research from the Constitutional Unit at University College, London that should get wobbly government backbenchers and all Senators – Nats in
particular – interested appears in the current issue of its newsletter.
findings are basic:
Anyone who thought parliament’s ability to
restrain the executive had disappeared needs to start to revise their
assumptions. Not only has the Blair government continued to be regularly
defeated in the House of Lords, but in November it was defeated for the first
time on a whipped vote in the House of Commons – over the terrorism bill…
Backbench rebellion [in the House of Commons]
is now a regular habit. It takes only 36 Labour rebels to vote with the
opposition for the government to be defeated…
Defeats in the Commons are, thus far, rare.
But in the Lords there have been over 350 since 1997, and the chamber seems to
be gaining confidence to challenge government policy. As a result, old conventions
about the chamber’s powers are breaking down…
here’s the really interesting bit. The research finds:
All this points to a strengthening of
parliament with respect to the executive. And the general public seem happy
with that. Research published by the Constitution Unit in December found that
most people back the House of Lords (unelected as it remains) to block
government bills that are unpopular. And more surprisingly, Labour MPs agree…
detailed account – good reading for all but the most supine Senators and
government backbenchers – can be found here.
Nationals shouldn’t worry. It’s only six pages long.