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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were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated.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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← ii. 612 | ii. 613 →Epilogue


It is perhaps incumbent on us to offer a few, if only brief, conclusive remarks. We must once and for all give up the thought of creating a wholly or partly elected second chamber. The system of elections should be completely ruled out. Not only would an elected second chamber become more powerful than it should be, but such a chamber would challenge the primacy of the House of Commons. Further, the very process of introducing various forms of electoral system would make reform more, and not less, complicated. Besides a hybrid system – a partly elected and partly nominated second chamber – would divide the House into two classes: the ‘representative’ and the ‘appointed’. That would hardly be a welcome reform.

There is general accordance in opinion that a second chamber should be a revising chamber. That this element remains effective should be our major concern. The House of Lords has at present sufficient powers to do this job, and it has so far fulfilled its responsibilities most properly. Any major disputes between the two Houses can be resolved by creating joint committees.

Failure to agree on the composition of a second chamber has been the sole cause of delay in reform. The problem of membership should be the domain of an independent Appointments Commission. Only a body of this kind could guarantee the legitimacy of the new House. At the time of writing, the House of Lords is overcrowded: there is hardly room to accommodate all...

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