Volume 2. 1943–1958: Hopes Rekindled
The 4th Marquess of Salisbury planned changes to the Lords even before the war’s end. Further proposals followed after the establishment of the Labour government in 1945. Fearful that its legislation would be blocked, Labour amended the Parliament Act, 1911 to limit the Lords’ delaying powers to just one year. Some believed the Upper House would disappear altogether.
Salisbury’s heir worked hard for preservation, and managed to secure an all-party conference. Its complex schemes and animated discussions are all presented here in original documents. Though the conference failed, Lords Reading, Exeter and Simon continued the effort, with ideas that would eventually bear fruit. They championed the rights of women, self-regulation through standing orders, and the creation of life peers. The Churchill government formed a Lords Reform Committee but could get no further. Then, in an unexpected twist, the cause finally triumphed when Harold Macmillan and the Earl of Home got a one-clause bill through parliament in 1958. The Life Peers Act transformed the nature of British politics.
Chapter 15: 1955. Reform and Attendance: The Select Committee
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1955. Reform and Attendance: The Select Committee
The wide publicity that attended the Wedgwood Benn affair acted as a stimulus upon Lord Salisbury. In a series of vigorous actions, he now proceeded with his aim to alter the powers, as well as the composition, of the House of Lords. On 21 June 1955 the marquess begged to move a motion standing in his name on the order paper. It read as follows:1
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the powers of this House in relation to the attendance of its Members; and that the Lords following be named of the Committee:
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