May - October 2013
In Britain, the House of Commons has primacy over the House of Lords in all legislation relating to taxation and public spending. This has a number of important consequences for how parliament operates today, the best known of which is that legislation certified as a ‘money bill’ (because it relates solely to expenditure or taxation) can be delayed only minimally by the House of Lords before becoming law.
This project examines another manifestation of the Commons' financial primacy, concerning Lords' amendments to legislation, which is less well known or understood. In the event that the Lords passes a legislative amendment with financial implications that the Commons subsequently disagrees with, the Commons can invoke ‘financial privilege’ and the Lords by convention does not then insist on its amendment. Although not new to the coalition government, controversy about the use of financial privilege has grown in the 2010-15 parliament. Most notably, its use on the Welfare Reform Bill in 2012 provoked claims from some that the Lords was being inappropriately prevented from scrutinising government legislation. Such concerns may well re-emerge in the future, particularly if peers seek to limit government spending cuts.
This research will clarify the existing rules and conventions surrounding financial privilege, and assess how it has in practice been used in recent years. Based on this investigation, we hope to establish whether existing arrangements need to be reformed to strengthen parliament’s scrutiny of government legislation.
For further information, please contact Daniel Gover.