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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 12:20 GMT
Head to head: House of Lords reform
Robin Cook watches Tony Blair at question time
Tony Blair faces heavy opposition to his preference
Prime Minister Tony Blair has made clear his support for an all-appointed House of Lords - but Commons leader Robin Cook believes a largely elected second chamber is right in principle.
TONY BLAIR

Everyone agrees that the status quo should not remain. Everyone agrees that the remaining hereditary peers should go and, what is more, that the prime ministerial patronage should also go.

However, the issue then is ... do we want an elected House, or do we want an appointed House?

I personally think that a hybrid between the two is wrong and will not work.

I also think that the key question on election is whether we want a revising Chamber or a rival Chamber.

My view is that we want a revising Chamber, and I also believe that we should never allow the argument to gain sway that, somehow, the House of Commons is not a democratically elected body.

I believe that it is democratic.


ROBIN COOK

I personally believe that the best way of making sure that the public believes that the second chamber belongs to them is to enable the public to elect the larger part of that second chamber.

If they don't have any say in how the members of that second chamber are chosen, they are not going to feel it is accountable to them.

I think it is important in the modern world that both chambers should be democratic and, of course, to be democratic you do have to have some process of election so the public can exercise a democratic choice.

I think it is also important that if we want to make sure that both chambers can carry out a job of scrutiny that they both have an accountability to the electorate, an understanding of the electorate and are representative.

There is no finer way of making sure that politicians are representative than having them elected by the people who make up the voters of this country.

I fully respect and understand Tony Blair's view. I personally have taken a different view for some time and have argued for that case for some time.

I hope on Tuesday we will be able to establish a substantial support, a centre of gravity for reform that would pave the way for a largely elected second chamber.

I now want to see us make progress in modernising the second chamber.

We are all agreed on that revising, scrutiny, deliberation role for the second chamber. Personally I believe it would have more authority to carry out that role and would command more respect from the public in doing it if it also was elected by the public.

That's what I will be voting for and I will invite colleagues to join me.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Tony Blair says he does not want a rival for the Commons"
Robin Cook, Leader of the Commons
"I want a solution that will stand the test of time"
Home Secretary David Blunkett
"We need to ask what is the purpose of the House of Lords"
See also:

29 Jan 03 | Politics
04 Feb 03 | Politics
21 Jan 03 | Politics
07 Jan 03 | Politics
06 Jan 03 | Politics
17 Jun 02 | Politics
11 Dec 02 | Politics
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