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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Sixteen: 2011. A Draft Reform Bill

← ii. 376 | ii. 377 →CHAPTER SIXTEEN


The general election was due to be held on 6 May 2010. In their election manifestos, all the major parties had pledged to reform the House of Lords.1

The Labour Party manifesto declared that it would ‘ensure that the hereditary principle is removed from the House of Lords’, and that then further democratic reform would be ‘achieved in stages’ to create a fully elected second chamber. The proposals would be put to the people in a referendum.

The Conservatives promised that they would ‘work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second Chamber to replace the current House of Lords, recognising that an efficient and effective second Chamber should play an important role in our democracy and requires both legitimacy and public confidence’.

The Liberals gave assurance that they intended to ‘replace the House of Lords with a fully-elected second Chamber with considerably fewer members than the current House’.

← ii. 377 | ii. 378 →A Range of Opinions

The prospects of eventual reform of the House of Lords animated debate within various academic schools of thought.2

The Bishop of Bradford (Church of England) thought that a fully elected House of Lords was a ‘naive attempt at improving democracy’. It was important to draw upon the ‘expertise of people from beyond the political sphere’.3

The British Humanist Association argued that no member of the House of Lords ‘should be elected or appointed on religious grounds alone’.4

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