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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Eight: 2000. A House for the Future: Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords

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← i. 431 | i. 433 →CHAPTER EIGHT

2000. A House for the Future: Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords

Having successfully implemented the ‘first stage’ of Lords reform, the Blair government now moved on to Stage Two. Already in April 1998, on Lord Richard’s advice, the cabinet had agreed that the appointment of a Royal Commission would be the most proper way to reach Stage Two. The prime minister approached Lord Wakeham, asking if he would agree to chair the Commission. Lord Wakeham, a distinguished Conservative peer with vast public experience,1 made two conditions: ‘that the purpose of the exercise was indeed to come up with a workable and widely acceptable solution; and that the membership of the Commission would be conducive to achieving that’.2 The prime minister agreed. On 14 October 1998 the lord privy seal, Baroness Jay of Paddington, made known in the House of Lords that ‘we intend to appoint, first, a Royal Commission to undertake a wide-ranging review and to bring forward recommendations for further legislation. When the Royal Commission is formally established we will set a time limit for it – a time limit for it to do its work and a time limit for it to report back to the Government.’3 Soon the membership of the Royal Commission was established: Lord Wakeham (Chairman), Gerald Kaufman MP, Baroness ← i. 432 | i. 434 →Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, Ann Beynon, William Morris, Lord Hurd of Westwell, Lord Butler of Brockwell, the...

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