The House of Lords will not try to block or ‘sabotage’ Brexit

House of LordsBritain’s Queen Elizabeth delivers her speech during the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords in 2013.REUTERS/Toby Melville

Members of the House of Lords will not try to derail Brexit by randomly blocking any parliamentary bill on the triggering of Article 50, says the Speaker of the House of Lords.

According to The Daily Telegraph, Lord Fowler does not want to create discord between the Lords and the Commons and will not attempt to “sabotage legislation” surrounding Brexit.

“The Lords recognise the primacy of the Commons based on the fact that they are the elected chamber and we are not,” Fowler says in a piece for the newspaper.

“In return most MPs value the check that scrutiny by the Lords provides. We are not here to sabotage legislation – we are here to improve it.”

There have been fears that the Lords — where the majority of members are thought to have favoured remaining in the European Union — could use its powers to simply block bills from the House of Commons, thus slowing down or even derailing Brexit. The Lord Speaker, a former Transport Minister and Conservative Party Chairman, denies that this is the case.

Suggestions first came after Conservative peer Lady Wheatcroft suggested that the Lords may make attempts to block the UK leaving the EU. “If it comes to a Bill, I think the Lords might actually delay things. I think there’s a majority in the Lords for remaining,” she said in November.

Under British law, any bill passed by the House of Commons must be approved in the House of Lords before formally entering into law. The system is designed to provide a check to the power of the lower house, particularly in times when the government has a strong majority (that is not currently the case).

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government must now seek the approval of the House of Commons before it can trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of leaving the EU. That comes after a legal challenge brought by campaigner Gina Miller led to a High Court ruling that the government is legally required to pass an act of parliament before initiating Britain’s formal withdrawal from the European Union.

Lord FowlerLord Speaker Norman Fowler.Reuters/Kirsty Wigglesworth

The government appealed that decision to the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court. The court is expected to give its verdict at some point in January, but it is unlikely that the initially ruling will be overturned.

In his article, Lord Fowler goes on to defend the role of the House of Lords, which some pro-Brexit members of parliament have suggested could be abolished if it fails to approve any Brexit legislation.

“Although we do not yet know the decision of the Supreme Court on triggering Article 50 let alone the contents of the Great Repeal Bill a number of MPs and indeed ministers have made threats aimed at the very existence of the Lords if there is any delay in the Brexit process,” he writes.

“It is not my role to enter into the politics of Brexit, but I do think that I am entitled to defend the House of Lords from this kind of attack.”

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