Hereditary peers to go in Lords reform package

Under proposals for Lords reform, the government will remove the remaining 92 hereditary peers sitting in the second chamber and set up a statutory Appointments Commission to select and oversee appointments to the House of Lords.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor, published two consultation papers today on the next steps on House of Lords reform, and on the functions of the Lord Chancellor.

He said that the necessary legislation on the removal of hereditary peers would be put forward when "Parliamentary time allows".

The Appointments Commission will have three prime functions: to decide on the number and timing of new appointments to the House; to nominate the non-party peers; and to vet the nominations for party peers for propriety.

In creating the commission, there will be a diminution in the Prime Minister's influence over the membership of the House as he will relinquish powers of patronage.

The new commissioners will be appointed by The Queen in response to an Address from the Lords.

Last February peers voted 3 to 1 in favour of an appointed House, while in the House of Commons there was no majority for any of the options proposed by the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform.

In a report published in May the Committee concluded that "simply to maintain the status quo" in respect of composition was "undesirable".

Lord Falconer said: "Nothing in these proposals relate to the powers of the House. We are not proposing any extension of the role of the second chamber. The House of Commons should and must remain pre-eminent in our constitutional arrangements.

"These changes amount to a substantial set of reforms to the House. When added to our previously announced decisions to set up a separate Supreme Court, and to remove the office of Lord Chancellor, thus leading to reform of the office of Speaker, they will create a House that is significantly different from that which presently exists."

Also the government proposes to bring in retrospective rules to disqualify members of the House of Lords if they have served time in prison. These proposals could see Lord Archer – who was released from prison in July after serving two years for perjury – stripped of his peerage and seat in the chamber.

Lord Falconer said: "We do not believe that this difference of treatment can any longer be justified. In future such peers will forfeit their membership of the House exactly as they would if they were MPs. In addition, they will be deprived of their peerage.

"Parliament is a privilege, not a possession," he said.

Lord Falconer said the government also proposes that life peers should in future be able to resign their peerages and membership of the House of Lords.


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