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Keywords:

  • house of lords;
  • Parliament Act;
  • Irish home rule;
  • Unionist Party;
  • Liberal government;
  • 1909 budget;
  • hedgers;
  • ditchers

The Parliament Act 1911, limiting the veto power of the house of lords, constitutes a major piece of constitutional legislation in the United Kingdom. The vulnerability of the house of lords to major change was long-standing and to be found in the actions of prime ministers over more than a century. The constitutional crisis leading to the passage of the act was triggered by the rejection of the budget by the Lords in 1909. However, the outcome of the crisis was by no means certain, either in terms of the provisions of the Parliament Bill or its passage. It was neither a product of a clash between peers and people or a principled debate as to the place of the second chamber in the nation's constitutional arrangements. It was the result of the stances taken on the issue that had dominated British politics since the 1880s: Irish home rule. This determined that the house of lords would be subject to change, not in terms of composition but in respect of its powers. In terms of the contemporary relevance of the act, attempts at further changes to the second chamber constitute neither history repeating itself nor unfinished business.