The Constitution Unit


House of Commons committee backs Meg Russell's evidence on the Strathclyde review and wider Lords reform

12 May 2016

The Strathclyde Review: Statutory Instruments and the power of the House of Lords

A new report from the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) into the Strathclyde review on the House of Lords' powers has strongly supported arguments made in evidence by the Unit's Director Professor Meg Russell.

The Strathclyde review, which followed the government's defeat in the Lords over tax credits last October, outlined three possible ways forward regarding the House of Lords' power over "secondary legislation".

The committee report concludes that "As Professor Russell suggests, Option 2 [agreeing new conventions over the use of the Lords' powers] could provide an attractive way forward", and that "If the Government intends to carry forward any reform of the House of Lords' role in secondary legislation it should proceed on the lines of Option 2 and, as Professor Russell suggests, should include in negotiation the question of the size of the House of Lords and Prime Ministerial appointments to the second chamber" (recommendations 5 and 6).

In addition the report states that "PACAC agrees with the conclusions of the House of Lords Constitution and Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committees, and Professor Russell on Option 1 [removing the House of Lords' veto over delegated legislation] saying that this "would be an entirely disproportionate and retrograde development" (recommendation 4). Plus, "PACAC agrees with Professor Russell that, were the Government to proceed with Option 3 [reducing the Lords' veto to a delay power], any attempt to override a Lords rejection… should trigger a full debate on the floor of the House of Commons" (recommendation 7).

Professor Russell gave oral evidence to the committee on 20 January 2016, and a summary and link to the full transcript and video can be found here. The proposal that a cross-party agreement on the use of the Lords' powers should be contingent on a similar agreement about restraint in the Prime Minister's use of patronage to the chamber was first made in a Constitution Unit blog post by Professor Russell available here.