Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 13:59 UK

Ex-peers 'could still become MPs'

House of Lords at state opening of Parliament
All peers, apart from 92 hereditary peers, are appointed

Plans to stop life peers from quitting the House of Lords and being elected as an MP soon after are set to be dropped.

Ministers had been looking at a "quarantine period" of up to five years between a peer renouncing their peerage and being able to stand for Parliament.

But this is now only being considered for peers elected in future as part of the next stage of Lords reform.

The idea led to speculation that Lord Mandelson could return to the Commons in a bid to be the next Labour leader.

'Clear distinction'

Over the summer, it was suggested the business secretary and former MP for Hartlepool could be "parachuted" into a safe seat should Labour lose the next election.

But he has dismissed such reports saying he had "no prospect and no plans of standing as leader of the Labour Party".

Hereditary peers have been able to resign from the House of Lords since 1963, but under current laws, life peers like Lord Mandelson cannot do so.

But a provision to scrap this is included in the government's Constitutional Renewal and Governance Bill, which is expected to become law before the next election.

The idea of a quarantine period to prevent ex-peers from becoming an MP immediately after leaving the Lords was first floated last year as a way of creating a distinction between the two chambers.

And it was reported in August that Justice Secretary Jack Straw was looking at inserting a five year "cooling-off period" into the bill although the plans were never confirmed.

Mr Straw told the Financial Times on Friday he never intended to include such a stipulation in the bill.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed its focus was on future arrangements for an elected Lords which would prevent elected peers using the Lords as a "stepping stone" to the Commons.

The Constitutional Renewal Bill also includes proposals to remove the right of the remaining 92 hereditary peers to sit in the Lords.

In his conference speech on Tuesday, Gordon Brown said Labour would include proposals in its election manifesto to make the House of Lords "accountable and democratic for the very first time".

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