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.