Reform of the House of Lords in British politics 1970-1992.
Perceived obstruction of the Labour government's legislative programme in the mid-1970s sparked renewed interest in tackling the House of Lords. A Labour Party study group recommended outright abolition and this was adopted as policy, notwithstanding questions about the practicalities. The Prime Minister, James Callaghan, failed to prevent this; and his last minute attempt to block its inclusion in the 1979 manifesto, while successful, led to a major row which had significant repercussIons. The alternative policy was then to curtail drastically the Lords' powers, at least as a first step, but the arguments continued into the early 1980s. Labour's policy was a major influence in leading the Conservatives to set up a committee under Lord Home, which in ] 978 came forward with radical proposals, involving a partly or wholly elected chamber. However, these were never formally adopted as Conservative policy and, in office, particularly after the emphatic election victory of 1983, ministers became increasingly complacent and content to maintain the status quo. The Lords meanwhile showed themselves willing to defeat the government on occasion; but while this may have been an irritant, on crucial issues it could usually rely on 'backwoodsmen' to get its way and the Thatcher government seems never seriously to have contemplated legislation. The expenence of opposition in the 1980s led Labour, with the Parliamentary leadership more to the fore in its Policy Review, to change its approach. Now seeing the second chamber as a potential ally in safeguarding future reforms to constitutional and human rights, it supported a fully elected chamber; and the position of the Liberal Democrats was broadly similar. The question of Lords' reform had a significant influence on the politics of the time. illustrating the potential uses and limitations of prime ministerial power and changing perspectives between government and opposition
AuthorsLamport, Timothy Ennis
- Theses