The Lion and the Unicorn


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Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Practical measures to alter the political balance of the House of Lords

The new retirement measures announced recently by the government in order to encourage elderly peers to retire are a precursor to the establishment of the House of Lords reform committee. This package would ensure that hereditary peers and life peers would step down, if aged between 70 and 80, allowing the membership of the second chamber to more closely reflect the vision of political representation that Labour and the Liberal Democrats envision.

The reform committee will be chaired by Jack Cunningham or Frank Dobson, and will be composed of all political parties plus crossbenchers. However, Lord Oakeshott of the Liberal Democrats has already outlined a new structure, removing the hereditary peers, the judicial lords and the bishops and reduce the membership, making room for an elected element.

Recent government memoranda talk of "extra pressure on some of the existing peers to stand down, since it was necessary to try to alter the age profile and gender balance of the Lords". No doubt younger, female members of New Labour are the ideal type to fill this role!