Statement by the Campaign following the announcement that the Reform Bill will be withdrawn
The Campaign deeply regrets the announcement that the Lords Reform Bill will be withdrawn. The fight for democratic reform of the second chamber will go on, however, and we have no doubt that it will prevail in the future.
The Bill nonetheless represented the best chance of reform in the last 100 years. While proper scrutiny of it was essential, and the Bill could have been significantly improved, the opponents of the Bill (mainly 91 Conservative MPs) should not have been permitted by the threat of Parliamentary delaying tactics to frustrate the clear will of the House of Commons on the issue.
Their arguments, moreover, could be answered; notably over the primacy of the House of Commons, which could be secured by a combination of the Parliament Acts and, critically, the Campaign’s proposal for what the Joint Committee on the Bill called a Concordat between the two Houses. This would have set out the rules for the relations between them where these relied on convention.
It is worth recalling that the House of Commons gave the House of Lords Reform Bill a Second Reading on 10th July 2012 by an overwhelming majority of 338 (462 votes to 124 against). Nearly three-quarters (71%) of those MPs voting were in favour of the Bill. A majority of MPs from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties were in favour, and the vote was the largest ever Commons majority for democratic reform of the House of Lords. The Second Reading vote massively endorsed the principle that those who make our laws should be elected by the people who are subject to them. The model overwhelmingly approved by MPs was for a second chamber that is 80% directly elected, by proportional representation, with 20% appointed independent members.
Lords reform will not go away. The appointed House is growing to an unsustainable size. Reform of the Lords is vitally important to strengthening both Houses of Parliament against the over-powerful Executive in the UK, to give stronger rights and protections for ordinary citizens. The challenge for reformers now is to make the case in ways that bring home to electors its importance to them, so that the gains made over the last few years on the issue – culminating in the massive endorsement by the Commons for the recent Bill – are carried forward to secure lasting reform. The task of achieving reform is now likely to fall to Labour. One of the key tasks for the Campaign over the coming two years will be to secure a firm commitment by the Party in its next Manifesto to enact legislation early in the next Parliament for a democratic second chamber.
9th August 2012