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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 23: 1969. The Parliament (No. 2) Bill: Regrets and Reflections



1969. The Parliament (No. 2) Bill:Regrets and Reflections

None regretted the disappearance of the Parliament (No.2) Bill more than Lord Alport. He immediately made an effort to recover what had been lost. This he did by introducing a bill of his own in the House of Lords on 21 April. The bill gave an opportunity to many members of the House to reflect upon the dropped Parliament (No. 2) Bill. Lord Alport’s bill was now the sixth in succession made at this time in attempts to reform the House of Lords.

Lord Alport begged leave to introduce a ‘Parliament (No. 6) Bill’ ‘to amend the law relating to the composition and powers of the House of Lords; to make related provision as to the parliamentary franchise and qualification; and for purposes connected therewith’.1

He moved that the bill be read a first time. On Question ‘whether the Bill shall be now read’, the Lordships divided: Contents, 54, Not-Contents 43; resolved in the affirmative. The bill was read accordingly, and was to be printed. No second reading took place, however, since, on 8 May, Lord Alport begged leave to withdraw the bill, and it was, by leave, duly withdrawn.

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