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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Lords reform 'by next election'
House of Lords
Lords reform is a highly controversial issue
The House of Lords will have been reformed by the time of the next General Election, according to a senior Labour peer.

Lord Williams of Mostyn, Labour's leader of the Lords, made the prediction after the government effectively abandoned five years work on reform earlier this week.

We've spent 90 years talking about it, it might be time to get on and do the business

Lord Williams of Mostyn

He insisted that Prime Minister Tony Blair was not blocking reform, but was determined to introduce a lasting new settlement for the Lords.

He admitted that the government's White Paper, which proposed a largely appointed Upper House, was "less than perfect".

But Lord Williams told BBC News 24's One to One programme, to be broadcast on Saturday and Sunday, that the Cabinet had not been split on the matter.

'Got things wrong'

Commons leader Robin Cook announced on Monday that the government was setting up a joint committee of MPs and peers in an effort to break the deadlock over who should sit in the upper chamber and how much power they should have.

Lord Williams of Mostyn
Lord Williams: "Blair's not bored with reform"

Lord Williams said: "The government published its conclusions, which were not met, I think with universal acclaim.

"And occasionally, very rarely indeed, if you've got things wrong, you might as well admit it and try and do better, which is what we've done."

Asked what he thought of the White Paper, he said: "I think it was less than perfect."

Election 'deadline'?

But, he claimed, the Cabinet was "as always, unanimous" in its backing for the proposals.

"We did have consensus round the Cabinet table for that White Paper. That was a collective decision."

Conservative and Liberal Democrats have welcomed Mr Cook's announcement, which they claim is a government climb-down.

But the Tories warn it could indefinitely postpone the reform process

Asked whether there would be reform before the next election, Lord Williams said: "I personally think there will be. I can't pledge it because, of course, I don't control these things.

'Deeply conscientious'

"I would very much agree with Robin Cook that we've spent 90 years talking about it, it might be time to get on and do the business."

Lord Williams stressed that Mr Blair was not "bored" by reform.

"He's deeply conscientious about it and he's said to me quite plainly that any constitutional settlement of the House of Lords has got to be good, it's got to endure and it's got to be to the public benefit.

"He doesn't regard it as a party political matter and he's right."

Reform of peers' working hours to allow shorter holidays, fewer late nights and more morning sittings was more important than reform of its composition to introduce an elected element, he said.

See also:

14 May 02 | UK Politics
Lords rethink 'not delaying tactic'
14 May 02 | UK Politics
Q&A: House of Lords shake-up
14 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Lords 'should be 60% elected'
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