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Government plans published for elected House of Lords

18 May 2011

The House of Lords would become a mainly elected upper chamber under plans announced yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

A Government white paper including a House of Lords Reform draft bill sets out options for a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords.

Key proposals include:

  • a reformed House with 300 members, each eligible for a single term of three Parliaments (i.e 15 years);
  • elections of up to 80% of members, using the single transferable vote (STV), electing one third of the members each time with elections normally taking place at the same time as General Elections;
  • multi-member electoral districts, to be drawn up independently based on national and county boundaries;
  • a continuation of the presence of Bishops of the Church of England in the House of Lords, reducing their number from 26 to 12;
  • a transition to the new membership staggered over the course of three electoral cycles.

A future draft bill would contain provision for a fully elected chamber if that is "what people want", Mr Clegg said in the Commons. A joint committee of 13 MPs and 13 peers to be set up in the next few months will consider plans for the proposed election of members, with the first elections taking place in 2015.

It is not clear what would happen to peers currently serving. A report published last month by the independent Constitution Unit at University College London said the House was already over capacity with an "unsustainable" number of peers in place (click here for news item).

Mr Clegg said the proposals represented "evolution not revolution" and would give Parliament "greater democratic legitimacy". He was "open minded" about how to get to the Government's ultimate goal of a mainly elected chamber to replace the existing appointed one.

The coalition agreement included a promise to bring forward reform proposals, but the plans are likely to face strong opposition from MPs as well as peers. Many MPs said they would threaten the supremacy of the Commons.

Conservative Andrew Turner said Mr Clegg was pursuing a private obsession; while the Labour Party, which supports an elected chamber, described the proposals as a "dog's dinner" and lacking in detail.

Welcoming the proposals Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "Now all democrats must be prepared to show their resolve. We can break the deadlock, but it will require concerted action from all parties to bring this medieval chamber up to date."

Click here to access the bill and white paper.

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