UK government seeks power to remove lords for improper behavior

[JURIST] The British government intends to present legislation that would allow for members of the House of Lords [official website] to be removed for improper behavior, according to a statement by UK Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw [official profile; JURIST news archive] during a Sunday interview [audio] with BBC Radio 4. The announcement comes a week after members of the House of Lords were accused of taking cash payments from lobbyists [Sunday Times report] in exchange for amending legislation. Under current law, members of the House of Lords can not be removed from the chamber. This has allowed several members, including Canadian-born financier and former media mogul Conrad Black [CBC materials; JURIST news archive], to remain in the chamber despite being convicted of criminal offenses. Straw hopes the upcoming Constitutional Renewal Bill will not only include measures to remove members of the House of Lords for criminal activity, but also for improper behavior [BBC report], similar to what exists in the House of Commons [official website].

The House of Lords has been a target for reform for many years. In 2003, cabinet members rejected [BBC report] five different reform initiatives that varied from an entirely elected to entirely appointed House of Lords. Proposals were again initiated in 2006, with the release of a document by a cross-party working group on Lords' reform that hinted at a half-elected, half-appointed House with 450 Lords sitting in the chamber. In 2007, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair pushed [JURIST report] for a half-elected, half-appointed House of Lords that removed all but 92 House members who still inherit their parliamentary seats.



 

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