Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Monday, 11 October 2010 16:38 UK

Lords reform 'to be law by April 2012'

The coalition government is aiming to legislate for a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords by April 2012, Labour has claimed.

Opening a Lords debate on the purpose of the House on 11 October 2010, Labour peers' deputy leader Lord Hunt of Kings Heath warned ministers not to override any opposition from the Lords by using the Parliament Act.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is chairing a cross-party group to draft legislation on Lords reform by the end of the year. The draft bill would then be examined by a joint committee of peers and MPs.

Lord Hunt told peers that ministers had already disclosed that the substantive bill would be introduced in the Commons in November of next year, towards the end of the current two-year parliamentary session.

Lord Hunt, a supporter of Lords reform, predicted that the bill would not reach the upper House until the following February. "There will be very little time to consider the bill," he warned.

And he protested that it would be "unacceptable" to override peers' objections through use of the Parliament Act in the 2012/13 session.

"This House should scrutinise bills in reasonable time and not procrastinate or filibuster," he said. "But this bill would be of immense importance.

"It is surely right that we must be given sufficient time to deal with it effectively and for amendments to be able to go back and forward between the two Houses."

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, replying for the government, told peers that there would "be no pressure to rush pre-legislative scrutiny of this draft bill."

He told peers: "The government believe the purposes of the House can be summed up as threefold: the scrutiny of legislation, to hold the government to account and to conduct investigations."

He said Mr Clegg's committee was examining the "functions and powers of the reformed second chamber" and that it would be necessary "to put the conventions on a statutory footing".

"A reformed second chamber should have the powers this House currently holds," he said. "The government is not setting out to reduce the powers of this House.

"The cross-party group will be considering the conventions and codifications as part of its deliberation."

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