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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 07:01 GMT
Lords plans to be shelved
Robin Cook
Cook: wants a period of reflection
Plans for House of Lords reform have been put on the back burner until next year.

The leader of the Commons Robin Cook said government proposals on the number of elected peers had gone down badly in parliament and with the general public.

In the light of what we have heard so far and are likely to hear, that period of reflection should not be rushed

Robin Cook
And there now needed to be a "period of reflection", which "should not be rushed," in order to come up with a new set of proposals.

There is widespread anger among Labour MPs that only 20% of peers would be elected under the government's plans, contained in a White Paper.

'Dead duck'

Responding to comments from Labour peer Lord Lipsey that the proposals were now a "dead duck", Mr Cook said: "I would fully accept that that the broad tenor of response to the consultation, both in parliament and outside parliament, has tended to suggest that most people think that this is not the correct proportion."

The White Paper had merely been a consultation document, Mr Cook told the public administration committee.

And although he "saw merit" in drawing up a draft bill based on the proposals contained in it, that would not now happen.

'Serious risk'

He said it was important to use the period of reflection to "find a centre of gravity around which reforms can gather.

"The most serious risk is that we have a situation that we are unable to achieve a sufficient critical mass of agreement among those who want reform for any reform to take place.

"That is why reform of the House of Lords has taken so long to achieve," he told the committee.

Professional politicians

Mr Cook said an entirely elected upper chamber would threaten the authority of the Commons.

It would also be wrong to rule out appointees, as there were suitable candidates who might not want to put themselves through the ordeal of an election.

Similarly, it was wrong to believe politicians were unsuitable just because they had party allegiances.

"I have been a professional politician for 30 years and I am not ashamed of it," Mr Cook told the committee.

Conservative proposals

Mr Cook said Conservative proposals for an entirely elected second chamber were "interesting" but had their own problems.

"We would wish to hear more about it," he said.

On the length of time it would take to come up with new proposals, Mr Cook told MPs: "In the light of what we have heard so far and are likely to hear, that period of reflection should not be rushed."

Earlier Mr Cook told the BBC that consultation on the government's White Paper would continue until 31 January, but there would be no legislation in the current parliamentary session, which ends in November.

See also:

10 Jan 02 | UK Politics
We'll listen to Lords complaints - Cook
09 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Lord Archer set to keep his title
07 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Lords shake-up under fire
07 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Lords reform plans at-a-glance
07 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Q&A: House of Lords shake-up
07 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Head to head: Lords reform
09 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Lord Wakeham - the 'Fixit' man
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