Skip to main content

Hereditary Peers removed

Debate about the composition of the House of Lords continued until the late 1990s. The Labour Government of 1997 was committed to extensive reform of the Lords and in 1999 introduced the House of Lords Bill, which proposed excluding all hereditary Peers from the House as the "first stage" of plans to alter the composition and powers of the Lords.

House of Lords Act 1999

This was debated in the Commons and passed by a majority of 340 to 132 in March 1999, but experienced stronger opposition in the Lords.

Eventually, a compromise was reached - known as the "Weatherill amendment" after the former Commons Speaker, Lord Weatherill, who proposed it - whereby 92 hereditary Peers were allowed to remain in the Lords on a temporary basis until "second stage" proposals were agreed. The House of Lords Act thus reduced membership of the Lords from 1,330 to 669 Members, the majority of whom were life Peers.

Elected or appointed?

In January 2000 Lord Wakeham's Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords recommended a partially-elected House. The Government responded with a White Paper containing various proposals involving an elected element, but both Houses of Parliament failed to agree on a way forward when these were debated in February 2003.

Following the publication of another White Paper in February 2007, both Chambers again debated a similar series of motions in March 2007. This time, the Commons backed an all-elected Upper House, while the Lords voted for an all-appointed Chamber. In July 2008, the White Paper 'An Elected Second Chamber: Further reform of the House of Lords' was published.

Parliament Act in use

The Parliament Act, meanwhile, continued to be used by the Government. The European Parliamentary Elections Act of 1999, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act of 2000, and the Hunting Act of 2004 all required the Parliament Act (the 1911 and 1949 Acts constituted a single Act) to receive Royal Assent. Some constitutional lawyers, however, questioned the validity of the Parliament Act 1949 as it had been passed without Lords assent.

In 2005 members of the Countryside Alliance challenged the validity of the Hunting Act on that basis, but in October 2005 a panel of nine Law Lords ruled that the Parliament Act 1949 was valid. Meanwhile, despite discussion of plans to completely remove the Lords' power to delay Government Bills, the legislative relationship between the two Chambers remained unchanged.

Did you know?

The House of Lords Act 1999 reduced membership of the House of Lords from 1,330 to 669.

External link

The Ministry of Justice's White Paper on reform of the House of Lords