It is not part part of the ambit of UKSCBlog to monitor potential constitutional developments in the UK generally but we considered the recent Jan Grodecki annual lecture of former law lord, Lord Bingham, (reproduced in edited form  in The Guardian) on abolishing the House or Lords – this time its legislative function – was worthy of note. Lord Bingham suggests the replacement of the upper legislative house with a “Council of the Realm”.  This would be self-selecting in that a panel of its existing members would select new recruits.

The ability of the House of Lords currently to amend or delay legislation would go.  Instead it would be able to recommend amendments of legislation prior to its passage by the House of Commons which would be statutorily be bound to have regard to the Council’s comments.

In terms of ensuring  that the House of Commons did have regard to the proposed amendments from the Council, Lord Bingham appears to rely solely on the prestige in which the individual members of the Council will be held by MPs. Some may think that this is less than reliable. 

An alternative may be to give the job to the Supreme Court of ensuring that such regard is given and striking down legislation where this has not occured.   Now that the Court is independent from the House of Lords, one can see that such a role would be feasible where hitherto it may have been problematic.

Lord Bingham ends perhaps recognising that his ideas have little prospect of being enacted but quotes Lord Denning saying “I have stirred these points, which wiser heads in time may settle”. 

 We’ll see.

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