The purpose of this Bill is to reform the membership of the House of Lords. All recommendations for life peerages would be made by a Statutory Appointments Commission. Existing hereditary peers would no longer be replaced when they die. Members could apply to take permanent leave of absence, which would be the equivalent of retiring from the House of Lords. Members who failed to attend the House of Lords would be viewed as having taken permanent leave of absence. Members sentenced to more than a year in prison would no longer be members of the House of Lords.
Lord Steel of Aikwood has introduced similar Bills during several previous parliamentary sessions—the House of Lords Bill [HL] 2008–09 reached the committee stage in the House of Lords on 19 March 2009; the House of Lords Bill [HL] 2007–08 received its second reading in the House of Lords on 30 November 2007; and the House of Lords Bill [HL] 2006–07 received its second reading in the House of Lords on 20 July 2007.
When the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill 2009–10 was introduced in July 2009, it contained provisions to end the by-elections for hereditary peers and to allow for the suspension, resignation and expulsion of Members of the House of Lords. However, these provisions were excluded from the final version of the Bill which received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010. Lord Steel said during this Bill’s committee stage in the House of Lords on 7 April 2010 that if the these provisions were not brought back to parliament after the general election, he would reintroduce his Private Member’s Bill.
- All recommendations for life peerages would be made by a Statutory Appointments Commission consisting of nine members nominated by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords. At least four members, including the chair, would be independent of any registered political party, and there would be a political balance among the other members.
- Proposals for new peers could be made to the Commission in the following categories:o The leader of any registered political party with six or more seats in the House of Commons could nominate “party nominees”. The Commission would have to be satisfied that the procedure and criteria used by the party to choose the nominee were reasonable and consistent.o The Prime Minister could nominate “prime ministerial nominees” (these would be separate from any “party nominees” the Prime Minister might nominate in his capacity as leader of a political party).o Anybody else could nominate “non-party nominees”.
- All nominees would have to demonstrate conspicuous merit and a willingness and capacity to make a contribution to the work of the House of Lords.
- In determining how many new peers (if any) to recommend each year, the Commission would take the following principles into account:o Not less than 20 per cent of the members of the House of Lords should be independent of any political party.o No one party, nor a coalition of parties forming a government, should have a majority of members in the House of Lords.o The government of the day (or the largest party in a coalition government) should be entitled to have a larger number of members than the official Opposition, but that majority should normally be no greater than 3 per cent of the total membership of the House of Lords.o The House of Lords should not have more members than the House of Commons.
- Existing hereditary peers would no longer be replaced when they die.
- Members could apply to take permanent leave of absence, which would be the equivalent of retiring from the House of Lords.
- Members who did not attend the House of Lords during a parliamentary session would be deemed to have taken permanent leave of absence.
- Any member found guilty of a serious criminal offence and sentenced to more than a year in prison would cease to be a member of the House of Lords.