Labour will reject proposals to elect peers' replacements peers

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT is heading for a big clash with the Tories over the future of the House of Lords. The Independent has learnt that ministers are poised to reject the idea of a directly elected House of Lords as a survey of Labour supporters reveals strong opposition to it.

Professor Keith Ewing, who is carrying out a party consultation exercise before Labour submits its own recommendations to the Government's Royal Commission on the Lords, has privately told party workers he has found low levels of support for a directly elected Lords. Government sources confirmed this. Last week the Conservatives came out in support of a directly elected upper house, with the option of creating a "senate". Baroness Jay of Paddington, the Leader of the Lords, is expected to signal Labour opposition to a direct elections in a speech to the parliamentary press gallery on Wednesday.

The chasm which has opened between the Government and the Tories could lead to the long-term future of the Lords becoming a battleground at the next election and is likely to threaten progress on the Bill to remove the right of hereditary peers to sit in the Lords.

The Lords Reform Bill begins the committee stage this week in the Lords with a vote on the compromise amendment to allow 91 hereditaries to stay for the time being.

Tony Blair will be open to the accusation of creating "Tony's cronies" by replacing hereditaries by nominated life peers.

Labour's Plant commission suggested peers could be elected indirectly from regional constituencies leaving the final choice to the prime minister according to the proportion of votes won in the elections.

Some ministers believe that goes too far, and are campaigning for Labour peers to be nominated to the Lords from within regional assemblies.