Blair faces accusations of packing Lords with Labour peers

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair will be accused of packing the House of Lords full of Labour peers today in an attempt to tame the increasingly rebellious second chamber.

The Government is set to appoint 23 new Labour peers to the House of Lords, including Philip Gould, Mr Blair's personal pollster who will be enobled along with a clutch of other Labour loyalists. The number of Labour peers will far outnumber the Tories and Liberal Democrats who will gain only 13 new peers between them.

The move follows government fury about repeated attempts by peers to block or wreck legislation. Mr Blair was recently forced to scrap plans to restrict legal appeals for asylum-seekers after an organised rebellion by peers. He has also shelved plans to reform the House of Lords until after the next election because of opposition from peers.

There is also expected to be a new collection of People's Peers following a long delay. They will be only the second batch to be appointed after the first People's Peers were ridiculed as establishment figures in 2001.

Most of the new peers, which included Lady Howe, wife of Lord Howe, already had titles. Since their appointment several have faced criticism for failing to turn up to vote.

The Tories are also to face criticism because three of their five peerages will be given to party donors. They include Sir Stanley Kalms, the Dixons millionaire, Leonard Steinberg, the founder of the betting shop chain Stanley leisure, and the businessman Irvine Laidlaw a tax exile who gave about £1.5m to the Conservative party, personally and though his conferences company, the Institute for International Research.

Mr Laidlaw is reported to have agreed to renounce his status as a tax exile and return from Monaco to the UK to take up his title. But his nomination delayed the announcement of the new peers while the Lords Appointment Commission examined his tax status.

The new Tory peers will also include Greville Howard, a Eurosceptic who paid Iain Duncan Smith consultancy payments of up to £100,000 and allowed his house to be used for his campaign headquarters in 2001. Mr Howard is a member of one of Britain's grandest aristocratic families. His engineering companies, Wicksteed and Fortress holdings, which supply tubing to industry, paid Mr Duncan Smith £25,000 a year in the four years up to his election as Tory leader.

The Liberal Democrats are expected to attack Michael Howard for allowing tax exiles and the party's financial backers to be enobled

Eight new Lib Dem peers are to be included in the list including Jane Bonham Carter, the girlfriend of one of Charles Kennedy's closest advisers, Lord Razzall.

Ms Bonham Carter was a former communications director for the party and is the granddaughter of Lord Asquith, the last Liberal Prime Minister.

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a respected member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, is also expected to join the Lib Dem benches in the Lords.

But the Labour party, which does not have a majority in the House of Lords, is to gain the lion's share of peers in an attempt to even out the numbers.

Bob Ayling, the former chief executive of British Airways is expected to be given a peerage. Anthony Giddens, the former director of the LSE who came up with the theory of the third way is also expected to be enobled.

Several union officials are also expected to boost Labour numbers in the Lords. They include Margaret Prosser of the TGWU, Richard Rosser of the TSSA and Margaret Wall of Amicus. A clutch of ex-Labour MPs including Gerry Bermingham who stood down from his St Helens seat for Shaun Woodward the Tory defector, will also find a place on the Labour benches.