House of Lords reform: what next ? - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

No longer replacing hereditary peers in the House of Lords when they die

1.  The evidence we received on no longer replacing hereditary peers in the House of Lords when they die showed that there is broad-based and significant support for this idea and that this could be realised by ending the by-election system which perpetuates the current system. We accept that doing this would not have a large or swift impact on the size of the House but, as a means of gradually reducing numbers we conclude it would be worthwhile. It would also serve to reduce the reputational risk to the House which results from the existence and use of the current by-election system. We do not believe that taking action on this issue would preclude further, wholesale reform taking place in the future, if that is what political parties favour. Therefore, we recommend that hereditary peers should not be replaced in the House of Lords when they die and we welcome the provisions contained within Baroness Hayman's Private Member's Bill which seek to achieve this goal. (Paragraph 19)

Removing persistent non-attendees

2.  It is clear that there is broad support for tackling the issue of persistent non-attendance. Members of the House of Lords should be, and should be seen to be, actively engaging in the work of the House. Where this does not occur, action must be taken. In crafting an appropriate scheme on non-attendance, care must be taken to ensure that it does not penalise those who face ill health or a temporary change in circumstances or those whose ongoing work outside the House enables them to enhance the Lords' scrutiny function. There are a variety of ways in which non-attendance can be defined but the formulation contained in Baroness Hayman's Bill on House of Lords Reform, which states that peers who do not attend during a session would cease to be Members of the House at the end of the session, with the exception of those with an authorised leave of absence, appears to us to be broadly along the right lines. (Paragraph 27)

A moratorium on new peers

3.  We conclude that the positive short-term impact of a moratorium in helping to avoid further increases in the size of the House would be outweighed by the loss to the House of Lords of new perspectives and fresh thinking. There was little support for a moratorium in the evidence we received and we conclude that there is little, if any, prospect for securing a broad-based consensus in favour of this proposal. (Paragraph 33)

Fixed-term appointments for new peers

4.  We support proposals for a non-statutory scheme under which nominees would be invited to give an assurance that they would retire after a certain number of years. While we accept that it lacks the strength that a statutory regime could provide, we conclude that it has the potential to have an impact on the size of the House of Lords over time and could help to give momentum to other smaller-scale reforms. Accordingly, we invite the party and cross-bench associations in the Lords to make their views on this matter known to us in writing. (Paragraph 40)

The introduction of a retirement age

5.  We accept the view that the introduction of a retirement age in the House of Lords would be both arbitrary and discriminatory and could result in the loss of much-valued expertise. It could also have an undesirable impact on party balance. (Paragraph 46)

Voluntary retirement

6.  There was broad consensus in the evidence we received that the voluntary retirement scheme introduced in 2011 has not been a success and it has clearly had no notable impact on the size of the House. We believe it is incumbent upon the party leaders in the House of Lords and the Convener of the Cross-bench peers actively to encourage peers to consider retirement. Although this will undoubtedly be a delicate task, it is very much in the interests of parties and Cross-benchers to see the size of the House reduced in an equitable manner. We support the idea that some form of ceremony in recognition of service provided to the House should take place for peers who decide to take voluntary retirement. (Paragraph 53)

7.  Since the House of Lords strengthened its leave of absence scheme, take-up has increased. We welcome suggestions to bolster this scheme further by setting a minimum level of attendance, with appropriate exceptions. As with the issue of voluntary retirement, we believe that the political parties in the Lords ought to do more to encourage take up of the leave of absence scheme and should offer their support for a strengthened scheme, with a view to implementing it within this Parliament. (Paragraph 56)

Expelling peers convicted of a serious offence

8.  We conclude that there is a consensus in support of the introduction of provisions to enable the expulsion of peers convicted of a serious offence. We strongly support the proposal contained within Baroness Hayman's House of Lords Reform Bill which addresses this matter. (Paragraph 60)

The desirability, composition and remit of a Statutory Appointments Commission

9.  In the evidence we received, the case for placing the Appointments Commission on a statutory basis was strong. So, too, were the arguments that the Appointments Commission could play a role in monitoring and overseeing the size and party balance in the Chamber and in extending its locus in terms of political appointments. While we support the idea of placing the current House of Lords Appointments Commission on a statutory footing, we believe that changes to its remit would be best discussed in the context of wider reform of the House of Lords. (Paragraph 66)

Determining the relative numerical strengths of party groups in the House of Lords

10.  Agreement on how to determine the relative numerical strengths of the different party groups in the Lords would not only be a valuable end in itself, it would also pave the way for the implementation of the majority of the other small-scale reforms we have discussed in this Report. Of all the issues we have discussed it has the most potential to have a positive impact on the size of the House. Inevitably, it is also the most contentious. We have referred in this Report to various suggestions as to how this could be approached. However, the reality is that it is up to the party groups to engage in dialogue with a view to reaching an agreement on the next step forward. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government sets out its position on this issue. We also encourage the individual party groups and Cross-benchers to provide their views in writing to us with a view to making progress on this issue before the next General Election. (Paragraph 81)

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Prepared 17 October 2013