Blair to make 30 peers to tackle Tory bias

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Indy Politics
Tony Blair will create 30 life peers as the first step to tackling the in-built Tory majority in the House of Lords, to strengthen the Government's forces for a confrontation with Tory peers over devolution for Scotland and Wales.

Labour leaders in the Lords believe they will still be under strength after the list of 30 working Labour peers is produced at the end of the month, and the creation of more working Labour peers will be needed.

Labour's case will be strengthened by John Major's resignation honours list, which will create 12 new Tory peers, who are expected to include the former Cabinet ministers David Hunt, Ian Lang, Roger Freeman, Norman Lamont, and possibly Sir Marcus Fox, the former chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs. William Waldegrave, Michael Portillo, and Malcolm Rifkind, who all lost their seats in the general election, are understood to have turned down peerages.

William Hague, the Conservative Party leader, has nominated three more Tory peers for the working list, and Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, has nominated 12 peers. One senior Liberal Democrat source said: "The Tories have been asking for it because they have created lots more life peers than Labour over the past 18 years. There is nothing unconstitutional about this. In fact, Labour need far more."

Lord Richard, the Labour leader in the House of Lords, has told the Prime Minister that he desperately needs more troops to cope with the weight of business now facing the Lords.

Labour estimates that of the 1,045 lords eligible to attend in 1995-96, they had 111 peers (96 life peers and 15 hereditary), the Tories had 466 (146 life and 320 hereditary), and the Liberal Democrats 56 (32 and 24). On the cross benches there were 112 life peers and 192 hereditary peers. There were 26 bishops, and 108 others.

Lord Richard privately believes it would be unrealistic to create sufficient Labour life peers to match the Tories' total of life peers over the term of the Parliament or to overturn the Tory majority. "I don't think either is possible. What I want is reinforcements," he has told senior colleagues.

The Tory lords will not try to kill the Bills to set up a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly, but they will challenge the Government over the detail.