PART FOUR: THE WAY FORWARD
201. Successful reform of the House of Lords has
proved to be beyond the capabilities of successive governments
over the years. It is much to the credit of the present Government
that it took decisive action at a first stage that unblocked the
path to reform. However, the most difficult and significant second
stage is now beginning. There is plenty of experience of failure
to reform the Lords; the challenge now is to accomplish it. This
will require a genuine spirit of compromise on all sides. It is
probably a mistake to talk of 'completing' the reform; but it
is the moment to continue it.
202. There is no excuse for not doing so. Although
it is clear that the White Paper as it stands does not meet the
twin tests of coherence and acceptability, we hope that our set
of proposals does. It is important to see them in the round, as
a consistent package, designed to enable a distinctive, legitimate
and complementary second chamber to play its proper role in the
task of scrutiny and accountability.
203. In our view the next step would be the production
of a draft Bill for consideration by a joint committee of both
Houses as soon as possible and we so recommend. This would
maintain the momentum of reform. If the present opportunity for
reform of the second chamber is not taken, it will be a lost opportunity
of historic proportions. The results of our inquiry demonstrates
that there is no excuse, or need, for this to happen.
204. There is one final point to keep in mind. Although
consensus is desirable, and we have sought to find it, the fact
is that constitutional change generally takes place not by consensus
but by the adoption of a principled course of action that is then
accepted subsequently by those who opposed it at the time. This
has been true of much of this Government's constitutional reform
programme. We believe that this provides a lesson for reform of
the second chamber.