Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform First Report



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




In this report we set out, for consideration by both Houses, an inclusive range of seven options for the composition of a reformed House of Lords. We do so against a background of broad agreement on the role, functions and powers of a reformed second chamber. The aim of maintaining the effectiveness and increasing the legitimacy of the second chamber has become common ground.

Our terms of reference called upon us to consider a wide range of documents and evidence, and so we have not felt it necessary to call for further evidence. In this report we have sought to inform the debates and votes in both Houses by clarifying what we believe should be the future role, powers and nature of the second chamber and identifying the implications of our conclusions for its composition.

Place of the second chamber in Parliament

We envisage a continuation of the present role of the House of Lords, and of the existing conventions governing its relations with the House of Commons. These conventions, which are of a self-restraining nature, impact profoundly on the relations between the Houses and need to be understood as a vital part of any future constitutional settlement. When the views of the Houses on composition are made known, we will return to the detailed matter of how these important conventions should be maintained in a new constitutional settlement between the Houses.

Powers of the second chamber

We do not recommend, at this stage, that any new or additional powers be given to the House.

However, we recognise that more consideration needs to be given to the best way of ensuring that the reformed House can act effectively in respect of secondary legislation. When the Houses' views on the matter of composition are known, we shall consider whether any change is needed in the powers of the House in this area.

Subject to satisfactory assurances that carry-over arrangements could not be used to erode the powers of the House, we do not consider at this stage that the provisions of the Parliament Acts need to be altered.

The nature of a reformed second chamber

We consider five qualities desirable in the makeup of a reformed second chamber:

·  legitimacy

·  representativeness

·  no domination by any one party

·  independence

·  expertise

The existing House of Lords meets several of these criteria, namely lack of domination by one party, independence and expertise. If these existing qualities, bolstered by a greater representativeness, can be transferred to the reformed House, we believe that a new legitimacy, which we have already highlighted in considering the House's role, will naturally develop.

Composition of a reformed second chamber

We propose that the reformed House should comprise about six hundred members. This represents little change from the present House without the 92 hereditary peers, but we recognise that transitional arrangements may necessitate an increase in size before equilibrium is reached.

A tenure for all members of some twelve years is about right. While members should be able to resign their seats earlier, members who do so should not thereby be able to stand for election to the House of Commons at least for a certain period, perhaps three years.

There should be a new Appointments Commission established. But that should not exclude the possibility of nomination by the Prime Minister of the day, nor proposals by party leaders and members of the public. Such nominations would be scrutinised by the new Appointments Commission. Only the Prime Minister would have the right to have nominations confirmed.

Transitional arrangements may, depending on the composition chosen, need to be spread over a substantial period. At this stage we have concluded only that we are not attracted by the idea of compulsory retirement for existing life peers.

The membership of the law lords and the bishops and other religious representatives will need to be considered in the light of the composition chosen. The judicial function of the House of Lords is worthy of independent inquiry and expert attention.

We consider it essential that some detailed work should be done on costing options.

The options

We recommend that there should be votes on seven options, set out in paragraphs 63 to 74:

1.  Fully appointed

2.  Fully elected

3.  80 per cent appointed/20 per cent elected

4.  80 per cent elected/20 per cent appointed

5.  60 per cent appointed/40 per cent elected

6.  60 per cent elected/40 per cent appointed

7.  50 per cent appointed/50 per cent elected

The next stage

We hope that there will first be debates on this report in both Houses, with the opportunity to vote on the options coming later, after members have had time to study both debates.

We are convinced that it is essential that both Houses follow the same procedure in voting on options. We recommend that a series of motions, each setting out one of the seven options we have identified, be moved successively in each House notwithstanding the normal practice in regard to questions. Members would be free to vote in favour of as many of the options as they considered acceptable.

After both Houses have expressed views, we shall resume our deliberations and seek to develop, in our second report, a single set of proposals for reform.

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Prepared 11 December 2002