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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 21:55 GMT
Labour promises action on Lords reform

Labour is preparing for stage two of Lords reform
Reform of Parliament will not be left on a "dusty top shelf", according to the Labour leader in the Lords, Baroness Jay.

Speaking during a crowded Lords debate on the future of the upper house on Tuesday, Lady Jay did tell peers that the government believes elected peers should be a minority in a reformed upper chamber.

Lords Reform
Detailing the government's response to Lord Wakeham's Royal Commission into the Lords she said the government accepted the main principles of the report.

She said: "We agree that a second chamber should be clearly subordinate, largely nominated, but with a minority elected element - with a particular responsibility to represent the regions - and a statutory Appointments Commission."

Lady Jay added that no one party should seek a majority there.

The government has already completed stage one of its commitment to reform the Lords after it expelled more than 600 hereditary peers last year.

Second stage of reform 'soon'

Saying that she hoped discussion could begin quickly on establishing a consensus on stage two of reform Lady Jay added: "I hope there is no one either in Parliament or outside who is sceptical of the government's intentions to act further on reform."

Lady Jay: Against an elected second chamber
Speaking for the Tories, their leader in the Lords, Lord Strathclyde said the government's attempts at reform had been partisan and had not been formed on a consensus basis.

He said Prime Minister Tony Blair had "torn to shreds" the constitution and described him as "a child in a constitutional toy shop dismantling everything without a clue as to how to put it together".

The leader of the Liberal Democrat peers, Lord Rodgers, expressed his party's sense of disappointment with the proposals on offer.

He said the report had been "cautious rather than radical" and was particularly concerned that the second chamber would not be wholly elected.

"No government will ever listen to this place without impatience and believing it is wrong while it is largely appointed."

'Seats for votes'

Revealing some of the behind the scenes dealings in the House Lord Rodgers said the government had asked for a "pledge of good behaviour" from his peers before fulfilling their commitment to give the Lib Dems a more proportional number of peers.

"Some might see this as seats for votes," he said.

Joining the debate on his commission's report Lord Wakeham rejected suggestions that the new house should be made up entirely of elected representatives.

'Second raters'

"I simply do not believe that it would be wise to create an institution with a democratic mandate which could come to rival that conferred on the government by the results of the general election."

A former Labour Lords leader, the Earl of Longford, agreed.

He was he said "utterly opposed" to any elected element.

"We have inherited a noble legacy and it would be criminal to betray it."

Any element of elected peers would be "second raters, people who could not get into the House of Commons or into the European Parliament or even into the Scottish or Welsh parliaments. You would get the dregs, that is what you would get. That way lies madness."
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20 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Lords reforms 'will not be shelved'
20 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Lords reform proposals at a glance
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