Major brands Labour's plans to reform Lords an 'irrelevance'

Inside Parliament

The Prime Minister who once talked of creating a classless society yesterday dismissed as "an irrelevance" plans to end the right of the likes of the descendants of Charles II's mistresses to legislate in late 20th century Britain.

Rounding on Labour's proposals to reform the House of Lords, starting with an end to the hereditary system, John Major said he did not believe the changes were "relevant to the problems and opportunities" facing the country.

"It seems to me that that particular reform is an irrelevance and it is intended to be a spiteful, thoughtless irrelevance as well," he told MPs at Question Time.

Tony Blair's plans for the Lords, reaffirmed on Wednesday, would begin with the abolition of the right of the 769 hereditary peers, some of whose titles date back to the 13th century, to speak and vote. The more hardworking of them could be made life peers, but ultimately Mr Blair wants an elected second chamber.

Raising the issue, Dame Jill Knight, Tory MP for Edgbaston, said the Lords provided "a very useful and important advisory service for this country at very little cost". Apparently ignoring Monday's crushing defeat over TV sport, she asserted the Lords had no power to frustrate the Commons.

Later, during questions on future business, Bruce Grocott, Labour MP for The Wrekin, said the hereditary right to legislate was "bizarre". He had nothing against the descendants of Charles II's mistresses but was "baffled" as to why they should have the same right to make laws as people who had been elected.

Pointing to the TV sport vote, Tony Newton, Leader of the House, said he was "mildly surprised" at Labour's hostility. Of the hereditary peers who took part, 88 voted against the Government, including 36 Conservatives, seven Labour, nine Liberal Democrats and 36 crossbenchers. Sixty Tories and one crossbencher voted with the Government.

The sharpest exchanges were over the looming Scott report on arms for Iraq, with Mr Blair referring to "a concerted attempt to rubbish the inquiry" and Mr Major sidestepping demands to say whether it had been conducted fairly.

"I asked Sir Richard [Scott] to carry out that report and I have every confidence that he will do and has done so thoroughly," the Prime Minister repeated. The tenses seemed confused as Mr Major and ministers involved in preparing next Thursday's statement have already received copies of the report.

To groans of mock sympathy from Tory backbenchers, Mr Blair complained that Labour would only get the 2,000-page report a few hours before publication while ministers and four Government departments would have had it for eight days.

He said he was not asking the Prime Minister to comment on the findings but on whether the inquiry was fairly conducted or not. "If he isn't going to say that, then the final vestiges of respect will be removed from his government." But Mr Major simply repeated his earlier formula.

Geoffrey Hoon, Labour MP for Ashfield, said Lord Howe, the former Foreign Secretary, and others had "sought to impugn the integrity of Sir Richard" and attack the contents of the report before publication.

There were also grumblings on the Tory side over the Government's refusal to allow backbenches time to digest the report before the statement. Mr Newton said there was no precedent for doing so, and MPs would be able to study it before a full debate on Monday 26 February.

Appealing for a rethink, Richard Shepherd, Conservative MP for Aldridge Brownhills, said MPs elected on an equal franchise should have access to the report on the same basis as the Labour frontbench.

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, say DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin