effective second chamber fit for the 21st century. Commenting on the
government's promised second stage of proposals to reform the house
of lords the lord chancellor, Lord Irvine, said:
'The proposals in this White Paper mark a further step in the
government's continuing programme of constitutional reform. When we
legislated in 1999 to remove most of the hereditary peers, we
promised that we would complete the job of creating a modern and
representative house of lords, suitable for the 21st century. This
White Paper fulfils that promise.
'As we pledged at the last general election, they take, as their
starting point, the proposals of the royal commission on lords
reform, chaired by Lord Wakeham, which we have pledged to implement
in the most effective way possible.
'These proposals will deliver a house that respects the continued
pre-eminence of the house of commons as the elected representatives
of the people.
'It will, at the same time, be more representative of the country as
a whole. It will not be dominated by one political party. Nor will
governments be able to determine the membership to their advantage.'
The main proposals are:
- The remaining 92 hereditary peers left in the house after the first
phase of reform (achieved by the House of Lords Act 1999) will lose
- The link between the peerage and membership of the Lords will end,
although existing life peers will retain membership of the reformed
second chamber as a transitional measure and the peerage itself
will remain, but purely as an honour;
- Any government's control over membership of the second chamber will
be ended, with the creation of a statutory appointments commission
to choose independent members and to determine, in accordance with
rules, the proper level of membership in the reformed house for
each of th e major political parties, thus building on the present
prime minister's relinquishment of much of his powers of patronage
on a voluntary basis;
- The majority of the members of the new chamber will be nominees of
the major political parties, but around one fifth of the House
(about 120 people) will be independent of party politics, 120
members will be elected to represent the nations and the regions
and there will be a continuing role for the church of England
bishops and the law lords;
- The proposed legislation will include measures to boost the
membership in the second chamber of both women and members of the
ethnic minority communities;
- The house will be capped, after 10 years (to allow an orderly
transition), at 600, compared with over 700 members now.
The proposals will create a house that does not threaten the
structure of democratic accountability that runs from the government,
via the house of commons, to the people. It will be a revising and
deliberative body, with the expertise and authority to ask the
commons to think again over a course of action. But, if the house of
commons insists that the course it has chosen must be followed, the
lords must, as now defer to the elected house.
The government proposes no changes to the powers of the second
chamber over Bills. But the house of lords' powers over subordinate
legislation will be changed to one of delay, to allow the house of
commons to think again, but not veto.
As promised in the Queen's Speech, the government is consulting on
all aspects of these proposals. It has said it particularly welcomes
- The overall balance of the membership package.
- With which other set of main elections (e.g. a general election or
an election to the European parliament) should the new elections to
the Lords be linked?
- For how long should members be elected?
- For how long should appointed member s serve?
- What actions should result in a member's disqualification from the
- Should the new chamber move away from use of expenses as the means
1. The house of lords - completing the reform (Cmnd. 5291) is
published by the Stationery Office at a cost of£8.25. It is also
available on the LCD website. 2. The Royal Commission Report was entitled A House for the Future - Cmnd. 4534, and was published in January 2000. 3. The period of consultation ends on 31 January 2002. Comments should be sent to: Laura Beaumont Lord Chancellor's Department House of Lords Reform Team Room 815-816 Millbank Tower 21-24 Millbank London SW1P 4QP E-mail: Laura.Beaumont@lcdhq.gsi.gov.uk
2. The Royal Commission Report was entitled A House for the Future
- Cmnd. 4534, and was published in January 2000.
3. The period of consultation ends on 31 January 2002.
Comments should be sent to:
Lord Chancellor's Department
House of Lords Reform Team
Room 815-816 Millbank Tower
London SW1P 4QP