The final recommendations of the Labour Peers working group report on practical steps to Lords Reform
The House of Lords needs urgent reform. It is far too large and continues to grow. It also falls short of what is required of an effective, modern second chamber. But the Lords is also strong on the scrutiny of legislation and contributes to the accountability of government, without endangering the primacy of the House of Commons.
The urgent task therefore is to find a model for reform that tackles the defects of the current chamber while preserving its strengths and making it even more effective.
For the past year, a working group of Labour Peers – Julian Grenfell, Ann Taylor, Alf Dubs, George Foulkes, Joyce Gould, Phil Hunt, David Lipsey and Jenny McIntosh – have sought to answer that question. Their final Report, A programme for progress: the future of the House of Lords and its place in a wider constitution is published today, 28th March 2014 (ahead of the Second Reading of Lord Steel’s Lords Reform Bill).
The report recommends a radical set of proposals that could be implemented almost immediately:
- The House of Lords should have 450 members, and be smaller than the House of Commons
- The hereditary principle should be ended, and all remaining hereditary peerages should be abolished
- No political party or coalition of political parties in government should seek a Lords majority
- All peers should be working peers
- The House of Lords Appointments Commission should be established in statute, and appointment should only be made against a set of transparent criteria
- Peers should retire at the end of the Parliament in which they reach the age of 80
- Attendance should be set at an average of three-fifths of Lords sitting days in each session, excluding exceptional circumstances.
- Disqualification from the Lords should be in line with such arrangements in the Commons
- All legislation should start in the Commons
- The ceremonial wearing of robes should end
- The role of the Lord Speaker should be reviewed
In a statement, the report’s authors said:
‘Short-term improvement does not have to await resolution of controversial issues such as elective status. Those wider, deeper questions should be considered with other constitutional issues in a Constitutional Commission; and in a spirit of consensus, at a distance from the party political ferment, and on a timescale to allow legislation during the next Parliament’.
Labour’s Leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Jan Royall has welcomed the report:
"This is an important contribution to the ongoing debate on how to best reform our second chamber. I particularly welcome the principle that all members of the Lords should be working peers and that we adopt the same rules of disqualification as the Commons."
"Among the report’s many other recommendations are quick and practical solutions to resolve some of the day to day problems we see around the House, and at the same time further improve scrutiny of government legislation by modernising our working practices."
The proposals outlined in the working group report will be submitted for consideration for inclusion in Labour’s policy-making process, ahead of the next general election.
The final Report, A programme for progress: the future of the House of Lords and its place in a wider constitution is HERE