[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 07:52 GMT
Lords reform plans are defeated
The House of Lords
The first stage of Lords reform was back in 1999
Government plans to remove the last hereditary peers from the House of Lords have been defeated by peers.

The 180-108 vote defeat was also against plans to scrap the post of lord chancellor and form a Supreme Court.

The Conservatives accused ministers of behaving in a "cavalier" way in their plans to remove the last hereditaries.

Most hereditary peers were removed from the Lords in 1999 but 92 were allowed to keep their voting rights. Now ministers want to finish the job.

Anger

It is only the second time since 1945 that the opposition has tabled a motion to amend the Queen's Speech.

And it is thought to be the first time since 1914 that the government has been defeated in such a vote.

The defeat does not affect any legislation but is a symbolic morale booster for Tory peers.

The move comes after MPs and peers failed earlier this year to agree on any of seven options for reform, ranging from an all-elected Lords to a fully appointed one.

In Tuesday's debate, Tory Lords leader Lord Strathclyde, himself a hereditary peer, said there was anger about the way the government had treated peers and the law lords, who would form part of a new Supreme Court under the proposed reforms.

"If the government plunges on with its ill conceived bills, that anger can only deepen."

'No stability'

Lord Strathclyde stressed that the remaining hereditaries had been elected by fellow peers.

"It is wise man who decides where he is going before he acts, something the Government has never managed to do when it comes to constitutional change.

"The lord chancellor is surely at his most spurious when he says purging elected peers will deliver stability.

"If he thinks this bill will deliver stability, I fear he is sadly wrong."

Reform impetus

But Labour Lords Leader Baroness Amos defended the changes, saying the government was determined to deliver better democracy and restore trust in the justice system.

"We will continue to search for a consensus on the future shape and role of the House," she said.

"But it is important that lords remember that in our manifesto of 1997 and 2001, we made it absolutely clear that our first commitment was for the removal of the hereditary principle.

"And lords will recall that in the discussions we had in respect to the 1999 Reform Bill, that part of the agreement for retaining the 92 hereditaries was to give an impetus for reform.

"That impetus has failed to deliver."

A Liberal Democrat amendment calling for a more democratic House was defeated by 141 votes to 36.

Liberal Democrat Lords leader Williams echoed Lord Strathclyde's warning that the Lords reform so far was "half baked".

"It was stopped half way through its growth, half way through its life," she said.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific