Parliament Bill 1949

Although the Parliament Act 1911 hinted at further reform of the House of Lords, in fact it remained unaltered until after the Second World War.

The Parliament Act itself was used twice, in order to pass the Government of Ireland Act and Welsh Church Act, both in 1914. It was used a third time in 1949 to pass a second Parliament Bill, which amended and strengthened the 1911 Act.

Tension

As in 1906 the origins of the second Parliament Act lay in anticipated tension between a Conservative-dominated House of Lords and a Commons controlled by a different party, this time Labour rather than the Liberals.

The Labour Government unveiled its proposals in the 1947 King's Speech. These reduced the Lords' delaying power over legislation from two years to one.

When Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister, described the new Parliament Bill as "a wise precautionary measure" he was interrupted by Sir Winston Churchill, the Leader of the Opposition, who called it "A deliberate act of socialist aggression!"

Attlee then noted ironically that Churchill was a member of the Liberal administration which passed the first Parliament Act. The second reading of the new Parliament Bill was moved by Herbert Morrison on 10 November 1947.

Back to the Lords

Unlike 1911, however, there was little opposition to the Government's pre-emptive reform at Westminster. King George VI was believed to approve and Attlee made it known that he had nothing more radical in mind (some in the Labour Party, for example, wanted to abolish the Lords altogether).

Nevertheless, the Parliament Bill was twice rejected by Members of the Lords in June and September 1948, but was reintroduced in July 1949 and given Royal Assent (became an Act of Parliament). The Iron and Steel Bill also passed into law, ironically without requiring the new Act.

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Clement Attlee
Winston Churchill
Herbert Morrison
George VI

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

Related information

Historic Hansard

MPs consider the new Parliament Bill

Did you know?

The Parliament Act 1911 was only used three times until 1949.