AMERICANS are very proud of their Constitution. They frequently quote bits of it when a controversial political issue is discussed.
In Britain we don’t have a written constitution.
Ours is based on various customs, laws and treaties that have emerged over the centuries.
In the twentieth century one clear principle emerged, that every adult would have a vote to elect the House of Commons.
A second principle which arose was that the elected House of Commons should, in the end, always be able to have its way when the unelected House of Lords disagreed.
It was a well established convention by the twentieth century that on any money matter the Lords should not intervene.
But when David Lloyd George introduced his People’s Budget in 1909, the House of Lords resisted.
Lloyd George called it “Mr Balfour’s poodle”, after the Conservative leader who egged the Lords on.
As a result in 1911 the first Parliament Act was passed which allowed the Lords to delay a bill for 2 years, but not to block it.
Under the 1949 Parliament Act Clement Attlee’s Labour Government cut the delay to 1 year.
The Lords usually accepts it has only the power of delay, but on fox hunting it has refused several times to accept the will of the elected House.
So now the Parliament Act comes into force, and the Bill will be sent for Royal Assent without the Lords’ agreement.
We may have no formal written constitution, but surely the most fundamental principle of our constitution must be that we can chose those who govern us.
Nobody in the House of Lords has stood for election, which is why their job is to revise legislation, not block it.
In the end whether it is foxhunting or more urgent matters, democracy must prevail.