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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 22:22 GMT
Lords move targets hereditaries
House of Lords
A by-election is due after one hereditary peer died
The man who brokered the deal that kept 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords has called for the group to be gradually phased out.

Former Commons Speaker Lord Weatherill has introduced a backbench bill aimed at ending the practice of holding by-elections to fill vacancies when any of the 92 hereditaries die.

I have missed the House of Lords a great deal

Lord Monkswell
The bill comes as nominations close for the first by-election to be held under the rule following the death of Conservative peer the Viscount of Oxfuird.

Only peers can vote in the election, and only hereditary peers axed in the first stage of Lords reform are allowed to stand.

Election positions

Among those standing for election on 25 and 25 March will be Lord Effingham, whose main expertise when he was in the House of Lords was defence and charity issues.

Labour hereditary peer Lord Monkswell has spent the last three years supporting his local party, testing smoke alarms and working part-time at a B&Q store in Manchester.

He told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "I have missed it a great deal. I felt I did a useful job there and the friendship and the camaraderie of my colleagues was very important to me."

The two frontrunners for the election are seen as former Conservative chief whip Lord Ullswater and Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.

The new bill proposed by Lord Weatherill was originally due to have been proposed by Labour's Lord Lipsey.

The move, which Lord Lipsey has called the "euthanasia of the hereditaries", would apply to 90 of the remaining hereditaries in the Lords.

Promise ploy

The two posts of Earl Marshal, held currently by the Duke of Norfolk, and the Lord Great Chamberlain, currently the Marquess of Cholmondeley, would be left unaffected.

Tory peer the Earl of Onslow, who has kept his Lords seat, told PM the point of the by-elections was to hold the government to its promise to complete reform.

"The by-election procedure was left there to remind Mr Blair that he had promised in his election manifesto to produce a democratic House of Lords," said Lord Onslow.

"If he reneges on that, he will have reneged on his original and correct promise."

The joint committee of peers and MPs heading up Lords reform is due to meet on 25 February after the Commons rejected all seven available options for change.


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House of Lords
How should it be reformed?
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