Election '97 : Major prepares pre-poll honours for retiring MPs

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The Independent Online
A pre-election peerage list is expected to be issued by John Major tomorrow in an attempt to clear some of the backlog of former Cabinet ministers and other worthies in advance of the new Parliament.

Because so many former ministers are retiring from the Commons the parties have agreed to an all-party package of honours providing seats in the Lords for men such as Douglas Hurd, former Foreign Secretary, Roy Hattersley, former deputy Labour leader, Sir David Steel, the former Liberal leader, and Sir James Molyneaux, former leader of the Ulster Unionists.

The unusual interim list of honours leaves Mr Major free to top up his members in the Lords with the customary Dissolution Honours List after the election.

Others who can expect peerages on the Tory side include Sir Patrick Mayhew, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, John Biffen, former Leader of the Commons, Paul Channon, former Secretary of State for Transport, and Michael Jopling, former Minister of Agriculture.

While another former Labour Cabinet minister, Peter Shore, can also expect a seat in the Lords, there has been strong speculation that peerages have been offered to Labour MPs as an inducement to get them to leave their Commons seats free for Blair favourites.

People going to the House of Lords can expect that if Labour wins the election they will face a heavy workload because of Mr Blair's plans to strip hereditary peers of their rights to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

That additional workload for the life peers, together with a greater balance between Labour and Conservative peers, means that many new peerages would be created by a Labour Prime Minister.

In that event, any Labour MP who is now retiring, could expect a seat in the House of Lords in return for an assurance that he or she would not treat it as a retirement home.

Among those in line for peerages on that basis are John Gilbert and Doug Hoyle, two former senior Labour MPs, and Emma Nicholson and Peter Thurman, two former Conservative MPs who defected to the Liberal Democrats.