'Joe Public' invited to apply to join peers

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And yes even you could besitting in the House of Lords. In an unprecedented opportunity members of the public were invited yesterday to nominate themselves to join the great and good and become peers.

And yes even you could besitting in the House of Lords. In an unprecedented opportunity members of the public were invited yesterday to nominate themselves to join the great and good and become peers.

As part of the Government's efforts to make the upper chamber more representative, the newly appointed House of Lords Appointments Committee will recommend up to 10 new peers every year. Over time the hope is that the new "Joe Public" peers will change the face of the chamber, which at present is dominated by white, middle-class politicians. Women and ethnic minorities in particular are being encouraged to apply.

Necessary attributes to enable one to decide legislation were listed as integrity, independence and a "significant record of achievement in their chosen field or way of life".

Potential candidates will be encouraged to download the application form from the commission's website (www.houseoflordsappointmentscommission.gov.uk) and, if they feel that selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership are part of their character profile, applications should be sent in by 17 November.

Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, the commission's chairman, said applications, would be treated with the "rigour any responsible employer would apply. The candidates may range from a midwife to a successful tycoon.

"We are going to judge them on merit and are seeking outstanding nominations from a wide section of society."

However, future legislators will have to be able to rely on their own income because they will only be able to reclaim their expenses - currently, these are £35 a day or £81.50 if this includes an overnight stay.

"Today we have started to mail or e-mail over 5,000 public, private and voluntary organisations to tell them how they can nominate an outstanding individual," Lord Stevenson added.

The Tories dismissed the commission as "phoney" and a "smokescreen". Lord Strathclyde, Conservative leader in the Lords, said: "Tony Blair will still decide how many peers are appointed and how many peers each party can nominate."

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