Governing Without Lords, a Novelty for the Tory Party

Strategic Communications

September 9, 2015

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Since the general election much commentary has been made on the potentially difficult relationship the new government could have with the upper house. In this briefing, FTI Consulting explores the background to questions surrounding Lords reform and the impact of the current political situation on industry advocacy.

Unreformable Peers
Over a century ago, Lloyd George’s People’s Budget, which included a reduction of the hereditary element of the upper house, was rejected by the Lords. The ensuing controversy over Lords reform has continued to this day, interrupted only by long periods of hibernation. The powers of the Lords and the hereditary nature of the house may have been drastically curtailed and reformed since 1909, but its legitimacy remains subject to debate.

The powdered dalliances of Lord Sewel and the ongoing court procedures against Lord Janner may have awoken career-Lords-reformists across the country, but these are failing to convince many in Westminster to engage on this thorny issue. There is recognition across the political spectrum that the current setup of the Lords is inadequate (to put it mildly). The median age of a peer in 2012 was 69, 92 hereditary peers still remain members of the house, 26 bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords and "multi-faith" plans where imams could sit alongside bishops have made no progress in the past half-decade. This broad acceptance of the legitimacy of Lords reform is, however, mirrored only by the overwhelming agreement that attempting to do so is a politically herculean task. Even Tony Blair with his vast majority in 1997 only managed to tinker at the edges. Painful memories of the 2012 coalition government U-turn on the subject, forced by the prospect of a Tory rebellion, will ensure the government will steer clear of Lords reform. The only real "reform" we are likely to see in this Parliament is the creation of yet more peers.


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