Powers of the Commons and the Lords

Powers of the Commons and the Lords

Powers of the House of Commons

  • Legislative Power: The most critical role of the House of Commons is legislation. The Commons has supremacy over the Lords in all legislative areas, primarily due to the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949. Most Bills usually start in the House of Commons.
  • Financial Power: Exclusive power to initiate Money Bills is granted to the House of Commons. The Lords can review and suggest amendments but cannot block or delay these.
  • Scrutiny of the Executive: The Commons holds the government to account. Prime Minister’s Questions, debates, and committee investigations all play a part in this process.

Powers of the House of Lords

  • Legislative Power: The Lords share legislative duties with the Commons. They can scrutinize, amend, or delay legislation, but they cannot veto it.
  • Review and Revision: As a revising chamber, the Lords scrutinize Bills passed by the Commons. They tend to focus on non-controversial and technical aspects of legislation.
  • Expertise: The House of Lords is renowned for its expertise and brings this to bear in its committee work. Its members often have years of experience in various fields.

Restrictions on Powers

  • Parliament Acts: Restrict the Lords’ legislative powers. They cannot veto legislation; they can only delay most types for one session of Parliament. Also, any “money bills” — those relating to national taxation or public expenditure — can be held up by the Lords for only a month.
  • Salisbury Convention: It holds that the Lords won’t oppose legislation promised in the governing party’s most recent election manifesto at second reading. This is a convention and so, although it is conventionally followed, it isn’t legally binding.

Remember, Parliamentary Sovereignty is at the core of the UK constitution, and it rests primarily with the House of Commons. The House of Lords’ role is less about policy initiation and more about review and revision. Nevertheless, both Houses play vital roles in the UK’s legislative process.