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Lord Pannick: The Government hasn't recognised "the difficulty and importance of the constitutional issue" in its Lords Bill

By Paul Goodman
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Another move on the Lords Bill chess board this evening, as speeches on the measure continue in the Commons.

Jesse "Captain Sensible" Norman has released a letter from Lord Pannick asserting that "the Bill does not adequately address the central issue of constitutional concern: the fact that a House of Lords most of whose members will be elected will almost certainly be much more assertive than the unelected House of Lords and reluctant to give way".

Lord Pannick's central point is as follows:

"The central constitutional question, which will no doubt occupy much time in debate, is whether

     (a)  the Bill should avoid regulating the relationship between the two Houses other than in the extreme circumstances covered by the 1911 and 1949 Acts, leaving matters to convention (and development of convention) or, more probably, disputes between the two Houses; or

     (b)  the Bill should address this topic, with the probability that the statutory provisions would be justiciable in the courts. Clause 49(b) preserves Parliamentary privilege. But just as the meaning and application of section 2 of the 1911 Act was justiciable in the Jackson case (on the validity of the Hunting Act), so, I think, any further provisions to be added to the Bill regulating the relationship between the two Houses would be justiciable.

Each of these options has disadvantages. My concern is that the Government have, hitherto, faled to recognise the difficulty and the importance of the constitutional issue arising from a decision to elect 80% of the House of Lords.

This is a foretaste of the kind of duffing-up which the Bill will get when (or rather if) it reaches the Lords.  I wonder if there is a distinguished lawyer in the Upper House who will put the case for the bill, and deal with the points that Lord Pannick raises.


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