This Report focuses on the desirability, practicality and effectiveness of a range of small-scale reforms to reduce the size of the House of Lords and considers which, if any, of these measures, would be likely to command a consensus.
We identify one proposal upon which there is clear consensus: the plan to introduce legislation that would make it possible to expel peers who have been convicted of a serious offence. There was unanimous support among those from whom we received evidence for taking action on this matter.
There was also a strong measure of agreement that action should not be taken on two areas: the introduction of a long-term moratorium on new peers and the introduction of a compulsory retirement age. On proposals for a moratorium, we conclude that it would be ineffective and would also starve the House of Lords of valuable expertise. On proposals to introduce a compulsory retirement age, we argue that this would be arbitrary and discriminatory. Instead, we urge a renewed political effort to strengthen the existing voluntary retirement scheme and support proposals that service to the House be recognised by the introduction of a leaving ceremony for peers who agree to take voluntary retirement.
The Report highlights the widespread support for no longer replacing hereditary peers in the House of Lords when they die and for tackling the issue of persistent non-attendance.
The Report also considers evidence on proposals to introduce fixed-term appointments for peers. It concludes that, although this could help to reduce the size of the House of Lords, the change would amount to a large-scale reform and as such should only be considered in the context of wider reform of the House.
Another issue that the Report addresses is the desirability, composition and remit of a Statutory Appointments Commission. We are persuaded by the merits of the arguments which favour placing the current House of Lords Appointments Commission on a statutory basis. However, we believe that changes to its remit would be best discussed in the context of wider reform of the House of Lords.
Finally, the Report considers the scope for establishing a consensus about the principles which should determine the relative numerical strengths of the different party groups in the House of Lords, and for codifying such principles. We conclude that this is perhaps the most contentious of all the issues considered as part of the inquiry, but also the most crucial. We call upon the Government and political parties in the Lords to set out their positions on this matter and to engage in dialogue with a view to establishing a consensus before the next General Election.