Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform Special Report


16 JULY 2002

The Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform has agreed to the following Special Report:



1. The Committee met for the first time on 9th July, three working days after the House of Lords agreed, on 4th July, to a Resolution concurring with the Commons in the setting up of a Joint Committee.

2. At our first meeting, we elected the Rt Hon. Jack Cunningham MP as our Chairman and began to consider how to fulfil our remit. The deliberation was continued at a second meeting in the following week to consider the terms of this Special Report.

Orders of Reference

3. Our Orders of Reference are:

"(1) to consider issues relating to House of Lords reform, including the composition and powers of the Second Chamber and its role and authority within the context of Parliament as a whole, having regard in particular to the impact which any proposed changes would have on the existing pre-eminence of the House of Commons, such consideration to include the implications of a House composed of more than one "category" of member and the experience and expertise which the House of Lords in its present form brings to its function as the revising Chamber; and

(2) having regard to paragraph (1) above, to report on options for the composition and powers of the House of Lords and to define and present to both Houses options for composition, including a fully nominated and fully elected House, and intermediate options;

and to consider and report on—

(a) any changes to the relationship between the two Houses which may be necessary to ensure the proper functioning of Parliament as a whole in the context of a reformed Second Chamber, and in particular, any new procedures for resolving conflict between the two Houses; and

(b) the most appropriate and effective legal and constitutional means to give effect to any new Parliamentary settlement;

and in all the foregoing considerations, to have regard to—

(i)  the Report of the Royal Commission on House of Lords Reform (Cm 4534);

(ii)  the White Paper The House of Lords—Completing the Reform (Cm 5291), and the responses received thereto;

(iii)  debates and votes in both Houses of Parliament on House of Lords reform; and

(iv)  the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee report The Second Chamber: Continuing the Reform, including its consultation of the House of Commons, and any other relevant select committee reports."

Method of Proceeding and Timetable

4. As can be seen from these terms of reference, a large body of material, including a Government White Paper and supporting documents, a Royal Commission Report, a Select Committee Report and substantial parliamentary debates, have been referred to us. Since we are required to examine this material in the context of our consideration of the reform of the House of Lords, we have decided that we do not, at this stage, need to embark on taking oral evidence. Virtually every shade of view and refinement of opinion is already contained in the documents formally referred to us, including the views of numerous outside bodies and individuals consulted during the various inquiries we have mentioned. Instead we intend to begin with a careful analysis of that body of material which the Leader of the House of Commons has himself called a "library" in order to identify key areas and issues.

Role and Composition

5. We have decided to meet twice during September, to begin our detailed consideration of how that body of evidence relates to the role and composition of a reformed House of Lords, with the aim of proposing options on both. We need to be clear about what we want a reformed House to do at the same time as we are considering how its membership is to be made up. Rather than taking formal evidence during the first stage, we may decide, once we have had time to reflect on the evidence already before us, to invite the attendance of people to discuss their views with us informally. Of course we do not mean to rule out any representations which Members of either House, or of the public, may wish to make to us in writing during the first part of our work, which we aim to conclude in the autumn. We intend to establish ourselves on the Parliamentary website.

The Reformed House in Parliament

6. In the second stage of our inquiry, when the Houses have made their views known on the matter of options on composition and powers, we shall need to consider such differences as may exist between the expressed views of the two Houses and the means by which, and extent to which, they might be brought closer to each other, if not actually reconciled. In light of our assessment of these matters, we will then proceed to consider more detailed matters about the structure of a reformed House, its membership and conditions. We will also need to consider any remaining issues concerning the proper functioning of Parliament as a whole in the context of a reformed Second Chamber and also concerning any constitutional settlement that may be necessary in determining the relations of the two Houses. The Committee believes that such a settlement would need to be robust, practical and command broad support in Parliament and beyond if it is to have any chance to endure.

7. Members of both Houses will appreciate that in agreeing to this method of proceeding, and by meeting during the Parliamentary recess, the Committee is responding to the desire for this highly important matter to be taken forward expeditiously. But we are also conscious of the need to give thorough and diligent consideration to a wide-ranging set of complex issues that have been the subject of public discussion for many decades and recently have led to some widely different conclusions on the part of Government, the Royal Commission and the Commons Select Committee on Public Administration.

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Prepared 17 July 2002