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Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Labour big guns demand elected Lords
Lords should be reformed to include elected members
The House of Lords should be replaced with a chamber in which at least half its members are elected, according to a new campaign backed by senior Labour politicians.

Former Labour deputy leader Lord Hattersley, MEP Glenys Kinnock and Welsh First Secretary Rhodri Morgan want the issue voted on by party members at this autumn's conference.

The electorate's right to vote for those who represent us in Parliament should not be denied, least of all by Labour

Damien Welfare
The Campaign for a Democratic Upper House plans to put its suggestions for Lords reforms to Labour delegates.

But it faces opposition from the government which has indicated it favours a minority of elected seats in the Lords with most members being appointed through an independent commission.

The campaign group argues that elections are the only legitimate way to determine political power in a modern, democratic Parliament.

Public support greater democracy

It says that a majority-elected House of Lords would have widespread public support because it would be more representative, giving a greater voice to the UK's nations and regions.

Failure to introduce such a reform could give the initiative on Lords reform to other parties, it says.

In a bid to reassure the party executive, the campaigners say their stance would not mean that the upper chamber would be as legitimate or powerful as the House of Commons.

Damien Welfare, the campaign's co-ordinator and a former special adviser to the Leader of the Lords, said: "The choice between a largely elected or a largely appointed second chamber is a basic democratic issue.

"The electorate's right to vote for those who represent us in Parliament should not be denied, least of all by Labour.

"Labour has nothing to fear and everything to gain from a more effective and democratic Upper House," he added.

Difficult issue

Reforming the Upper House has long been a matter of controversy in British politics.

Traditionally Labour supporters have argued for reform with more left-wing elements of the party supporting outright abolition.

Conservatives - who traditionally held the majority in the Lords - have opposed any change including the abolition of the hereditary principle which was part of Labour's last election manifesto.

But since the hereditaries lost their right to sit there has been much broader support for further changes from all parties.

However, the Labour government has not so far delivered a further stage of Lords reform.

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See also:

20 Jan 00 | Lords reform
Reforming the Lords
10 Aug 00 | H-L
House of Lords
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Elections don't equal democracy
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
What a missed opportunity
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