Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform Second Report


29 April 2003

The Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform has agreed to the following Report:



1.  In December 2002 we said in our First Report that although the re-balancing of parliamentary institutions is something that can only evolve over time, we believed that there was an historic opportunity to enact reform of the House of Lords based on the need for a second Chamber which would continue to play an important and complementary role to the Commons.[1] However, for the present at least, the scale and nature of that opportunity has now changed.

2.  For not only has there been predictable disagreement between the two Houses. There has also been the lack of decision on the matter of composition in the House of Commons - and indeed, at a late stage, the absence of a clear lead from the Government itself. The effect of these decisions (or lack of them) has been to reduce the pressure for change in any direction. Even if the engines have not actually fallen off the train, their thrust has been diminished.

3.  Even so, this Committee remains unanimous in its view that simply to maintain the status quo is undesirable. The differences between us as to the long-term future structure of the second Chamber inevitably reflect those in Parliament and Government alike. Some of us may have been tempted to believe that the best way to promote the case for radical change is to leave things as they are - and thus exposed to continuing criticism. Others could have been tempted, in the opposite direction, to regard "no change" as an acceptable prescription for an enduring quiet life. Collectively, however, we do not accept either of these views.

4.  Whatever may or may not be decided later - perhaps some considerable time ahead, perhaps not - about the long-term composition of the second Chamber, there are possible changes affecting the effectiveness, representative quality and credibility of the House that can and should be considered and decided now. Things should not simply be left as they are. So in this Report we emphasise the importance of reasserting the case for reform and for regaining at least some part of the momentum, which was recognised by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee in its Report[2]. And we seek from Government, and subsequently from Parliament, a clear response to this Report.

1   House of Lords Reform: First Report (HL Paper 17, HC 171), paragraph 2. Back

2   House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee Fifth Report Session 2001-02 (HC 494-I). Back

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