Too few words for Tory Lords

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THE GOVERNMENT was accused yesterday of "political manipulation" of the House of Lords in a storm over hereditary peers who are to be abolished in the planned shake-up.

Lord Strathclyde, leader of the Opposition peers, protested at reports that peers with inherited titles who hope to escape the reforms were to be allowed just 75 words to explain why they should remain in the second chamber.

The restriction has been agreed as part of a code of conduct for elections this autumn to choose which 92 hereditary peers should stay in the Lords for the time being. The 75-word rule is intended to prevent peers bombarding each other with lengthy and expensive electoral addresses.

But the move has provoked many protests, with some peers complaining that nothing sensible could be said in so few words, while others said it simply added to the farcical character of the elections. Lord Mancroft, a Tory hereditary peer, said: "The whole thing is ludicrous. What do I include - my inside leg measurement?"

Lord Strathclyde called on the Government to postpone the elections, currently expected in late October or early November, until December, when the Royal Commission on the Lords is due to present its conclusions.

"Wouldn't it be much better if the Government waited for that report of the Royal Commission before going on with expelling about half the members of the House of Lords, those who are most independent?" Lord Strathclyde said.

Thomas Sutcliffe, Review front; Donald Macintyre, Review, page 3