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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Six: 1997. The Lords and the Labour Manifesto


← i. 296 | i. 297 →CHAPTER SIX

1997. The Lords and the Labour Manifesto

A general election was to be held on 1 May 1997. All the three major parties published their election manifestos. With reference to Lords reform, the Conservatives were the least committed. They ‘were not against change where it is practical and beneficial’. But ‘fundamental changes’ which had not ‘been fully thought through’ would be ‘extremely damaging’, and they would ‘oppose change for change’s sake’.1 The Liberal Democrats promised to transform the House of Lords ‘into a predominantly elected second chamber capable of representing the nations and regions of the UK and of playing a key role in scrutinising European legislation’.2 The Labour Party was the most explicit and elaborate.3 The House of Lords, according to Labour:

must be reformed. As an initial, self-contained reform, not dependent on further reform in the future, the rights of the hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords will be ended by statute. This will be the first step in a process of reform to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative. The legislative powers of the House of Lords will remain unaltered.

The system of appointment of life peers to the House of Lords will be reviewed. Our objective will be to ensure that over time party appointees as life peers more accurately reflect the proportion of votes cast at the previous general election. We are committed...

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