Constitutional Studies Lecture: What Does the Failure of the House of Lords Bill 2012 Tell Us about the UK Constitution?

After the 2010 general election, the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreed, ‘We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation.’ A bill was introduced in June 2012, but on second reading in July ninety Conservative MPs voted against the bill, and it was withdrawn by the government.

Jesse Norman led the back-bench revolt against the bill, which, combined with Labour opposition to a motion limiting debating time, made it unviable. In his speech on the bill, Dr Norman called the bill ‘deeply confused and, indeed, dangerous’ and said that it ‘would be a catastrophe for this country if the Bill were ever enacted’. His opposition to the bill led to his being named Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year 2012 and Dod’s Backbencher of the Year in 2013. The Spectator’s citation said that he had risked spending ‘the rest of his career as the member for Siberia north’. Dr Norman’s lecture will address the general lessons that can be drawn from the failure of the bill.

Dr Norman graduated in classics from Merton College and twelve years later continued on to University College London, where he earned his M.Phil. and Ph.D. in philosophy. He is the author of numerous books in political theory, including a biography of Edmund Burke. His book Compassionate Conservatism (2006) and its successor Compassionate Economics (2008) have had a significant influence on Conservative policy. He is currently the chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of the House of Commons, and has been elected to a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College for 2016-7.