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HOUSE OF LORDS REFORM WHITE PAPER A SECOND CHAMBER FIT FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

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The government today published its proposals to create a credible and ...
The government today published its proposals to create a credible and

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

their seats;

- 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

views on:

- 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

House?

- Should the new chamber move away from use of expenses as the means

of payment?

Notes

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

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