Sacked cabinet minister hits at Blair for dropping Bills

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The Independent Online
A FORMER cabinet minister has broken ranks to protest at the Government's plans to jettison a series of Bills ahead of a looming row over reform of the House of Lords.

David Clark ended his silence for the first time since being dismissed from the Cabinet last month to tell The Independent he believes the Government would be wrong to drop the Bill for a statutory right to roam on private moorland and mountains.

Ministers fear that Tory peers intend to block legislation in protest at the Government's Bill to remove the voting rights of hereditary peers in the Upper House without saying how they would replace them. A Whitehall source said: "There is no guillotine to cut short debate in the Lords We are having to drop Bills."

Other legislation likely to be delayed includes the setting up of a Food Standards Agency and the establishment of a new City watchdog - the Financial Services Authority. The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has also had to jettison one of his law and order measures, and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, has conceded that he will have to delay a transport measure. Local government reforms could also be delayed.

The decision to abandon legislation on the right to roam will be seen as a concession to big landowners and the countryside lobby. Mr Clark, former chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is planning to campaign against attempts to water down election pledges on the issue.

Mr Clark said: "I have always been associated with a right to roam. I still believe passionately in it. I remain unconvinced that there can be a concordat with the landowners about it.

"At the end of the day, there will have to be legislation. The National Farmers Union is suggested that people should not even be allowed to picnic."

He is also furious about plans to delay, for at least 12 months, freedom of information legislation that he was responsible for drafting.