Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Letter from The Rt Hon Lord Renton of Mount Harry (LR 11)

  Thank you for your note of 21 November. I thought your Committee might be interested in considering my Private Member's Bill, Parliamentary Act 1949 (Amendment) Bill, which obtained its first reading last month, and I attach a copy.[3]

  My aim in bringing this Bill forward is to give us an opportunity in the Lords to have a full discussion about the powers and responsibilities of a reformed House of Lords in which elected members will sit. At this stage the Second Chamber will be considered as more representative, and therefore more legitimate, than the present House of Lords. Yet the consequential aspect that the powers of the Second Chamber should be reasonably increased has received practically no consideration.

  In my judgement, once the decision is reaffirmed that the United Kingdom wants a two chamber Government and that at least a part of the Second Chamber should be elected, the question of what should then be the powers and the functions of that Second Chamber needs resolution before any final decision on what should be the precise composition of the reformed House.

  So far the Government has only announced its intention of changing the powers of the Second Chamber in relation to secondary legislation. This seems perverse. It should surely be the responsibility of Commons and Lords, working together in an appropriate committee, to decide how to make the reformed Second Chamber more effective as an amending and revising chamber. Having the authority to delay Commons' Bills, other than money Bills, for two sessions in the first half of a new Parliament seems a modest first step in a very important process.

  Obviously, I do not expect my Bill to get through the Commons but it would be useful to have a full airing of the question of the Second Chamber's powers at second reading in the Lords. I hope this will take place in the second half of January after the two day debate on the Government White Paper.

  Your Committee will of course know that the US Senate is regarded as a co-equal partner in the legislative process with the House of Representatives. They may be interested in the attached letter of 14 November to me from the Senior Library Clerk in the House of Lords detailing the powers of the Second Chamber in both Australia and Canada.

Tim Renton

December 2001

3   Ev not printed. Back

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