Majority of public back democratic Lords reform, poll shows

By staff writers
April 23, 2012

Unlock Democracy has published new research confirming majority public support for plans to introduce elections to the House of Lords.

The leading political reform campaign has told the government that it must now act to change the second chamber for good.

A poll conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Unlock Democracy (see details below) has found that:

* 69 per cent of the public support a half, majority or wholly elected second chamber. The most popular response was for a fully elected second chamber (33 per cent). Just five per cent support a wholly appointed second chamber (don’t know: 22 per cent).
* 45 per cent believe members of the House of Lords should not be allowed to block reform; 32 per cent felt they should (don’t know: 17 per cent).
* 48 per cent supported experts being invited to participate in legislation on an ad hoc basis, rather than being given life peerages; only 20 per cent felt they should be given life peerages (don’t know: 22 per cent).

The poll also found overwhelming support for the public, to be able to decide what issues should be put to a referendum. 62 per cent felt the public should have this power (don’t know: 12 per cent).

Unlock Democracy says it believes that the government should include in the Lords reform legislation an option to hold a referendum if five per cent of the public demand one.

Commenting on this research, director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey said: “The three major parties all committed themselves to democratic reform of the House of Lords at the last general election; they cannot spin or dissemble themselves out of this commitment. And while it may not be on top of everyone’s agenda, polls have consistently shown that the public support Lords reform themselves."

He continued: “The debate over whether to hold a referendum is a red herring. The question should be whether the public demand one. The onus is on the opponents of reform; if they cannot find even five per cent of the public to petition for a referendum, they should not insist the the government commits itself to an expensive and needless process."

“Many Lords have been threatening to derail the government’s entire legislative process in a bid to block reform. The government should call their bluff and not allow itself to be blackmailed by a self-serving elite,” said Mr Facey.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, which has also argued for widespread political reform in Britain, commented: "The case for change is now overwhelming, but the exact nature of the change is still up for discussion. A second chamber at Westminster clearly needs to be democratically accountable, not oligarchical. But it would be a pity if it simply reproduced the dominance and stranglehold of the big three UK parties. Wider and more diverse representation is needed.

"The anomaly of representatives of one branch of one religion having a place as of right in the legislature should also be tackled. Everyone, whether religious or non-religious, should be in parliament because they have been elected and chosen democratically, not because of reserved privileges.

"The issue of Lords reform should also not detract from the larger questions about the British settlement, the possibility of more devolved powers to different parts of what is now the UK, and possible independence for Scotland," he added.

* See Ekklesia's earlier research paper, 'The state of independents: alternative politics' -

* The full polling results can be downloaded here:

* All figures in the poll, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,349 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 20th April 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

* Unlock Democracy’s submission to the joint committee on the draft House of Lords reform bill can be found here:

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.