Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Tuesday, 21 June 2011 17:35 UK

Boothroyd labels Lords reforms 'destruction'

Former Commons speaker Baroness Boothroyd has delivered a stinging attack on proposed reforms to the House of Lords calling them "destruction" on "spurious grounds".

The crossbench peer and ex-Labour MP was loudly cheered from all sides as she laid into the government's plans and put forward a motion calling instead for "incremental urgent reforms that would improve the functioning of the existing House of Lords".

During the first of two days' debate on government proposals for Lords reform on 21 June 2011, Lady Boothroyd told peers: "Never in my experience has an institution at the heart of the British constitution been marked down for destruction on such spurious grounds.

"Never in all my years in public life has the bicameral role of our Parliament been so wantonly put at risk by such disregard of the nation's best interests."

There should be no "misunderstanding" that the government's proposals were "simply a reform", she said.

"They are intent on abolishing this House," she told peers. "If this draft bill becomes law in any shape or form it will wreck this place as a deliberative assembly and tear up the roots that make it the most effective revising chamber in the world.

"Worse still, the balance between our two Houses, on which our democracy and rule of law depends, will be lost for ever."

The lack of democratically elected members was the only reason given by Mr Clegg for the need for the bill, she said.

Lady Boothroyd continued: "Their sole aim is to preserve the coalition for five years, create 300 jobs for the boys and girls on the party lists and send us as quietly as possible salami style, into the knacker's yard."

Opening the debate Tory Lords Leader Lord Strathclyde stressed: "The background to this debate is consensus."

He told peers: "The government has made clear its intention to listen and to be prepared to adapt and navigate our way through these latest twists and turns in what has been one of the longest of long stories. We want to get these proposals right."

But he said the government was "committed" to reforming the House to create a wholly-or mainly-elected second chamber, reminding peers that Lords reform had been a manifesto pledge of all three major parties.

Watch parts two and three of the debate.


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