Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Peers urge end of ban on general election participation

Peers ask for the right to vote: From BBC Democracy Live

Peers have urged the government to change the law as soon as possible to allow members of the House of Lords to vote in general elections.

Ex-Labour leader Lord Kinnock is among those calling for legislation now before Parliament to be amended to remove the bar on peers casting votes.

Ministers said the change should wait until the Lords is fully democratic.

Labour says it will include a commitment to a fully elected second chamber in its election manifesto.

The Conservatives support a "mainly elected" House of Lords.

Lord Kinnock told peers that ministers should "anticipate" future reforms by adding an amendment to the current Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill to allow this to take effect sooner.

'Widespread support'

Crossbencher Viscount Tenby said peers were among a very small group of adults not allowed to vote, including convicted prisoners and those found guilty of electoral offences within the past five years.

"With so much dissension about constitutional reform of this House across and among parties, wouldn't the government welcome the chance of bringing in a relatively easy amendment which would command support from all sides of the House?" he said.

But Conservative peer and former home secretary Lord Waddington said he believed the current arrangement was "entirely justifiable".

"Whereas members of the House of Commons represent their constituents, we have the great privilege of representing ourselves in this House," he said. "Why should we have an MP represent us when we can represent ourselves?"

For the government, Lord Bach said he would personally welcome the chance to vote in a general election but that ministers felt the change should be considered at a later date.

"Our view is that provisions on voting in general elections are best dealt with in the context of a fully reformed second chamber, so perhaps we had better move to a reformed second chamber as quickly as we can," he said.

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