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Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK


UK Politics

The parties views on Lords reform



The UK's major parties have given their evidence to Lord Wakeham's Royal Commission on Lords reform - here's what they said.

Labour


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Labour has a long-standing commitment to reforming the House of Lords and only dropped its policy for the complete abolition of the UK's upper chamber as recently as 1992.

Abolishing hereditary peers was a Labour manifesto commitment during the 1997 election but what the party wants to see replace the current House of Lords once the hereditary peers have been removed from Parliament is less clear.

In its submissions to the Wakeham Commission the party called for a "representative" chamber with a "strong independent element". The party is also in favour of representation from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

But little was said about the party's views on how the new chamber should be selected - whether by election or appointment.

The party seems to be against a fully-elected second chamber saying it could undermine the authority of the House of Commons as the senior institution.

Liberal Democrats


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The Liberal Democrats are another party whose desire to radically reform the House of Lords goes back a long way.

They were the last government to seriously reform the House of Lords when the passed the 1911 Parliament Act, which dramatically reduced peer power.

In their submission to the Royal Commission they set out plans for a directly-elected "Senate" made up of 261 members.

The Senators would be elected from across the UK using the massive constituencies used in the European elections.

Elections would be held every two years with a third of the senate being elected at each poll.

Predictably for the Liberal Democrats the elections would be held under proportional representation.

Conservative Party


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Although the Conservatives originally resisted Labour's plans to modernise Parliament - they stand to lose their current massive majority in the Lords once hereditary peers are abolished - they are now seeking a stronger upper chamber than the current House.

A Stronger Parliament - the Tory submission to the Wakeham Commission sets out the case for a body with more power to scrutinise and amendment legislation and is "totally opposed to the creation of an entirely-nominated House of Lords".

Like Labour, the Conservatives are unsure on how exactly members of the new body should be chosen but they have called for a limit on their numbers - 659 the same as the Commons.

The Conservatives also are in favour of raising the profile of the Lords by holding a weekly question session - like prime minister's question time in the Commons.

Scottish National Party


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The Scottish National Pary's central aim is to secure independence for Scotland and as such reform of the House of Lords is in some ways only a side issue for the party.

Speaking as the government announced its plans for reform, party leader Alex Salmond said: "I do not think there is any need for the House of Lords. But if you are going to have it, it should be directly elected."

To what extent the SNP is likely to welcome a reformed upper house will therefore depend on its democratic content.

Plaid Cymru


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Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists are keen to ensure that the however it is reformed the new House of Lords should not be able to overturn decisions made by the National Assembly for Wales.

They also insist that the new chamber should have a statutory duty to consult the assembly and reflect its views when revising primary legislation.

At present the party has only one representative in the House of Lords - Lord Elis-Thomas.

His decision to take up a seat in the Lords in 1992 revealed the extent of Plaid's commitment to democratic reform as many in the party were clearly unhappy that they had sent a member to the unelected second chamber.



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