Today peers agreed by 217 votes to 45 to urge the government to exercise restraint over new appointments to the Upper House following a debate introduced by Liberal Democrat life peer Lord Steel of Aikwood.
It was not the first time attempts have been made to limit the number of new peerages. In 1719, a bill was introduced in the House of Lords to place a limitation on the Crown’s power.
It sought to permit no more than six new creations, and thereafter one new creation for each other title that became extinct. It did allow, however, the Crown to bestow titles on members of the Royal Family without any such limitation.
The bill was rejected in its final stage in the Lords but passed when it was reintroduced the following year. However, the House of Commons rejected the bill 269 to 177.
The only time a restriction on the number of peers was enacted was in the Peerage of Ireland, under the terms of the Acts of Union that combined Ireland and Great Britain into the United Kingdom in 1801.
New creations were restricted to a maximum of one new Irish peerage for every three existing Irish peerages that became extinct, excluding those held concurrently with an English or British peerage.
Only if the total number of Irish peers dropped below 100 could the Sovereign create one new Irish peerage for each extinction.
The following was published on BBC Democracy Live on 28th February, 2013; The government has been defeated in the Lords over reform of the House of Lords.
Peers agreed by 217 votes to 45 – a majority of 172 – to urge the government to exercise restraint over new appointments to the Upper House.
They stepped back from insisting on blocking the creation of new members unless reforms were carried out.
The vote came following a debate on 28 February 2013, introduced by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Steel of Aikwood.
Lord Steel had been planning to move a motion effectively blocking the appointment of any new peers until a proper mechanism for allowing members to retire had been implemented.
But he told peers he was accepting an amendment urging “restraint” in the appointment of peers instead.
Lord Steel acknowledged that his own backbench bill on Lords reform had no “realistic chance” of success.
He said fundamental reform of the House was years away and in the meantime it was sensible to adopt “housekeeping measures” ensuring there was an “exit strategy” for peers.
During the debate, Labour spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath pointed to “disturbing rumours” that the government planned to appoint dozens of new members and urged peers to act now on “sensible housekeeping” changes.
Leader of the House Lord Hill of Oareford said Prime Minister David Cameron had exercised restraint in the appointment of new peers and any changes needed to be debated in the wider context of Lords reform.
The Leader’s Group on Members Leaving the House reported on options for allowing members to leave the House of Lords, and has argued that the current House is too big.