Lords for 10 years to replace life peers

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The Independent Online
LIFE PEERAGES would be abolished and replaced with fixed terms of office in the House of Lords, under proposals being drawn up by the Government.

Baroness Jay, the Leader of the Lords, is backing the plan to elect or appoint peers for a limited period of between five and 10 years. The idea - designed to professionalise the Upper Chamber - is likely to be included in the Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission on Lords reform.

Ministers believe the proposal would enable them to get more young people into the new second chamber because high flying professionals could complete a term of office then return to their careers. They also think it would emphasise that the reformed Lords should be a hard-working efficient machine, rather than an old-fashioned club. "This is something we think should be examined by the Royal Commission," one source said.

However, the idea will infuriate many of the existing life peers who believed they would have a seat in the Lords until they died. They are already angry about proposals which have been floated to introduce a retirement age for peers.

The Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission will call for the reformed second chamber to include both appointed and elected members. It will also advocate the inclusion of regional representatives, including delegates from Scotland and Wales, in order to bring the United Kingdom together.

In addition, the paper is likely to make clear that Labour ministers believe that other religions should be included in a reformed second chamber with Church of England bishops. "The Labour Party believes that there are lots of religious groups in a multi-cultural society and they should be represented," one insider said. "We will make that point."

The Labour evidence, which will be delivered by the end of next month, will call for the Commission to re-examine the powers of the House of Lords. It is likely to advocate an extension of the Upper Chamber's role to include more scrutiny of European legislation and propose that certain unwritten conventions - such as the Salisbury convention, under which peers do not throw out manifesto commitments - should be put on to a more formal footing.