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House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 4. 1971–2014: The Exclusion of Hereditary Peers – Book 1: 1971–2001 – Book 2: 2002–2014

Peter Raina

Peter Raina’s magnificent history of Lords reform has already brought into the public domain a mass of original documents and thrown light on the debates they fuelled. In Volume 4 he brings his study up to the present age.
The Thatcher and Blair governments were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated. Mrs Thatcher’s inaction on the issue only increased calls for abolition or change. So the Blair government grasped the nettle. In one historic Act of Parliament it ejected hereditary peers from the House – except for 92 saved by a last-minute amendment. The negotiations and reactions surrounding this event are recorded here in lively detail.
This concluding book brings Peter Raina’s History of Lords’ Reform up to the end of 2014. It follows on from the banishment of hereditary peers from the House in the name of democracy. This was proclaimed as only the start of more sweeping change. What was to happen next?
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Chapter One: 1971–76. Reforms Suggested

Extract

← i. xxiv | i. 1 →CHAPTER ONE

1971–76. Reforms Suggested

The House of Lords Reform Bill that was introduced in 1969 met with failure, causing discomfort to both the government and opposition front benches. A general election was soon due and there was no time to start up reform plans all over again. In the election of June 1970 it was the Conservatives who won. Edward Heath was now prime minister. As leader of the Opposition he had contributed significantly to the All-Party Committee consensus (1968) but his efforts had not met with success. Therefore, as prime minister, he showed little interest in Lords reform.

However, though the government shied away from proposals, there was no lack of private initiatives. In the years 1971–72, for instance, Lord Brooke of Cumnor’s committee undertook to revise the 1968/69 reform draft.1

The Brooke Committee suggested certain improvements, but these were not enough to be taken seriously by the Heath government. Commenting on the report, Michael Wheeler-Booth (one of the major supporters of the 1969 Reform Bill) said that the authors of the report had not learnt from past experience: he insisted that any future legislation ‘should be pared to a minimum and that a bill should be as short and sharp as possible’.2

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