Lord Faulkner of Worcester

The debate over House of Lords reform has thrown up an extraordinary number of errors and mis-statements.  One of the more serious has been the assertion that Labour should support an elected House because that has always been party policy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  An analysis of Labour manifesto commitments since 1945, carried out by my colleague Lord Grocott and me, show that Labour has supported an elected House in only two elections out of the 18 that have taken place.  Those were in 1992 (when Labour lost) and 2010 (lost again).  In 1983 party policy was to abolish the Lords (and leave the EU and back unilateral nuclear disarmament – the “longest suicide note in history”).

In eight elections (1945, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, February 1974. October 1974, and 1987) there was no reference whatever to the House of Lords in the manifesto.  At other elections (1964, 1966, 1970, 1979) Labour spoke of the need to reduce or abolish the Lords’ delaying powers, especially when exercised by hereditary peers.  The 1997 manifesto committed the party to removing hereditary peers, those in 2001 and 2005 to ensuring that the powers of hereditary peers were reduced, and that the Commons primacy was maintained.

In 1968 the Labour government led by Harold Wilson attempted its own major reform of the Lords.  But that was based on an appointed, not elected, house.  The official party publication of the time, Talking Points, said this:

“If the upper House is elected, it would inevitably become a rival to the House of Commons, as it would then also possess a mandate from the people.  It would be able to claim greater or even equal powers, and in particular to challenge the present control by the Commons on finance.

“An elected House would violate the central principle of the British parliamentary system by which it has been recognised, at least since the beginning of the nineteenth century, that the government stands or falls in the House of Commons.”


  1. 20/07/2012 at 8:01 am

    This is an informative contribution to the debate … although I notice you have nothing to say as to why YOU should be in the legislature.

    • Malden Capell
      20/07/2012 at 9:39 am

      He’s not saying that Matt; that’s irrelevant to this discussion. If you want, put his words in my mouth – the words still apply.

      Besides, having an appointed House does not necessarily mean having an appointed House in its present form; it can be reformed so the truly deserving get in, and its use for patronage is reduced and regulated.

      • Twm O'r Nant
        23/07/2012 at 1:32 pm

        not necessarily mean having an appointed House in its present form;

        Appointed may well mean self-appointed which is exactly what it is at the moment; self appointed ex-MPs and ~Empire Loyalists appointed by a board.

  2. 20/07/2012 at 10:11 am

    I put it to you that it makes a significant difference if the words come from your mouth – for you (presumably) have no interests to declare.

  3. Dave H
    20/07/2012 at 11:33 am

    There are flaws in the present system but I see no need to change until someone can convince me that the new system would be better. So far I’m not convinced that what is proposed in the new Bill is better, and in some ways it’s worse.

    • Lord Blagger
      24/07/2012 at 6:40 pm

      You need to list the current flaws as a starter

  4. Wotawaste
    20/07/2012 at 11:37 am

    Like “Lord” Prescott

  5. Senex
    20/07/2012 at 2:30 pm

    What can one say; a nicely presented editorial Lord Faulkner but as dodgy as your last governments dossier? The question remains one of appointments inflation in an appointed house caused by the executives need for a majority. One sees no evidence here or on Lord Norton’s blog of any constructive suggestions as to how this is to be remedied. The reason is as you say:

    “An elected House would violate the central principle of the British parliamentary system by which it has been recognised, at least since the beginning of the nineteenth century that the government stands or falls in the House of Commons.”

    The executive is unwilling to see the HoL as the cause of its fall (into General Election) in any form. What continues to surprise me is a constitutional blind spot as to what the public expects from the HoL emphasised by Dr Meg Russell in her paper Apr 27, 2009 and one that persists within Parliament.

    What the public expects from the HoL is for it to hold the executive to account and to have the independence and power to do this. The public are indifferent to what the house actually does so long as it fulfils the covenant first established under Magna Carta. Combine this with the nobility’s record in Parliament and generally to be the conscience of the state, its demise would see us go down the road of the French Revolution.

    Where the evidence for this covenant: the historical record?

    The first Stuart King begins this inflation because the covenant is firmly established and he needs a majority. He begins filling the HoL with people he can manage or manipulate. The culmination of this, some while later, results in the abolition of the HoL in 1648:

    “The Commons of England assembled in Parliament, finding by too long experience, that the House of Lords is useless and dangerous to the People of England to be continued…” And Lord Blagger hasn’t even been born yet.

    What academics have not established and hence the blind spot is why the HoL is regarded as ‘useless’ and ‘by too long experience’. The reason is because the covenant has been lost. Those wishing for a Senate to replace the HoL should consider that this covenant does exist; it is real but not openly acknowledged.

    Ref: UCL: The House of Lords needs a ‘Clause IV Moment’
    A Clause IV Moment for the House of Lords? Page 4
    Parliament: Mar 19, 1648. Act Abolishing House of Peers

    • JH
      20/07/2012 at 7:58 pm

      “One sees no evidence here or on Lord Norton’s blog of any constructive suggestions as to how this [appointments inflation] is to be remedied.”

      Sorry, I wasn’t going to repeat myself (again), but why is the evolutionary change introducing a democratic pressure valve – outlined and referenced at http://nortonview.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/problems-with-the-bill/#comment-5496 – not a constructive suggestion to the question of, among other things, appointments inflation?

  6. MilesJSD
    20/07/2012 at 10:58 pm

    Look, neither The Queen, the Establishment, The Media, The Commons, the House of Lords, the Civil Service, the Universities, the NGOs including the Religions, nor Peoples Communities, anywhere in Britain, nor in its History

    have reached a Sustainworthy Holistic-Life level, especially in the domain of Mind-&-Morals-Functions,
    where they can be trusted to give a civilisational phenomenon an honest, clear and uncorruptive title:

    “shot in back by own troops” is NOT
    “friendly fire”;

    “ethnic persecution (by being machinegunned in the one’s bed without warning by a neighbour)” is NOT

    “the Company is sacking, firng, you” is NOT
    “the Company has to ‘let you go’ ”

    “falling sick or otherwise income-disadvantaged” does NOT “benefit” you,
    but it should necessitate your being granted sufficient “lifesupports”

    “taxpayer-prepaid bus card” is NOT
    “free travel”

    (… the list of such falsifications would fill a whole book).

    Look, if our governance heads can’t even get a simple title straight, how are they going to become better and truly sufficiently and honestly fit to Govern, and therein be kept and keep themselves fit-for-purpose ?

    Worse difficulty still, how are we The People to become sufficiently fit, enabled and empowered, to choose the Right people to advocate-for, represent, and govern us and our various environments,
    sustainworthily which includes affordably ?

    We need sustain-worthy governance in and from BOTH Houses ,
    and from all levels of the Civil Service and from every level of The People.

    Note herein, that no parliamentary representative “deserves” a seat*;
    Only the Cause and ‘Brief’ given to them by The People needs i.e. ‘deserves’ to be kept securely Tabled in Parliament (“seated”);
    it is the duty and job of the representative to navigate our Will through Parliament from a seat therein;
    We “deserve” that, that individual candidate does not;

    the member “deserves” no more than expenses in the workplace, and one-human-living per week to carry home.
    * All any human being should expect is one-human-living, from the Common Purse and Environment.

    Incidentally, no income and expenditure matter is any longer “private”:
    the near runaway destruction of both renewable and non-renewable Earth Lifesupports has become a very Serious and very Public Issue and Responsibility.

  7. Gareth Howell
    21/07/2012 at 12:21 pm

    assertion that Labour should support an elected House because that has always been party policy

    I won’t say that the noble lord nearly always misses the point because I am not sure I have the same Worcester, but the point is missed if the conclusion is reached that Labour do not generally believe in the abolition of the House of Lords.

    They/we do.

    It is a contradiction of socialist principles to suggest otherwise.

    If a retired labour MP is in the lords, it is because he is there to help in its abolition.

    Uni-cameralism rules ok!!

  8. Senex
    21/07/2012 at 6:38 pm

    JH, thanks for the heads up.

    Lord Norton without saying so modifies this blogs template for an indirectly elected house published in 2009. Here peers are elected at party conference in proportion to the proportion that arrived in the Commons after the general election.

    This does not guarantee a majority for the government because XBs’ for instance could be a swing a vote. The government at its discretion would use the Parliament Acts to avoid falling into a general election. Constitutionally, you might consider the metaphor (or fact?) in the Saxon King Cnut story as something that prevented Parliament from have an earlier version of the Parliament Acts in our history.

    Its all so very difficult you know, anything published here belongs to everybody and nobody in particular and cannot be patented especially by a political party. It can however be modified and incorporated into other designs.

  9. Nazma FOURRE
    22/07/2012 at 12:37 am

    Dear Lord Faulkner,
    The only way to avoid confusion regarding this annoying debate about an elected body of Lords is to simply remove this bill from any discussion proceedings . The two major reasons are that firstly the bill which was at first hand a manifesto did not receive any prior consultation from all the lords. The idea of launching this debate comes from the House of commons which has never had any legitimate power to rule the House of the Lords.
    Secondly this manifesto which has no legal frame is against the human conventions rights and cannot lead to any discussion theory so far as no prior consultation and negotiation have been made to reach an agreement among lords who are for their elections rather than their appointments.

    So stand up dear Lord and say “stop” to the discussion of this bill for these stated reasons. You could express your disagreement by simply walking out with your collegues and come back later after the debate to show your disapproval.
    God save the Queen and the Lords. God save the United Kingdom.
    Nazma FOURRE

  10. maude elwes
    22/07/2012 at 4:30 pm

    The Lords ‘should’ have the power to challenge the Commons. And with a mandate they could certainly take the losers to task. The Lords are somewhat older and wiser in parts and it is those parts we want to maintain and support.

    Get rid of the useless rump and bring that place into its own power.

    However, the public should have a say in who is selected. Similar to the primaries in the US you all so love to emulate. Party choice or crony choice is no choice at all. And this goes for the Commons as well.

    I have to say, I think those in the Lords that are worth their weight underestimate their talents. I have watched a few, and they certainly put up a better front than the lightweights in the Commons. Many of whom are a childish joke.

    They should take the bull by the horns and have more faith in their ability. However, they can’t do that by hanging onto the impotent.

  11. Frank W. Summers III
    23/07/2012 at 4:34 pm

    Lord Faulkner,

    You have indicated a presumption about Labour policy to be groundless. I suppose that among the ideas underlying the presumptions of public policy history among Labourites is an idea that socialist and Communist roots of the party would be offended by almost any real House of Lords and then that an election would undo its realness in that sense.

    Leaving aside the many anti-electoral socialist and Communist parties and also the doctrines of Marx let us consider that the USSR had layers of Soviets or Councils as well as a Politburo as Maoists largely imitated while also including many Mandarin Imperial institutional elements in reaction to the Republic. The Spartans and Laecadaemonian institutions were truly communist, more feminist than any nearby major Greek powers in their regions of influence and were royalists, aristocratic favoring ethnic elitists. Various British experiments in America which are also not Marxian but form part of a broad tradition had aristocratic elements such as the concepts behind Pennsylvania and Locke’s Fundamental Constitution for the Carolina Colonies.

    All this is to say some form of House of Lords that is effective and distinctive is compatible with every wing of Labourite History. This says nothing really as to whether the House should be elected. But as I look across the Pond at this issue I see a few leaders dealing with the question with great specificity and many others seeming to conflate many aspects of the question…

    • Twm O'r Nant
      24/07/2012 at 10:23 am

      British experiments in America which are also not Marxian but form part of a broad tradition had aristocratic elements such as the concepts behind Pennsylvania and Locke’s Fundamental Constitution for the Carolina Colonies.

      Proprietorial communism, of William Penn?

      In such a remote place at such a time, “community” was at a very high premium indeed,but it was almost certainly not any commun-ity to do with commun-ism.

      I am happy to accept the fine principles of co-operation by which much of the US farming community functions today, but Co-operative peers in the UK who are few and far between, may also have a paternalist approach to politics which bears little resemblance to anti-consumerist/anti capitalist marxism!

      A co-operative peer may not even believe in the reform of the house of Lords, or its abolition, and still not be inconsistent with his own co-operative principles.

      anti-electoral socialist and Communist parties and also the doctrines of Marx

      The method of acquiring power may have been little different from that of the far right in different circumstances, but the suggestion that, AT THE TIME, the one party state, was anti-democratic, is mistaken.

      The concept that the two/multi party state is essential to state democracy everywhere in the world is a recent one by comparison, ie UN Human rights Convention and law.

      The pyramidal structure of party organisation
      in a one party state, is exactly the same as the pyramidal structure of power in any number of parties, in a multi-party democracy, all but one of them in attendance
      on being elected to the power of government.

      • 25/07/2012 at 1:36 pm

        Twm O’r Nant,
        Context is almost everything. I do not know much about who you are but you evince a typicaly British-British view not really aware of British American experience. Penn was in fact a champion of private property and that should make him you think (reasonably enough) the anithesis of a communist.

        1. In his First frames he enabled all people who came to the colony to have a path to aquiring and amintaining an estate of real property which is the redistribution of wealth and the providing of the means of production to the masses.
        2.He also used military aid effective cultural cooperationa and enhanced trade to compensate the Shawnee and several other aboriginal American peoples whom he disposseses to whatever degree and in amny ways brought them into a more current economic model just as many Marxian economic governemnents have done with small tradtional populations.
        3.He was a landed aristocrat and that was my point. He was also a self made political agitator lifted up in larrge part by the community of largely proletarian and peasant Quakers. The fact that Bourgeois and Professional Quakers often led the experiment mostly just makes him better than many of the worst Marxist-Leninist regimes and a challenge to the better ones.
        On the other quote:
        1. There are vast problems with liberal democracy and vast problems with single party monopolies and I do not wish to get into a comparison here –but perhaps I will.
        2.Nor does it seem to me that in this case you are responding to what I wrote. This is more like an excerpt from a more intellectual than usual party press release.
        3.Third, yu must realize that as an American conservative I am not allowed to know anything about communism anyway…

        • maude elwes
          25/07/2012 at 4:59 pm


          Here is an extra bit of information you may not have.

          One of the herediatry ‘Lords’ today, a Conservative, is a direct relative of the communist Penn you mention.

          Lookie here.


          It may give you a certain satisfaction to know that he is one of those selling off the NHS to the, mostly American, private sector. So, little change there then.

          Of course the people of the UK don’t want it sold off in part or in total. But a lot of money is to be made by those at the top as the ‘American’ way takes over. So, the b—-r them attitude is allowed to thrive.

          • 26/07/2012 at 1:01 pm

            I appreciate the link and the comments. I am glad to see some of Penn’s lines around. I will not venture here to comment on the Earl’s policy…

  12. MilesJSD
    24/07/2012 at 5:43 am

    Under the time and human-energy wasting, stifling, and drowning, morass of titular and historically fixed-mindset verbiage, holding establishmenarian dog-in-manger sway still, from Top to Bottom of ‘British Democracy’ –

    such as Lord Norton’s short lists of select-committee-ready be-nobled and be-letterd Peers, Judges, and Experts-of-Old, in his later blog (above this one)

    has again given a cool and sharp comprehension and focus
    upon what we need and what we do not need in British Governance
    and particularly in our House of Lords currently and constitutionally-forwards.

    Now likewise,
    what is it about the key question
    “How are The People going to be
    (1) enabled to Select a long-list of right qualified people, to be allowed and funded to stand for election as their advocates, representatives, scrutineers, and legislators in Parliament and other Governance Places

    (currently just in the House of Lords
    but long-term throughout the Commons, the Civil Service, the Media, the Education, the Religions, and the Local Governmental and NGO sectors, also)

    (2) thereafter actually much more narrowly Elect a practically-fit Body
    to fill the parliamentary seats, from that long ‘Selected Sufficiently Qualified and Experienced Candidates’ list ?”

    what is it about that key question that our existing and established Experts, Parliamentarians, Establishmentarians, Media and Local ‘leaders’, ‘experts’, ‘educators’, PhD ivory-towered, and ‘rulers’

    do not comprehend, and are unable to give soberly-constructive answer to ?

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