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.
- 1 Sainsbury's '50p challenge' poster telling staff to encourage customers to spend more placed in shop window instead of staff room
- 2 Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
- 3 HeForShe campaign: Iceland to follow up Emma Watson speech with UN women's rights conference – for men only
- 4 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 5 Teenagers irritable because early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
Isis an hour away from Baghdad - with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >
£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...
£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...
£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...
£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...