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Sunday, October 24, 1999 Published at 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK

UK Politics

'Cackhanded' Lords reform attacked

Critics say Lords reforms will lead to cronyism

The government has been urged to drop its "cackhanded" attempt at House of Lords reform and wait for a Royal Commission report in eight weeks' time.

Lords Reform
Conservative peers leader Lord Strathclyde told the BBC's Breakfast With Frost programme that the government should abandon the House of Lords Bill, due to face the final legislative hurdle of a third reading on Tuesday.

The Bill will strip the rights of 700 hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords, and leave only bishops and life peers remaining.

Lord Strathclyde: "We are exchanging public service for private ambition"
But Lord Strathclyde said that relying on patronage to select peers would lead to cronyism.

"We are seeing the passing of generations of people who have worked extremely hard, unpaid and unthanked in the service of their country," he said.

Compromise places

"We are exchanging public service and public duty for private ambition and private patronage and I don't think the latter virtues will serve the interests of this country as much as the former."

[ image: Lord Strathclyde:
Lord Strathclyde: "Drop this halfway-house"
Under a compromise arrangement, some 225 peers are seeking election to 92 hereditary places which will be saved until long term reform of the Lords is completed.

The first ballot for the places will take place on 27 and 28 October.

But there are fears that the full shake-up may not happen for years, leaving the group of remaining hereditaries in place.

Lords' reform was last seriously debated in Parliament in 1911.

'Half-way house'

Lord Strathclyde said: "In a matter of weeks Lord Wakeham is going to produce the Holy Grail, the answer to the problem of the last 100 years on the future of the House of Lords.

"Wouldn't it be far wiser, even now at this late stage, to drop this half-way house, this cackhanded approach to constitutional reform and let us know what we are really going to get.

"We should drop the Bill, wait for the New Year and go forward in a spirit of party consensus."

The Conservatives have proposed an elected chamber in their submission to the Wakeham Commission.

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