Letter: Lords a-leaping

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In his deal with the Lords Tony Blair got the better of William Hague but it is by no means clear that he has brought the peers to heel. They have demonstrated that they are a law unto themselves. Lord Cranborne certainly believes that he has won a concession to the hereditary principle. At least they live to fight another day.

The Government that surprised us with this concession to hereditary right, however honourable its intent, may feel tempted to do another deal with the Lords when the Royal Commission has reported. Already we read that seats in the reformed chamber will be filled only in part by popular election. Who can doubt that the surviving hereditaries will put their weight behind such moves?

Tony Blair wants to convince us that he is sincere about the second stage of reform. William Hague says that he opposes stage one because he fears a house of cronies at stage two. Why not make the next concession one to what Mr Hague professes to want? Commit the Government now to a reformed second chamber that, because it should be conducting what Americans call "the people's business", will be fully elected and accountable to the people. There is no need to wait for the Royal Commission before deciding on this fundamental principle. No cronies. No hereditaries. No permanent elite.

JOHN PRATT

The Centre for Citizenship

London SE23

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