Programmes on the Life Peerages Act

Lord Norton

pict01221This Sunday (30 November) BBC Parliament will be showing an evening of programmes to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Life Peerages Act.  It will include a feature on one of the first women peers, Baroness Wootton of Abinger.

The 1958 Act has been the basis for the transformation of the second chamber.  Before 1958, it was poorly attended and only sat for two or three days as week.  Now, like the Commons, it is one of the busiest legislative chambers in the world.  Average daily attendance exceeds 400 (in 2006-07 it was 415) and each session between 1,500 and 4,000 amendments to Government Bills are secured in the House.   It gets on with its tasks in a straightforward and undemonstrative manner.   What may seem surprising is that it is also a remarkably egalitarian institution. 

This blog is designed to provide some insights into the current House.  If you get an opportunity to watch BBC Parliament on Sunday, you will be able to get some idea of what is was like half-a-century ago.

5 comments for “Programmes on the Life Peerages Act

  1. 27/11/2008 at 10:32 am

    Hopefully the programmes will be available on the iPlayer – perhaps you can post the links here once they’ve been on. No doubt it’ll increase the viewing figures significantly!

  2. Adrian Kidney
    28/11/2008 at 9:22 am

    My Lord Norton,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the value of the Lords today.

    I wonder though, if you could elaborate on how the Lords is more egalitarian now – in what sense do you mean this?

    Also, do you know of a place online where there is a breakdown of the former or current professions and expertise of members of the Lords?

  3. Stuart
    29/11/2008 at 1:13 am

    Off topic, I accept, but any chance you could share your response to the Damian Green arrest, Lord Norton – and especially the searching of his parliamentary office. What are the constitutional implications, if any? Thanks.

  4. 01/12/2008 at 6:19 pm

    What was the effect of the 1958 act? Were all peers hereditary before then?

  5. lordnorton
    05/12/2008 at 6:27 pm

    Jonathan: As you will have seen from my more recent post, I have now provided a link.

    Adrian Kidney: By egalitarian I mean the extent to which we are all equal (in other words, peers). Members treat each other with respect and there is little or no attempt to act at all in any superior way. There is a very good relationship between members and indeed between members and staff. The House is, in my view, very welcoming for members, regardless of who they are and where they come from. In terms of a breakdown of the current and former professions and expertise of peers, Lord Selsdon has been creating a substantial data base, which I hope will be available in due course. As you will know, some other data on peers (who were former MPs, listing by age etc) are available in Dod’s Parliamentary Companion.

    Richard: Yes, before 1958 all members of the House were hereditary peers with the exception of twelve law lords and the twenty-six Lords Spiritual (i.e. the two Archbishops and twenty-four senior Bishops of the Church of England).

    Stuart: I have now done a post on the Lords and privilege. I will give thought to whether I should add anything in respect of the Commons.

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