House of Lords reform

Reform of the House of Lords is a topic of much debate. Catch up on key reform milestones so far

3 September 2012: Deputy prime minister makes a statement announcing the withdrawal of the House of Lords Reform Bill.

6 August 2012: Deputy prime minister announces that legislation to reform the House of Lords has been dropped.

July 2012: Lords library publishes note on public attitudes on Lords reform on 3 July. House of Commons debates Lords Reform Bill on 10 July and the bill is given a second reading by 462 to 124 votes. Catch up on the Commons debate on the bill.

2012: The Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill publishes its report on 23 April recommending an electoral mandate and that 80 per of members should be elected and 20 per cent nominated. Members follow the report with a debate on 30 April. The House of Lords Reform Bill is introduced in the Commons on Wednesday 27 June.

2011: Deputy Prime Minister presents Parliament with the House of Lords Reform Draft Bill in May. Read report from May 2011.

2007: The Government published its White Paper, The House of Lords: Reform, setting out the policy for a hybrid House of Lords with 50 per cent elected members and 50 per cent appointed members. In March, the House of Commons votes on the options for composition supporting an elected House of Lords. A week later the House of Lords votes on composition favouring a fully appointed House.

2002: A joint committee is appointed to consider House of Lords reform in May 2002 and reappointed at the start of the new session in November 2002. It publishes House of Lords Reform: First Report in December.

2001: The Queen confirms her intention to create 15 new non party-political House of Lords members.

2000: The independent House of Lords Appointments Commission is established to recommend and approve suitable candidates for membership.

1999: The House of Lords Act receives Royal Assent, reducing the number of hereditary peers by more than 600 and freezing the number which remains at 92 until further reform.

1997: After the general election, the Labour government announces a bill to remove the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House as ‘the first stage in a process of reform’.  

1978: A committee chaired by Lord Home of the Hirsel proposes a chamber in which two-thirds of members would ultimately be elected and one-third appointed, but reform is not pursued.

1968 and 1969: A White Paper, House of Lords Reform and a Parliament (No.2) Bill proposing new roles for members are abandoned by the prime minister after debate in both Houses.

1963: The Peerages Act is introduced making it possible for hereditary peeresses and all Scottish peers to sit in the House and for Lords to surrender their peerages.

1958: Peers who do not or are unable to attend the House can apply for ‘leave of absence’ from this date. The Macmillan government initiates the Life Peerages Act 1958, giving the crown authority to create life peers (including women members for the first time), who can sit and vote in the House and whose peerages expire on death.

1949: The Parliament Act, dealing with the powers of the Lords, becomes law and updates the terms of the 1911 Act with regards to vetoing bills.

1929-1935: Various private members bills covering life peerage are introduced and withdrawn.

Early 1920s: The King mentions reform in three consecutive speeches. The government then puts forward resolutions including that ‘hereditary peers be elected by their own order’ in 1922. The debate is adjourned and never resumed. Similar proposals are put forward and rejected in 1927.

1918: The Bryce Report outlines proposals for functions and structure of the House, including the examination and revision of bills and general questions of policy. No action is taken as the government is preoccupied with World War I at the time.

1911: The Leader of the Opposition proposes that members be indirectly elected in a bill which is later dropped. The Parliament Act 1911 is introduced to enable the Commons to pass money bills and public bills.

1910: The new Liberal government proposes a ‘strong and efficient second chamber’, but fails to make agreements on the degree of power.

1907: The Rosebery Report makes recommendations on how peers should be selected in the Lords. No action is taken on the report.

End of 19th century: The House of Lords is represented by hereditary peers, representative peers for Scotland and Ireland, noblemen, bishops and lords of appeal.

1893: Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill defeat is attributed to ‘political imbalance’ in the House.

1886 and 1888: The Commons debates the hereditary right to sit in the Lords.

18th century: A single UK Parliament is established.

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