Further reforms

The amended Parliament Act was never used in the 1940s or 1950s, possibly because the mere threat of it was enough, attendance was low and the "Salisbury Convention" - whereby the House of Lords did not block Government Bills arising from manifesto pledges - minimised use of the Lords' veto

Salisbury Convention

By the 1950s, however, there was a feeling the membership of the House of Lords ought to be addressed. Proposals for creating "life Peers", appointed by the Government for life and not on a hereditary basis, had been around since the 1920s. In November 1957, a Life Peerages Bill was introduced to the Lords by Lord Home. It passed its third reading in the Commons on 2 April 1958. The first 14 life Peers, 10 men and, for the first time in the Lords, four women, were announced on 24 July 1958.

1963 Peerage Act

In 1960 the Labour politician, Tony Benn, succeeded his father as Viscount Stansgate and consequently was disqualified from continuing to sit as the MP for Bristol South East. He embarked on a campaign to allow Members of the Lords to renounce unwanted titles which led to the Peerage Act of 1963.

This not only meant that hereditary peers could give up their titles, but enabled hereditary peeresses - women peers - to sit in the Lords. It also helped many Scottish peers, who until then had been compelled to select 16 of their number to sit as representative peers.

A third attempt to reform the House of Lords was not as successful. Dick Crossman, Harold Wilson's Leader of the Commons, devised a plan under the Parliament (No. 2) Bill which would have introduced two types of members of the Lords :

  • non-voting - largely hereditary
  • voting - mainly chosen by party whips

The Bill also proposed further curbs on the Lords' ability to delay legislation. to six months.

It was debated in the Commons on 2 February 1969 but, following a backbench Labour rebellion led by Michael Foot at the Bill's committee stage, Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, withdrew it on 17 April 1969.

Also within Living Heritage

Related information

Did you know?

An attempt to reform the House of Lords in 1969 failed due to a backbench Labour rebellion.