PART 1: INTRODUCTION|
1. Over the past century attempts at reform of the
House of Lords have failed principally because of a lack of agreement
on what was needed to replace the existing House. Each attempt
generated wide debate both in and outside Government and parliamentary
circles; opinion ranged from complete abolition of the second
House to preservation of the status quo which, until 1999, included
a dominant hereditary element. That position was changed by the
House of Lords Act 1999 and the announcement by Government of
its intention to remove the hereditary element entirely at the
next stage of reform.
2. There is now much greater
agreement about the role, functions and powers of a reformed second
chamber. Whilst there
remain differences about how the reformed House should be composed,
the aim of maintaining the effectiveness and enhancing the legitimacy
of the second chamber has become common ground. A re-balancing
of parliamentary institutions, which reform implies, is something
that can only evolve over time. Nevertheless we believe that there
is now an historic opportunity to enact a reform which will enable
the second chamber to continue to play an important and complementary
role to the Commons, with its future at last secure.
3. By identifying this wide area of agreement in
our report and describing the conditions in which we consider
a reformed House can realistically operate, our aim is to help
the Houses consider the range of options on composition which
are set out in our terms of reference. Once both Houses have had
the opportunity to debate and vote on the options which we set
out here, we shall, as we said in our Special Report, 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.
We shall then develop a full set of proposals to take the reform
forward. In this report we will also identify issues which we
will need to consider in more detail at that later stage, when
it will be essential to develop workable proposals that command
the widest possible support within and outside Westminster.
4. The Committee met for the first time on 9 July
2002, three working days after the House of Lords agreed, on 4
July, to a Resolution concurring with the Commons in the setting
up of a Joint Committee.
5. 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 when we considered a Special Report, agreed
to on 16 July.
6. In that Special Report of 16 July, we outlined
our method of proceeding, which was to consider carefully what
amounted to a library of material, including a Government White
Paper and supporting documents, a Royal Commission Report, a Select
Committee Report, the evidence appended to these papers and debates
in both Houses. The evidence referred to us contains a very wide
range of views from members of both Houses and includes opinions
from outside experts as well as from the general public. We have
therefore not felt it necessary to call for further evidence.
Analysing it and applying our collective parliamentary experience
to it has enabled us to fulfil our first task of setting in context,
and presenting to both Houses, an inclusive range of options on
the interrelated matters of role and composition.
The Committee was reappointed in the current session on 28 November
7. We have carried out our examination in a series
of deliberative meetings and have been assisted in our task by
our two Clerks, Malcolm Jack, Clerk of the Journals in the House
of Commons and David Beamish, Clerk of the Journals in the House
of Lords, both with long experience of Parliament.
8. We concluded at an early stage in our deliberations
that we needed to consider the roles, functions and powers of
a second chamber whilst we were considering the options on composition.
Accordingly our conclusions and recommendations are set out as
Part 2 - roles, conventions, functions and
powers of a second chamber
Part 3 - the kind of members needed: the
issues of legitimacy, representativeness, party balance, independence
Part 4 - considerations affecting composition,
including tenure and transitional arrangements
Part 5 - the options on composition.
The historical background to our work is described
in Appendix 1.
1 Government White Paper Modernising Parliament:
Reforming the House of Lords (Cm 4183, January 1999). Back
The Commons Select Committee on Public Administration says "There
is no proposal for any major change to the role and functions
of the House of Lords. This is one of the fundamentals on which
there is broad agreement, and it is one of the firm foundations
on which reform must build." (The Second Chamber: Continuing
the Reform, 5th Report, Session 2001-02, HC 494-I, paragraph
Special Report (HL Paper 151/HC1109, Session 2001-02). Back
In this Report we draw in particular on the Royal Commission Report
A House for the Future (Cm 4534, January 2000), the Government
White Paper The House of Lords: Completing the Reform (Cm
5291, November 2001), and the Report of the House of Commons Public
Administration Committee The Second Chamber: Continuing the
Reform (5th Report, Session 2001-02, HC 494-I, February 2002). Back