Reform of the House of Lords

Author: Philip Norton

The United Kingdom has a parliamentary system of government. The House of Lords is the second chamber of Parliament. As with the House of Commons, there was no specific date on which we can say it came into existence. The House of Lords has its origins in the courts of medieval kings, starting with the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot and its Norman successor, the Curia Regis. It is distinctive for three reasons. The first is the very fact of its existence as a second chamber. Its second distinctive feature is to be found in its origins and its longevity. The third distinctive feature is that the members of the House are not elected. In this, the House is not unique. Several nations, including Canada, have appointed second chambers. The fact that members of the House of Lords are not elected is core also to understanding the debate on reform of the House. In order to give shape to the debate, the book adopts four approaches to reform: the four Rs of retain (keep the House as an appointed chamber), reform (have a minority of members elected), replace (have most or all members elected), and remove altogether (abolish the House and have a unicameral Parliament). It looks at the origins and development of the House of Lords and the reforms implemented, or proposed, in the period since 1911. The book draws out the problems inherent in trying to discern the future of the House of Lords.

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