De-mystifying institutional change : the House of Lords in transition

  • Richard Reid

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis evaluates the role of ideas in the reform of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. A multi-dimensional theoretical approach has been devised which integrates Parsons’ (2003; 2002) concept of the cross-cutting idea, Hirschman’s (1991) reactionary theses, and Streeck and Thelen’s (2005) typology of gradual transformative change. This theoretical approach was applied to primary data gathered through semi-structured interviews conducted with a representative sample of 77 members of the House of Lords in late 2012 and early 2013. The data from these interviews has been supplemented, where necessary, with documentary analysis of secondary sources. Two key empirical findings emerge from the research. First, changes in the House of Lords in the period since 1997 have often been caused by factors other than direct legislation. For example the types of people appointed to the House of Lords since the election of the Blair government in 1997 have affected the culture and work of the Lords in significant ways. Second, the positions adopted by peers towards Lords’ reform are not as materially driven as has been claimed. This thesis provides evidence for the conclusion that ideas about British democracy and government, and the role of the House of Lords within the governance of Britain, are of central importance to the positions taken by peers; more important than their position within the House of Lords itself. Building on these findings, this thesis demonstrates that the influence of ideas on continuity and change in the House of Lords is more complex than is evident in the existing literature. Both incremental cultural changes within the Lords, and critical importance of ideas are shown to be fundamental to understanding reform. These findings provide a clearer understanding of how the House of Lords could, and should, be reformed in the future.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMark Evans (Supervisor), Phil Larkin (Supervisor) & David Marsh (Supervisor)

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