Letter: Powers of the House of Lords

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Sir: Proposals for reforming the House of Lords face a dilemma: if the upper house is given electoral legitimacy, it will become too strong, like the Senate of the United States, and constitutional deadlock will become endemic; if it is weak enough not to obstruct the government of the day on party political grounds, it will be too weak to protect us from it when we need to be protected.

One solution would be to replace the suspensory veto by a referendum. If the Lords and the Commons could not reach agreement on the final form of a bill, there would be a referendum to choose between the two versions. Both Houses would then be under pressure to be reasonable, since the more reasonable version would have the better chance of winning a majority among the electorate as a whole.

People would be faced with a simple choice between supporting the government that had been elected and accepting the second thoughts of a body that, not being elected, was free of powerful whips, and, as you say (leading article, 6 November), often possessed of more expertise and experience than the House of Commons.

Yours faithfully,


Merton College


6 November