The House of Lords is the world’s longest-established and probably best-known second chamber. Wholly unelected, with most members appointed for life, it appears a vestige of the ‘elite’ form of bicameralism once common throughout Europe. Hence calls for major reform are commonplace. However successful changes have been piecemeal and rare. Meanwhile the UK is not federal, but is nonetheless a ‘union state’, comprising the territories of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each with its own distinct governing arrangements. These were most recently boosted by the 1997 Labour government’s devolution programme. Hence for decades, and particularly the last 20 years, devolution and Lords reform have both been on the UK’s political agenda. Throughout this time attempts to create a ‘second chamber of the nations and regions’ have repeatedly failed. This paper reviews the proposals made, and the obstacles they faced – drawing lessons for Britain, and territorial bicameralism more widely.
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