Labour recently announced that any new peers it nominates must commit to abolishing the House of Lords. In this post, Pete Dorey discusses Labour’s track record on Lords reform and why the party has failed to enact serious reforms when in government, arguing that the subject has suffered from a lack of intra-party consensus and a lack of serious interest in reform at ministerial level.
The Lord Speaker’s Committee on the Size of the House of Lords, has recommended moving to a chamber of no more than 600 members, appointed for 15-year terms. This follows years of controversy about the growing size of the Lords, which currently stands at over 800. In a post originally published on The Constitution Unit, Sir David Beamish, formerly the most senior official in the House of Lords, argues that the proposals offer the best opportunity for years for some small progress on the knotty issue of Lords reform.
By Peter Dorey
House of Lords reform remains unfinished business, and looks likely to remain so for a long time yet. The preamble to the 1911 Parliament Act portentously proclaimed that Lords reform was ‘an urgent question which brooks no delay’, yet more than a century later, there have been only sporadic and inchoate reforms. Moreover, these have often been motivated by calculations of partisan advantage, even when depicted as being derived from important political principles. After the 1911 Act, the remainder of the twentieth century witnessed only three further laws pertaining to House of Lords reform: the 1949 Parliament Act, which reduced the Second Chamber’s power of delay (veto) of legislation from two years to one; the 1958 Life Peerages Act, which established a new category of appointed peer to sit alongside the hereditary peers; the 1999 House of Lords Reform Act, which removed most of the hereditary peers, but allowed 92 to remain pending further reform.