As the second chamber of the Westminster parliament, the House of Lords has a central position in British politics. But it is far less well-studied and well understood than the House of Commons. This is in part because of constant expectations that it is about to be reformed - but most Lords reform plans fail, as the Coalition government's dramatically did in 2012. Meanwhile, following a landmark change in 1999 which removed most of its hereditary members, the Lords'
role in the policy process has grown. Understanding the chamber is therefore now essential to understanding politics and parliament in Britain.
This book provides the first detailed portrait of the post-1999 Lords, explaining who sits in the chamber, how it operates, and crucially what policy impact it has. Its membership is shown to be more diverse and modern than many would assume, and its influence on policy to be substantial. As a 'no overall control' chamber, in which no party has a majority, it has inflicted numerous defeats on the Blair, Brown and Cameron governments, and become an important site of negotiation. It has provided
a power base for the Liberal Democrats, and includes a group of almost 200 independents who now play a pivotal role.
Close study of today's House of Lords demolishes some common myths about British politics, and also about how two chamber parliaments work. This book, as well as focusing on the contemporary Lords, provides a historical and comparative context for British bicameralism, asks whether the Lords can be considered 'legitimate', and describes recent reform efforts and possible future reforms.
Dr Meg Russell is Reader in British and Comparative Politics in the Department of Political Science, University College London, where she is Deputy Director of the research centre the Constitution Unit. Her research on the Lords began by considering options for reform based on experience of other bicameral parliaments, resulting in her first book, Reforming the House of Lords: Lessons from Overseas (OUP, 2000). Since then she has focused increasingly on how the Lords operates now, following its reform in 1999. She has written numerous reports and papers on the British parliament, and parliaments more broadly, and is frequently cited by policymakers as well as academics. She has acted as a consultant to the Royal Commission on Lords reform (1999-2000), and been an adviser to the Leader of the House of Commons (2001-03) and the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons (2009-10).
Introduction ; A Brief History of the House of Lords ; Bicameralism in Theory and Comparative Perspective ; A Brief Introduction to the Contemporary House of Lords ; Politic Actors in the Lords ; The Lords as a Barrier to Government: Legislative Defeats ; Negotiated Outcomes and the Wider Legislative Impact of the Lords ; Non-Legislative Policy Work ; Is the House of Lords 'Legitimate'? Attitudes Towards the Chamber ; The Politics of Lords Reform ; Conclusions: The House of Lords, British Politics, and Legislative Bicameralism