The answer is a procedural motion on a back-bench Bill on House of Lords (interim) reform.
For what seems like the tenth year running (although I suspect it is probably only the fourth year), Lord Steel of Aikwood (Sir David Steel in old money) has introduced a Bill to introduce some sensible interim reforms to the House of Lords, pending a fuller reform of the Second Chamber. These are to:
- end by-elections for hereditary peers (at present when one of the remaining ninety-odd hereditary peers dies, there is a by-election amongst existing hereditary peers – or sometimes all members of the House – to choose a replacement from a register of eligible hereditary peers who don’t sit in the House);
- allow any member of the House of Lords to resign from the House permanently;
- create a mechanism where peers who commit serious offences can be expelled from membership of the House; and
- put the existing House of Lords Appointments Commission (which recommends names to be appointed as cross-bench peers) on a statutory footing.
There are those in the House who want to talk the Bill out – most notably a number of hereditary peers who argue that there should be no change at all, pending a move to an elected House. The procedural motion was designed to outmanoeuvre them.
And the House was crowded (at least for 10.30am on a Friday) to vote on the matter and in the event the House voted by 175 to 16 in support of the procedural motion.
Procedural wranglings are nonetheless expected to go on for at least another six hours.