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The Parliament Act 1911 (in the UK) gives the House of Lords different levels of power over a bill that has been passed by the House of Commons, depending into which of three categories the bill falls:

  • for a "money bill", the House of Lords can only delay passage of the bill by one month;
  • for a bill that contains "any provision to extend the maximum duration of Parliament beyond five years", the House of Lords has an absolute veto over passage of the bill;
  • for any other bill, the House of Lords can delay passage of the bill by one year (or longer if there is no prorogation/opening of a new session during that year).

The 1911 Act, at section 1(2), is explicit about who adjudicates any disagreement as to whether or not a particular bill is a "money bill": the Speaker of the House of Commons. However, the 1911 Act contains no explicit statement of who adjudicates any disagreement as to whether or not a particular bill contains "any provision to extend the maximum duration of Parliament beyond five years". Who would adjudicate any such disagreement?

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Before getting into the technical answer to this question it is worth noting that when matters of a constitutional nature are involved then in practice it is not just a matter of a technical "legal" answer. Students and academics like to pose hypothetical questions such as "What would happen if the Queen refused assent to a Bill?" or "If Parliament is supreme, could it abolish the courts?" etc. The practical reality is that a liberal democracy, such as ours, ultimately relies on those in positions of power to respect the democratic conventions and preserve the constitution. When there is a legal angle to some constitutional issue the courts will play their part but, whatever legal analysis their judgments may contain, they will always have in mind the importance of maintaining our democratic system. It is also worth noting that where an Act contains an "ouster" clause (saying that a certificate of X shall not be questioned in any court of law) the courts always find a way to interpret that so that it does not apply in any case where the courts think they should adjudicate!

Those preliminaries out of the way, I think the technical legal answer to your question is that first of all the Speaker decides and provides a certificate under s.2(2). You will see that s.2(1) deals with "any other bill" (your third bullet point) and s.2(2) requires a certificate from the Speaker that "the provisions of this section have been duly complied with" (i.e. that it is indeed in the "any other bill" category).

Of course there is a further question of whether, if the Speaker gets it wrong, the courts could intervene and exactly how that might happen (the so-called "John Bercow question" of what if a Speaker goes rogue), but the initial technical answer to you question is "the Speaker of the House of Commons".

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  • Thanks, that makes sense. I had read 2(2), but somehow I interpreted "the provisions of this section" as including 2(3), 2(4), and the main clause of 2(1), but not the conditional clause of 2(1). Oct 6 at 16:01
  • Query if the newly established U.K. Supreme Court might be better positioned as a practical and probable matter to play a role in this decision than earlier courts in the U.K. would have been able to.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 6 at 21:26

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