Constitutional Reform: Peers' leader promises war

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GOVERNMENT HOPES of a speedy abolition of hereditary peers were dashed when Tories promised to continue a campaign of "trench warfare" against the plans.

Lord Strathclyde, the Tory leader in the Lords, said that some backbench peers were likely to draft wrecking amendments in a final protest at the changes. "Sunset clauses" would ensure the Bill will self-destruct if the Government fails to carry out wholesale reform before the next election, he said yesterday.

The Government will bring forward a Bill abolishing the voting and sitting rights of hereditary peers next week, with the White Paper establishing a Royal Commission to decide on the long-term shape of the second chamber. Ministers had hoped for Tory support for a crossbench compromise to allow 75 hereditary peers to remain in a transitional chamber, but Lord Strathclyde made clear no deals were likely. "There will be trench warfare. Any question that this Bill is going to fly through the House of Lords without hardly a wave is absurd," he said.