Right of Reply: Lord Cranborne

The Tory leader in the Lords defends himself against Donald Macintyre's charge that he is unwilling to engage in reform
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TO JUDGE from the authority with which he writes, Mr Macintyre must have known my grandfather and, like me, talked with him for hours about House of Lords reform. Mr Macintyre will, therefore, remember that my grandfather, like me, thought there was a strong case for reform. He will also remember that my grandfather regarded the Salisbury doctrine, formulated in l945, purely as an agreement between the Conservative leadership in the House of Lords and Lord Addison for the Labour peers.

Today we all accept that that agreement has become a convention: the House of Lords should not oppose a manifesto bill at Second Reading and, although it should try to improve and amend such Bills, it should not wreck them. My grandfather, Mr Macintyre, was far from sure that this agreement extended to constitutional bills. More than three years ago I said that I thought it should.

The Government in public admits that the second stage of their reforms will not happen until after the next election. In private some of them admit that this may take 20 years to happen: in political terms, therefore, it never will. Surely the Government could have used the first 18 months of this parliament to try to build a public consensus for a complete reform?

Had they done that, we in my party would have played a constructive part. If they do so now, it is not too late. The trouble is that when we told the Government of my attitude it did not suit them to believe us. They want to make the public believe that we are dying in a ditch for the hereditary peers. It is about the only issue that can unite the increasingly disaffected ranks of the Labour MPs. I am sorry Mr Macintyre is helping the Government to propagate that myth.