House of Commons in disagreement over its upper neighbour


When the Coalition Government was formed, many supporters of the Liberal Democrats were less than pleased about the fact that their party had entered into Government with the Conservatives.

At the time, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, sought support amongst his party members by announcing that the arrangement would allow them to play a significant role in how the country is being run.

His promise of championing the Liberal Democrats' agenda has failed in the eyes of many. For example, there was great uproar when Clegg broke his promise of not increasing university tuition fees.

Now, his plans to reform the House of Lords have been, at least temporarily, halted after a defeat in the House of Commons. If you are interested, the legislative process is covered more deeply elsewhere on this site.

Democratic agenda

Mr Clegg is looking to make the House of Lords more democratic by introducing measures under which the House would decrease significantly in size and the majority of members would be elected for a period of 15 years.

The members would either be elected on an individual basis or by appearing on a political-party list. The remaining members of the House of Lords would remain appointed.

Initially, the bill embedding the plans was rather welcomed by the House of Commons. However, it encountered opposition in August 2012 by many Conservatives and Labour MPs when the Tories considered a motion to set a ten-day period for the bill to be debated.

Constitutional bills are debated by the whole house, rather than in committee and the debates are seen as a crucial part of the democratic process by which a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, which you can learn more about by following the link.  

Wide-felt opposition

Despite Nick Clegg's good intentions, there are many who argue that the plans are not good enough and have too many defects. Opponents to the reforms argue that more time is needed to debate a bill that will have such significant consequences. Many are also critical of the Government's choice to focus on this issue in these dire financial times.

Reforming the House of Lords is seen by many in the UK as pivotal. Its current formation has left many with the impression that it is only open for the richest of society who are out of touch with the general public.

Progress stalled

The House of Lords Bill 2012 ultimately failed to make it past its Second Reading due to conflict over the timetable. There were some hopes in the Liberal Democrats that it might be possible to reintroduce it in the autumn but negotiations with the Conservatives broke down and the decision was taken not to spend any further time on the matter.

These reforms may appear to be archaic, but if passed, they would make a very real difference to how law is made in this country. To understand more, visit our pages on the sources of UK law.

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