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Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK

UK Politics

Labour peer attacks 'degrading' Lords reform

"MPs don't know what goes on in the Lords"

Government moves to "wipe out" hereditary peers overnight would be "unacceptable in humanitarian terms" and degrade parliament, a Labour Lord has declared.

Former MP and onetime frontbencher Lord Randall suggested instead phasing out the hereditary element in the Lords by preventing their heirs from taking their seats.

The life peer made his comments a day ahead of the two-day Lords debate on the government's pledge to scrap the rights of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House as the first stage of reform.

Cross-party opposition to the move is due to be aired in the debate starting on Wednesday, in which more than 100 peers are seeking to speak.

Lord Randall, MP for Hull West from 1983 up to the last election, said: "All sorts of ghastly things are said about hereditary peers."

But there were some "terrific people" among them "who contribute massively to the British parliament - and to wipe them out overnight is not only unacceptable in humanitarian terms but would degrade parliament".

He warned that the House of Commons had "gone into quite serious decline" over the last 14 years, and there was a danger reforms might bring about the same result in the upper chamber.

"The information revolution means MPs are in their offices playing with their computers," he protested.

"There is no time for the chamber because they are messing around with these things and the quality of their work has diminished."

Lord Randall insisted: "I am 500% more efficient as a real politician in the Lords, but there is an ignorance level in the Commons about the Lords and they [MPs] don't know what goes on there."

He said a better reform of the Lords would be for the government to bar an heir to a title from taking his seat on the death of his father.

The move would cut down the hereditary element quite considerably over the space of two parliaments, he predicted.

Lord Randall has submitted his own detailed Lords reform proposals - including a voluntary weighted voting system which would apply to all peers except cabinet members - to the cabinet committee overseeing the subject.

Meanwhile, the government has said it is considering a Royal Commission to look into further reform of the Lords.

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