Show Less
Restricted access

House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 2. 1943–1958: Hopes Rekindled

Peter Raina

Peter Raina’s House of Lords Reform recounts the long struggle to bring an ancient institution up to date. The first volume ended in 1937, as crisis overwhelmed Europe. Reform issues were not forgotten, however. This second volume continues the story, presenting a wealth of illuminating records, a great many of them published here for the first time.
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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 17: 1956. More Reform Proposals: Lords Salisbury, Home and De La Warr, Duncan Sandys and David Eccles



1956. More Reform Proposals: Lords Salisbury, Home and De La Warr, Duncan Sandys and David Eccles

The year 1956 overf lowed with reform proposals, and they were both comprehensive and rich in content. No one was so deeply involved in collecting and presenting material for the cabinet as Lord Salisbury. He, it seemed, was now asserting what seemed like a hereditary claim to reform the hereditary peerage of the Upper House. His efforts and dedication are revealed in what we record here. Yet it is sad to record that, after all this work, he had eventually to accept defeat. There is one simple reason for this. His proposals were much too comprehensive to win overall agreement in parliament. Of course, there were others who wished to reform the House, and we have no reason to doubt their sincerity. What we must note, however, is the inconsistency to be found in all these proposals. Each and every proponent put forward a view that suited himself alone. Much of the debate concerned the composition of a future upper chamber. Here minds differed; there was no consensus. Arguments often recurred in the same form but were differently interpreted.

We quote below various plans put forward for consideration – some brief, and some showing considerable insight. The material is fascinating. It abounds in much patient thought. Yet the recommendations, ingenious as they are, do not appear to meet the requirements of the day.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.