The Constitution Society Research Paper, ‘Talking to the Guardians: The Constitutional Role of the House of Lords’, by Research Fellow Lucy Atkinson, is available online.
This paper builds on existing academic research suggesting that the House of Lords performs a specific ‘constitutional guardianship’ role. Based on interviews conducted with fifteen selected members of the House of Lords, it explores the constitutional work undertaken in the second chamber from the perspective of the Peers themselves. It seeks to uncover who is engaged in the exercise of this constitutional function, how they go about doing so, and what they hope to achieve. More specifically, it tests the hypothesis that there is a self-aware sub-group of Peers within the House of Lords performing the constitutional functions of the Lords on behalf of the House as a whole. The research reveals a multitude of formal and informal mechanisms utilised by a wide range of members of the House. Although respondents referred to the significance of the permanent and ad hoc select committees and formal debating system in constitutional oversight, they also alluded to more amorphous means and forums through which Peers involve themselves in constitutional matters. This paper stresses the importance of the informal networks utilised by a variety of Peers. The paper concludes with some suggestions for further avenues of research.