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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 38: Lord Cave’s Memorandum: 1925


← ii. 318 | ii. 319 → CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

Lord Cave’s Memorandum: 1925

In the general election of 1924 the Conservative party won 419 out of 615 seats. Stanley Baldwin, prime minister for the second time, could now comfortably command a majority in the Commons. The Conservative victory also gave new hope to National Unionists who wanted to change the power and the composition of the House of Lords. In the Commons, they sensed that, without difficulty, they would be able to push through the desired bill. Thus Baldwin was put under pressure to work towards this end. Lord Cave, the new lord chancellor,1 offered to help. He prepared a memorandum for the cabinet. We reproduce it here:


House of Lords Reform

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