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Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 13:26 GMT
Peer quits Tories over Lords reform
House of Lords at state opening of parliament
Only 92 hereditaries remain in the House of Lords
A hereditary peer whose right to sit in the House of Lords was taken away under the government's reform of the second chamber has quit the Conservative Party in protest at the way it handled the changes.

Piers Anthony Weymouth Wedgwood, who runs the famous 250-year-old ceramics business that bears his name, said he feels "betrayed" and "bitter" at the way the Tories handled the reforms.


The bitterness among us [hereditaries] is that we put our country first and the government did not seem to understand that

Lord Wedgwood
Lord Wedgwood also called on Conservative leader William Hague to outline where he believed future reform of the upper chamber should go.

The outburst comes as Labour and the Liberal Democrats have decided to formally put their talks on Lords reform on hold.

A joint statement said the discussions had been taken "as far as they can for the present" but it is understood the move was triggered by the general election expected in May.

Just last week the Tories said the government was suffering from "constitutional constipation" and called for it to press ahead with the next stage of Lords reform.

Ejected

Hundreds of dukes, earls, marquesses, viscounts and barons were ejected from the Lords in 1999 as the main element in "stage one" of the government's reform of the upper house.

But a secret deal between former opposition peers' leader Viscount Cranborne and Prime Minister Tony Blair allowed 92 hereditaries to stay until the reforms had been completed.

Lord Cranborne was later sacked by William Hague for agreeing to the plan without his knowledge.
Viscount Cranborne
Viscount Cranborne: Sacked by William Hague
An election was held to decide who would remain - a process which Lord Wedgwood condemned as a "ridiculous sideshow".

Now the 46-year-old former army officer says he has resigned and "cut off all ties" from the Tory Party

"I am very disappointed in what has happened since the Wakeham Report [on Lords reform] because we all realised the government had not worked out what they wanted.

"A number of us were not fighting against reform but we were determined to find out what stage two was before the government implemented stage one.

"I feel really betrayed, this has been a bitter experience. And I feel bitter not just with the government, but with the response of my fellow peers."

'Ultimate betrayal'

A number had "sat on their hands", he complained, but the "ultimate betrayal" was committed by Lord Cranborne.

Lord Wedgwood said it was now difficult to understand the Tory position on Lords reform.

"I think they should be more concerned than they would appear to be. But like so many things it seems to be a case of 'wait and see'.

"But I would love William Hague to go out and present his thoughts on where the reforms should go."

Saying he believes hereditaries who lost their seats could one day have a role to play again he added: "I'm waiting for the invitation to return."

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See also:

08 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Protest over stalled Lords reform
19 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Labour MP warns on Lords reform
31 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Peerage row stokes reform calls
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Lords reform proposals at a glance
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Lords reforms 'not shelved'
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