Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform First Report


  (i)  The existing conventions, which are of a self-restraining nature, impact profoundly on the relations between the Houses and need to be understood as a vital part of any future constitutional settlement. (paragraph 11)

  (ii)  We strongly support the continuation of the existing conventions. When the views of the Houses on composition are made known, we will return to the detailed matter of how these important conventions should be maintained in a new constitutional settlement between the Houses. (paragraph 12)

  (iii)  We intend to return to the matter of the constitutional role of the Lords in the later stages of our work but we underline its importance here. (paragraph 15)

  (iv)  We concur with the conclusions of the Royal Commission that increased representativeness will confer a new legitimacy on the House of Lords. We will consider methods to achieve that end when we deal with getting the right membership of the House later in this report but it is also a matter that will need further careful attention in future. (paragraph 16)

  (v)  We are convinced that a reformed House should contain an appropriate number of members from all parts of the country and later in this report we will consider how this might be achieved. It is difficult to see at the moment structures which are parallel to those to be found in fully federal countries like the USA and Germany upon which to base this representation, although we note in the recent Queen's Speech the Government's intention to hold referendums on the issue of regional governance in England. (paragraph 18)

  (vi)  We consider that a co-ordination of the legislative loads between the Houses is a practical but important part of any new constitutional settlement. (paragraph 20)

  (vii)  Recognising the practical realities of parliamentary programmes, we nevertheless consider that pre-legislative scrutiny is an important aspect of making the legislature function more effectively and we welcome the proposals announced in the recent Queen's Speech. (paragraph 21)

  (viii)  When the Houses' views on the matter of composition are known, we shall consider whether any change is needed in the powers of the Lords in relation to secondary legislation. (paragraph 23)

  (ix)  We assert the importance of the scrutiny function of the House. At a later stage in our work, we will return to consider how that scrutiny can be made more effective. (paragraph 24)

  (x)  Although we may return to it later in our deliberations, we consider the judicial function of the House of Lords to be a matter worthy of independent inquiry and expert attention. Even if a separation takes place it does not need to entail the ending of membership of the House by the law lords. (paragraph 25)

  (xi)  Subject to satisfactory assurances that carry-over arrangements could not be used to erode the powers of the House of Lords, we do not consider at this stage that the provisions of the Parliament Acts need to be altered. Together with our conclusions about maintaining the existing conventions, we therefore recommend (subject to what we say about secondary legislation in recommendation viii above) that no new or additional powers are given to the House of Lords at this stage. (paragraph 29)

  (xii)  We consider that the lack of representativeness of the House must be improved and that better balances can be achieved either by a new appointment system or, with appropriate checks in place, by various methods of election. (paragraph 33)

  (xiii)  Any arrangements for the reformed House must take account of the importance of maintaining the principle that no one political party should be able to be dominant in it. (paragraph 34)

  (xiv)  It is our view that any new system of getting members into the House needs to ensure that independence, whether arising from non-party affiliation or from less attention to the requests of the Whips, is not jeopardised or diminished. (paragraph 35)

  (xv)  We consider this independence an important element in any reconstituted House. (paragraph 40)

  (xvi)  We consider the expertise which is evident in the existing House to be something of considerable importance which we would wish to see preserved in the new House. (paragraph 42)

  (xvii)  The existing House of Lords meets several of the criteria which we have been considering, namely lack of domination by one party, independence and expertise. If these existing qualities, bolstered by a greater representativeness, can be transferred to the reformed House, we believe that a new legitimacy, which we have already highlighted in considering the House's role, will naturally develop. (paragraph 43)

  (xviii)  At this stage we propose simply that the House should comprise about six hundred members. This represents little change from the present House without the 92 hereditary peers, but we recognise that transitional arrangements may necessitate an increase in size before equilibrium is reached. (paragraph 46)

  (xix)  A balance has to be struck, and our view is that a tenure for all members of some twelve years is about right. While members should be able to resign their seats earlier, we consider that members who do so should not thereby be able to stand for election to the House of Commons at least for a certain period, perhaps three years. (paragraph 48)

  (xx)  The present arrangements do not, in our view, achieve the balance which we consider necessary and legitimate. There should be a new Appointments Commission established on a statutory basis, as the Royal Commission originally proposed. However, that should not exclude the possibility of nomination by the Prime Minister of the day, nor proposals by party leaders and members of the public. All these nominations would be scrutinised by the new Appointments Commission. Only the Prime Minister would have the right to have nominations confirmed. (paragraph 52)

  (xxi)  At this stage we have concluded only that we are not attracted by the idea of compulsory retirement for existing life peers. (paragraph 55)

  (xxii)  We consider it essential that some detailed work should be done on costing the options before the Houses. (paragraph 59)

  (xxiii)  We hope that there will first be "take-note" debates on this report in both Houses, with the opportunity to vote on the options coming later, after members have had time to study both debates. We are convinced that it is essential that both Houses follow the same procedure in voting on options. (paragraph 76)

  (xxiv)  Accordingly we recommend that a series of motions, each setting out one of the seven options we have identified, be moved successively in each House notwithstanding the normal practice in regard to questions. (paragraph 77)

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