Members Leaving the House
1. We were appointed by the Leader of the House,
as he announced in a Written Statement on 27 July 2010,
"to identify options for allowing members to leave the House
of Lords permanently". We invited all members of the House
to volunteer their views, and in November published a summary
of the suggestions set out in the submissions we received, as
the basis of further consultation.
A debate in the House on 16 November 2010
allowed us to listen further to the views of members, and since
then we have received a number of additional comments. We are
grateful to all those who have given us the benefit of their experience
and understanding of the House, whether in writing, in private
discussion or in debate. We are also grateful to Dr Meg Russell,
Reader in British and Comparative Politics at the Constitution
Unit, School of Public Policy, University College London, for
a most helpful memorandum which we publish as Appendix 1 to this
2. As a result of this consultative process,
we have identified a range of options. Inevitably, the range of
opinion is equally wide and it is unlikely that a single solution
will command the support of all. However, the common feature of
all the views which have been put forward is a sincere concern
for the effective functioning of the House, and for its reputation.
With that in mind, we are confident that it will be possible to
find a way forward. In this report, therefore, we examine further
the advantages and disadvantages of the options which have been
outlined, and make recommendations of our own. We invite the Leader
of the House, to whom we make this report, to determine what the
next steps should be, in consultation with the other party leaders
and the Convenor of the crossbench peers.
Prospects for reform
3. As we acknowledged in our interim report,
consideration of this issue takes place in the context of the
Coalition government's plans for "a wholly or mainly elected
The cross-party committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister
is preparing a draft bill which will then be subject to pre-legislative
scrutiny before it begins its passage through Parliament.
4. Some members have suggested that, in that
context, it is not desirable or productive to consider the options
for retirement from the current House. Some think that to do so
demonstrates a lack of commitment to more comprehensive reform;
others that to make the current House more defensible weakens
the case for more comprehensive reform; others still that any
change in membership is the beginning of a slippery slope to a
reform which they would not support.
5. We are of the view that the work of the Deputy
Prime Minister's committee makes our consideration of options
for members to leave the House permanently no less timely or relevant.
Legislation to reform the House will take time to be enacted,
and in the meantime it is desirable that the existing House should
be enabled to function as effectively as possible. Moreover, the
Government intends that there should be an orderly process of
transition to a reformed House, and we hope that our discussion
of the likely consequences and implications of various options
might assist that process.
The size of the House
6. At the heart of the issue we have been asked
to consider is the fact that the House of Lords has no fixed number
of members and no provision for a member to leave the House permanently.
New peers are created in varying numbers, and at varying times,
on nomination by the Prime Minister of the day and (since 2000)
after scrutiny by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.
There is no formal or commonly-accepted description of the role
of a member of the House, and reasons for appointment are variedto
honour a significant contribution to public life, to enable Parliament
to benefit from specific professional expertise or experience,
to strengthen the capacity of one political party or another,
or a combination of all of these. The graph shows how the size
of the House has fluctuated in recent years.
Membership* of the House of Lords by Session**
*Includes Peers without Writ of Summons, on Leave
of Absence, disqualified as senior members of the judiciary or
disqualified as an MEP
**As at the end of each session
Incomplete session, as at 10 December 2010.
This potential total figure includes those Peers appointed in
October and November 2010, including those not yet introduced.
7. The Constitution Unit has repeatedly drawn
attention to the potential problem of the size of the House, noting
the "potential conflict between rebalancing the House after
every general election and keeping its size manageable".
Since the partial reform of the House in 1999, this is an issue
which subsequent considerations of further reform have sought
to address in recommendations about the overall size of the House
and fixed terms for members whether appointed or elected. During
an extended period of government by one party the potential problem
was not acutely felt, but would become more urgent if governments
were to change more frequently. The problem will persist if the
desire to rebalance the composition of the Chamber makes it necessary
at times to appoint more new members than can be expected to depart
through 'natural wastage'. In addition to political appointments,
the House of Lords Appointments Commission periodically proposes
new members. The general increase in life expectancy also plays
its part in contributing to the growing size of the House.
8. A life peerage cannot be surrendered, and
therefore life peers are not currently able to resign or retire
from the House of Lords. Although the Peerage Act 1963 made provision
for a hereditary peerage to be disclaimed for life, the House
of Lords Reform Act 1999 repealed that measure in respect of those
hereditary peers who successfully stood for election as members
of the House. Therefore neither life peers nor the "excepted
hereditary peers" are able to retire or disclaim their seat
in the House.
9. The position of the Lords Spiritual is different.
The Ecclesiastical Offices (Age Limit) Measure 1975 requires that
bishops and archbishops vacate office at 70 years of age; when
they retire from their sees, they cease to be members of the House
(though bishops and archbishops have subsequently become life
10. A variety of other legislative provisions
disqualify certain classes of members from sitting and voting
in the House in specified circumstances. Members who hold certain
judicial offices are disqualified for as long as they hold that
office; life peers who
are elected to the European Parliament as long as they hold that
office; a member who
is adjudged bankrupt (or, in Scotland, whose estate is sequestered)
until the bankruptcy or sequestration is terminated and its termination
recorded in the Journals of the House;
a member convicted of treason until he has either suffered his
term of imprisonment or received a pardon.
11. The broad position that members of the House
are unable to retire or disclaim their seat was temporarily varied
by the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance
Act 2010. Section 41 of that Act provides that members of the
House of Lords are to be deemed resident, ordinarily resident
and domiciled in the United Kingdom for the purposes of income
tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax. For a transitional
period of 3 months following the coming into force of the Act,
it was open to members of the House of Lords to terminate their
membership of the House and so choose not to be subject to that
deemed status. Five members availed themselves of that provision
before expiry of the three-month period on 7 July 2010, and so
ceased to be members of the House. There is no further opportunity
for members to leave the House under the provisions of the Act.
12. It may be seen from this account that, although
there is no general provision for members to leave the House permanently,
legislation has on a number of occasions and for a range of purposes
varied the terms of membership of the House. In particular, the
precedent of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010
demonstrates that there is no constitutional obstacle to enabling
a member to leave the House, and that the Consent of the Crown
can be obtained to place the Crown's prerogative and interest
at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of such legislation.
The bill which initiated that legislation (the Constitutional
Reform and Governance Bill, as introduced in Session 2008-09)
also contained a provision which would have allowed a member to
resign by means of notice to the Clerk of the Parliaments, without
any stipulation as to the circumstances in which such resignation
could be effected. However, after the Bill had been carried over
to Session 2009-10, the provision was removed in the "wash-up"
prior to the Dissolution of Parliament, because of Parliamentary
13. Lord Steel of Aikwood has, in several consecutive
sessions, introduced a private member's bill containing provisions
for reform of the membership of the House. Part 3 of the current
House of Lords Bill [HL] contains provisions to allow members
to apply for permanent leave of absence; to deem a member who
fails to attend the House during the course of a session to have
taken permanent leave of absence; and to provide that a person
granted permanent leave of absence shall no longer be a member
of the House of Lords. These proposals have attracted a certain
degree of support on every occasion on which they have been debated.
However, for a variety of reasons the bills have not made significant
progress. At the second reading of the current bill, Baroness
Verma made plain the Government's reservations about the bill's
proposals in the context of a wholly appointed House, at a time
when the Government are committed to bringing forward proposals
for a mainly or wholly elected second Chamber as a matter of priority.
Implications of a growing House
14. The implications of an increasingly large
House are various and, for the most part, not new. However, the
significant increase in numbers this year has highlighted them
most particularly. The differing implications are susceptible
to differing solutions, so the recipe for change is not straightforward.
It depends in large part on which issue is judged to be the priority
to address. We seek in this report to identify options which,
alone or in combination, could address a range of potential problems.
15. The first effect of a significant increase
in numbers is the risk to the reputation of the House. It is unhelpful
for the second Chamber to be regarded as of excessive size at
a time when the Government intends that the number of members
of the House of Commons should be reduced. The standing of the
House as a serious Parliamentary forum is compromised by its apparently
unchecked growth and by a lack of understanding of the reasons
for further new appointments.
16. The second effect is the difficulty of conducting
business effectively in such a large House. This is conspicuous
in the shortage of seats in the Chamber (particularly at Question
Time), but increased competition for opportunities to initiate
business, reduced speaking times in time-limited debates, waiting
lists for membership of select committees and increasing pressure
on the mechanisms of self-regulation in the Chamber are all further
17. A further effect of an increased number
of members is pressure on the services provided by the House administration.
Levels of demand for procedural, research and information services,
as well as for practical resources such as accommodation and refreshment
outlets, are all increasing. Provision of Parliamentary papers
and ICT equipment and support also increases as numbers rise.
Hitherto the administration has contained costs by means of efficiency
improvements, but rising numbers of active members will inevitably
eventually have consequences either for standards of service or
for costs. The consequences of the new system of financial support
for members are not yet clear and will, of course, depend on member
take-up, but increased numbers are likely to mean increased overall
costs in this area.
18. Debate on this subject has seen much comment
on the number of members who, though not on Leave of Absence or
otherwise disqualified, attend either not at all or very occasionally.
Clearly, they have no impact on the pressure on business or services,
and might therefore be said not to be a problem. On the other
hand, they are significant to the reputational issues which we
outlined above, and in particular to the perception that the House
is not a serious place of business.
Support for change
19. Support for change that is, for
the implementation of some provision by means of which members
might be enabled to resign or retire from the House has
been articulated repeatedly in debate, by members on all sides
of the House. When on 29 June 2010 the Leader of the House first
indicated that he would appoint a Group to consider this issue,
one speaker after another welcomed it, recognising that a smaller
House is not only desirable but imperative.
On 16 November, again, one speaker after another agreed that change
was necessary. Several
speakers suggested that the House should engage actively with
change, and seek a sensible way forward, since the alternative
was to have change imposed without any input from the House.
20. A respected, but small, minority of members
is of the view that no provision should be made for members of
the House of Lords to retire. They hold that a peer, having received
an honour bestowed by the monarch for life, is bound by that until
death. They do not think it appropriate that a peer should be
allowed to choose to give up the responsibility which they have
previously accepted, and cite the terms of the Writ of Summons
which every peer receives from the Queen as creating a lifetime
21. We recognise that this view is strongly
and sincerely held but we are not persuaded that it is a sufficient
response to the situation in which we find the House. Given the
less-than-perfect position in which the House currently finds
itself, we see no advantage in declining to take the current position
as the starting point for change. There is nothing to be gained
by wishing ourselves to be where we are not.
22. Dr Russell observed that previous successful
reforms of the House of Lords "have been piecemeal responses
to certain elements that the majority sees as no longer defensible.
The inability to retire from the chamber may perhaps be the next
indefensible element which is due for such a reform".
23. On the evidence of our extensive consultations,
we are confident that there is a broad consensus in the House
in support of a provision to enable members voluntarily to leave
the House permanently, in order that the overall size of the House
may be reduced as soon as possible. We hope that this broad consensus
might now be taken as the starting point for a way forward.
Leave of Absence
24. At present, the only way in which a member
who is unable or unwilling to attend the House may be released
from the duty to do so is by application for Leave of Absence.
The history and operation of the Leave of Absence provisions are
set out in a memorandum from the Clerk of the Parliaments, printed
as Appendix 2 to this report.
25. As the Clerk of the Parliaments explains,
some members take Leave of Absence because a professional commitment
makes it impossible for them to participate in the work of the
House for a period, after which they anticipate returning to active
membership. Others take Leave of Absence when ill-health or infirmity
make continued attendance difficult, and in those circumstances
often are unable to return to the House. In the absence of any
provision for a member to leave the House permanently, Leave of
Absence provides an opportunity for those who, for whatever reason,
are unable or unwilling to play a full part in the work of the
House, to step down from active membership.
26. We recommend that the Leave of Absence
arrangements should be strengthened, along the lines proposed
by the Clerk of the Parliaments. At the beginning of each session
of Parliament, in addition to writing to those currently on Leave
of Absence, the Clerk of the Parliaments should write to those
members who attended on 3 or fewer occasions in the previous session,
inviting them to take Leave of Absence. The past practice, whereby
Leave of Absence was automatically granted to those members who
failed within a stipulated period to reply to such a letter from
the Clerk, should be revived.
27. The Clerk of the Parliaments also raised
the possibility that the period of notice required for termination
of Leave of Absence might be increased to 3 months. However, he
concluded that this might serve as a disincentive to a member
to take Leave. We agree that for some members contemplating taking
Leave of Absence the possibility that they could terminate the
Leave with only one month's notice could be a reassurance. But
on balance we recommend that the period of notice required
to terminate Leave of Absence should be extended to at least 3
months, to discourage members from terminating Leave once granted.
28. We hope that these improvements to the Leave
of Absence arrangements can be implemented by the House straightaway.
Given the expected length of the current session, we recommend
that the Clerk of the Parliaments should write as suggested in
paragraph 26 above as soon as the provisions are agreed to, and
not wait until the beginning of a new session to write for the
29. Whilst reinvigoration of the Leave of Absence
proposals would be helpful, the fact that a member on Leave of
Absence may, for any reason or none, have the Leave terminated
after due notice means that there is no certainty about a member's
long-term intention. It creates doubt about the effective strength
of the parties, as well as about the overall size of the House,
and does not provide a way for members to leave the House permanently.
In the circumstances in which the House currently finds itself,
therefore, more is needed.
30. It is clear that for some members of the
House, for whom the practicalities of continued participation
in the work of the House might begin to be burdensome, an honourable
and dignified means of retirement would be desirable. Other personal
factors which might influence a member's view of his or her role
in the House include a change in family circumstances, a change
in location which makes regular travel to London difficult, or
an awareness that the professional or public experience on which
the member has drawn in contributing to the work of Parliament
is no longer sufficient to enable a full part to be played. Any
or all of these reasons, when combined with an awareness of the
institutional interest of the House that the overall size of membership
should be reduced, could make voluntary retirement attractive.
As Dr Russell observed "it seems unfair on members that the
honour of serving in the House of Lords should be a life sentence
from which there is no escape".
For a conscientious member who has played a full role in Parliament,
and takes his or her commitment to the House seriously, an honourable
release from obligation could be welcome.
31. We recommend that the House should introduce
arrangements to allow members to retire from membership of the
House permanently, on a voluntary basis. Whilst we are advised
that legislation would, strictly speaking, be necessary to override
the entitlement to a Writ of Summons, we do not think this should
be an impediment to responding to the desire in the House for
early implementation of a scheme whereby a member could give notice
of his or her wish permanently to leave the membership of the
32. We also recommend that the departure
of a retiring member after distinguished service should be marked
by the House in some suitable way, perhaps analogous to the ceremony
of introduction by which the beginning of a member's Parliamentary
career is marked. We suggest that the Lord Speaker might have
a particular role to play in maintaining connections with retired
The role of the party leaders
33. If voluntary retirement is to make any significant
impact on the number of members in the House, then its implementation
will need to be very carefully handled. We recommend that the
party leaders in the House, and the Convenor of the Crossbench
Peers, should take on an enabling role to offer advice, and make
themselves available for discussion with those who might contemplate
retirement. They could also seek assurances about the willingness
or ability of members to participate fully in the House in future.
We think it entirely reasonable that those who do not attend,
or who attend only rarely, should be invited to consider their
position. Of course, there will be circumstances in which
infrequent attendance will be inevitable, for example during a
period of illness or for the duration of a particular responsibility,
but these circumstances will usually be known to the leader concerned.
We also think it reasonable that those who attend as a matter
of form, but do not contribute to the work of the House, should
be invited to consider their position. Of course, not all
Parliamentary work entails speaking in the Chamber or asking questions;
again, the leaders will be well-placed to make this judgment.
Balance in the House
34. One of the obstacles for anyone contemplating
an end to their participation in the work of the House, whether
at present by Leave of Absence or in future, potentially, by retirement,
is the uncertain consequence for the balance of parties and groups
in the House. Since there is no pre-determined size for the House,
and no generally-accepted understanding of the proportions in
which each party and group should be represented, a member contemplating
retirement could have no firm expectation that a new member of
their party or group would be appointed to take their place. A
member might therefore be reluctant to take advantage of such
provisions for fear that their party or group would be weakened,
and there is certainly no incentive for party managers to encourage
their members to retire.
35. Dr Russell suggested that a clearer principle
for maintaining party balance in the Chamber should be established
and that it should be policed by the House of Lords Appointments
Commission. She suggested that such oversight would enhance transparency
and maintain public trust in the appointments process.
We do not think it realistic to expect that this can be agreed
separately from the wider reform debate.
36. However, we recommend that the party
leaders and the Convenor should develop a new understanding, in
the light of the recent change of Government, about the proportion
of seats in the current House on which it would be appropriate
for each party or group to rely. This will enable members
contemplating retirement to have greater confidence about the
effect their retirement will have on the ability of their party
or group to function effectively.
37. As we noted in our interim report, it has
been suggested that a new category of associate member should
be created, to which members might opt to belong. The advantages
of such a scheme are that it would reduce the overall size of
the House, whilst keeping available the expertise of those who
have had long experience of the House and have played a significant
part in public life but now wish to reduce the scale of their
involvement. It could complement a provision for voluntary retirement,
providing a potentially attractive option for those who are unable
to make a full commitment to the work of the House.
38. Various options have been suggested as to
the opportunities which associate members might be afforded
- to attend and speak only in proceedings
off the floor of the House
- to participate in business in the Chamber
other than legislation
- to be co-opted onto select committees
- to be involved in informal discussion groups
of specific issues before the House
- to continue in membership of All-Party Parliamentary
39. Those who advocate such a scheme hold differing
views about the classes of business which associate members should
be permitted to take part in, and whether their participation
should require specific invitation in each case; and about whether
they should be entitled to claim an allowance for attendance.
40. The recommendation of a "two-tier"
membership is not unprecedented: in 1968 a Government White Paper
recommended that the House should have voting and non-voting members
and that voting members should meet the condition of attending
no fewer than one-third of sittings of the House. Whilst the White
Paper was approved by a substantial majority in both Houses, the
Government decided not to proceed with the bill to give effect
to its proposals after over 80 hours in Committee of the Whole
House in the Commons, because of the implications for the rest
of the Government's legislative programme.
41. The Clerk of the Parliaments has advised
us that legislation would be required to establish a scheme for
associate members. Clearly, the constraints on legislative time,
and the potentially controversial nature of such provisions, make
this a significant obstacle to implementation. However, without
legislation it would be open to an associate member to revert
to "full" membership, because of their entitlement to
a Writ of Summons, at any time. A "revolving door" of
that kind would not be acceptable. Moreover, issues of privilege
might arise unless legislation clarified the standing of proceedings
in which associate members were permitted to participate.
42. The introduction of different categories
of member, in the shape of a scheme for associate membership,
would represent a very profound change for the House and could
give rise to tensions between the two classes of members. Creating
two classes of member might have the further effect of creating
"second rank" business. Moreover, the increasing size
of the House means that places on select committees and delegations
are already much sought after. Levels of participation by "full"
members in all areas of the House's proceedings, whether on or
off the floor of the House, might make it difficult to offer many
opportunities to associate members.
43. For all these reasons we recognise that
it is unlikely that a two-tier membership could be implemented
quickly. However, it is an option which could complement a provision
for voluntary retirement and assist in bringing down the numbers
in the House. It could also be of value in the transition to a
reformed House, and we recommend that it should be further considered
with those purposes in mind.
44. The Leader of the House has ruled out "any
payment for retirement for the time being. In the current context
it would simply not be understood by the British people".
Many members share the view that any form of financial provision
for those who retired from the House would be publicly unacceptable.
We agree that it would be inappropriate for a reduction in
the number of members of the House to occasion any additional
cost to the taxpayer.
45. As we acknowledged in our interim report, however,
the financial circumstances of individual members of the House
vary very significantly. Members receive no remuneration for their
work in the House, and there is no pension scheme. Many members
of the House have forfeited the opportunity for earnings and pensions
elsewhere, in order to undertake public service in Parliament.
These points have been made in debate and the possibility has
been suggested of compensation for those who, by retiring, would
forgo the possibility of claiming substantial sums in financial
46. The idea has also been introduced in debate
of an "invest-to-save policy", whereby a calculation
could be made of the marginal costs of support for each additional
member in the House and that proportion of the budget of the House
could then be offered as an incentive to a member to retire. We
are attracted by this "value for money" argument and
think it likely that, with appropriate actuarial and accountancy
input, it would be possible to identify the potential saving to
the public purse which could be achieved if the membership of
the House were to be reduced significantly without delay. From
this potential saving it would be possible to offer either a modest
resettlement payment on retirement, or a periodic payment on the
lines of a pension, without incurring any additional long-term
cost to public funds.
47. We recommend that a reduction in the
number of members of the House should result in an overall saving
to the taxpayer. We recommend that the possibility of offering
a modest pension, or payment on retirement, to those who have
played an active part in the work of the House over a number of
years, should be investigated in detail, though on condition that
this should come from within the existing budget for the House
and should incur no additional public expenditure. We further
recommend that any such payment should be available only to those
who choose voluntary retirement within a limited period after
48. We recognise that a modest payment of the
order which might be possible as an "invest to save"
measure would not materially improve the position of those whose
participation in the work of the House over many years has prevented
them from taking up remunerative work and securing an adequate
pension. We recommend that a fund, resourced entirely by voluntary
contributions from members and at no cost to public funds, should
be established to assist retired members who might otherwise experience
financial hardship. The fund should be administered by the Lord
Speaker, with advice as appropriate from the leaders of the parties
in the House and from the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers.
49. As we noted in our interim report, our terms
of reference envisage only voluntary retirement, but many members
who responded to our consultation advocated arrangements by which
members could be required to retire, and therefore we consider
those suggestions here. In consideration of conditions under which
compulsory retirement from the House might be imposed, members
have discussed criteria of age, length of service and record of
attendance. Strong and plausible arguments have been deployed
in support of each of these criteria, both in debate and in other
responses to our consultation. Equally, there are strong arguments
50. Those who would favour compulsory retirement
from the House on reaching a specified age cite the existence
of an upper age limit for most other public positions including
the judiciary. They suggest that increasing life expectancy creates
implications for a lifetime commitment that might not have been
foreseen at the outset, and that with the passage of time the
expertise for which a member was appointed to the House inevitably
becomes less current and applicable. On the other hand, the implementation
of an upper age limit would deprive the House of much wisdom and
experience. It would also be contrary to the increasing trend
elsewhere in both the public and private sectors to abolish fixed
retirement ages, and to legislation to prevent discrimination
on grounds of age.
51. Those who favour compulsory retirement after
a fixed length of service suggest that this would ensure that
the expertise on which the House relies was regularly renewed,
and that it would facilitate the appointment of younger members.
It was also suggested that a fixed length of service would open
up the membership of the House for a wider range of people each
for a shorter average term, and that this would be to the benefit
of the work of Parliament. On the other hand, it is argued that
such a measure would deprive the House of some of its most active
members, and could alter the capacity of the House to take the
long view, so eroding one of the characteristics which most usefully
distinguishes it from the House of Commons.
52. The criterion for compulsory retirement
which commanded most widespread support was that of infrequent
attendance. There is an increasing expectation in the House that
every member should "pull their weight" and that, in
a serious Parliamentary chamber, there is no room for those who
are unwilling to fulfil their role as Parliamentarians. On the
other hand, it was argued that such a criterion would result in
the departure from the House of members who, because of commitments
in other walks of life, attend only irregularly but whose contributions
are greatly valued when they do. It is also true that a provision
to exclude infrequent attenders would do nothing to solve the
problem of overcrowding, and could have the perverse effect of
encouraging some to attend more frequently than they would otherwise
have done. We also acknowledge that frequent attendance is not
the same as constructive participation in the work of the House.
53. There is some support amongst members for
a variety of schemes by which the parties and groups in the House
should elect those who should be excepted from compulsory retirement,
to achieve an agreed optimum number. It is argued that that would
produce a logical and reasonable selection of those who are active
and well-regarded, and that there would be an element of self-selection
as well since many might choose not to stand for election. Those
who oppose a scheme of this sort argue that the resulting "party
beauty contest" would be unseemly, that inappropriate power
would be wielded by the party whips and that the inevitable electioneering
amongst members would adversely affect the character and functioning
of the House.
54. It is clear from our consultations that
any basis for compulsory retirement would be resisted as unfair
in breaking faith with the spirit of the grant of a life
peerage and as arbitrary and counter-productive. It is
most unlikely that the House would agree to compulsory retirement
other than in the context of full reform, and any attempt to implement
it would be likely to result in a protracted and unseemly Parliamentary
55. For all these reasons, we do not recommend
any of the options for compulsory retirement from the House in
the current circumstances. However, we recognise that, if very
few members opt to retire voluntarily, the pressures for compulsory
retirement will become more acute and the arguments more compelling.
Moreover, the transition to a reformed House could be achieved
more readily if voluntary retirement were to be widely accepted.
If it is not, the transition is likely to be more disruptive for
the whole House as well as for individual members.
56. Whilst we do not think that compulsory
retirement would be desirable in the context of the current House,
we agree with those who suggest that there is no room for those
who are unwilling to fulfil their responsibility as members of
Parliament. It is for that reason that we recommend that those
who attend very infrequently, without good reason, should be encouraged
to take Leave of Absence or, once enabled to do so, to retire.
57. We hope that implementation of a detailed
scheme for voluntary retirement will result in a sufficient reduction
in the number of members of the House to secure an orderly and
smooth transition (which will inevitably be a protracted process)
to the reformed House which will be proposed in draft legislation.
If this proves not to be the case, then further provision will
be necessary. In those circumstances we suggest that, notwithstanding
some of the potential difficulties outlined above, further consideration
should be given to an arrangement whereby the different groups
in the House elect those who should remain. We suggest that this
is the least arbitrary course, and would result in the selection
of those whose work in Parliament commands the respect and support
of their peers.
Arrangements after retirement
58. Most of those members who support a provision
for voluntary retirement have suggested that those who retire
should retain their titles. We recommend that, since a life
peerage is conferred for life, retirement from membership of the
House should not affect the use of a title.
59. Many members also suggested that retired
members should continue to have some access to Parliament and
we agree that this would be a reasonable expectation. In 1999,
the House decided that those hereditary peers excluded under the
House of Lords Act should be entitled to continue to use certain
facilities of the House. In the event, that entitlement has been
exercised to a very limited extent, and has not affected the provision
of services to members of the House. The differing circumstances
of departure make it likely that members who retired voluntarily
would wish to maintain a more lively connection with the House,
and we recommend that members who choose to retire should continue
to receive a Parliamentary pass and be entitled to use certain
of the facilities of the House of Lords. We consider that this
is an appropriate arrangement to make for those who, acknowledging
the institutional interest of the House that the number of members
should be reduced, opt to retire. We also recommend that consideration
be given to designating one of the galleries in the Chamber for
the use of retired members.
Franchise for retired members
60. A crucial detail necessary to any scheme
for the voluntary retirement of members of the House was drawn
to our attention by a member who, for reasons of age and increasing
infirmity, is currently on Leave of Absence. She pointed out that
members of the House are not entitled to vote in a General Election,
since they have the opportunity to influence public affairs through
their actions in the House. Clearly it would not be appropriate
for members retiring from the House to be entirely disenfranchised.
We recommend that members who permanently renounce their entitlement
to sit and vote in the House of Lords should be entitled to participate
in Parliamentary elections, although we recognise that this would
Need for review
61. In considering all the possible options
for allowing members to leave the House of Lords permanently,
we have recognised the difficulty of predicting what the consequences
might be. Having recommended an entirely voluntary route (at least
for the time being) we cannot predict how many members might choose
to leave the House, or what the impact on the overall composition
might be. We recommend that the consequences of any changes
arising from our recommendations should be reviewed at an early
date and, in any event, in the light of future proposed legislation
for reform of the House.
Future appointments to the House
62. Our terms of reference relate exclusively
to options for members to leave the House, but in response to
our consultation members have referred to a number of matters
relating to new appointments to the House. Whilst these are beyond
our terms of reference, they are significant to the potential
impact of our recommendations, and we therefore consider them
in the paragraphs which follow.
63. One of the reasons for an excessively large
House is the variety of reasons for which new life peers are appointed.
In consultation, most members agreed that it was no longer appropriate
for a seat in Parliament to be conferred on anyone simply as an
honour, without the expectation that they would contribute constructively
to the work of Parliament. We recommend that in future the
honour of a life peerage should not automatically entail appointment
to membership of the House, which should be reserved to those
who are willing to make a significant commitment to public service
in Parliament. This recommendation is well-precedented, having
been previously suggested by the Royal Commission on the Reform
of the House of Lords (chaired by Lord Wakeham) and the House
of Commons Public Administration Committee.
64. As long ago as January 2000, the report
of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords recommended
that future appointments to the House should be for a limited
term, rather than for life.
Had this recommendation been implemented the problem which the
House now faces would be greatly reduced. We recommend that
any further appointments made to the House in the absence of wider
reform should be for a limited term, renewable if necessary. This
would ensure that the intrinsic problems in the composition of
the current House do not continue to be exacerbated.
65. Dissatisfaction with the increasing size
of the House has inevitably been heightened by the number of new
appointments made since the change of Government in May 2010.
Dr Russell describes as an "unrealistic and politically unrealisable
goal" the provision of the coalition agreement that appointments
should be made with the objective of creating a second chamber
reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties
in the last general election.
She suggests instead that a balance amongst new appointments would
be a realistic objective.
66. In debate and in comments to us, many members
have emphasised that consideration of arrangements for members
to leave the House is compromised by the continuing appointment
of substantial numbers of new peers. A variety of suggestions
have been made to address the point, including a moratorium on
any new appointments to the House until the number of members
has dropped naturally to an agreed level; a temporary cap on the
number of new appointments; and a policy of one-in one-out, as
is the case with the Lords Spiritual. Other arrangements to avoid
the need for an incoming government to rebalance the House by
means of new appointments have also been suggested, for example
by an outgoing government undertaking that a certain number of
their members would not exercise their right to vote in the House.
67. Whilst we cannot recommend that there
should be a moratorium on new appointments to the House
since, while the purpose of the House is to provide expertise,
we must ensure that that expertise is refreshed and kept up to
date we do urge that restraint should be exercised by
all concerned in the recommendation of new appointments to the
House, until such time as debate over the size of membership is
1 HL Hansard 27 July 2010 col WS147 Back
Consultation on Members Leaving the House, Interim Report of the
Leader's Group on Members Leaving the House, Session 2010-2011
HL Paper 48 Back
HL Hansard 16 November 2010 cols 673-711 Back
The Coalition: Our Programme for Government 20 May 2010 Back
Appendix 1 Back
Constitutional Reform Act 2005 Back
European Parliament (House of Lords Disqualification) Regulations
Insolvency Act 1986 Back
Forfeiture Act 1870 Back
HL Hansard 3 December 2010 col 1736 Back
HL Hansard 29 June 2010 cols 1661-1785 Back
HL Hansard 16 November 2010 cols 673-711 Back
The terms of the substantive part of the Writ are as follows-"Whereas
Our Parliament for arduous and urgent affairs concerning Us the
state and defence of Our United Kingdom and the Church is now
met at Our City of Westminster We strictly enjoining command you
upon the faith and allegiance [for Lords Spiritual, the word "love"
is substituted for "allegiance"] by which you are bound
to Us that considering the difficulty of the said affairs and
dangers impending (waiving all excuses) you be personally present
at Our aforesaid Parliament with Us and with the Prelates Nobles
and Peers of Our said Kingdom to treat and give your counsel upon
the affairs aforesaid And this as you regard Us and Our honour
and the safety and defence of the said Kingdom and Church and
dispatch of the said affairs in nowise do you omit" Back
Appendix 1 Back
Appendix 1 Back
Appendix 1 Back
House of Lords Reform (Cmnd 3799) 1 November 1968 Back
HC Hansard 17 April 1969 vol 781 col 1338 Back
HL Hansard col 675 Back
A House for the Future, (Cm 4534); The Second Chamber: Continuing
the Reform, Public Administration Committee, 5th Report 2001-02,
HC 494 Back
A House for the Future, (Cm 4534) Back
Appendix 1 Back
Dr Meg Russell, 22 November 2010,