120. Terms of 15 years were proposed by the Royal
Commission for both elected and appointed members, with no right
of re-election. The aim was to encourage independence by removing
the incentive for members to seek party favours. The Government
tended to disagree with this approach, suggesting that 5 or 10
year terms, with no bar on re-election, would give greater accountability
121. We believe that a renewable term as short as
five years would both seriously jeopardise the independence of
second chamber members and increase the risk of conflict with
the members of the Commons. There would be greater likelihood
of claims that the second chamber members were as legitimate as
the MPs. Such a move would be a fundamental departure from the
Royal Commission recommendations.
122. Fifteen years is an extremely long term by international
standards; the next longest electoral term is the nine years served
by members of the French Senate. However the second chamber must
be different, distinctive and independent, and it should not be
used as a springboard for political careers in the Commons. This
is a strong argument for extended terms.
123. We suggested above that second chamber elections
should be held at the same time as General Elections. The average
length of the 15 Parliaments which have sat since 1945 has been
3.7 years. The average duration of two Parliaments in the last
half century has thus been 7.5 years (with a variation 5 to 10
years), and three Parliaments 11.2 years (with a variation for
three Parliaments of 8 to 14 years).
124. We recognise that it is not satisfactory to
have elected members sitting for uncertain and variable terms.
The solution would be to introduce fixed term Parliaments, but
that is a much wider issue. In the interim, the options are terms
of two or three Parliaments. On balance, our preference is that
the elected members of the second chamber should be elected to
sit for two Parliaments, and that they should be elected by halves.
When it comes to the appointed members, discussed below, we recommend
that they should serve a single non-renewable term of 10 years.
125. We believe that members should have only one
opportunity of sitting in the second chamber, and should be barred
from seeking election to the Commons for ten years after they
leave it, as proposed by the Royal Commission. There should also
be a bar on the political parties nominating as one of their candidates
for appointment someone who has been an elected member of the
126. We recommend that elected second chamber
members should serve a single term extending to two Parliaments.
No member of the second chamber should be permitted to stand for
election to the Commons for ten years after leaving the second
chamber. These restrictions would apply from the next general
election. Political parties should not be allowed to nominate
for appointment anyone who has served as an elected member of
the second chamber.
127. Age limits are another means of trying to ensure
that people who enter the second chamber have experience and expertise
to offer, and do not see it as a mere stepping stone to the Commons.
Several of our witnesses suggested a limit of 45 or 50, and such
provisions are a common feature of second chambers abroad.
But the House of Lords is already noted for its elderly membership,
and we would be very reluctant to perpetuate the notion that second
chamber members should be in retirement or at the end of their
careers. We would not wish to exclude able people who have the
capacity to make a contribution. If Parliament is to reconnect
with young people, it should encourage them to participate.
53 HC 494-ii, Q198 Back
For detailed explanation of closed, open and semi-open lists,
see The Constitution Unit, Commentary on the White Paper; The
House of Lords, Completing the Reform, January 2002, Appendix
B pp 28-38. Back
Cmd 4534 para 1.7 Back
HC 494-iii, Q312 Back
Cmd 5291 paras 54 and 58 Back
HC 494-ii Q 185/6 Back