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Parliament Act 1911

Parliament Act 1911

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The Parliament Act 1911 is an Act
Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom
An Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom is a type of legislation called primary legislation. These Acts are passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster, or by the Scottish Parliament at Edinburgh....

 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

. It is constitutionally important and partly governs the relationship between the House of Commons and the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 which make up the Houses of Parliament. This Act must be construed
Statutory interpretation
Statutory interpretation is the process by which courts interpret and apply legislation. Some amount of interpretation is always necessary when a case involves a statute. Sometimes the words of a statute have a plain and straightforward meaning. But in many cases, there is some ambiguity or...

 as one with the Parliament Act 1949
Parliament Act 1949
The Parliament Act 1949 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.This Act must be construed as one with the Parliament Act 1911...

. This Act, and that Act, may be cited
Citation of United Kingdom legislation
This article explains the citation of United Kingdom legislation, including the systems used for legislation passed by devolved parliaments and assemblies, for secondary legislation, and for prerogative instruments...

 together as the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949
The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 are two Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which form part of the constitution of the United Kingdom. Section 2 of the Parliament Act 1949 provides that that Act and the Parliament Act 1911 are to be construed as one.The Parliament Act 1911 The...

.

Following the rejection of 1909 budget, the House of Commons sought to establish its formal dominance over the House of Lords, who had broken convention in opposing the Bill. The budget was eventually passed by the Lords after the Commons' democratic mandate was confirmed by holding elections in January 1910. The following Parliament Act, which looked to prevent a recurrence of the budget problems, was also widely opposed in the Lords and cross-party discussion failed, particularly because over the proposed Act's applicability to passing an Irish home rule bill. After a second general election in December, the Act was passed with the support of the monarch, George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 who threatened to create sufficient Liberal peers to overcome the present Conservative majority.

The Act effectively removed the right of the Lords to veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 money bills completely, and replaced a right of veto over other public bills with a maximum delay of two years. It also reduced the maximum term of a parliament from seven years to five.

Background


Until the Parliament Act 1911, there was no way to resolve contradictions between the houses of parliament except through the creation of additional peers by the monarch. The Reform Act 1832
Reform Act 1832
The Representation of the People Act 1832 was an Act of Parliament that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales...

 was passed when the House of Lords dropped opposition; William IV
William IV of the United Kingdom
William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death...

 had agreed to create new peers by request of the Prime Minister, Earl Grey
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC , known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834. A member of the Whig Party, he backed significant reform of the British government and was among the...

. This created an informal convention that the Lords would give way when the public was behind the House of Commons; however, this gave the Lords a virtual right to demand that such public support was present and to decide the timing of a general election. It was the prevailing wisdom that the House of Lords could not amend money bills, since only the House of Commons had the right to decide upon the resources the monarch could call upon. This did not, however, despite the apparent contradiction, prevent it from rejecting such bills outright. In 1860 with the repeal of the paper duties, all money bills were consolidated into a single budget. This denied the Lords the ability to reject individual components and the prospect of voting down the entire budget was seemingly unpalatable. It was only in 1909 this became a possibility. Until the Act, the Lords had equal rights over legislation compared to the Commons, but did not utilise its right of veto over financial measures by convention. It appeared that a permanent Conservative majority would be inevitable in the Lords.

With the Liberal Party attempting to push through significant welfare reforms with considerable popular support, this seemed certain to cause problems in the relationship between the houses. Between 1900 and 1906, several important measures were being considerably watered down or rejected outright. This lead to a resolution in the House of Commons declaring that the Lords' power should be curtailed, put forward by Liberal Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman GCB was a British Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908 and Leader of the Liberal Party from 1899 to 1908. He also served as Secretary of State for War twice, in the Cabinets of Gladstone and Rosebery...

. In 1909, the Lords rejected the financial bill based on the government budget (the "People's Budget
People's Budget
The 1909 People's Budget was a product of then British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith's Liberal government, introducing many unprecedented taxes on the wealthy and radical social welfare programmes to Britain's political life...

") put forward by David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

, by 350 votes to 75. This, according to the Commons, was "a breach of the Constitution, and a usurpation of the rights of the Commons". The Lords suggested that the Commons justify its position as representing the will of the people; it did this through the January 1910 general election. The Liberal government lost heavily, but remained in majority with the help of a significant number of Irish Nationalist and Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 MPs. The Irish Nationalists saw the continued power of the Lords as detrimental to securing Irish Home Rule. Following the election, the Lords relented on the budget (since reintroduced by the government), passing the Lords on 28 April, a day after the Commons.

Passage


The Lords was now faced with the prospect of a Parliament Act, which had considerable support from the Irish Nationalists. A series of meetings between the Liberal government and Conservative opposition members was agreed. 21 such meetings were held between 16 June and 10 November. The discussions considered a wide range of proposals, with initial agreement on finance bills and a joint sitting of the House of Commons and Lords as a means by which to enforce Commons superiority in controversial areas; the number of Lords present would be limited such that a Liberal majority of 50 or more in the House of Commons could overrule the Lords. However, the issue of home rule for Ireland was the main contention, with Conservatives looking to exempt such a law from the Parliament Act procedure by means of a general exception for "constitutional" or "structural" bills. The Liberals supported an exception for bills relating to the monarchy and Protestant succession, but not home rule. Discussions were declared failed on 10 November.

The government threatened another dissolution if the Parliament Act were not passed, and followed through on their threat when opposition in the Lords did not diminish. The elections of December produced little change from January. The calling of a second dissolution of parliament now seems to have been contrary to the wishes of Edward VII
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

. At the same time, George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 was asked if he would be prepared to create sufficient peers, which he would only if the matter arose. This would have meant creating over 400 new Liberal peers. George did, however, demand that it would have to be rejected at least once by the Lords before his intervention. Two amendments made by the Lords were rejected and opposition showed little sign of slipping. This led Asquith to declare George's intention to overcome the majority in the House of Lords by creating sufficient new peers. It was passed in the Lords by 131 votes to 114 votes, a majority of 17. This reflected a large number of abstentions.

Provisions


The preamble included the words "it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation" at the request of prominent Cabinet member Sir Edward Grey. The long title
Long title
The long title is the formal title appearing at the head of a statute or other legislative instrument...

 of the Act was "An Act to make provision with respect to the powers of the House of Lords in relation to those of the House of Commons, and to limit the duration of Parliament." Section 8 defined the short title
Short title
The short title is the formal name by which a piece of primary legislation may by law be cited in the United Kingdom and other Westminster-influenced jurisdictions , as well as the United States. It contrasts with the long title which, while usually being more fully descriptive of the...

 as the "Parliament Act 1911".

The bill was also an attempt to place the relationship between the House of Commons and House of Lords on a new footing. As well as the direct issue of money Bills, it set new conventions about how the power the Lords continued to hold would be used. It did not change the composition of the Lords, however.

The Lords would only be able to delay money bills for one month, effectively ending their ability to do so. These were defined as any public bill which contained only provisions dealing with the imposition, repeal, remission, alteration, or regulation of taxation; the imposition for the payment of debt or other financial purposes of charges on the Consolidated Fund
Consolidated Fund
Consolidated Fund or the Consolidated Revenue Fund is the term used for the main bank account of the government in many of the countries in the Commonwealth of Nations.-Establishment:...

, or on money provided by Parliament, or the variation or repeal of any such charges; supply; the appropriation, receipt, custody, issue or audit
Audit
The general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product. The term most commonly refers to audits in accounting, but similar concepts also exist in project management, quality management, and energy conservation.- Accounting...

 of accounts of public money; and the raising or guarantee of any loan or the repayment thereof. It did not however, cover any sort of local taxes or similar measures. Some Finance Bills have not fallen within this criterion; Consolidated Fund and Appropriation Bills have. The Speaker of the House of Commons would have to certify that a bill was a money bill, endorsing it with a Speaker's certificate. The Local Government Finance Bill 1988, which introduced the Community Charge
Community Charge
The Community Charge, popularly known as the "poll tax", was a system of taxation introduced in replacement of the rates to part fund local government in Scotland from 1989, and England and Wales from 1990. It provided for a single flat-rate per-capita tax on every adult, at a rate set by the...

 ("Poll Tax"), was not certified as a Money Bill and was therefore considered by the Lords. Whilst Finance Bills are not considered Money Bills, convention dictates that those parts of a Finance Bill dealing with taxation or expenditure (which, if in an Act alone, would constitute a Money Bill) are not questioned.

Other public bills could no longer be veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

ed; instead, they could be delayed for up to two years. This two year period meant that legislation introduced in the fourth or fifth years of a parliament could be delayed until after the next election, which could prove an effective measure to prevent it being passed. Specifically, two years had to elapse between the second reading in the House of Commons in the first session and the passing of the bill in the House of Commons in the third session. The Speaker has to also certify that the conditions of the bill had been complied with. Significant restrictions on amendments are made to ensure that it is the same bill that has been rejected twice. The 1911 Act made clear that the life of a parliament could not be extended without the consent of the Lords.

Parliament had been limited to a maximum of seven years under the Septennial Act 1715
Septennial Act 1715
The Septennial Act 1715 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. It was passed in May 1716. It increased the maximum length of a parliament from three years to seven...

, but this was reduced by the passing of the Parliament Act 1911. Parliament would now be limited to five years, beginning the first meeting of parliament (by writ of summons
Writ of summons
A Writ of Summons may be* Writ of Summons, a writ that enables a peer to sit in Parliament* A Writ of summons is a document instituting legal proceedings, see Summons....

) after the election. In practice, no election has been forced by such a limitation as all parliaments have been dissolved by the Queen on request of the Prime Minister. The reduction in parliament length was seen as a counterbalance to the new powers granted to the Commons.

Result


The Lords continued to suggest amendments to money bills over which it had no right of veto and in several instances these were accepted by the Commons. These included the China Indemnity Bill 1925 and the Inshore Fishing Industry Bill 1947. The use of the Lords' now temporary veto remains a powerful check on legislation.

It was used in relation to the Government of Ireland Act 1914, which had been under the threat of a Lords veto, now removed. Ulster protestants had been firmly against the passing of the bill. However, it never came into force because of the outbreak of the First World War. Amendments to the Parliament Act 1911 were made to prolong the life of the 1910 parliament following the outbreak of the First World War and 1935 parliament
United Kingdom general election, 1935
The United Kingdom general election held on 14 November 1935 resulted in a large, though reduced, majority for the National Government now led by Conservative Stanley Baldwin. The greatest number of MPs, as before, were Conservative, while the National Liberal vote held steady...

 because of the Second World War. These made special exemptions to the requirement to hold an election every five years.

Legislation passed through the Parliament Act, without the consent of the Lords, is considered primary legislation
Primary legislation
Primary legislation is law made by the legislative branch of government. This contrasts with secondary legislation, which is usually made by the executive branch...

. This was of importance in Jackson v Attorney General
Jackson v Attorney General
Jackson v Attorney General [2005] UKHL 56 was a House of Lords case concerning the legality of the use of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 to pass the Hunting Act to ban fox hunting...

,[2005] UKHL 56, [2005] 4 All ER 1253. when the validity of the Parliament Act 1949 was questioned because it used the 1911 Act. The challenge asserted foremost that the 1949 Act was delegated rather than primary legislation, and that the 1911 Act had delegated power to the Commons. If this were the case, then the Commons could not empower itself through the 1949 Act without direct permission from the Lords. Since it was passed under the 1911 Act, it had never received the required consent of the Lords. However, the 1949 Act was found to be legal. The 1911 Act, it was concluded, was not primarily about empowering the Commons, but rather to restrict the ability of the Lords to affect legislation. This ruling also means that efforts to abolish the House of Lords (a major constitutional change) using the Act could be successful, although the issue was not directly addressed in the ruling.

Analysis


The Parliament Act 1911 can be seen in the context of the British constitution: rather than creating a written constitution, parliament chose instead to legislation through the usual channels in response to the crisis. This was a pragmatic response, which avoided the further problems of codifying unwritten rules and reconstructing the entire government. It is commonly considered a statute of 'constitutional importance', which gives it informal priority in parliament and in the courts with regards to whether later legislation can change it and the process by which this may happen.

It is also mentioned in discussion of constitutional convention
Constitutional convention (political custom)
A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. In some states, notably those Commonwealth of Nations states that follow the Westminster system and whose political systems derive from British constitutional law, most...

. Whilst it replaced conventions regarding the role of the House of Lords, it also relies on several others. Section 1(1) only makes sense if money bills do not arise in the House of Lords and the provisions in section 2(1) only if proceedings on a public bill are completed in a single session, otherwise they must fail and be put through procedure again.

Sources