The Changing Role of the House of Lords
The House of Lords has been the subject of long-term research at the Constitution Unit. Meg Russell has led two three-year ESRC-funded projects since 2004, analysing the changing House of Lords and cataloguing the ongoing process of its reform:
- A More Legitimate & Powerful Upper House? The Semi-reformed House of Lords ranfrom August 2004 to October 2007, led by Dr Meg Russell with Maria Sciara as Research Assistant.
- The Changing House of Lords ran from October 2008 to September 2011, as one strand of a three-year ESRC fellowship. The project was led by Dr Meg Russell and supported by Dr Meghan Benton.
At present, research into the House of Lords is supported by private donors.
When the House of Lords is discussed, the discussion is almost inevitably in connection with its reform, which is seen as incomplete following the removal of most hereditary peers from the chamber in 1999. But the House of Lords is perpetually seen as "unreformed", with proposals for change having been made for over a century. This means the opportunity has often been missed to study the chamber as it is, and its impact on the policy process. Given that the next stage of reform may, like previous ones, be long delayed, such study is important. This project therefore focuses on the contemporary House, and particularly on how it has changed since the 1999 reform.
Publications in the first phase of the project (2004-2007) asked questions about the strength and confidence of the House of Lords, perceptions of its "legitimacy", and the real policy impact of government defeats. Research methods included study of parliamentary records, questionnaire surveys and interviews with peers, and public opinion surveys. A complete record of all members and all "divisions" (votes) in the chamber since November 1999 has been compiled in database form. The second phase of the project (2008-2011) continued the collection of some of this data, and generated new publications. These included broader analyses of the impact of Lords reform in 1999 on the British parliament, and its lessons for bicameralism in a comparative sense, as well as discussing the new policies pursued by the coalition government formed in 2010.
This research is led by Prof Meg Russell. If you would like to receive occasional (roughly quarterly) updates on our new publications and events about the House of Lords, please email Meg at firstname.lastname@example.org.