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The 1911 Parliament Act decreed that Lords reform was ‘an urgent question which brooks no delay’, yet the subsequent 112 years have witnessed only sporadic and inchoate reforms. The issue has invariably suffered both from interparty disagreement between the Conservatives and Labour and, more importantly, intraparty disagreements owing to the divergent views and irreconcilable disagreements among Labour MPs over ‘what is to be done?’, and recognition that any reform which enhanced the legitimacy of the second chamber would threaten the pre-eminence of the House of Commons and a Labour government therein.
A similar fate is likely to befall the Labour Party's latest proposal for replacing the current House of Lords with an elected second chamber. Meanwhile, the Conservative peer, Lord Norton, is seeking to place the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC) on a statutory basis and impose stricter criteria on prime ministerial nominations for peerages. Yet, this would still leave any Prime Minister with considerable powers of patronage in appointing members of the second chamber. This article therefore suggests that a Prime Minister should only be permitted to nominate 20 per cent of the membership, with the rest appointed via HOLAC itself, thereby depoliticising the process as far as practicably possible, and imbuing it with greater public trust.