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.
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.
3 Ev not printed. Back