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House of Lords reform

Posted by Matt Walker on February 27, 2012

The membership and exact role of the House of Lords has been a difficult issue for many years, even prior to the reforms of New Labour in 1999. Labour created a mostly appointed second chamber, doing away with all but 92 of the hereditary peers, and left the issue of whether the Lords should be elected for another day.

And that ‘other day’ seems to have finally arrived. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is the minister in charge of constitutional reform. Today he attempted to see off his critics by defending his proposals for further House of Lords reform. The proposals are:

  • 240 (80%) elected members, who will have 15 year terms
  • 60 members (20%) to be appointed
  • 12 bishops to remain in the reformed chamber
  • members will be paid a salary
  • the powers of the reformed second chamber will not change.

It is envisaged that the first elections to the Lords will be in 2015, using some form of proportional representation. It is worth spending some of your time looking at the arguments either side of this debate, as it may well come up in your exam. Critics of these proposals will argue that democratising the Lords will simply mean a replication of the type of professional politician found in the House of Commons. Those experts currently found in the Lords, such as Lord Sugar, will be lost, and the scrutiny of legislation will suffer. Nick Clegg would no doubt argue that it is indefensible that laws are made in this country partly by unelected legislators. But he might also face critics from democrats who would object to the fact that 20% of the Lords would still be appointed, and that the Church of England would still have representation in the second chamber.

And that has always been a problem with Lords reform. Even those who seek to reform it, can never agree what the nature of that reform will be.

Click on the video links below.

The proposals

Tory-Lib Dem discussion 

Labour peers opposition to reform

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