LETTER: Power to the House of Lords: Enoch's dilemma

From Mr J. R. Lucas

Sir: However we reform the composition of the Lords ("Should be change the rules of this club?", 9 May), Enoch Powell's dilemma remains insoluble. If we give the House of Lords too little power, it will not be able to protect us from misbehaviour on the part of the House of Commons (something we very much need), but if we give the House of Lords enough power to protect us, then it will have too much power for ordinary political purposes, and deadlock between the two chambers will become part of the political process, as in the US.

We need to rethink the powers of the Second Chamber in case of serious conflict. In the present age, the one solution commanding democratic authority would be a referendum. Each House would present its version of the disputed measure (which might be just to maintain the status quo), and voters would have to choose between them.

Each House would have a strong incentive to seem to be reasonable. Yet in cases of urgency, the Government could have its legislation enacted without delay. The composition of the House of Lords could be improved without fear of its being able unreasonably to obstruct the Commons. And in cases of dispute, the final verdict would be unimpeachable and have greater authority than could be obtained in any other way.

Yours faithfully,


East Lambrook, Somerset

9 May