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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Leadership challenged over Lords
House of Lords
Leadership faces defeat over Lords reform
The Labour leadership faces a challenge by conference delegates over the next stage of House of Lords reform.

A group of Labour activists, MPs and peers wants the conference to back a motion calling for a majority of upper house members to be elected - instead of the government's preference for a mainly appointed chamber.

Years of deadlock between two Houses will find us no friends and will only play into the hands of our enemies

Michael Foster
The government is sufficiently rattled by the possibility of defeat on the issue that Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam - a conference favourite - has written to every delegate urging them to support ministers.

Worcester MP Michael Foster - whose private member's bill tried to introduce a ban on fox hunting - also urged delegates to back the government.

He said: "A wholly elected second chamber may be very tempting, but I can tell conference not to be fooled.

"A wholly elected Upper House will claim that it is they who speak for the country.

"A wholly elected second chamber will have the right to block, block and block again measures such as those to bring about a ban on hunting.

'Don't tie our hands'

"Don't strengthen the role of the Upper House. Don't tie our hands behind our backs. Give the Commons the right to push through change.

The Tories support an elected upper house - if they support it there must be something wrong with it

Baroness Dean
"Years of deadlock between two Houses will find us no friends and will only play into the hands of our enemies.

"If you want change, don't go for a wholly elected Upper House."

Baroness Dean, who sat on the commission responsible for making recommendations for reforming the Lords, also argued against an elected chamber.

She told delegates that the best way to make the upper chamber more representative was by allowing a proportion of members to be appointed.

That was the only way to ensure that women, ethnic minorities and disabled people had a greater voice at Westminster.

She said the commission backed the idea of having up to a third of the Lords elected but she ended with a warning.

She said: "The Tories support an elected upper house - if they support it there must be something wrong with it."

Delegates will learn whether they have defeated the government over Lords reform on Tuesday.

During the debate on democracy and citizenship not all delegates wanted to engage with the thorny issue of Lords reform.

Young people 'not interested' in politics

Catherine Peak, a 23-year-old Labour councillor from Reading, took the opportunity to express concern about the lack of knowledge among the young when it came to local politics.

She told delegates that she supported any move that would increase the interest of young people in politics.

She said that when she voted for the first time five and a half years ago she voted Labour because she came from a Labour family.

"I did not understand how a council worked," she said.

Ms Peak called for children to be taught about politics and local government so they could understand what councils were doing about schools and planning and other issues.

"It's about time that young people are given the chance to participate."

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See also:

13 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Public's chance to win peerage
07 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Labour big guns demand elected Lords
07 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Labour promises action on Lords reform
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Lords reforms 'will not be shelved'
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
What a missed opportunity
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