Today the Constitution Unit publishes a report jointly with the Institute for Government and Bennett Institute on the options for House of Lords reform. Here, in the second of two posts summarising its conclusions, report author Meg Russell argues that if Labour wins the next election, it should pursue a two-stage approach. This would begin with immediate urgent changes to the appointments process and hereditary peers, while the party consulted on larger-scale proposals such as those set out in the Brown report.
Today the Constitution Unit publishes a new report, House of Lords reform: navigating the obstacles, jointly with the Institute for Government and the Bennett Institute at the University of Cambridge. This is the second of two posts summarising some of the report’s conclusions, with a particular focus on Labour’s options for Lords reform.
The previous post explored proposals from Labour’s commission chaired by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for an elected ‘Assembly of the Nations and Regions’. It suggested, on the basis of past UK and international experience, that large-scale reform of this kind will be difficult to achieve, and could not be actioned by Labour immediately. The Brown report leaves many open questions on which careful consultation and deliberation would be required. Meanwhile, there are clear problems with the House of Lords which are widely recognised, and would be relatively straightforward to deal with. This post focuses on such beneficial small-scale changes, including:
- placing a limit on the size of the House of Lords
- agreeing a formula for the sharing of seats
- introducing greater quality control on appointments
- removing the remaining hereditary peers.
More detailed consideration was given to the first three of these options in another recent post on this blog. Hence this one deals with them quite briefly, then draws the strands together, considering a possible strategy for the Labour Party on Lords reform if it comes to power.
Placing a limit on the size of the House of Lords
One of the most visible difficulties with the House of Lords is its growing size. Reform by Tony Blair’s government in 1999 removed most hereditary peers, slashing the chamber from more than 1,200 members to 666. But since then, its size has crept gradually upwards again. There was a net growth of around 70 members under Blair, and well over 100 under David Cameron – though Gordon Brown and Theresa May each presided over net reductions of around 30 members. Boris Johnson’s appointments were also excessive, and concern remains about his possible resignation honours list. Currently, the size of the House of Lords hovers around 800.Continue reading