Labour Bill will allow peers to stand as MPs

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The Independent Online
Hereditary peers are to be allowed to stand as MPs for the first time under Labour's plans for the reform of the Lords.

All peers are debarred from standing for election to the Commons along with criminals and the insane. But that would be changed under a Blair government, which is dedicated to reforming the Lords to end its inbuilt Tory majority.

Labour has about 14 hereditary peers, including Lord Longford, Lord Chandos and Lord Grantchester. They would be expected to vote for the legislation to abolish their right to sit and vote in the Lords.

Lord Richard, the Labour leader of the Lords, revealed that the Government chief whip, Lord Strathclyde, had written a letter giving a guarantee that the Tory peers would follow the Salisbury Convention, agreed in 1945 between the Tory opposition in the Lords, led by Lord Salisbury, and the Labour government, to accept legislation reforming the Lords if it had been included in the Labour manifesto.

He said: "My general impression is that once the electorate has spoken firmly about this, and once the Commons has got a Bill through, then the Conservatives here [in the Lords] would not cause a major constitutional crisis."

Lord Richard said he would press Tony Blair to ensure that a Bill to abolish the voting rights of hereditary peers is introduced immediately after a Labour election victory.

The Bill would bar hereditary peers from sitting in the Lords. But a second Bill would have to be passed to give hereditary peers the right to vote and stand in elections, to avoid depriving them of any role in the democratic process.

Lord Richard stepped up the pressure for reform by showing the Government would have lost six recent votes if it had not been for hereditary peers.

t Lord Healey, the former Labour Chancellor, launched an outspoken attack on the single European currency yesterday. He told the Lords debate that the euro would be a disaster for Britain and could lead to riots.

Labour officials were given no warning of Lord Healey's decision to speak out, although they have known for some time that he is against monetary union.