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Thursday, November 11, 1999 Published at 06:37 GMT

UK Politics

Peers' final farewell

Peers assembled to hear the last speech of the old House

Hundreds of hereditary peers have bid farewell to the House of Lords, marking the end of 800 years of parliamentary tradition.

The BBC's John Pienaar reports: "It was an emotional farewell"
The passing of the House of Lords Bill marks the last day of work for 600 hereditary peers.

The proceedings to push through the Bill took less than two hours, without a final vote. Some peers were close to tears in the sombre atmosphere.

Lords Reform
The House adjourned for 40 minutes for the Bill to receive Royal Assent and this was followed by the formal closing of the parliamentary session.

A champagne party for the whole House took place in the Royal Gallery off the Princes Chamber on Thursday evening, but there were few signs of celebration as hereditaries trooped out of the Lords for the last time.

[ image:  ]
Under the compromise agreed by the House of Commons, the Weatherill amendment, 92 hereditary peers will stay in a transitional chamber.

Ministers had hoped to complete the Bill's passage on Wednesday in readiness for the measure becoming law.

But MPs spent so long debating peers' amendments to the legislation that the government was forced to schedule one final debate on the last day of the parliamentary session.

[ image: Lord Strathclyde:
Lord Strathclyde: "Time for resolution"
The Commons finally backed the Weatherill deal, but overturned two Lords amendments.

Lords Leader Baroness Jay paid tribute to the hundreds of years of service hereditaries and their ancestors had given Parliament.

"I do believe that most have the grace and realism to accept this change is necessary...away from politics, individual hereditary peers have achieved much in their chosen professions.

"Again, I am sure that they and their heirs will continue to do so."

Leader of the Tory peers, Lord Strathclyde, who is staying on in the House, said this parliamentary session had been "the most difficult of the century".

[ image: Peers file out in sombre mood]
Peers file out in sombre mood
"I salute those people of all parties who are being excluded from our ranks today," he said.

"This is not a time for recrimination. It's time for resolution: resolution that we who stay will be worthy in every way of those who are going, resolution that we won't rest in the battle to achieve genuine and lasting reform and resolution that we will practice the virtues of modesty, courtesy and willingness to listen as much as we talk."

Lord Weatherill, a former Speaker of the House of Commons and architect of the compromise amendment, said: "It is a sadness to say farewell to so many friends who have graced this place, who in many incidences have contributed greatly to its work over the centuries."

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The Lords' last day

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