Outgoing Leader of the Lords to call for reform

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REFORM of the House of Lords is expected to be demanded today by Lord Cledwyn when he informs colleagues that he will stand down as Leader of the House in the autumn.

The Labour Party fought the general election on a manifesto commitment to create an elected Upper House to act as a revising chamber. Lord Cledwyn, who has been a respected Labour leader in the Lords for the past decade, is expected to put forward a compromise proposal for a commission to review the working of the House.

But he has told friends he favours ending the right of hereditary peers to vote and take part in debates. One senior Labour peer said: 'It is all very well for the Tories to say they still lose votes in the Lords but we all know about the call in the dead of night to bring in their backwoodsmen.

'There is no justification for the hereditary peers being given the right by the accident of birth to come to the second legislative chamber of this country. We get fed up with these hereditary peers who come in the chamber, never say anything, lunch and dine here, bring in their pals, park their cars here, and then vote. The whole thing is absurd. It makes us the laughing stock.'

There are 336 Conservative hereditary peers, 158 hereditary peers on the cross benches, and 28 Liberal Democrat hereditary peers. But Labour has 13 hereditary peers, including Lord Longford. The life peers are more evenly balanced, with 129 Tories, 101 Labour, 105 crossbenchers, and 30 Liberal Democrats.

The Government would resist any attempt to remove the voting rights of hereditary peers. Lady Thatcher, a life peer, aired the options for reform of the Lords during her period as Prime Minister, but rejected all the proposals.

Most Tories believe the Upper House is anachronistic but works. Ministers also point out that they suffered a defeat as recently as last Monday. Opposition peers said that was a classic example of a government defeat in the Lords - it was on a Monday, when the backwoodsmen were on their estates, and it was led by a respected crossbencher.

Lord Cledwyn, the former Labour MP for Anglesey, was given a life peerage after Labour's 1979 general election defeat. He will step down on 5 November.

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