An impending constitutional crisis?

As if it wasn’t enough for the potential of constitutional crises over Lords reform and Scottish independence, the government’s actions over the Welfare bill may cause one too. Dr Jeff King, senior law lecturer at UCL, and Professor Robert Hazell, director of the Constitution Unit, talk about how the government declaring many of the Lords defeats to the Welfare Reform bill as infringing the financial privilege of the Commons is a dangerous precedent for the House of Lords and this indicates that the conventions regarding what does and doesn’t qualify as financial privilege are breaking down. The Lords can still refuse to accept the Commons version of the bill, but we’d be breaking new constitutional ground – though the path of declaring non-tax related expenditures as financially privileged isn’t exactly a well-trodden path.

For those interested in this fresh controversy over a three-hundred-and-fifty-one year old constitutional principle, Dr King prepared a very useful briefing paper on it here.

The bill doesn’t go back before the Lords until at least next week, so we’ll have to wait and see what the response will be, but there was real anger on all sides of the House of Lords.

If I have time, I might have a look at financial privilege in more general terms on the international scene.

EDIT: Dr Jeff King has published an addendum in response to the Clerks of the House of Commons releasing a note about financial privilege. It’s well worth a read, and has some interesting stats about the use of financial privilege. This has not, however, been compared to the number of Lords amendments in general but it’s still an interesting guide.

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