The House of Lords Constitution Committee
‘The House of Lords Constitution Committee’ in A Horne, D Oliver and G Drewry (eds) Parliament and the Law (Oxford: Hart, 2013)
49 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2020
Date Written: February 18, 2013
The House of Lords Constitution Committee is both a consequence and an agent of the profound changes to British constitutional style over the past generation. Since it started work in 2001 (see section II), the Committee has developed three main functions. First, through systematic scrutiny of the constitutional implications of every government bill, it has become a well-respected part of the House of Lords’ arsenal against misguided and badly prepared legislation. As well as influencing particular bills, the Committee’s reports on proposed legislation are growing into an authoritative body of literature on the constitution that articulates, develops and applies constitutional norms (see section III). A second aspect of the Committee’s work is policy inquiries. Based on expert evidence, these have dealt with subjects as diverse as judicial appointments and the constitutional implications of surveillance, and have won the Committee’s work extensive coverage in the news media and have put, or kept, issues on the political agenda (see section IV). They have focused on aspects of the practical operation of the constitutional system and how it might be improved; and on the processes of constitutional change. Bill scrutiny and policy inquiries are not hermetically sealed activities: the latter have included several investigations into broad problems with the legislative process and the Committee has been a persistent advocate of effective pre-legislative scrutiny. A third function of the Committee is to be a forum for dialogue between parliamentarians and the judiciary – an important development in a time of rapid and far-reaching reform of the role and constitutional status of the judiciary and a safety value in times of tension between ministers and judges (see section V).
Keywords: Parliamentary committees, legislative process, Separation of Powers, UK constitution, Parliament, the House of Lords, constitutional law and Parliament
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation