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House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 1. The Origins to 1937: Proposals Deferred- Book One: The Origins to 1911- Book Two: 1911–1937

Peter Raina

One of the peculiarities of British history is the development of a constitution headed by the Crown and the two Houses of Parliament. This system emerged to become a balance of democracy, efficiency and moderation that became the admiration of the world.
The contribution of the House of Lords to this balance is all too often overlooked. In this richly documented two-volume work, the author offers a detailed examination of the Lords’ constitutional position and the predicament they faced as the Commons increasingly championed popular rule. With a landowning membership based on the hereditary principle, the Lords struggled to adapt. Yet, valiant attempts were made. The author gives us the first thorough, full-length history of the Lords’ ambiguous responses to the new democracy and the stream of arguments, proposals and bills raised for reform of their House.
Drawing on speeches, letters, reports and memoranda of the times (some never previously published), the book brings to life the inner wranglings and arresting personalities, the hopes and anxieties and the sheer frustrations of a House divided between entrenched interests and idealism, and often threatened by progressives outside.
The two books in Volume One cover the period from the medieval origins of the House of Lords and proceed, through many tumultuous events, to the outbreak of the Second World War.
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Chapter 10: Bankruptcy Disqualification: 1871

Extract

← i. 192 | i. 193 → CHAPTER TEN

Bankruptcy Disqualification: 1871

In 1875 we notice a spark of hope in Lords’ reform. It was only a spark. If until then insolvency and bankruptcy of a peer did not constitute a disqualification for a summons to the House of Lords, the peers in July 1871 resolved that it was ‘necessary for the preservation of the dignity and independence’ of the House that bankrupt peers ‘should be disqualified from sitting and voting in the House of Lords’. An act to this effect was passed. It read as follows:1

Whereas it is necessary for the preservation of the dignity and independence of Parliament that bankrupts should be disqualified from sitting or voting in the House of Lords:

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

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