Evidence to the House of Lords Select Comittee – Power to Make War

To: The Clerk to the Constitution Committee, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.
From: Anthony Tuffin

War making powers

This is a personal view.
1. The power of modern Prime Ministers to use the royal prerogative to make war is paradoxically less democratic than when the Sovereign exercised the power personally.
2. This is because the Sovereign’s power to make war was balanced by Parliament’s power to levy or withhold taxes but, now, the Prime Minister not only exercises the royal prerogative but also in effect controls the House of Commons which has the power to levy or withhold taxes.
3. Nevertheless, I do not advocate returning the royal prerogative to the sovereign.
4. The most obvious solution would be to transfer war-making powers to the Commons, which is the body that is supposed to represent the electorate.
5. However, as mentioned in paragraph 2 above, the Prime Minister in effect controls the Commons so that alone would not be enough. At the same time, the Commons should be made more independent of the Government generally and of the Prime Minister in particular. For example:
5.1. The Prime Minister’s powers of patronage would be reduced if there was a wholly elected House of Lords or there was a change to a unicameral system (with appropriate safeguards to prevent dictatorship by the Commons).
5.2. The powers of the Government and the Opposition leadership would be restricted if MPs could freely elect members of their committees and the committees could freely elect their own chairpersons.
5.3. The powers of MPs and their electors would be increased and the powers of the Government and the Opposition leadership would be reduced if MPs were elected by Single Transferable Vote because they would then be more accountable to their electors than to their party machines.

Anthony Tuffin.
11 October 2005

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