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House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 3. 1960-1969: Reforms Attempted

Peter Raina

Volume 3 of Peter Raina’s magisterial history covers the 1960s and draws on newly released documents. In astonishing detail, it traces new plans drawn up during the Macmillan-Wilson era to reform the House of Lords. ‘Mission impossible,’ a civil servant declared. But when, to remain a Commons MP, Tony Benn insisted on disclaiming an inherited peerage, he started off a fresh willingness to tackle old problems. The Peerages Act 1963 allowed peers the option of disclaimer and, at last, gave equal rights in the Upper House to Scottish and women inheritors.
A Labour government came in, and in 1967 gained the majority needed to embark on bold legislation. But it feared interference, so comprehensive plans were backed for changing the whole complexion of two-chamber politics. Led by Lord Shackleton and the intellectual Richard Crossman, schemes were devised and inter-party talks got under way – at first in a spirit of cooperation. But had the party elites listened to their fiery back-benchers? When a bill was introduced into parliament, the scenes were unforgettable …
This volume tells not just the story, but reveals the intricate thinking of those who wanted to make a bicameral system work in the age of modern party politics.
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Chapter 3: 1962. The Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform: Draft Report

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← 94 | 95 → CHAPTER THREE

1962. The Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform: Draft Report

The Joint Committee resumed its work at the beginning of November 1962. Both the composition and the terms of reference remained unchanged. The committee met successively on 14, 21 and 27 November and on 5 December, and deliberated on the Orders of Reference as well as on a draft report laid before it. The report was considered paragraph by paragraph. Various members put down amendments, which were either agreed or rejected. There were times when the divisions were very close.1 Finally, on 5 December, the committee resolved that the ‘Draft Report, as amended, be the Report of the Committee’. The committee also ordered that ‘the Lord in the Chair [Lord Kilmuir, created Earl in July 1962] do make the Report to the House of Lords and that Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe do make the Report to the House of Commons’.2

The text of the Report ran thus:3

1. The Committee were appointed to complete the inquiry begun by a Joint Committee of last Session with the same terms of reference, who as they explained in their Report, were unable to complete their work. They came to no formal decision by vote except in relation to the question whether ← 95 | 96 → surrender should entail the extinction of a Peerage for all time. Even that decision is not binding on this Committee. The Committee have had referred to them...

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