Report of the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill

23 April 2012

The Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill publishes its report.

The report makes the following recommendations

  • The Committee, on a majority, agree that the reformed second chamber should have an electoral mandate, provided it has commensurate powers (para 6.1).
  • If the reformed House is to be elected, 80% of members should be elected and 20% nominated. The size of the House should be 450 and members should serve for 15 year non-renewable terms (6.17-19, 6.31-34).
  • The Committee agrees with the government's proposal for election under the STV system. In addition, it recommends that voters who wish to vote for candidates by political party rather than individually should be free to do so. The Committee recommends that the STV system currently used in New South Wales should be adopted. This allows voters not only to rank individual candidates, but to vote by party and also to rank the parties so as to control where "excess" party votes are allocated (6.25-6.26).
  • A majority of the Committee recommends that the decision to elect members of the House of Lords should be submitted to a referendum(6.87).
  • Election of 80% of a reformed House will make the House more assertive and affect the balance of power between the Houses in favour of the House of Lords. But a majority of the Committee consider the existing conventions and other pillars on which Commons primacy rests would suffice to ensure its continuation (6.3, 6.10-6.11).
  • The Committee agrees that conventions governing the relationship between the Houses cannot be legislated for and that such conventions will evolve further once the House of Lords is reformed (6.6-6.7, 6.13-6.16).

Transitional arrangements

Of the transitional arrangements proposed in the White Paper, the Committee agrees with that preferred by the government and set out in the draft bill. But the Committee also recommends an alternative option which makes a bigger cut in the transitional membership (that element of the current membership which will continue to sit) in 2015 with no further cut until the end of transition in 2025. It has the following three characteristics:

  • A transitional membership in 2015 equal to a benchmark figure derived from the total number of members attending 66 per cent or more of sitting days in the financial year 2011¬–12. These transitional members will remain in place until the final tranche of elected members arrive in 2025, at which point they will all leave.
  • An allocation of the transitional seats to parties and crossbench peers in proportion to their current membership.
  • Parties and crossbench peers are to determine for themselves the persons to serve as transitional members, having regard in particular to attendance record.

Transitional members will continue to receive daily allowances rather than salaries. (6.69-6.72)

  • The Committee recommends that broad criteria for appointment should be placed on the face of the Bill to which the Appointments Commission should 'have regard' when recommending individuals for appointment. The final criteria devised by the Appointments Commission should be subject to Parliamentary approval (6.51-6.52).
  • Most of the Committee agrees with the government’s proposal that 12 bishops should sit in the reformed House (6.63-6.64).

Comment from the Chairman

Commenting Lord Richard, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"We have undertaken a thorough and detailed analysis of the proposals put forward in the Governments Draft Bill. The Committee decided, on a majority, that they agreed that a reformed House of Lords should have a democratic mandate and that the division between elected and unelected members should be an 80%/20% split.

We also made a range of other recommendations in areas – particularly those relating to transitional arrangements – where we felt the proposals might be improved. It is now for the government to consider our proposals before coming forward with a final bill which it can present to Parliament for further scrutiny."

Further Information

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