Peerage for Stevens fuels crony row

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TONY BLAIR was embroiled in a new patronage row yesterday over his decision to overrule a parliamentary watchdog and directly nominate Sir John Stevens for the House of Lords.

The Prime Minister dismissed the concerns of the House of Lords Appointments Commission and personally recommended the outgoing Metropolitan Police chief to the Queen for ennoblement.

The commission said it did not object to Sir John becoming an independent peer but added that his direct nomination raised questions about the Prime Minister's use of powers of patronage. Sir John's predecessor at the Metropolitan Police, Paul Condon, was made a cross-bench peer after a long selection process.

Traditionally the Prime Minister has restricted direct nominations to the cross-benches to a small number of distinguished figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.