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Cunningham Report: Government can’t stop onward march of Lords’ powers

Publication date: Nov 3, 2006 4:00:19 PM

The publication today of the report from the parliamentary Joint Committee on Conventions (the Cunningham committee) shows that the House of Lords is getting stronger, and the government can do little to stop it, says the UCL Constitution Unit.

The committee was established because of government worries about the Lords’ powers, and evidence it received showed that the chamber is becoming gradually more assertive. But the committee has concluded that little can be done to change the rules governing the relationship between the two chambers. Furthermore the rules will need to be reviewed again the chamber is reformed again in the future.

Commenting on the report, Constitution Unit Senior Research Fellow Dr Meg Russell said:

“This confirms what we have been saying for some time. The reform in 1999 which removed most hereditary peers made the House of Lords stronger, giving it more confidence to challenge the government. And yet there is little the government can do to reign it back.

“The committee has concluded that the rules governing relations between the chambers must remain ‘flexible and unenforceable’. The only means of limiting Lords powers would be a bill, but this would be unlikely to gain sufficient support. The public seems like a stronger Lords – our research shows that two thirds of the public back the chamber in blocking unpopular government bills.

“The only bill that might gain widespread support would be one to introduce election to the chamber – but as the Cunningham committee notes, this would make it stronger still.”

Notes for Editors

· The Constitution Unit is a specialist think tank working on the implementation of constitutional reform. It is independent and non-partisan, based in the School of Public Policy at UCL. For details of the Unit’s research on the Lords see:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/research/parliament/house-of-lords.html

· For further information, please contact: Judith H Moore, UCL Media Relations, Tel: +44 (0)7679 7678, Mobile: +44 (0) 77 333 075 96