Parliament: Major calls for elected peers in House of Lords

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE FORMER prime minister, John Major, last night called for a reformed House of Lords to be made up of elected peers and leading public figures.

Mr Major broke the Conservative party's silence on alternatives to the Government's plans with his own proposals to modernise the second chamber.

Delivering the annual Disraeli lecture at St Stephen's Club in London, he warned that moves to replace hereditary peers with appointed life peers would "replace the aristocracy with a quangocracy".

Instead, the Government should consider a limited number of elected peers, elected only once and with a fixed tenure of 10 years. A new breed of appointed peers should also be chosen from across the spectrum of public life in the UK to turn the Lords into "a coalescence of minorities".

In Mr Major's view, the new peers should include university chancellors, heads of the armed forces, former civil servants, charity leaders and even Nobel Prize winners.

Mr Major said that the Lords' powers should also be strengthened significantly so as to enhance the upper house's "ancient safeguards" such as its role in delaying and amending legislation. The Government should send draft laws to the Lords prior to bringing them to the Commons and allow peers to take public evidence before reporting back.

Peers should be given statutory powers to examine European legislation and ministers should be able to speak in both Houses of Parliament, he said.

Mr Major warned that if the Government acted in haste and ignored contrary views of reform, the Tories should block and delay its plans "for as long as possible".

"There is more than a whiff of arrogance about the government and we must use the legitimate mechanisms of Parliament to hold it in check," the former prime minister said.