Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum by The Reverend A Pyke (LR 1(a))

  Many thanks for your kind reply to my letter of 8 November and for the remarks that you make.

  After I had written the letter I realised that I had not addressed the very vexed issue of the relative power balance between the two Houses. The more democratic legitimacy is conferred on the Upper House, so it is said, the more difficulty there is in asserting the superiority of the Commons. The solution, it seems, is to water down the credibility of the Upper House to avoid the problem.

  I disagree. The Upper House must have democratic legitimacy in order to command public respect and to attract people of proven ability to serve in it. It must also have real power without upsetting the balance between the two Houses. In my view, the Upper House should scrutinise bills sent from the Commons and suggest amendments as it does now and, if necessary, by a simple majority reject them. The Commons, if they are of the same mind, should return a bill to the Upper House. If it is rejected again by a simple majority then the Commons could invoke the Parliament Act to secure their legislation. If, however, the Bill were to be rejected again by a two thirds majority in the Upper House the decision would be irreversible by use of the Parliament Act. I believe that such an arrangement would give a good balance of power between the two Houses as it would only be in quite exceptional circumstances that a two thirds majority against the government could be achieved, if at all. I have not heard of anyone advancing this idea as a possible solution to the dilemma so I am passing it on to you for what it is worth.

November 2001

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