I wrote this post.
- This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
- Factual information might be outdated.
- Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.
Many thanks for your understanding.
The Parliament Act was designed to stop an elite band of Lords from preventing the passage of a bill favoured by the people. It is undeniable that the current Labour government have taken advantage of this, and forced through legislation that is at best controversial, and even potentially unpopular with the people, thanks to their huge Commons majority. It’s clear, therefore, that an archaic law is being abused by a modern-day government to the potential detriment of the democratic process. Why, then, don’t we reform this law?
We now live in an age where referenda are relatively easy to organise, especially if held alongside local elections. And when viewed in the context of the Act only having been used seven times in almost 100 years, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that the Parliament Act should be reformed to suggest that the Commons can only overrule the Lords in the case where the Commons has the backing of the majority of voters in a referendum. In that way, the Act would truly be restricted to being used when the people’s wishes are being ignored by the Lords, and would also prevent the abuse of the Act shown by the Labour government.
Obviously, urgent legislation couldn’t be passed using these measures, but then it is highly unlikely that the Lords would have any wish to delay urgently necessary legislation anyway. This change would appear to give more power to the Lords, and perhaps slightly increase the obstinacy of the Chamber, invoking more use of the Act than at present; however, viewed on another level, it takes power away from the Commons and returns it to the people the Commons is supposed to represent. It’s also possible that the piece of legislation being passed would be one that no-one really cared about, and so wouldn’t really be motivated to cast a referendum vote upon, but again, that’s unlikely as by the very nature of the process the legislation involved is likely to be controversial.
The final consideration is whether this would actually return power to the people, or increase the power of those in the media. Of course, in reality, it would probably do a bit of both – but we manage to get through General Elections every four years or so without worrying whether the votes are those of the people or those of media moguls, so I don’t see why we can’t manage the same in a referendum once every 13 years or so.
Overall, I think mine is a pretty good suggestion, even if I do say so myself. But I’m no expert, and I’m sure there’s some major factor I must be overlooking. So, if you can see the flaw in the plan, feel free to comment and let me know. The future of the Parliament Act needs to be debated – so let’s get on with it 😉