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banner Monday, 2 October, 2000, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Strathclyde attacks Lords reform
The Lords are a vital bastion of liberty
The Lords are a vital bastion of liberty
Lord Strathclyde has vigorously defended the role of the House of Lords and criticised the Labour Party for "tearing the constitution to shreds".

The shadow leader of the Lords told the Conservative Party conference at Bournemouth that the Labour Party had no respect for Parliament, and called for the resignation of Lord Falconer, the Minister for the Dome.

They took our constitution... and tore it to shreds

Lord Strathclyde, Shadow Leader of the Lords
He said that only the Conservatives would restore the primacy of Parliament and defend individual rights which had been trampled over by Labour.

"Parliament does not belong to a particular political party," he said.

"They took our constitution, evolved over the wisdom of centuries and tore it to shreds, " he added.

Defending the House of Lords

Lord Strathclyde said that it was the House of Lords which actually stood up for the rights of the people, defending the right of trial by jury and defeating government plans to repeal Section 28 which forbids the promotion of homosexuality.

Lord Strathclyde: Lords must be strengthened
Lord Strathclyde: Lords must be strengthened
And he launched a bitter attack on the Labour Party which was "peppered with a corrosive hatred of everything that was part of the old British constitution".

"The prime minister doesn't care about Parliament and he has undermined the supremacy of Parliament... he has handed over powers [to Brussels] that Tory governments have fought like tigers to keep in British hands," he claimed.

Lord Strathclyde attacked the human rights bill as a "bonanza for lawyers," and said that Labour had abandoned the checks and balances that were the guiding principle of the constitutional settlement.

"Labour's assault and battery on the constitution has been a monumental disaster," he concluded.

His words were echoed by Baroness Young, who told the conference that history would judge Labour's policies on the constitution as "irresponsible, ill thought-out, and downright dangerous".

Fighting for the Union

Leading the debate on constitutional issues, Lord Strathclyde promised that the Conservatives would defend the Union of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

He said that the Conservatives would keep the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly - but would give more power to the English to decide their own affairs.

The Conservatives would reject proportional representation in Westminster and refuse to do a deal with the Liberal Democrats.

And they would reject any further reduction in the power of the House of Lords.

"We want a strong and independent House of Lords in a strong Parliament," Lord Strathclyde said.

He argued that the Conservatives would want more, rather than fewer, elected peers, and that further change should be decided by a joint committee of the Lords and the Commons.

That point of view was ignored by many conference delegates, as speaker after speaker called for a hereditary or appointed rather than an elected second chamber.

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