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Latest News - Press Release - 10.11.2015
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The Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber enjoys the support of some 200 peers and members of the House of Commons, drawn from all major parties and from the cross benches in the House of Lords and from Conservative and Labour members of the House of Commons. It was founded in 2001, has met regularly and frequently in the years since then and was responsible for campaigning for the legislation which, in 2014, provided for a retirement scheme from the Lords and, in 2015, for giving the Lords power to expel members who had brought the House into disrepute.

It believes very strongly that the House should complement but not compete with, nor challenge the unambiguous electoral mandate of, the House of Commons. The elected House should always enjoy supremacy within Parliament. These proposals take as given the following propositions:

  1. That in terms of membership the House of Lords is presently too large.
  2. That the House of Lords should have a membership that is no larger than the House of Commons and that the objective should be to reduce the membership to this size from the beginning of the next Parliament.
  3. That the Government of the day should never enjoy an absolute majority in the House of Lords.
  4. That there should remain a notable minority of cross bench peers, comprising at least 20% of the House.
  5. That the composition of the House should be responsive to any major changes in support for political parties in general elections, such as the collapse, or major increase in, support through votes and/or seats in the House of Commons.


We do not believe that it is possible for any member to make a meaningful contribution to the work of an institution which he/she does not attend for at least 25% of its sitting days and that any member who, for reasons other than illness, bereavement etc fails to attend on 25% of sitting days during the session should forfeit the right to attend in the subsequent session.

However, applying this rule, a stricter one than that provided for in the 2014 legislation, and even if an increasing number of members opt for retirement under that legislation, there clearly need to be further steps taken to reduce, and to place a cap on, the size of the House.

As we see it, there are two methods by which the House could be reduced significantly from the beginning of the next Parliament. If, as proposed in a Labour Peers’ working group report in 2013, all members who had attained the age of 80 by the end of this parliament were to step down the reduction in size, given current membership of the House, would be some 260.

The advantage of a retirement age is that it would be a clean and effective means of reducing the size of the House. It could be justified in terms of enabling a significant number of new peers to be appointed and it would be a solution that would be publicly defensible.

The limitations are that it is an arbitrary and blunt mechanism and would not apply equally to peers in each political group. At present approximately 20% of Conservative peers and 20% of cross bench peers are aged 80 and over whereas only 16.3% of Labour peers and 8.7% of Liberal Democrats fall into this category. In no sense, therefore, does this solution alone deal with the political problem that might be caused by the collapse or sudden increase in party support in an Election.

There is, however, another solution that would deal with size effectively and that is internal election following a general election. Under this proposal, the size of the House would be capped at 600 with 20% of the membership reserved for cross bench members. Assuming 26 lords spiritual (a number which could also be reduced) this would leave 574 seats to be allocated. Following the allocation of 20% for cross benchers, the remaining 80% (459 places), would be allocated among the political parties, their share of the seats reflecting their performance in the General Election. The formula for determining the number of places could be based on the percentage of votes cast, the percentage of the seats won, or, as we would favour, a combination of the two. Voting would be by secret ballot. The internal elections could take place within the party groups, and the groups of cross benchers or the current membership of the House could constitute an electoral college so that each representative peer would enjoy support across the House. There is precedent for this in the Acts of Union of 1707, when 16 Scottish peers represented the Scottish peerage, and the Act of Union of 1801 when 28 Irish peers represented the Irish peerage.

In order to allow for new creations, and to preserve the right to nominate of the Prime Minister and other party leaders 10% of seats could be at the discretion of the party leaders. In the event of any death or retirement during the parliament a one in, one out principle would apply, any new member being nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the independent appointments Commission. We would favour that Commission becoming statutory and enjoying the same powers for all new nominations as it currently enjoys for cross bench nominations.

The House already has experience of losing a large proportion of its members (House of Lords Act 1999). More relevant for these purposes, the House authorities are experienced in holding internal elections, both those involving merely party groups and those involving all peers. Provision could be made, therefore, for elections to be held, by post or in person, between 7 and 14 days following a General Election. Prime Ministerial nominations, including those of other party leaders, would not be time-bound in the same way and so it is possible that the size of the House could fall below 600 for a brief period. Peers who failed to be elected following a General Election would remain eligible to return in future parliaments or through nomination by the Prime Minister and party leaders.

Each proposal can be considered on its merits, but taken in combination they help meet the propositions detailed above. We believe that these suggestions need urgently to be considered by the House and would hope that there could be a general debate no later than in the Spring of 2016.

Latest News - Making Progress On Reform - Lord Norton of Louth - 17.09.15

The House on Tuesday debated four motions relating to reform of the Lords.  The lead motion was moved by the Leader of the House, Baroness Stowell, recognising the case for incremental reform in dealing with the size of the House.  There were 45 speakers, so there was an advisory speaking time of six minutes.  So good were peers in sticking to the time that we actually finished ahead of schedule.

I spoke and emphasised the need to start with a clear recognition of why reform is necessary – we accept the House is too large, but almost take that as given – and need to put size in context.  Electors attach even more importance to the way in peers are appointed.  I also made the point that the various reform options were not mutually exclusive.  There is some support for an age limit, but that is a reform with the politics left out.  Imposing an age limit of 80 would work to the disadvantage primarily of the Conservatives and the cross-benchers.  I drew attention to the case for intra-party elections after each general election.  You can reach the speech here.

It was clear from the debate that there is recognition that we need to act and that no one reform will achieve anything close to unanimity.  Various references were made to the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, which Lord Cormack and I founded and run, and the fact we are working on an options paper.   Some reform may be achieved through resolution of the House, or through developing conventions, and others will require legislation.  The Government have effectively handed the issue to the House.  As I mentioned, the political will exists in the House.  We have already achieved reform – the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 and the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015.  The obstacle to incremental reform has not been the Lords, but successive governments; we have had to persuade them to support, or at least not oppose, the legislation.  This time, the Government is willing to listen and make progress.

Souce: The Norton View

Lord Norton argues the Government's Bill is fundamentally flawed - 30.06.2012

The Government have now published the House of Lords Reform Bill. It is fundamentally flawed. Among the problems with the Bill are:

• The Bill has no coherence. It seeks to change composition without putting it within the context of what is expected of Parliament as a whole. The second chamber does not exist in a vacuum. Any changes to the second have consequences for the first. The starting point should be what we expect of Parliament. This will be the basis for determining the functions of the two chambers and the relationship between them. Once that is determined, only then can one consider composition of the two chambers.

• There is nothing in the Government’s proposals to demonstrate in what way an elected House of Lords will deliver better value to the political system than the existing House.

• The proposals are premised on the assumption that ‘the role of the House of Lords will remain unaltered’ (Impact Assessment) but fail to address adequately why the role of the second chamber should remain unaltered. There is no theoretical or empirical evidence advanced to sustain the claim that it will remain the same. Given that the Government’s case rests on the claim that the present House lacks legitimacy, it is not clear why a House that it asserts will be legitimate will then be content to maintain the role, underpinned by convention, of the present House.

• The Government said that they would consider carefully what was said in the report of the Joint Committee and in the Alternative Report published by twelve members of the Committee. The Government have published a response to the Joint Committee’s report, but there is no evidence in that or any other accompanying document of the Government having given any consideration to the Alternative Report.

Read more here.

Lord Lipsey responds to Nick Clegg comments - 24.06.2012

Dear Mr Clegg,

My attention has been drawn to remarks of yours (World at One, 22nd June) where you said that my calculations of the £500m cost of Lords’ reform were “complete nonsense – fictional numbers literally {sic} cooked up on the back of an envelope.”

It would be quite some envelope. The press release runs to four closely-typed pages explaining the calculations in detail. These calculations were done with the help of the House of  Lords library which checked both the sources and the sums. Those who study the numbers will be able to judge who is talking complete nonsense, you or me.

You also claimed it was not possible to cost the government’s proposals as they have not yet been published. Indeed, which is why I did no such thing. I costed the recommendations of the Richard Committee, set up by the government to examine its original proposals. I still regret the government’s failure to publish the costings it had prepared of those proposals; the Richard committee’s failure to publish its costings; and the continued attempt by you and the government to keep the cover up going as long as possible.

At least ministers have now said they will publish their costings when they produce their new proposals. I only hope they are done with the same rigour as I did mine.

Yours sincerely,


An Elected House of Lords? - 21.06.2012

The Joint Committee’s proposals will cost half a billion pounds over five years.

Moving to an elected House of Lords in line with the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill would cost more than £484 million by 2020, according to calculations by the Labour peer Lord Lipsey based on official figures.

Read more here.