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Thursday, October 15, 1998 Published at 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK

UK Politics

Lords: Blair urges attack

Lords debate their own future

Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged members of the government to go on the attack over the "scandal" of hereditary peers after his plans for reform have come in for criticism.

He told ministers they should go on the attack and expose the "utterly undemocratic nature" of the Lords.

Mr Blair was speaking to Cabinet colleagues in their regular Thursday meeting, hours before the House of Lords entered the second day of its marathon debate on the issue.

Opponents of the government's plans say hereditary peers should not be scrapped until ministers have set out plans for the second stage of reform - how to replace them.

Mr Blair called on ministers to make the "principled case for reform" and to argue that a House of Lords without hereditary peers was better than one with them in.

He said that from the way in which some peers were defending the institution, "anybody would think it was a deeply democratic body" instead of being "utterly undemocratic, utterly unrepresentative".

Ministers had to be robust, he said, in making plain their determination to end the "scandal".

'An end in itself'

Meanwhile, Leader of the Lords Baroness Jay said in a letter to The Times that removing hereditary peers was an end in itself, a self-contained reform.

But she said it was absurd to claim that there was any ministerial proposal to delay full reform.

She added: "As an initial, self-contained reform which will in itself make the House of Lords a better second chamber, we will remove the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote."

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