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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 13: 1967. Detailed Proposals for Reform: The Shackleton Committee

Extract

← 328 | 329 → CHAPTER THIRTEEN

1967. Detailed Proposals for Reform: The Shackleton Committee

The first meeting of Lord Shackleton’s working committee took place on 27 September 1967. The committee members exhibited a masterly knowledge of the necessary reforms. With minute accuracy they exposed the various elements that had to be grappled with. The discourse is lengthy, the dissertation detailed. For the next two months they met at diverse times, discussing, rephrasing, and redrafting their proposals. The reader might find the study dull, often repetitious. And yet it is resourceful. The members put so much energy and effort into their work that it would be most unfair to quote them only sparingly. We feel justified in reproducing fully the minutes of all the meetings held relating to the reforms.

First Meeting, 27 September 19671

MISC 170(67)

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