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House of Lords

May 7, 2011

The UK has a bicameral political system whereby there are two houses of parliament, the House of Lords and the House of Commons which acts as the upper house. Lords are wholly appointed by the Prime Minister (Patronage) for their expertise and/or experience within a specific area such as health or education. Some peers are present from birth which is known as a ‘hereditary peer’ however, Tony Blair abolished these and now only 92 remain. It could be argued that with the UK being one of very few countries to have an unelected house which legislates they should be abolished, however, the House of Lords has many functions and merits which are vital to our politics today.
Although the House of Lords cannot completely stop a bill, it can delay it for up to one year so amendments to a bill can be made and more consideration over controversial issues is taken. (Parliament act 1949.) However, due to the parliament act 1911 the Lords cannot oppose money bills because it is unrealistic to expect the electorate to conform to unelected members to control the budget.
Constant amendments from the Lords will make the Commons compromise on an area of a bill when the government wants the bill to be passed quickly because for example; public safety or a national emergency such as the 2004 counter terrorism bill.
Another function of the House of Lords is deliberation – because the Lords have more time than the Commons (as they are not as subjective to public pressure.) they often spend longer than the Commons to consider vital issues within a bill which is important as there may be mistakes or impractibilites. Many experts sit in the Lords such as; Lord Sugar for business and Lord Winston for fertility, this means that they can add to the authority of the debates.
On the other hand it could be argued that the Lords is a waste of time because they are rarely introducing laws and can only delay them, under the parliament acts the Commons can veto the Lords for example the fox-hunting bill where the Lords did not want to abolish fox-hunting but the Commons used its superiority to overrule.
Overall, though the House of Lords is not the main house, it acts as a check and balance on the House of Commons and the bills being passed which is very important. It could be argued that without the Lords many life altering and bad decisions would have been made. The Lords accept their role as a revision chamber, though they have gained more confidence in opposing the government of the day, this is not a bad thing. It just means that more effective and scrutinised laws are being made!


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