Archer's fall: MPs want convicted peers expelled from the Lords

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Indy Politics

MPs of all parties joined the clamour on Friday night for Jeffrey Archer to be stripped of his peerage. The pressure grew after the Government signalled its support for peers with criminal records to be automatically expelled from the Lords.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "I think it is one of those subjects which, as we go forward on House of Lords reform, may be a subject that people wish to address."

The issue is now firmly on the agenda when ministers start considering the next stage of Lords reform.

MPs convicted of serious crimes lose their Commons seats, but an Act of Parliament is required to remove a disgraced peer from the Lords.

A Commons motion demanding the same rules for both Houses was backed by Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs yesterday. The former Tory minister Sir Teddy Taylor said: "If the House of Lords is going to retain its respectability, I think people found guilty of crimes should be quietly excluded from it. If they do not have rules of conduct, the respect for the House of Lords will be undermined."

The Conservative right-winger Gerald Howarth said: "There is a case to be considered as to whether MPs in either House should be treated equally. But if the new Labour establishment want to use Archer simply to wreak vengeance on the Conservative Party, that would be ignoble."

The Commons motion, tabled by the Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, says: "We believe the rules governing disqualification of membership of Parliament, consequent upon criminal conviction and imprisonment, should be applied in the House of Lords as applies to those serving as honourable members of this House [MPs]."

The motion, signed by four Labour and two Liberal Democrat MPs, calls for the Government to "legislate accordingly at the earliest opportunity".

Mr Mackinlay said he was not concerned about how Archer was addressed, but believed it was a constitutional outrage that he was entitled to vote in Parliament.

"They can call him a bar of soap, as far as I'm concerned, but he should not be able to return to Parliament," Mr Mackinlay said. "If a member of the Commons had been sent to prison for a similar crime he would have to forfeit his seat.

Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, said: "The situation ought to be reviewed. MPs are expelled from the Commons if they are convicted of certain crimes and go to prison. There is, therefore, a case to remove peerages from those who commit these offences. It certainly needs reviewing very quickly, because the present situation makes a farce of everything."

Harold Brooks-Baker, publisher of Burke's Peerage, said: "It's high time the Commons worked on a Bill to deal with peers who have committed very serious crime. Otherwise, it makes a nonsense of the peerage."

The last time any peers were stripped of titles was in 1917 when four fought on the German side in the First World War.

The Government is unlikely to find time in a crowded legislative timetable to steer through a special Bill revoking Archer's peerage. It will concentrate, instead, on adding a new measure barring convicted peers as part of its second stage of Lords reform. The Queen's Speech committed the Government to begin considering further reform during this parliamentary session.