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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Ten: 2002–03. The Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform

← ii. viii | ii. 1 →CHAPTER TEN


On 13 May 2002 the president of the Council and leader of the Commons, Robin Cook, announced in the Commons that the government had listened carefully to the wide range of views expressed in the recent debates on Lords reform in both Houses of Parliament and had heeded responses to the White Paper. The government had also taken account of a report from the Public Administration Committee advising that the issue of reform should be considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses, so as to reconcile differences and seek a ‘principled consensus’ on the way forward.1

Eric Forth, for the Opposition, welcomed the government statement. His party, he said, had seen clearly, some time ago, that a ‘joint parliamentary approach would be needed’. He pledged that ‘we will play our full and positive part in the deliberations of the Joint Committee’.

A short debate followed. Paul Tyler asked the government if it could give a ‘more precise indication’ of what timetable it would like. Robin Cook replied that it would be wrong to predetermine a specified date by which the Joint Committee had to respond. Regarding the size of the Committee, he said that any joint committee that was set up had to be divided equally between the two chambers – ‘only half the membership comes from here’. It was, he said, appropriate to proceed by a free vote. Different views existed on both sides of the chamber, so ‘it would be wrong to try to...

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