Row over Tory tactics in Lords

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Indy Politics
The Prime Minister is threatening to provoke a constitutional dispute with the Tories by creating a lengthy list of Labour working peers to coincide with John Major's resignation honours list.

Tony Blair yesterday accused the Tories of using their inbuilt majority of hereditary peers in the Lords to defeat the Government over its manifesto commitment to hold devolution referendums on different days in Wales and Scotland.

"What could be more wrong that the Conservatives depending on Conservative peers to do their business because they lost the election?" said Mr Blair.

He is preparing to hit back against the Tory peers by announcing a working list of about 20 Labour peers, and will follow it later in the Parliament with legislation to end the voting powers of hereditary peers.

A senior Cabinet source said Labour could not overturn the Tory majority in the Lords, but the aim will be to create enough Labour peers over the next five years to equalise the strength of life peers.

The creation of more Tory life peers in Mr Major's resignation honours will increase the Tory majority in the Lords over Labour. Tory sources said they would demand the right to create more working peers in Mr Blair's list. "It would be break with precedent if we were not allowed a balancing number of peers in a working list," said the source. But there was no sign that Mr Blair would agree to that request. Lord Richard, the Leader of the House of Lords, has told Mr Blair he needs more reinforcements to cope with the forthcoming controversial legislation to give Scotland a Parliament and Wales an Assembly if both are approved in the referendums.