Politics: Blair warned not to push the Lords

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The Independent Online
Conservative peers were set on a collision course with the Government last night by Lord Cranborne, the Tory leader in the House of Lords, with a warning shot to warn Tony Blair against forcing legislation through the Lords by heavy whipping.

Lord Cranborne's warning was seen at Westminster as a clear threat that unless the Government slows down the progress of some of its Bills, the Tories could use their majority in the Lords to stall or block the passage of highly controversial measures, such as devolution for Scotland and Wales.

He has been careful in the past to acknowledge the tradition under which the elected Government of the day gets its business through, to avoid a constitutional crisis with the Lords.

But Lord Cranborne last night provided a let-out clause to qualify that rule, and justify an assault in the Lords on the Government's central programme of legislation.

"The House of Lords - whoever is in government - is mindful always that it must help secure the Queen's Business. But equally - and this is a very important rider - it has a duty to scrutinise all Bills fully," he said.

"Only in that way are the public and business protected from bad law. I am flagging this issue publicly again today ... because we do not want an avoidable log-jam next summer and autumn. That might risk the merits of important measures - whether or not we agree with them - being mixed up with debates over the future of the Lords as a revising chamber.

-- Colin Brown