House of Lords to vote on tuition fees on Tuesday at 6pm
By Westminster convention, Lords can only vote against so-called ‘secondary legislation’ in very limited circumstances. The ‘primary legislation’, in this case, was the introduction of ‘top-up’ fees by the previous Labour government. But the matter is complicated now by the question of the coalition’s democratic legitimacy.
The Salisbury convention* obliges the Lords not to challenge any legislation that was promised in the most recent election manifesto of the governing party. To do so would be rightly seen as an unelected chamber undermining the choice of the electorate.
But the current government, which nobody elected, is composed of two parties, one of whom made no promise about tuition fee levels, and another who made an unambiguous claim that they would seek to phase out tuition fees and an unambiguous pledge that if you voted for them they would oppose any rise in tuition fees.
So, the current legislation which the
conmen Commons agreed on Thursday is founded on a so-called ‘compromise’ as established in the coalition agreement penned after the election.
The legislative question now in play is whether the Lords have the right to challenge laws that are set out in a coalition agreement, which is clearly very different from the status of a manifesto of a successfully elected governing party. The coalition agreement clearly does not have a democratic mandate.
It is possible to write to a peer, and campaign for them to vote, even though they are unelected. You can do so here:
*Note: ‘The Salisbury Convention’ ensures that Government Bills can get through the Lords when the Government of the day has no majority in the Lords. In practice, it means that the Lords do not vote down a Government Bill mentioned in an election manifesto. See http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/parliamentacts/