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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Four: 1980–96. A Multitude of Proposals


← i. 172 | i. 173 →CHAPTER FOUR

1980–96. A Multitude of Proposals

Since Mrs Thatcher was determined not to carry out reform of the Upper House, and this policy was kept up by her successor John Major (1990–97), urgings for change increasingly came from spheres of interest outside the government. The subject received considerable attention, not only in private members’ bills1 but also in the media.

Two Private Members’ Bills, 1980

House of Lords Elections: Brandon Rhys Williams

On 8 February 1980 the Conservative MP Sir Brandon Rhys Williams introduced a bill in the House of Commons to ‘provide for the election of members of the House of Lords by proportional representation; and to provide that only the members so elected shall be qualified to vote in that House’.2

The bill suggested that:

243 ‘Elected Lords of Parliament’ would be added to the current membership, elected for a five-year renewable term by the ← i. 173 | i. 174 →single transferable vote in five-yearly elections. There would be 79 constituencies returning three members each (nine members in the constituency of Northern Ireland). No other members of the House of Lords would be able to vote in any division of the House or in a Committee.3

The bill was read the first time, and ordered to be read a second time on Friday 4 July 1980 and to be printed. However, it was not pursued any...

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