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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 15:39 GMT
Axed Lords sue for 1m
Constitutional reform was in Labour's 1997 manifesto
Some peers are determined not to give up over reform
Hereditary peers who lost their Lords seats through Labour reforms are set to sue the government for 1m each in the European Court of Human Rights, their lawyer says.

The basis of the legal bid is that their seats were personal possessions and that they were illegally confiscated.

Our forebears and their descendants were given the right to sit in Parliament for ever

Lord Mereworth
One peer, Lord Mereworth, said: "We're going to Strasbourg because we are freeholders and this issue is about property rights.

"Our forebears and their descendants were given the right to sit in Parliament for ever."

He added that the balance of democracy in the UK had been "upset" by the reforms introduced by the government in 1999.

Constitutional reform was a Labour 1997 election manifesto pledge.

The ending of the right hereditary of peers to sit in the Lords came about because of a deal by the government and the then Conservative leader in the Lords, Lord Cranbourne.

Fooled?

He was then sacked by William Hague, the then Tory leader, but the deal was broadly adopted.

It allowed 92 hereditary peers to stay on for a temporary period following a ballot.

Lords Meresworth said that the deal had "completely fooled" many peers.

A second stage of Lords reform is set to be discussed.

US lawyer Peter McCallion, who is handling the peers' case said: "One of the proposals is to offer life peers a pension if they give up their seats for elected peers.

"So we think the hereditaries are entitled to compensation because they were evicted.

"The 1876 Lord Buckhurst peerage case said that the seat of a peer in the Lords was a property right and should not be taken away."

Around 70 hereditary peers are said to have backed the legal case.

More reform

In December seven proposals for the next stage of Lords reform were unveiled.

The plan is contained in the first report by a special committee of peers and MPs set up last year to break the deadlock on Lords reform.

The report sets out options ranging from a 100% elected second chamber to one made up entirely of political appointees.

See also:

11 Dec 02 | Politics
17 Jun 02 | Politics
25 Feb 99 | Politics
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