Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Sunday, 14 March 2010

Plans for fully elected House of Lords 'due shortly'

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

Proposals for a fully elected House of Lords will be set out shortly by the government, the transport secretary has told the BBC.

Lord Adonis said Justice Secretary Jack Straw would outline full plans soon, ahead of a firm commitment to reform in the Labour election manifesto.

He said being fully elected was "the only way that a legislative assembly can be legitimate in the modern world".

The Tories have said they want to see a "mainly elected" second chamber.

The Lib Dems also say they want to replace the current House of Lords with a fully elected second chamber.

'Workmanlike assembly'

The Sunday Telegraph claims to have seen leaked proposals to create a new chamber in which all members are UK residents and fully domiciled for tax purposes.

That requirement follows the controversy surrounding Lord Ashcroft, Tory donor and deputy party chairman, who has admitted being a "non-dom".

Members would also be subject to a US-style "recall ballot" which would disqualify them for incompetence, and would be directly elected through a form of proportional representation to serve fixed terms of up to 15 years, the paper reported.

They'll be firm proposals and they'll build on the big changes we've already made to the House of Lords
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis said the removal of most of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords under Labour in 1999 had "fundamentally transformed" the chamber into a "workmanlike assembly".

But he said more reform was still needed and would be outlined soon.

"I think the time has now come to make it legitimate in the only way that a legislative assembly can be legitimate in the modern world, which is to be elected, and Jack Straw will be setting out full proposals very shortly," he said.

"There will be firm proposals in our manifesto for an elected House of Lords.

"Of course, you couldn't introduce that reform until after the election, but they'll be firm proposals and they'll build on the big changes we've already made to the House of Lords."

Currently, the Lords is made up of 746 peers, including 92 hereditary peers who were saved in the 1999 cull. At present, it is not possible for members to be expelled.

Critics of further reform warn that electing the Lords would lead to a power struggle with the House of Commons.

But Lord Adonis said: "We can do it in this country as most democracies do it: we'd have two chambers, both of which are elected but with the government accountable to the first chamber."



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