Blair faces rebellion over Lords reform

TONY BLAIR was last night facing a rebellion by Labour peers against his plans to reform the House of Lords, with rebel Labour members threatening to join forces with the Tories to oppose the shake-up.

Several Labour life peers believe that ministers are wrong to press ahead with the abolition of the speaking and voting rights of hereditary peers until a "stage two" plan to turn the Lords into a partly elected second chamber is agreed.

The Government's move to set up a Royal Commission to study long-term reform, which was intended to placate potential Labour rebels, appeared to have backfired last night. Labour rebels and independent cross-benchers warned that ministers would use the inquiry as an excuse to delay or abandon a "big bang" reform.

The former Labour MP, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, welcomed the commission but urged ministers to delay abolishing hereditary peers' rights until the commission reports.

"It seems to be ridiculous to go ahead," Lord Stoddart said.

"I don't think positions should be taken before the commission reports, otherwise there is no point in setting it up. Suppose the commission says you ought not to have ended the [rights of] hereditary peers?" he said.

Lord Stoddart said he was prepared to join forces with other parties to oppose the plans. Asked if he might refuse to support the Bill, he said: "It is quite feasible. I shall look at the whole thing and I will have to make a decision. You can not support the Government by abstaining as well."

He warned that opposition to the Bill on hereditary peers could delay other measures in the parliamentary session starting next month. The Government could save these by shelving Lords reform until the commission reports. "All it does is to cause a lot unnecessary trouble. There is no desperate hurry," he said. "The findings of the commission will be too easily shelved or set aside if the hereditaries have already been abolished."

In another setback for the Government, Lord Weatherill, the former Commons Speaker who is convenor of the crossbenchers in the Lords, said: "There is growing unease among all types of peers. I am concerned that stage two may not happen and think ministers should say exactly when it will."

Lord Weatherill's intervention and the rumblings of discontent amongst Labour peers will bolster the Tories as they plan guerrilla tactics against the Bill, to be announced in the Queen's Speech next month, to abolish the speaking and voting rights of hereditary peers.

Lord Strathclyde, the Opposition chief whip in the Lords, said there was a "grand coalition" of life and hereditary peers across all parties building against the Government's handling of the reforms.

On the eve of a two-day debate in the Lords on the reforms, Labour backbench peers last night told The Independent they were growing disaffected with the appointment of "Labour luvvies" to the Lords as life peers, and the long hours they are sitting.

"There is a great deal of resentment. Some people are talking about scores to be settled. We are working longer hours than the MPs and Tony doesn't seem to listen. People just won't turn up when they are needed," said an ex-Labour minister who is now a life peer.

Another problem is that some senior Labour peers want the commission to have wide terms of reference including the Commons, the Lords' role as the highest court in the land and the future of the monarchy.

"I think the monarchy works well. But if you want to say that people who hold an hereditary position have no place in the Constitution, then ... you have to look at Her Majesty," one said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions