Lords reformers rebel over Blair appointment plan

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair was accused yesterday of back-pedalling over House of Lords reform after the Government said it wanted new peers to be appointed rather than elected to the upper house.

The Prime Minister faced fresh accusations of wanting to pack the House of Lords with "the great and the good" after the Government recommended that a "revised appointments commission" be created to select new peers.

The Government's "tame" response to Lords reform infuriated members of the committee formed by the Prime Minister to draw up plans for reforming the House of Lords.

Liberal Democrat members of the joint committee on Lords reform last night threatened to resign en masse and accused the Government of breaking its promise to make the Lords more accessible in the Labour manifesto. In a joint statement, they accused the Government of ignoring a majority vote in the Commons against a fully appointed second chamber.

Paul Tyler MP, Lord Goodhart and Lord Oakeshott said they could not continue if Labour failed to meet its manifesto commitment to a more representative and democratic Lords. "The Government has published its reply to the committee's second report," they said. "It contains no such indication.

"We regret the failure to acknowledge the substantial majority in the Commons against a fully appointed second chamber. We note that the Government has failed to recognise that 332 MPs, more than half the total number, voted for a substantial elected element in the new second chamber. We cannot accept the removal of the remaining hereditary peers on its own, but only as part of much wider measures of reform to create a democratic and accountable second chamber."

The Government's official response, given to the committee yesterday, said there was "no consensus for reform" of the Lords. It said that to "maintain the status quo is undesirable". Instead of offering proposals to make the upper house more representative it said "medium-term some changes will be needed".

The Government said the key issue for ensuring the Lords "is in a stable state for the medium term" was the appointments process. It recommended that the commission on appointing new peers be revised in the autumn.

Lord Goodhart, a Liberal Democrat member of the reform committee, said: "This is tinkering with the existing system, which needs to be wholly replaced and not just mended."