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Wednesday, December 2, 1998 Published at 21:12 GMT

UK Politics

'I require you to step down'

Lord Cranborne was thanked for his service

The full text of Conservative leader William Hague's letter to Viscount Cranborne asking him to step down as the party's leader in the House of Lords.

Dear Robert,

As you know, at our meeting this afternoon I explained that following the events today I had no option but to require you to step down from your position as leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords.

It can never be acceptable for a member of the frontbench to seek to bring about a change in the policy of the party without the knowledge or agreement of the party leader or the shadow cabinet.

I believe that the government's retreat from its election manifesto commitment marks a victory for the Conservative Party's approach to the issue of constitutional reform.

Labour's concession will make a disastrous Bill somewhat less bad but I do not accept that our party should now simply cease its principled opposition to the government's proposals.

It has always been our position that while we are willing in principle to consider the reform of the House of Lords, we object to a stage one without stage two.

We have also always said that it is common sense for the government to wait for its Royal Commission to report before pushing ahead with fundamental changes to parliament without any clear idea where those changes will end.

Labour has now abandoned any principle it ever held on the reform of the Lords; that is not a reason for us to abandon ours.

As I said the to 1922 Committee this evening, I took this decision with a very heavy heart.

Throughout the last 18 months you have done a remarkable job in holding the government to account in the Lords and in giving me wise advice and loyal support.

I want to thank you for that work and also for your years of service to the country and to our party in government.

It is a matter of deep regret to me that today's difference should have arisen.

The Rt Hon William Hague MP

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