What the public and peers think about the ‘reformed’ House of Lords

by Stephen Tall on January 5, 2008

Lord Tom McNally, Lib Dem leader in the House of Lords has drawn LDV’s attention to a paper by Dr Meg Russell, a senior research fellow in the Constitution Unit at University College London. Dr Russell has analysed results from the Unit’s public opinion survey on factors influencing the legitimacy of the House of Lords, as well as some figures from their survey of peers.

The briefing which accompanies the paper notes:

The public survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI in late October, asked which factors the public think are important to the legitimacy of the House of Lords. It found:

• More of the public consider it important that the House of Lords act in accordance with public opinion, that it consider legislation carefully and in detail, and that the appointments process for peers is trustworthy, than think it important for the chamber to include elected members.
• Forced to choose one or two factors that are most important to the legitimacy of the Lords, inclusion of elected members consistently scores fifth out of seven amongst the public, below these three factors and also below inclusion of independent members.
• Among respondents considering themselves knowledgeable about the Westminster Parliament the most important factor is the chamber considering legislation carefully, followed by trust in the appointments process. Inclusion of elected members ranks six out of seven.
• Asked whether both chambers of parliament are carrying out their policy role well, more of the public agree this is the case about the Lords than about the Commons. Amongst those knowledgeable about Parliament, this difference is more marked.

Dr Russell also summarises the paper’s findings of the views of peers:

• Peers state that the 1999 reform gave the chamber added confidence and legitimacy. They also believe that the public, government and pressure groups now have more respect for the House of Lords.
• Peers believe that the chamber’s power over ordinary legislation is about right, but many think it should have more power over ‘delegated’ legislation and constitutional matters.
• However, peers agree that government defeats are not their most important means of policy influence, and that persuading ministers to amend their own bills is more important.
• Asked which factors are most important to determining the legitimacy of the House of Lords, peers prioritise ‘trust in the appointments process’, ‘detailed legislative scrutiny’ and ‘presence of experts’ over other factors (including ‘presence of elected members’).

The paper, published last month, is available to read as a PDF file in full here.