I walked to the House on this beautiful sunny morning, skirting the Abbey as well. Seeing those buildings in all their glory, surrounded by tourists, is a vivid reminder of what the UK Parliament means. It is highly significant not only to us, but to those around the world who value constitutional government and the rule of law. Never more so than during this season of uprisings in the Middle East. What would those people not give to have centuries-old democratic parliamentary government? When I studied, and later taught constitutional law, it was said by the lawyers that smashing up an existing constitution, or writing a new one, occurred only when there was a revolution or a new state starting from scratch, and that the UK had never had to go through this upheaval. In the period of the coalition, we are being presented with fixed-term parliaments, the choice of AV and now the removal of the existing peers and their replacement by political hacks.
I shall argue at some point in the debates that the Parliament Acts (which enable the Commons to override the Lords if the latter resist the will of the former for too long) do not apply, on their construction, to the abolition or total overhaul of the Lords. There are strong legal arguments to this effect, sufficient to enable lawyers to mount a challenge to any Act that purported to remove the existing peers and revamp the House to such an extent that it is no longer the House it has been for centuries. If that argument were to fail, then the next line of argument is that the existing Parliament Acts could not continue as they are. It would no longer be “democratic” to give the Commons supremacy over the Lords in the enactment of legislation, for both Houses would be equally mandated to govern. Another danger is that the Parliament Acts are the only legal way of ensuring that the Commons cannot put off elections for more than five years. The MPs cannot pass a bill postponing an election for longer without the consent of the Lords. But if the new Lords were as much at the mercy of elections as the Commons are, that would not work either. So plenty of legal hurdles and complications to think about.