By Martina Bet
25 August 2019
Lord Salisbury – the former Leader of the House of Lords – explained why the upper house needs abolishing or reforming, especially in the face of Brexit, while advocating for a Bill which could prevent Britain falling into a real constitutional crisis, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk.
Three years after Britain voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum, it is clear Brexit has placed the country in a deep political crisis. Britain was originally supposed to leave on March 29, but despite been given clear instruction from the electorate, the House of Commons rejected every possible approach to resolving the crisis and the deadline was extended twice.
As a result, Theresa May resigned and Boris Johnson was elected on the promise to deliver Brexit by October 31.
However, the bloc has many times stated it will not reopen negotiations and it is not clear how the next Prime Minister will force through no deal Brexit against the will of Parliament.
As uncertainty looms with many political analysts suggesting the country is sleepwalking into a constitutional conundrum, a cross-party group has come up with a solution.
The Constitution Reform Group (CRG), an all-party project convened by the former leader of the House of Lords, Lord Salisbury, is currently advocating the Act of Union Bill – the first attempt to “devise a coherent plan for what should happen after many powers return from the European Union”.
The blueprint proposes a federal structure for the continuation of the Union, establishing the principle of self-determination among all four parts, as well as radical reforms in Westminster.
One of the most fundamental reforms, the groups say, concerns the upper house, the House of Lords.
The bill offers two alternatives, either reforming the House or abolishing it altogether.
Talking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Lord Salisbury explained: “I have always thought the House of Lords needed reform.
“In fact, it’s a bit of a family failing.
“My great-great-grandfather wanted to reform the House of Lords in the 1860s.
“I think that there are also sorts of ways you can reform the House. You get three people in the room, and there are at least four different solutions proposed.
“I am probably alone in our group, as I would favour the abolition and its replacement by a federal chamber within an English House of Commons.
“I think it has the merit of simplicity and coherence about it.
“My labour party colleagues are less radical as they would prefer to see a reformed House of Lords – our option B, which would be directly elected.”
The peer added: “I wouldn’t be against that if I can’t get my own way, which I suspect will be the case.
“But I would also like to see, which is not in this Bill, a reformed house of lords, which has the power in its own judgement to trigger referendums if it considers that the question in hand is either irreversible like joining the euro or by common consent with enormous political importance.”
The Act of Union Bill is currently awaiting its second reading.
In the meantime, the cross-party group is developing and expanding the clauses within the Bill and welcoming feedback from those interested in contributing.
The Bill would only come into force if approved by a referendum with a majority of votes cast in the UK as a whole at 65 percent and on a majority in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
You can access the full article here.