Politics: Canada blocks Black's peerage blocked

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The Independent Online
CONRAD BLACK was blocked from getting a peerage by the Canadian government after being nominated by William Hague for a list of 36 new working life peers published today.

The Canadian media magnate, who owns the Daily Telegraph, was barred from taking the peerage under a 1919 Canadian law forbidding its nationals from taking titles from foreign governments.

However, the legislation may be amended in the autumn, and a Number Ten spokesman said his peerage was "pending" until then.

Party sources denied the list, published by the Prime Minister, was made up of `Tony's cronies', but Mr Blair gave a clear hint to how the House of Lords may look after most of the hereditary peers have been removed.

Mr Blair's list contains the traditional party time-servers, some Labour luvvies, a smattering of Labour-leaning lawyers, and a dash of New Labour entrepreneurial spirit. There are also the prominent Labour financial supporters, Robert Gavron, chairman of the Folio Society, and Peter Goldsmith QC, who donated undisclosed sums of more than pounds 5,000 to Labour before the general election.

There are 22 Labour peers appointed by Mr Blair, seven Liberal Democrats, four Tories and three from Northern Ireland, including the women's peace campaigner, May Blood, who was nominated by Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Mr Black, who has dual nationality, was the second peerage nomination by Mr Hague to be barred in recent weeks. The Tory leader was embarrassed when the political honours scrutiny committee rejected multi-million-pound Tory financial backer, Michael Ashcroft, for a peerage, as reported in The Independent.

Downing Street said last night that Mr Black's name had been approved by the political honours scrutiny committee, but that the nomination had been blocked by the Canadian Government.

The other Tories on the list are: William Waldegrave, the former Health Minister who lost his Bristol West seat at the election; Sir Graham Kirkham, the chief executive of a furniture store chain and another Tory benefactor; and Sir Michael Forsyth, the former Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Blair's list contains friends or allies of the Labour leadership, including Richard Faulkner, joint managing director of the lobby firm, Westminster Communications Group; Bill Brett, the general secretary of the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists; Murray Elder, a special adviser at the Scottish Office and former aide to John Smith; and Anthony Grabiner QC, a recorder.

Two members of Britain's ethnic minority communities are on Labour's list: an unofficial adviser to the Lawrence family, Rosalind Howells, a retired black community relations worker is made a Labour baroness; Tarsem King, managing director of Sandwell Polybags and Labour chairman of Sandwell council, becomes the first Sikh to become a member of the Lords.

Other Labour peers include David Lipsey, public policy editor of The Economist; Genista McIntosh, artistic director of the National Theatre; and Diana Warwick, a member of the Neill committee on standards in public life.

Nominations by Paddy Ashdown for Liberal Democrat peers include Chris Rennard, the party's director of campaigns; and former MP Alex Carlile QC.

It brings Labour's tally of life peers to 179, the same as the number of Tory life peers in the Lords. There will be 51 Lib-Dem life peers and 122 cross benchers.

The New Working Peers

ROBERT GAVRON

Mr Gavron, 68, who made his fortune from the St Ives printing company, donated an estimated pounds 500,000 to Labour's election fund, paying for the publication of Tony Blair's election `pledge' cards. Educated at Oxford, he trained as a lawyer and became a barrister, but devoted his life to the publishing business, including a stint as chairman of the Guardian media group. He is a member of the Groucho Club and is closely connected with the arts, including the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet.

TARSEM KING

Tarsem King, 62, who is the managing director of a small polythene bag manufacturing business, will be the first Sikh member of the House of Lords. A committed party supporter and the Labour leader of Sandwell metropolitan borough council in the West Midlands, he is the latest of the Blairite Asian businessmen who have been appointed to the Lords by Mr Blair. He is involved with the Asian Business Association, promoting new technology and developing the City Challenge.

GENISTA MCINTOSH

Ms McIntosh, 52, is artistic director of the National Theatre. She was invited by Tony Blair to Downing Street with other leading lights in the arts to hear him answer criticism about Labour's failure to deliver on the arts. He promised them: "We must write the arts into our core script." Ms McIntosh, who has been called one of the 50 most powerful women in Britain, reinforces the growing number of Labour's artistic peers in the Lords, including Lord Bragg and Lord Puttnam.

ROSALIND HOWELLS

Ms Howells, a retired community and equal opportunities worker, joins the small band of black peers in the House of Lords. She was an unofficial adviser to the Lawrence family in their fight for justice after the their son Stephen was murdered in an alleged racist attack in south London. Ms Howells was awarded the OBE for her work in black community relations. She specialised in equal opportunities, and was the chair of the racial equal opportunities council in Lewisham, south London.

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