Select Committee on Public Administration Fifth Report


201. Successful reform of the House of Lords has proved to be beyond the capabilities of successive governments over the years. It is much to the credit of the present Government that it took decisive action at a first stage that unblocked the path to reform. However, the most difficult and significant second stage is now beginning. There is plenty of experience of failure to reform the Lords; the challenge now is to accomplish it. This will require a genuine spirit of compromise on all sides. It is probably a mistake to talk of 'completing' the reform; but it is the moment to continue it.

202. There is no excuse for not doing so. Although it is clear that the White Paper as it stands does not meet the twin tests of coherence and acceptability, we hope that our set of proposals does. It is important to see them in the round, as a consistent package, designed to enable a distinctive, legitimate and complementary second chamber to play its proper role in the task of scrutiny and accountability.

203. In our view the next step would be the production of a draft Bill for consideration by a joint committee of both Houses as soon as possible and we so recommend. This would maintain the momentum of reform. If the present opportunity for reform of the second chamber is not taken, it will be a lost opportunity of historic proportions. The results of our inquiry demonstrates that there is no excuse, or need, for this to happen.

204. There is one final point to keep in mind. Although consensus is desirable, and we have sought to find it, the fact is that constitutional change generally takes place not by consensus but by the adoption of a principled course of action that is then accepted subsequently by those who opposed it at the time. This has been true of much of this Government's constitutional reform programme. We believe that this provides a lesson for reform of the second chamber.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 14 February 2002