‘Necessary first step’ towards reform of Lords

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Peers Yesterday welcomed plans to reform the House of Lords as “sensible and necessary” and as a “first step” to future reforms.

Conservative MP Dan Byles received praise from peers of all sides for adopting Lord Steel’s Bill to reform the second chamber and for piloting it through the Commons, despite several attempts to sabotage its progress by some of his backbench colleagues.

Lord Grenfell, who was made a life peer in 2000 after losing his hereditary seat following the House of Lords Act 1999 and who is set to retire, defended the “piecemeal” reforms, which some have said do not go far enough.

He said: “Reform is better if incremental and it must be proportionate.”

The Bill will allow peers to resign or retire, will enable peers to enforce resignation on individuals following extended periods of absence, as well as enable the removal of peers following a serious criminal conviction.

“There is much this House can achieve if each improving reform builds on and is consistent with that which precedes it. The reforms may sometimes appear to be piecemeal, but that is acceptable provided the pieces fit into a well thought-out mosaic.”

The former chairman of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, Lord Jay of Ewelme, warned that failure to bring in additional reforms in the future would pose a threat to the long-term stability of the Lords.

“There must surely be a risk that if the House gets ever larger, without reform, then sooner or later it will be topple over and the respect in which it is held will dissipate over time,” said the crossbencher.

“We need a proper reform Bill to follow this one. A Bill which will reduce the size of the House, which will end re-election of hereditary peers and an Appointments Commission, which will be on a statutory basis.

“I have believed and still believe that a Commission which appoints people in this House or improves appointments to this House, should be accountable to this House. And the only way in which one can be properly accountable to this House is to be on a statutory basis.”