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Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007, 17:14 GMT
Straw U-turn on Lords vote plans
Leader of the Commons Jack Straw
Jack Straw favours a 50/50 split of elected and appointed peers
Leader of the Commons Jack Straw has abandoned plans to break with tradition and allow MPs to vote on Lords reform using a preferential voting system.

Mr Straw had proposed the system as MPs have failed in the past to agree on how much of the Lords should be elected.

Instead of a traditional vote he wanted MPs to rank options, from all peers being elected to all being appointed.

But Mr Straw said his "enthusiasm" for the vote plan, which he only unveiled 12 days ago, was clearly not shared.

During Commons exchanges on the day the Lords reform plans were unveiled there was opposition to the plan on the basis that it broke with Commons tradition, which sees MPs vote by walking through the yes or no lobbies.

Mr Straw had said the preferential system was necessary to avoid the "train wreck" of 2003 when MPs voted to reject each of the various options for the proportion of the Lords that should be elected and the proportion that should be appointed.

REFORM PROPOSALS
House of Lords
A 'hybrid' of elected and appointed peers
Reduce size of House from 746 to 540 members
End hereditary and life peerages over time
Elected peers to be voted in at same time as Euro elections
Maximum time in office of 15 years for elected and appointed peers
Appointees a mixture of party politicians and non-party figures
Lords may be renamed - possibly 'The Reformed Chamber'
Anglican bishops and archbishops to keep seats

But he has now accepted that opposition and MPs will vote on each of the options: all elected; 80% elected and 20% appointed; 60% elected and 40% appointed; half and half; 40% elected and 60% appointed; 20% elected and 80% appointed; all appointed

Mr Straw said he still believed that the preferential vote was "the most effective way" to get a consensus.

However, he said: "I don't want discussions about procedure to overshadow the important substantive debate we're going to be having on the future of the Lords itself, and I think we'd all agree we mustn't let this kind of process get in the way of a reform to which all parties are committed."

He described the voting system as like a "perfectly formed aeroplane but it would be denied fuel and therefore wasn't going to be able to fly".

Liberal Democrat David Heath said Mr Straw's initial proposal for preferential voting was "absolutely right...as it was a way of discerning the clear will of the house".

But the Shadow Commons leader, Theresa May, welcomed Mr Straw's change of heart.

"A preferential ballot would have taken us into murky constitutional waters.

"It is a fundamental right of Parliament to reject government proposals should it wish to do so and the preferential system of voting would have removed that right.

"Now the Leader of the House has said that he proposed it in order to break the deadlock but isn't the reason for the deadlock a lack of consensus caused by the government's unwillingness to relinquish party political patronage."

Mr Straw has said he personally favours 50% of members being elected, 30% being appointed from party political choices and 20% being appointed from among non-party candidates.


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