Written evidence submitted by Baroness
D'Souza, Crossbench Convenor, House of Lords
Many thanks for your letter of 28 October on
the Salisbury-Addison convention and I am happy to respond.
1. As I am sure you are aware the Cross
Benches do not act as a group and therefore there is no collective
view. Furthermore, the Cross Benches are not party to, nor bound
by, the Salisbury-Addison convention. However I have asked a number
of colleagues for their thoughts and, as you can imagine, they
vary considerably. I hope it is helpful to summarise these views?
2. The Convention cannot logically apply
since the Coalition Agreement differs from both the Liberal Democrat
and Tory manifestos and thus were NOT voted for by the electorate.
A compromise solution put by some is that the convention should
apply only to those bills which can be shown to be in similar
terms in both manifestos.
3. The opposite view, the Coalition Government
was in fact voted by the electorate if only by denying any one
party an overall majority and therefore expressing a preference
for some sort of coalition. This has empowered the Government
to draw up an Agreement and thus the Salisbury-Addison convention
4. The above option is favoured by many
as a practical means of enabling the Government to define bills
to which the convention would apply. This has led to a more philosophical
discussion the main points of which are as follows:
The Wakeham Commission Report (January
2000) explained that there is "a deeper philosophical underpinning
for the Salisbury Convention which remains valid
the electorate has chosen a party to form a Government, the elements
of that party's general election manifesto should be respected
by the second chamber. More generally, the second chamber should
think very carefully before challenging the clearly expressed
views of the House of Commons on any issue of public policy."
Given that the Coalition Government commands
a majority in the Commons and since there is no manifesto for
the Coalition Government, the convention should apply to the programme
While it is true that this programme
has not been put to the people, to focus on the absence of a manifesto
for the Coalition Government is to ignore the "philosophical
underpinning" and to allow the House of Lords to ignore political
realities in the Commons.
The Salisbury-Addison convention is just
thata convention which can develop. Circumstances change
and adaptations based on the political realities of the Coalition
Government have to seek to respect the basic principles that have
always been embodied by the convention.
7 November 2010