The pairing system is an excellent example of the habit of cooperation among political parties in Britain. Under this system, an MP of one party is ‘paired’ with an MP of another party. When there is going to be a vote in the House of Commons, and the two MPs know that they would vote on opposite sides, neither of them bother to turn up for the vote. In this way, the difference in numbers between one side and the other is maintained, while the MPs are free to get on with other work. The system works very well. There is hardly ever any ‘cheating’.
PARLIAMENT. THE HOUSE OF LORDS
Section 1. Read and study
1.1 Look through these questions before reading text 1.
What ancient institution does the House of Lords stem from?
What powers are vested in the House of Lords?
What role does the "life peerage" system play in party politics? What practice has become known as being "Kicked upstairs"?
Why is the House of Lords sometimes regarded as a forum for public discussion?
Who chairs debates in the Lords? Why are their powers so limited?
THE HOUSE OF LORDS
Historical background. The House of Lords is the continuation into modern times of the original Norman King's Court, to which the King summoned the great men of the land. Each was summoned individually and the right to be summoned passed to the eldest son. Later the right was associated with the grant of a specific hereditary title (lord). From time to time new peerages were conferred. Some soon became extinct through the lack of any heir, others survived through many generations.
But who are the members of the House of Lords now and how do they get there? Its name suggests that its members are aristocrats. In fact, only a very small proportion of them are there by hereditary right and even these are unlikely to be there for much longer.
The composition of the Lords began to change in 1958, when it became possible to award "life peerages" through the honours system. Entitlement to sit in the Lords does not pass to the children of life peers. The life peerage system is also used as a means of finding a place in public life for distinguished retired politicians who may no longer wish to be as busy as MPs in the Commons, but who still wish to voice their opinions in a public forum. In the late 1990s four of the last five Prime Ministers, as well as about 300 past ministers and other respected politicians, accepted the offer of a life peerage. Political parties are, in fact, especially keen to send their older members who once belonged to the leadership of the party to the House of Lords. It is a way of rewarding them with prestige while at the same time getting them out of the way of the present party leaders in the Commons, where
their status and reputation might otherwise create trouble for party unity.
nformally, this practice has become known as being "kicked upstairs". In 1999 the number of aristocrats with the right to sit in the lords was limited to 92 (about 15% of the total members). At the same time, the numbers of life-peerage appointments was increased. As well as life peers (and the remaining hereditary peers), there is one other kind of peer in the House of Lords. These are the 26 most senior bishops of the Church of England. (By tradition the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are also given life-peerages on their retirement.) Until 2009 there was also a group of “Law Lords”, who fulfilled the Lords’ role as the final Court of Appeal in the country. But this role is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.
The House of Lords has no real power and only limited influence. Although the Lords can delay a bill, they cannot stop it becoming law in the end. Its role, therefore, is a consultative one. In the Lords, bills can be discussed in more detail than the busy Commons has time for – and in this way irregularities or inconsistencies in these proposals can be avoided before they become law. In addition, the Lords act as a forum for discussion, and can sometimes bring to attention matters that the Commons has been ignoring. Most importantly of all, it is argued, the Lords can act as a check on any governments which, through their control of the Commons, are becoming too dictatorial.
The Lords currently has around 740 members, and there are three different types: life-peers, bishops and elected hereditary peers.
Unlike MPs, the public do not elect the Lords. The majority are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or of the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The Lord Speaker chairs the Lords debating chamber (this duty used to be performed by the Lord Chancellor) but they have less authority than their counterpart Speaker in the Commons. This is because the Lords regulate themselves and the order of business in the House. Unlike the Speaker in the House of Commons, the Lord Speaker does not:
человек, занимающий аналогичный пост в другой организации, департаменте и т.п.
3.1 Read the article, do the task (3.2) given below the text
It is often forgotten that the Lords Spiritual constitute a small but significant part of the House of Lords. Now that the government has almost removed hereditary peers from the House, it is about time they paid attention to “another offence to democratic decency”: the 26 senior Anglican clergymen who sit in the House of Lords as of right. This is a right that is not shared by any of Britain's other churchfolk, including the "established" Church of Scotland.
God's party in the Lords is an all-English affair. It is led by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, who are followed by the bishops of London, Durham and Winchester, plus 21 other "senior diocesan bishops of the Church of England". Nobody elected them, no government minister appointed them, but there they are, entrenched on the red benches, and with the right to sound off about the country's morals while topping up their stipends with House of Lords expenses (£34.50 day subsistence, £78 if they have to do an overnight).
Now we have no particular animus against Anglican bishops. They seem decent enough coves. But it does seem a bit rich that they, and only they, have the constitutional right to sit in the legislature, Presbyterians, Jews, Methodists, Baptists, Muslims and all the rest can (and occasionally do) make it on to the red benches by dint of good works and/or ecclesiastical renown. But only the Church of England's top chaps can moonlight as parliamentarians. Which is unfair and should be put right.
After New Statesman Scotland
Why does the author of the article call the 26 senior Anglican clergymen who sit in the House o Lords an offence to democratic decency? Do you agree?
In what ways and to what extent, can different churches and religions be associated with particular geographical areas and particular social classes in your country?
What is the relation between religion and politics in your country?
In Britain most people's everyday language is no longer, as it was in previous centuries, enriched by their knowledge of the Bible. What about your country?