Cabinet push for 60 per cent elected House of Lords

Jack Straw, the Leader of the Commons, wants to phase in the shake-up over many years in a move designed to win round Labour peers, many of whom are refusing to vote themselves out of a job.

Tony Blair's decision to put Mr Straw in charge of Lords reform in this month's Cabinet reshuffle was seen by some MPs as an attempt to kick the issue into the long grass. Mr Straw voted against elected peers three years ago but is now starting to canvass support among Cabinet colleagues, Labour MPs, peers and other parties for his gradualist reform package.

A cabinet committee on modernising Parliament, chaired by Mr Straw, has met for the first time. Although no final decisions were taken, there was broad agreement for the number of elected peers to be increased gradually - perhaps over three or four parliaments, each normally lasting four years.

Electing 60 per cent of peers would disappoint some reformers who want a vast majority of them to be elected. But supporters say the move would be a big improvement on the all-appointed House, now known as "Tony's cronies" after Mr Blair turned Labour into the largest party in the second chamber. One Cabinet source said: "A lot of people think the issue will be buried, but the opposite is true. Jack is getting stuck into Lords reform with relish. There is widespread agreement that the Lords has got to be reformed."

Ministers who back reform are pressing for a Bill to be included in the Queen's Speech in November. As well as paving the way for elected peers, it would abolish the right of the 92 remaining hereditary peers to sit and vote in the Lords.

But some ministers, including Gordon Brown, are believed to want to put off reform until after the next election, fearing that many voters would not want the Government bogged down in a "Westminster village" issue in the election run-up. If the Lords refused to back any reform Bill approved by the Commons, the Government might try to resolve the stand off by using the Parliament Act, which allows MPs to overrule peers.

Amid chaotic scenes, all the options for reforming the Lords were voted down in the Commons three years ago. Although Labour promised another free vote in its election manifesto last year, ministers plan to "give a lead" to MPs next time in the hope that their package will be endorsed.

In an attempt to win over the opposition parties, ministers will pledge that they do not want to neuter the Lords following a spate of defeats for the Government. But they will insist that the all-elected Commons must retain its primacy over the second chamber.

An all-party committee of peers and MPs, chaired by the former Cabinet minister Lord Cunningham, was set up yesterday to review the conventions under which the Lords can delay legislation. Some small-scale changes may be recommended by it.

Aides deny that Mr Blair has suddenly developed an interest in Lords reform because of the "cash for peerages" scandal, saying that plans were under consideration before the controversy erupted.

At present, Labour has 207 peers, the Tories 204, the Liberal Democrats 74, and there are 190 independent crossbenchers, 26 archbishops and bishops and 12 others.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border