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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 22:42 GMT
Lords reform plan in tatters
By James Landale
BBC News political reporter

House of Lords
A majority of the committee believe it should close down
Hopes that the House of Lords could be reformed this Parliament have faltered after the committee of MPs and peers set up to develop new ideas failed to agree any fresh proposals.

The Joint Committee on House of Lords reform met on Tuesday morning for the first time since Parliament failed to reach any agreement on the issue in a chaotic series of votes earlier this month.

All the deeply divided committee was able to agree on was to meet again in a month's time to consider what several MPs described as a "winding up report" summarising the current state of the debate.

A majority of the committee - mainly Liberal Democrats, Tories, a couple of independent peers and a few Labour MPs - believe the committee should be wound up.

Close committee?

They voiced their anger at the government's decision to carry out a U-turn and ditch plans for a part-elected, part-appointed Lords in favour of a fully appointed second chamber.

One peer said the committee felt it had been "led up the garden path" by the government.

Another said the government had "taken the engine out of the train".

They said the government should come up with a fresh remit or the committee should be closed down.

However, a minority of Labour members disagreed and said the committee should continue to meet in the long term.


They said the committee should examine ways of getting rid of the 92 surviving hereditary peers and how a new appointments system could be set up.

The two hour meeting on Tuesday was described as being cordial but at times tense and fractious.

Committee chairman and former Labour cabinet minister Jack Cunningham warned that reform would stall if people were not prepared to compromise.

"If people believe that if they can't have their own particular point of view that nothing should happen then that's the most likely outcome," he told the BBC.

Three weeks ago MPs failed to back any of the variety of proposals put forward for the committee for a House of Lords made up of appointed peers, elected peers, or a mixture of both.

The Lords voted overwhelmingly for an appointed second chamber.

Jack Cunningham, Joint Committee on Lords Reform
"The Committee is obviously in a difficult position"

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