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Tuesday, October 26, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK

UK Politics

Lords to vote on abolition

Twilight of the hereditary peers

The House of Lords is set to vote on new laws to remove more than 600 peers, who gained their position in Parliament by accident of birth.

The Lords reform bill strips hereditary peers of their sitting and voting rights - but under a compromise, 92 are being allowed to stay while the government decides how to replace them.

Final chance

The vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday night is the final chance peers will get to pass judgement on the reform plans.

But the majority are expected to either support the government's move or abstain, although a small group has promised to oppose the bill.

Should the Lords vote against the bill, the deal to retain 92 hereditaries would be withdrawn and the original plan to remove all of them reinstated.

Tories predict 'house of patronage'

Lord Strathclyde, Leader of the Opposition in the Lords, said he would abstain on the bill, but only because he feared a worse alternative if it was blocked.

"What the government really want is a quango house, they want a house of patronage. If we do not allow this bill through at this stage, they will Parliament Act through the original bill and we will get something even worse than this."

Lord Strathclyde said everyone accepted the need for change and he said even hereditary peers would not vote for the continuation of the current House of Lords.

But he said the government had to tell people what would come next before it could persuade them to support change.

"There isn't a great hardcore of people there who are simply going to support the hereditary peerage.

"They are very angry about what is going on because they don't know what is going to replace it.

[ image: Baroness Jay defends Government's approach]
Baroness Jay defends Government's approach
"We are heading down a road towards what Margaret Jay calls reform but we have no idea what it is," said Lord Strathclyde.

The leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jay, blamed the mainly Tory hereditary peers for forcing the government to adopt its strategy.

She said: "Previous Labour governments try to do the 'big bang' reform and it's always defeated because hereditary peers vote against it.

"They are not being asked to vote on the abolition of one of the Houses of Parliament - they are being asked to remove a hugely undemocratic set-up."

Rocket for some on 5 November

A royal commission headed by Lord Wakeham is currently looking at what could replace the House of Lords in the UK's Parliament.

An election will be held to select 75 of the 92 hereditary peers who will temporarily remain in the House of Lords.

The names of the lucky survivors - and also, therefore, those destined to leave Parliament - will be announced on 5 November - Guy Fawke's Night.

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