Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the government's proposals to reform the House of Lords against a barrage of criticism from MPs on both sides of the Commons.
Opening the first of two days of debate on the House of Lords Reform Bill at second reading on 9 July 2012, Mr Clegg said the upper house was "unsustainable" and "flawed".
The Lords was "an institution in which there are eight times as many people over 90 as there are under 40, an institution which has no democratic mandate, none whatsoever, but which exercises real power," he said.
"At the heart of this bill is the vision of a House of Lords which is more modern, more representative, and more legitimate - a chamber fit for the 21st century," the deputy prime minister told MPs.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said Labour would vote in favour of the principle of the bill, even though its details were a "bit of a mess".
"These reforms will form a lasting settlement between Parliament and the British people so we need time to get that right," he said.
The government has proposed that line-by-line, committee-stage scrutiny of the bill in the Commons should be limited to 10 days, but Mr Khan urged Conservative backbenchers to vote with Labour against the government's proposed timetable.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind attacked the "puny" bill.
"It will do far more harm than good to our constitutional structures and to the good government of this country," he warned, predicting that the "vast majority" of peers with specialist knowledge of different policy areas would disappear under the reforms.
The government wants to make the Lords a mostly elected chamber, with the number of members cut to around 465 and the first elections taking place under proportional representation in 2015.
Under the bill:
• Peers would serve 15-year, non-renewable terms
• Elections would take place every five years, with one third of seats up for re-election
• Members would represent different regions
• Elections would take place in 2015, 2020 and 2025, with existing members being "phased out"
• 90 unelected members (about 20%) would be chosen by an Appointments Commission, on a non-party basis
• The number of Church of England bishops in the Lords would be cut from 26 to 12
• It would still be called the House of Lords, but members would not have the title "Lord", with parliament to decide on a new name for them.
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