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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Eleven: 2005. Constitutional Reform: The Lord Speaker

← ii. 138 | ii. 139 →CHAPTER ELEVEN

Extract

The office of lord Speaker is a recent one. It came into existence in 2005 as a result of the constitutional reform of that year. We must elucidate the background.

After the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform had delivered its Second Report (on 9 May 2003), the government felt it should, for the time being, proceed no further with legislation.1 The reports of the Joint ← ii. 139 | ii. 140 →Committee had brought into prominence how difficult it was going to be to achieve all-party consensus over the House of Lords – especially with regard to the House’s composition. Yet the government was not prepared to back down totally. It embarked on another major constitutional reform, and planned to force it through the current Parliament. The reform concerned the establishment of a separate Supreme Court, the removal of the law lords from the House of Lords and the abolition of the office of lord chancellor. The office at 10 Downing Street made this decision public on 12 June 2003. The announcement came as a complete surprise – it had not been a manifesto commitment. But it is wrong to mark it out, as Lord Henley did, as a measure ‘brought forward to deal with a botched ministerial reshuffle’,2 although a cabinet reshuffle did indeed take place on 12 June.

In the afternoon of this same day, news came out that Lord Irvine of Lairg, the lord chancellor, was leaving the government, and Lord Falconer of Thoroton...

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