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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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 Nineteen: 2014. Dan Byles’ House of Lords Reform Act 2014 and Two By-Elections

← ii. 582 | ii. 583 → CHAPTER NINETEEN


An attempt to recapitulate all the many proposals to reform the House of Lords would be exceeding the bounds of reason. However, certain conclusions drawn from the foregoing study of attempted reforms might prove to be of some value.

The foremost argument that appears to be relevant is that long and complicated bills are destined to fail. Only short bills with one, two or at the most three clauses are likely to win consensus in both Houses of Parliament. Thus reform must come by stages. The collapse of the government’s bill of September 2012 should teach us this lesson: long bills are doomed to fail.

A short bill has more chances, and it seems to be in this spirit that Baroness Hayman and Lord Steel of Aikwood have been thinking since the 2012 débâcle.

On 15 May 2013 Baroness Hayman introduced a bill to ‘make provision for permanent leave of absence from the House of Lords; to provide for expulsion of members of the House of Lords in specified circumstances; to make provision for the appointment of a Commission to make recommendations to the Crown for the selection of life-peerages; and to restrict membership of the House of Lords by virtue of hereditary peerages’. The bill contained 16 clauses. These included a clause on retirement (that a peer may retire as a member of the House by giving notice in writing; and that retirement may not be rescinded); another on non-attendance (that...

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