The Constitution Unit


Reforming the House of Lords: Lessons from Overseas

This book was the principal and final output from a project by the same name, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Comments about the book:

"Meg Russell's book is a valuable contribution to the debate on the future stages of House of Lords reform." (Baroness Jay, Leader of the House of Lords).

"The debate on the future of the House of Lords has so far been insular and backward-looking. Meg Russell provides an overdue and authoritative corrective in showing the lessons to be learnt from second chambers overseas in the balanced, analytical and highly readable manner that the Constitution Unit has made its trademark." (Peter Riddell, The Times).

"An excellent addition to the comparative literature on bicameralism which will be of great use to those interested in parliaments, parliamentary reform and comparative government generally." (Campbell Sharman, University of Western Australia).

Labour's reform of the House of Lords began in 1999 with the removal of the majority of hereditary peers. But the long-term future of the UK's upper house remained to be considered. This book sought to move the debate forward, providing an international context to Britain's constitutional reform, and drawing lessons from the upper houses in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In doing so it offered a yardstick against which the Royal Commission report on reform of the House of Lords, published in January 2000, could be judged. It asked for example whether the new upper house should be powerful like the Australian Senate, or weak like the Irish Seanad; whether it should, like most second chambers around the world, have a role in protecting the constitution; in a newly devolved UK, should it, like the German Bundesrat or the Spanish Senado, have a territorial role to bind the nations and regions together? And what would be the implications of a wholly appointed or elected replacement for the Lords?

The book guides the reader through the various options for reform. Firmly practical in its approach, it also provides a unique and valuable comparative text on second chambers, which have tended to be little-studied institutions of government.

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