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EVALUATE
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS

The
Uk parliament is an iconic place as it stands at the very centre of Uk
political system and their main function is to debate policies which are
formulated by the government and also to scrutinize legislations to give good
value for tax payers money and the citizens. It consists of the upper house
(The House of Lords) and the lower house (The House of Commons). The House of Lords
evolved from the time of the Norman Conquest of England 1066 (Neil, 2017)
where the English monarch’s ruled with the aid of the royal councils
predominantly made up of the monarch’s most trusted advisers mainly noblemen
and senior members of the clergy. They are not elected and as such undemocratic.
They lack the kind of powers and authorities as the House of Commons have.
Currently they are over 800 in membership strength and are in three categories
respectively namely: Life Peers, Hereditary Peers and Church of England bishops
and archbishops (Giddings, 2016). It’s method of
appointing members is dubious as its size is not regularised by law (Neil, 2017).

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Like
in most countries today, Uk is operating a bicameral system as mentioned earlier.
The House of Lords, since not elected lacks democratic legitimacy. This has put
a limitation to their effectiveness as the upper house since they are an
integral chamber of the parliament. Their effectiveness can be determined and
evaluated by highlighting its functions.

One
of  which is basically to scrutinize and
revise legislation also to delay primary legislation for up to one year when
they have a reservation concerning the legislation wanting to be passed. Whilst
performing their role of scrutinizing and revising legislation it is worthy to
note that they can’t grant consent as the commons does. They can only give
their opinion and amend proposals in order to improve legislation despite their
members been experts in most fields and they are limited the on the way to
perform this task which is through the “committee stage” of the bill (Neil, 2017).

The
House of Lords also has the function of delaying legislature which is a way of
calling the government’s attention to a particular part of the legislation
where they have reservations as it affects the citizens. Here also they are
limited as they can only delay it for one year playing ping pong (the movement
of the legislation to and fro from the House of Commons) with it as they will
be bypassed by the Parliament Act Rules. Some instances of such include:

Ø  The War Powers Act 1991 – This
allows the Uk government to prosecute war criminals even if the offences were
committed outside the Uk.

Ø  Sexual Offences Amendment Act 2000 –
Here the age of consent for gay men is lowered to 16.

Another
major reason for their ineffectiveness apart from lacking democratic legitimacy
is the constraints on them by Salisbury Convention dating back to 1940 which
stipulates that The House of Lords must not obstruct any proposal that was
contained in the current government last election manifesto meaning even if
they have any reservations concerning any piece of the legislation they must
have to back down.

In
the end, it can’t be over emphasised that the core responsibility of the
parliament is to enact rules and laws. Below is a table comparing the powers
and functions of The House of Commons and The House of Lords which is a further
proof that the House of Lords though performing their duties are not really
effective.

The House of Commons

The House of Lords

Have sovereign powers.

Lacks democratic legitimacy.

Can veto legislation outright.

Can delay legislation one
year at most.

Remain sovereign even when the government has a
mandate from the electorate.

Cannot obstruct the government
manifestos commitment.

Can dismiss a government.

Can’t do it with a vote of no
confidence.

Has a potential control over finance.

Cannot regulate finance
affairs.

Mp’s can defy party whips.

Is always constrained by the
threat of reform or abolition.

Has the final say on legislative amendments.

Can only propose amendments
but will be overruled by the House of Commons.

Table 1: Comparison between the functions and powers of the
House of Commons and House of Lords (Neil, 2017)

 

Government
relates to public administration and its main responsibility is to work for the
betterment of the people and when the government is not deliberate to provide
people with their rights, then the House of Lords must be effective to bring
the government to accountability. 

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