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Tuesday, October 26, 1999 Published at 23:19 GMT 00:19 UK

UK Politics

Hereditary peers out within weeks

The bill will end the right of hereditary peers to sit in the Lords

The historic Bill scrapping the 700-year-old rights of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords will be law within the next few weeks, following the legislation having passed its final hurdle on Tuesday.

The BBC's Carolyn Quinn: "Next week the real battle gets underway"
Once the Bill has received Royal Assent, only life peers, bishops and a small hereditary rump will remain in the second chamber.

Hundreds of hereditaries will have been ejected by the time the Queen opens the new session of Parliament on 17 November.

[ image: Baroness Jay:
Baroness Jay: "Thank you and goodbye"
Peers packed the upper House on Tuesday to take part in the third reading of the House of Lords Bill.

It cleared the Lords by 221 votes to 81 and will now return to the Commons.

The government has agreed to 92 hereditaries remaining in the chamber until the long term reform is completed. Peers begin voting on Wednesday to select those hereditaries who will remain.

'Thank you and goodbye'

During Tuesday's final stage debate, Lords Leader Baroness Jay said the time had come to wish hereditary peers well and say "Thank you and goodbye".

She urged peers to allow the Bill to pass so the Commons could consider it as amended by the upper chamber, and cautioned against voting down the legislation.

"It is not constitutionally right for this House to deny the elected House the chance to consider whether a bill which has been amended in this way is, in its new form, acceptable to it."

[ image: Hundreds of peers attended the third reading]
Hundreds of peers attended the third reading
Lady Jay said Parliament had spent 19 days considering the issue so no one could say they had not been "aired, duly explored and fully responded to".

Reform was "long overdue" and "necessary first step" to remove the profoundly undemocratic element that hereditary peers represented, she continued.

Lady Jay insisted she was not "belittling" the contribution of individual hereditaries and said they would be missed.

'The glass is shattered'

The opposition leader in the Lords, Lord Strathclyde, had called for fellow Tory peers to abstain in the vote and let the Bill pass.

He told peers: "A long chapter of history is being closed tonight.

"The tale is now told. The past is done. The glass is shattered and it cannot be remade. The prime minister has taken a knife and scored a giant gash across the face of history.

Lords Reform
"But the past is no longer the point. The point is the future. The future of this House. The future of our Parliament."

Lord Strathclyde said the question was now what sort of upper chamber the government wanted.

He continued: "Perhaps it is only by our passing that the nation will wake to that question. If so, even this dismal Bill will have served a kind of paradoxical purpose."

[ image: Lord Strathclyde: Urged Tories to abstain]
Lord Strathclyde: Urged Tories to abstain
Lord Strathclyde told peers that the bill that now went to the Commons was a "better Bill by far than when it arrived."

Leapt on the Woolsack

The Bill did not pass through the upper chamber without attracting last-minute dissent.

At the start of the debate the Earl of Burford leapt on to the Woolsack, the traditional seat of the Lord Chancellor, to protest. His words were drowned out and he was eventually led out of the chamber.

Conservative Lord Coleraine suggested a further 90 hereditaries should be retained in the upper chamber.

Tory former minister Earl Ferrers proposed that life peers should elect 416 of their number to sit in the transitional House, but his suggestion was defeated by 238 votes to 186.

Later, Conservative former cabinet minister Lord Tebbit called for the Bill to be postponed so it would not take effect until the next general election.

Labour former minister Lord Barnett said he would prefer the Bill without the amendment to retain 92 hereditaries.

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