Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Tuesday, 21 June 2011 21:47 UK

Lords reform architect calls for 'piecemeal' changes

The government's plans to reform the House of Lords will fail and it should focus on more modest changes to the house, the author of Labour's 2002 blueprint for Lords reform, Lord Wakeham, has said.

On the first day of a two-day debate on the coalition government's plans for a mainly elected second chamber on 21 June 2011, Lord Wakeham explained that under the present procedures of the upper chamber there would be "chaos" if any reforms were brought forward.

Current rules are not "adequate for the task" of "wholesale reform", he warned.

Lord Wakeham, a former Leader of the House of Lords and chairman of the 1999 committee on Lords reform, called instead for "piecemeal reform".

Accompanied on the Tory benches by former Conservative chancellors Lord Howe of Aberavon and Lord Lawson of Blaby, he argued that it was currently "very difficult" for the timetabling of legislation to proceed by cross-party agreement, as is customary in the Lords.

The government aims to replace the House of Lords with a mainly elected upper 300-member chamber.

A draft bill includes plans for 80% of peers to be elected from 2015, with the remainder appointed independently to sit as crossbencher peers.

Lord Lawson argued: "This is a thoroughly bad bill, wholly undesirable and the only thing we should agree on is how we should give it a decent burial."

He said that local councillors had more power to influence events than members of the Lords and therefore an elected chamber would attract "at best second-raters or more realistically third or fourth-raters".

But former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon likened today's opponents of Lords reform to those who opposed the Great Reform Act of 1832.

Their arguments were "wrong then and they are wrong now", he concluded.

Watch parts one and three of the debate.


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