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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Fourteen: 2007. A New White Paper on Reform: Jack Straw

← ii. 208 | ii. 209 →CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Extract

The Labour Party’s general election manifesto of 2005 promised to complete the reform of the House of Lords, so that ‘it is a modern and effective revising Chamber’. Labour, it read, believed that a reformed Upper Chamber ‘must be effective, legitimate and more representative without challenging the primacy of the House of Commons’. The process of modernization would include the removal of the remaining hereditary peers. The manifesto also declared that the promised plan would make allowance for a free vote on the composition of the reformed House.1

The Labour Party won the election. Tony Blair, now prime minister for a third term, chose Mr Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons and lord privy seal to execute the promises of the manifesto. The choice could not have been better. Mr Straw was a great enthusiast for Lords reform. In addition to his other and various responsibilities, he devoted much of his energy and time to drawing up a plan to reform the House of Lords. Such a plan, he sincerely believed, would be effective, legitimate and balanced only if a cross-party group was mobilized to draft it. Mr Straw succeeded in bringing together such a group, which was composed of the following members:

← ii. 209 | ii. 210 →The Rt Hon. Jack Straw MP

leader of the House of Commons and lord privy seal (chair)

The Rt Hon. Lord Falconer of Thoroton

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