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Thursday, December 3, 1998 Published at 00:14 GMT

UK Politics

Sacked peer defends himself

William Hague and Lord Cranborne before the dismissal

Sacked Viscount Cranborne has defended the actions that led to his being sacked by William Hague over a secret deal with the government.

Lord Cranborne said: "I thought we had an extraordinarily good deal which made the prime minister eat his words.

"I think even the prime minister would have been shamed by having to eat his words over 100 hereditary peers."

He said he had entered into the negotiations about a reformed House last summer with the Tory leader's permission.

He said it was clear when the deal was put to a small section of the shadow cabinet that they rejected it, not unanimously, but they rejected it.

"And William Hague assumed I think, that that would be an end of it. It wasn't," said Lord Cranborne.

Mr Hague has said he sacked him for making a deal without his say-so.

He told BBC News: "When people behave without authority in that way, I'm afraid they have to go."

Lib Dems back deal offer

In contrast to the Tory turmoil, Labour's parliamentary committee - the link between government and the backbenches - backed Mr Blair's offer of the deal, said party sources.

Deputy leader John Prescott branded the sacking an "act of petulance" by Mr Hague. But he pledged the government would press ahead with trying to push the deal through.

The Liberal Democrats said they too had been involved in the negotiations and were prepared to accept Mr Blair's proposal.

The party's constitutional affairs spokesman Robert Maclennan said: "There is nothing to be gained from William Hague's scorched earth policy on constitutional change."

Ministers will now feel they can exploit tensions between the Tory leadership in the Commons and the upper house.

The government faces possible roadblocks in the Lords over controversial legislation such as reducing the age of consent for male homosexual sex to 16.

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