Not fit for purpose?

THE new Home Secretary, John Reid has one saving grace: He has listened to the voices of the people, police authorities and MPs complaining that the proposed police mergers were ill thought out and being implemented at a ridiculous pace. Even as his paus

THE new Home Secretary, John Reid has one saving grace: He has listened to the voices of the people, police authorities and MPs complaining that the proposed police mergers were ill thought out and being implemented at a ridiculous pace.

Even as his "pause for reflection" started, the House of Lords has thrown yet another obstacle in the way of his forcing it through anyway in the longer term.

They have, effectively, arranged for police authorities to have the power of veto over the plans.

Knowing this Government's track record, I doubt that the House of Lords' amendment will survive.

They tend to keep bringing such things back to the Commons again and again, and invoking the Parliament Act if necessary, until the will of Mr Blair's Government prevails.

The prime argument of The Parliament Act is that the (unelected) House of Lords should not have the power to thwart the will of the (elected) House of Commons. It sounds quite a reasonable argument.

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MPs, it argues, have to face the wrath of their electors over the legislation they support, whereas the House of Lords members do not.

So why is it that Scottish MPs at Westminster can vote on matters that affect only England?

This so-called "West Lothian Question" has been a cause celebre in Parliament for some years now.

But still Scottish MPs can vote to continue charging the elderly in England for personal social services knowing that their own constituents will not be affected in the slightest because members of the Scottish Parliament have made alternative arrangements for them.

Perhaps we should have another look at the Parliament Act to see if that, itself, is "fit for purpose" while the West Lothian question remains unresolved.

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