In an email sent to Peers last night, the Lord Speaker has set out a strident position against
Cumming’s the government’s floated plan to move the House of Lords to York. Titled ‘The Ivory Coast Option’ (as of the 79 countries in the world with bicameral legislatures, just the Ivory Coast has an upper house (its recently established senate) in a separate city to the lower house), Lord Fowler makes the case that this is a less than ideal arrangement. He also pointedly points out that it is not the Government’s decision to make…
The location of the House is a matter for the House and the views of Parliamentarians will not simply have to be “considered”.
Read his scathing and entertaining email in full below…
The Ivory Coast Option
The debate on moving the House of Lords to York bumps along. According to one ‘Government insider’ quoted in The Times, those who don’t believe there will be a move are just “idiots” (these ‘Government insiders’ have such a wonderful way with words), but at least we have forced the debate into the open rather than ‘Government by leak’ in the Sunday papers. The Prime Minister has now set out his stall on the matter in a letter to R&R Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority (attached).
It is worth reflecting on this: there are 79 nations with bicameral legislatures (parliaments with two chambers, typically a lower house and a senate). In all but one of these the chambers are located in the same city, often adjoining. The one exception is the Cote d’Ivoire whose lower house, the National Assembly, is located in Abidjan, while its recently established upper house, the Senate, is located in Yamoussoukro, some 235 km away. No disrespect to the Ivory Coast, but it is not immediately clear why the UK should follow their lead. Numerous global examples point to the fact that bicameral parliaments operate in a more efficient and cost-effective fashion when the chambers are located near to one another.
Incidentally, it is worth emphasising that a decision of such constitutional significance is not one for the Government. The location of the House is a matter for the House and the views of Parliamentarians will not simply have to be “considered”. Parliament governs its own affairs and, in line with the doctrine of exclusive cognisance, it is the right of each House of Parliament to regulate its own proceedings and internal affairs without interference from any outside body, even if that outside body is the Government. In short, the decision rests with us.
Could I add one personal view? My concern is that in their obsessive concentration on gesture politics, the so-called `Government insiders’ obscure the more important question, namely whether functions of the Government, rather than Parliament, can be moved away from Westminster and Whitehall. That is certainly worth debating.
Norman Fowler Lord Speaker