Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform Second Report

PART 1: The present position

5.  Our first remit as a Joint Committee was to examine the composition and powers of the Second Chamber in the context of Parliament as a whole and to put forward, for consideration of both Houses, a set of options on composition ranging from a fully appointed to a fully elected House.

6.  We decided early in our deliberations that it was essential to establish the nature of the roles, functions and powers of a reformed House and how it operated in respect of the Commons, before we went on to the matter of composition. Accordingly in our First Report we considered what a reformed House should do as well as setting out our conclusions about the kind of membership that was most desirable. That analysis was based on a clear understanding of how the present House performs its roles and functions and how the best and most successful features of it might be continued in a newly constituted Chamber. We then identified other important matters - such as tenure, appointment methods, methods of election - as issues we would have to return to once we had had decisions on composition from the Houses.

7.  We put seven options before the Houses, suggesting that a wide debate on a take-note motion should precede any vote on them. When it came to the method of voting on the options, we recommended a departure from the usual practice of putting questions so that questions could be put successively on each option and Members could vote on any number of options they wished to. We stressed that the same procedure should be followed in each House.

8.  Our recommendation on having a separate debate prior to a vote on the options was followed in each House. We consider that the contributions to the debates in both Houses benefited from that process since it allowed time for reflection and it made it possible for Members to read the debate in the other House before proceeding to vote in their own House. In the Lords, the initial debate was on a take-note motion; in the Commons the motion was to adjourn.[3]

The votes on the seven Options

9.  The votes on the options on 4 February provided no endorsement of any one option in the Commons and a clear endorsement of appointment rather than election in the Lords.

10.  The votes on the options did not follow an identical pattern in each House. In the Commons a reasoned Amendment to the first option, on a fully appointed House, was put to the vote. The Amendment, which declined to approve the option because "it does not accord with the principle of a unicameral Parliament", was negatived by 390 to 172 votes. The first option itself was then defeated by 323 votes to 245. No other option out of the remaining six was agreed to. Three were disagreed to without a division.

11.  In the Lords the first option, for a fully appointed House, was agreed to by 335 votes to 110. All the other six options were disagreed to. The voting figures in both Houses are set out in the following table. The options were:

Option 1  Fully appointed

Option 2  Fully elected

Option 3  80% appointed, 20% elected

Option 4  80% elected, 20% appointed

Option 5  60% appointed, 40% elected

Option 6  60% elected, 40% appointed

Option 7  50% appointed, 50% elected
AmendmentOption 1 Option 2Option 3Option 4 Option 5Option 6Option 7
For335 1063993 609184
Against110 329375338 358317322
For172245 272281 253
Against390323 289284 316

12.  In our Special Report to both Houses we recognised the possibility of differences in outcome in the votes in the two Houses and understood that we would need to consider the differences that existed between the two Houses and the means by which they might be brought closer together.[4] One way in which we had considered that that might be done, and a way forward thus found, was to take stock of what was actually agreed by Members of both Houses across a broad front. But we acknowledge that the lack of a vote, in the House of Commons, in favour of any of the options for composition requires the reform process to be given more time and consideration.

13.  We also note that support for unicameralism turned out to be greater than expected, although of the 172 Commons Members who supported that amendment 160 went on to vote for one or more of the options.

3   The Lords debate took place on 21 and 22 January 2003 and the Commons debate on 21 January 2003. Back

4   Special Report (HL Paper 151, HC 1109, Session 2001-02), paragraph 6. Back

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