LONDON, (Reuters) – Britain’s upper house of parliament should be stripped of some of its veto power over new laws, a government-commissioned review into the unelected House of Lords said yesterday.
Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the review in October after the Lords blocked his plans to cut welfare spending – an unusual move that broke a long-standing convention and, according to some, triggered a constitutional crisis.
If accepted, the proposed changes would hand Cameron’s Conservative government more power to push through its legislative agenda and curb the power of the Lords – the world’s second largest legislative body after China’s National People’s Congress.
Thursday’s report focused on the approval process for so-called secondary legislation, which allows laws to be changed more quickly within existing legal frameworks without the need to undertake the lengthy process of passing a new act.
The report’s author, Conservative politician Thomas Galbraith, known as Lord Strathclyde, recommended that the upper house could ask the elected lower chamber, the House of Commons, to “think again” on legislation it disagreed with, but that the Commons should have the final say.
While Cameron’s government has a slim majority in the Commons, it does not in the Lords, meaning laws can be subject to blocking, delays and changes.
Cameron said he would consider Strathclyde’s recommendation along with two other options in the report: one which removed the Lords from the process altogether, and another which left the process largely unchanged but codified existing conventions.
An official government response would come next year, Cameron said.
As it currently stands, the Lords can block some forms of secondary legislation. By convention it does not do so on certain issues and until the furore over welfare reforms in October they typically did not block laws on financial matters.
Many lawmakers wish to abolish the upper chamber altogether, arguing that the right of the prime minister to make lifetime political appointments is undemocratic, and that many Lords are too old or too privileged to represent ordinary Britons.
Further reform of the upper chamber has been an objective of many British governments for more than a century, but progress has been slow, with a consensus on comprehensive change continually out of reach.