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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Twelve: 2005. Voices From Outside and From Across the Parties

← ii. 168 | ii. 169 →CHAPTER TWELVE


Reform of the Lords was not entirely reserved to the government alone nor kept simply within parliamentary debates. The delay in accomplishing reform caused anxiety elsewhere, and this expressed itself in private correspondence as well as in public expostulations. ‘Heaven knows when, if ever, we shall finally have a reformed House of Lords established!’ wrote Sir Patrick Nairne, one-time Master of St Catherine’s College, Oxford.1 He certainly wanted a second chamber (‘with its own name’), but did not ‘want any longer a House of Lords with its historical position in the constitution and all the pomp and ceremonial that still accompanies that. In particular, the Queen should in future open Parliament (with the Queen’s speech, drafted by the Government) in the pre-eminent House of Commons.’2 Nairne also believed ‘strongly’ that ‘it will continue to be essential to have a significant number of members nominated, rather than elected, because of the expertise and experience such members (with which the House of Lords continues to be well stocked at present) can offer, in particular for the revision of legislation coming up, poorly drafted, from the Commons’. As to the future size of the Lords, he ‘would favour an eventual total size of 400–450 rather than the 600 proposed by the Government’; and, to this end, he ‘would have far fewer politically nominated members and more directly elected members, while having at least 120 independent members appointed by the proposed independent Appointments Committee’. Yet ← ii. 169 | ii. 170 →the eventual composition...

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