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Politics: Hereditary peers' rights to be axed

MINISTERIAL sources indicated the Government will go ahead with a constitutional reform bill in the Autumn to end the right of hereditary peers to vote and speak in the Lords.

The Cabinet yesterday agreed the broad outline of the Queen's Speech for the next session writes Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent.

The strong signal that Tony Blair plans to move ahead with stage one of the reform of the House of Lords before reaching a deal over the second stage for a possible elected upper chamber came as moves were made by the Government to get the Tories back "on board".

Lord Cranborne, the Tory leader in the Lords, yesterday disclosed he was called in to renewed talks with the Government leader in the Lords, Lord Richard. It is a move which will be seen as evidence that the Government fears its attempts to reform the Lords could be blocked by Tory hereditary peers.

Lord Richard said: "I am pleased that the Opposition are back on board. It is important that we explore vigorously the possibility of getting a consensus, and these are steps towards doing that."

Lord Cranborne is also demanding that the Government produces its two- stage plan for reform, before proceeding with legislation to remove the voting powers of hereditary peers.

In a separate move, the Government is to give the Scottish Parliament and its executive a say over the distribution of money for good causes from the National Lottery in Scotland.