Ministry of Justice
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Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill second reading

Government proposals to end the hereditary principle in the House of Lords will be debated today as the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill has its second reading.

The bill also takes the historic step of placing the Civil Service Code of impartiality and professionalism onto a statutory footing to reinforce the civil service's independence.

This is the latest stage of constitutional reform and contains a series of measures aimed at rebalancing the relationship between Parliament, the government and the public.

Lords' provisions contained in the bill will bring to an end the system of by-elections in the second chamber, which allows for the remaining 90 hereditary peers to be replaced by other hereditary peers when they die. They also provide for new powers to:

  • allow members of the House of Lords to resign from the House
  • give the House the power to expel or suspend peers found guilty of misconduct
  • disqualify members of the Lords found guilty of a serious criminal offence, or who are subject to a bankruptcy restriction order.

The civil service provisions place the Civil Service Code, recruitment into the civil service and the role of the civil service commissioners onto a statutory footing. This will give both Parliament and the public confidence that an impartial civil service will be maintained for the future.

Other measures contained in the bill to make the government more accountable to voters and Parliament include:

  • placing the Ponsonby Rule in statute, providing that a treaty may not be ratified unless it has been laid before Parliament, has been published and a period of 21 sitting days has elapsed without either House having resolved the treaty should not be ratified
  • repealing restrictive legislation that requires prior notification to be given for protests around Parliament, this recognises the rights of citizens to express their views by demonstrating peacefully in and around Parliament Square
  • removing the Prime Minister from the process of appointing Supreme Court Justices.

Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, said:

'Since 1997 the government has implemented, with public support, a major programme of constitutional reform including devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, an elected Mayor and Assembly for Greater London, legislation on freedom of information and the Human Rights Act.

'This bill marks a further phase in that process of renewing our constitutional arrangements, with the aim of making government more open and accountable, and representative institutions such as Parliament more responsive to the public they exist to serve.'

The Lords reform measures in the bill come before proposals for comprehensive reform of the second chamber, which will be put forward in the coming months.

Notes to editors

  1. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill was introduced on 20 July 2009.
  2. For media enquiries please contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536. Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Ministry of Justice public enquiry unit on 020 3334 3555.

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