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Will the Revolution start in the House of Lords?

(17 Posts)
MaizieD Fri 13-May-22 16:28:09

I know that discussion of the constitution is not a popular topic, but at the moment the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is under attack, with the Executive (the government) trying to take away as much power that they possibly can from the Legislature (the MPs and the Lords in Parliament) by means of using 'Henry VIII powers and Statutory instruments, which give the Executive power to alter legislation without Parliamentary scrutiny.

As I've said before, the Executive represents the Crown, it is Her Majesty's government. But, in theory, it has no powers to pass legislation without the approval of the Legislature. It is the Legislature that is the law making body, the Executive can only propose legislation, if the Legislature doesn't pass its bills they either fall, or must be amended to the satisfaction of the Legislature. The English Civil war was fought to establish the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive (the Crown).

With that in mind, while the Lords were debating the Queen's Speech, Lord Judge, former Lord Chief Justice, had this to say:

My Lords, listening to the gracious Speech I heard words that filled me with joy:

“Her Majesty’s Government will ensure the constitution is defended.”

Then I listened, as one does:

“Her Majesty’s Ministers will restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts”,

and I thought, like the editor of Private Eye, “surely some mistake”.

There is no balance needed. We legislate—we try to legislate with clarity—the courts interpret our legislation and, if we do not like the way the courts have interpreted the legislation, it comes back to us and we put them right. There is no difficulty about that relationship—perish the thought.

I thought the words were going to be, “Her Majesty’s Ministers will restore the balance of power between the legislature and the Executive”, because that is the relationship that needs to be addressed.

Noble Lords have heard me bang on about Henry VIII powers. I just do not like a Minister by statutory instrument being able to revoke primary legislation, let alone secondary legislation. As for skeleton Bills, I find it absolutely extraordinary that we ever pass them. We say to ourselves: “Let us give the Minister powers before the Minister has the slightest idea how he or she is going to exercise them.”

He then referred to the work of two cross party committees which reported that there was a need to rebalance the power between the Executive and Parliament. (Clearly they were concerned that Parliament was losing powers which it should have) Their recommendations have been ignored by the government.

He saw this issue as being of prime constitutional importance.

In the Conservative manifesto there was a promise that there would be a first-year commission on the constitution, democracy and rights. Where is it? Why are we not addressing the issue of this imbalance now in such a commission?

I am now about to be very courageous, particularly with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, here: what is the point of us being here if, when we identify a serious constitutional problem, we never do anything about it except talk? We cannot keep doing that.

I just want us to consider the possibility that the next time we have a Henry VIII clause in a Bill that has not been given careful explanation in advance, we chuck it out.

Is it not possible that some time, instead of a regret Motion, if a statutory instrument proposes the extension of undue power to the Executive, we throw that one out too? I am only asking your Lordships to consider the possibility—otherwise, why do we not just go on talking?

(his full speech here:’SSpeech#contribution-667C1836-26A7-47D0-87D7-A57147FD6D6E )

This is fighting talk from a respected Law Lord...

People might think this is all a bit boring, but if the Executive takes all legislative powers to itself, with no checks from Parliament, then this is the way to dictatorship. It renders MPs, and thus their representation of the electorate, superfluous. This is what dictators do. It is not democratic.

volver Fri 13-May-22 19:50:08

MaizieD I think this thread is symptomatic of the issue at hand. It sounds like a complicated constitutional matter but it actually means that the Johnson Government want to do what they like and don't want to have to answer to anyone. And that they are trying to change the law to allow them to do that. And that's scary.

MaizieD Fri 13-May-22 22:23:42

It's not so much as trying to change the law as trying to over ride the constitution by giving themselves powers to change the law, and to make new law, without the consent of Parliament.

I'm not sure that the constitution can be legally enforced. From the way Lord Judge was framing it it looks as though only Parliament can prevent the Executive taking more power to itself. If the Commons won't do it, the Lords will have to try to stop them.

The extraordinary thing is that this government has complete and utter disregard for the law. One commentator has recently suggested that they aren't just law breakers, they're 'outlaws'.. And disregarding the law has no penalty whatsoever attached. I find it very frightening.

BeEmerald Fri 13-May-22 23:12:02

I don’t think the Revolution will start in the House of Lords, I think it will start on the streets if things don’t improve soon. High food prices, massive utility bills, the gap between rich and poor getting wider ever day - this government have a lot to answer for. All the good things that past governments created such as the NHS, free education, free dentistry, decent council housing etc have all been eroded or privatised or ceased to exist. It’s an absolute tragedy. I think we need massive change and if it takes a genuine revolution to do it, then so be it.

DaisyAnne Sat 14-May-22 07:34:18

I think this exposure should help but will it? How far has the message gone? I agree with BeEmerald, sadly.

Johnson does not run a government; he runs Johnson PLC. The Tories in the HoC are more like shareholders than MPs. To this end, the government runs through friendly newspapers that are the first to put out almost any decision the government makes or is thinking of making. Again, this is not governing but PR for Johnson PLC, advertising decisions first made by focus groups.

I have no idea how you turn this around. However, I believe if we want to go on living in a country without civil unrest, then we need to see the back of Johnson and those who have kept him in place. Most people are not as worried as those we see on the TV but what happens when there are more evictions because they cannot pay their rent, more children have to be told no, and living becomes a burden? The government has already cut what people expected in benefits and the updating of benefits has slowed, leaving people waiting for money to pay bills. As the economy tanks - Johnson PLC seems to have often overridden advice - more people will understand the anxiety of poverty (you could call it pre-poverty).

I hope the Lords can do something. However, I feel there will be fighting in the streets and attacks on government itself unless we get a properly functioning government in place. And what will they find when they lift the drains?

Whitewavemark2 Sat 14-May-22 07:57:49

Something needs to happen and pretty soon, if we are to save the democracy.

MaizieD Sat 14-May-22 10:43:14

The most worrying thing is that people everywhere are saying that at least we can vote them out at the next General Election.

If, over the next couple of years, the government appropriates more power to itself to make and amend legislation without any input from Parliament, they could very easily legislate away any current legal requirement to hold GEs and just not hold one again.

We hold our 'rights' at the whim of Parliament. I wonder how many people realise what a slim thread that is?

Whitewavemark2 Sat 14-May-22 10:47:09

I don’t think so, I read that Johnson seems to be paying off his friends in the msm as well to cooperate in the dead cat news and cover up/suppress anything not conducive to his government.

AGAA4 Sat 14-May-22 11:03:36

I agree with BeEmerald you can push people too far and there could be civil unrest when people can't afford to eat or keep their children warm.

BeEmerald Sat 14-May-22 11:12:41

The limitations this government are placing on the right to protest is frightening and a threat to us all. The majority of protests don’t involve people disrupting traffic or gluing themselves to public buildings etc.
Mind you I can remember being on early CND protest marches and we were videoed by the police and had car number plates noted after attending meetings.
So much for democracy if peaceful protest can’t take place. People in this country don’t actually realise how much surveillance is on THEM.

GrannyGravy13 Sat 14-May-22 11:19:52


I don’t think so, I read that Johnson seems to be paying off his friends in the msm as well to cooperate in the dead cat news and cover up/suppress anything not conducive to his government.

Is that a fact Whitewavemark2 or just hearsay/gossip?

GrannyGravy13 Sat 14-May-22 11:20:46

I do not want to see civil unrest, I would much rather have the choice at the ballot box.

BeEmerald Sat 14-May-22 11:30:38

I agree GrannyGravy13 - the problem is the choice in political parties. They’re all as dreadful as each other.

MaizieD Sat 14-May-22 11:37:41


I do not want to see civil unrest, I would much rather have the choice at the ballot box.

There is a strong possibility that there might not be a ballot box.

I know the Lords debate might seem a bit arcane, but they can, if minded, play an important role in preventing the government from grabbing excessive power.

Much as the idea of a 'revolution' on the streets might seem attractive history tells us that most revolutions don't end well as there is usually a section of the population on which the revolutionaries take their revenge. And a lot of violent political churn (e.g 'disposal' of opponents) as competing groups vie for power.

MaizieD Sat 14-May-22 11:45:47


I agree GrannyGravy13 - the problem is the choice in political parties. They’re all as dreadful as each other.

I think that is a really sad thing to think as I don't recall any party in my lifetime trying to impose a dictatorship on us by ignoring all the 'rules' and conventions that make up our constitution. Never before have I seen judges being labelled 'enemies of the people', when in fact the independent judiciary is a key part of our constitution, with no attempt by the government to defend them.

I've never seen a government full of ministers who break the Ministerial Code and refuse to resign; indeed are positively protected by the PM, himself a serial violator of the Code.

I am willing to believe that the other parties play it by the book as has always happened in the past. Not always 'straight' but always respectful of the constitution.

GrannyGravy13 Sat 14-May-22 11:51:15

I think if MP’s resigned when found guilty of a criminals offence, FPN or breaking the ministerial code it would go somewhat to restoring the electorates trust.

It’s not good enough just to withdraw the whip as in Claudia Webbe, or sit tight like the PM and Chancellor.

BeEmerald Sat 14-May-22 12:09:12

MaizieD - I think you are absolutely correct in your analysis of the current situation.
Politicians used to be people with a genuine desire to better society. Maybe I will be accused of being naive, but they seemed to be a better calibre than many of those who seek to be in politics nowadays.
Alas we appear to be following the American system where lobbyists, financial donors, and big business actually determine political policies. A state where the law of the land is enforced on the working classes but is irrelevant to those at the top of the food chain, and a country that taxes the ordinary person to the hilt while the super wealthy pay little thanks to tax avoidance schemes and accountants who know how to twist the rules.
This government’s financial handling of the pandemic added to the massive financial military response to the Ukraine tragedy, with the resulting food price hike is going to impact everyone here for a generation. This government is skating on very very thin ice.