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Lords reform Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 18:58 GMT
Leading players in Lords reform
An at-a-glance guide to the leaders of the main groups in the House of Lords.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

Margaret Jay is the daughter of former Prime Minister Baron (James) Callaghan of Cardiff.

She was appointed to her role during Tony Blair's first Cabinet reshuffle, in 1998, inheriting the job from Lord Richard. She had previously been the party's deputy leader in the upper house.

The six-foot blonde baroness, who is also minister for women, is equally well known for having an affair with Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein. She was subsequently immortalised in Nora Ephron's novel Heartburn.

Her previous roles include being vice-chairman of a health authority and director of the National Aids Trust.

Lord Strathclyde

The opposition's chief whip in the Lords became the party's leader in the upper house upon the sacking of Lord Cranborne.

Lord Strathclyde is described as a likeable figure, well known for hosting champagne parties at the Conservative Party conference.

He has made clear his distaste for the "zero tolerance" wrecking tactics favoured by the leadership in the Commons.

Instead he believes what the House of Lords does best is to provide effective opposition to detailed aspects of the government's programme.

Lord Strathclyde, whose lineage only stretches back two generations, has a "sentimental attachment" to the hereditary system and believes they still had a useful role in Parliament.

Lord Weatherill

The former Commons speaker is convenor of the crossbench peers.

He has declared himself an opponent of Labour's plans to reform the second chamber although he has acknowledged it was time to look closely at the parliamentary process.

Although Lord Weatherill was a Tory MP, his father was a member of the Independent Labour Party.

He has warned Lords reform could cost millions of pounds each year in salaries to remaining peers.

There are more than 320 crossbench peers, of whom more than 200 are hereditary.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

Lord Rodgers succeeded Lord Jenkins to become the Liberal Democrats' leader in the Lords in 1997, defeating Lord Wallace of Saltaire by 38 votes.

Lords Reform
Lord Rodgers, a former Labour MP and transport secretary who defected to help set up the Social Democrats in the split of the early 1980s.

He remained during the merger that created the Liberal Democrats in 1988.

Lib Dem support is expected to be crucial to the government's chances of getting proposals to remove the voting rights of hereditary peers through the Lords.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

Lord Irvine of Lairg became the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain upon Labour's general election victory in 1997.

Barrister Alexander Andrew Mackay Irvine was made a QC in 1978, served as a recorder from 1985 to 1988 and was appointed a deputy high court judge in 1987. He ceased practice on becoming Lord Chancellor in May 1997.

Prime Minister Tony Blair met his wife Cherie Booth while working in Lord Irvine's chambers.

The lord chancellor hit the headlines in 1998 over his expensive taste in wallpaper, his guilt over his marriage to Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar's former wife and because he wanted to rid himself of his ceremonial dress for day-to-day business in the Lords.

Lord Wakeham

The former Tory Cabinet minister was given the task of heading the Royal Commission on Lords Reform by the government in January.

Under his guidance the commission has been gathering evidence from politicians, pressure groups and the general public before bringing forward its recommendations for the future role of the reformed upper chamber and how its members will be selected.

The commission is due to report to the government at the end of January 2000.

Lord Wakeham is also the head of the Press Complaints Commission. Before entering Parliament as an MP in 1974 he was both a businessman and an accountant.

Links to more Lords reform stories are at the foot of the page.

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