Tories demand panel to vet Blair's 'cronies'

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair will face fresh accusations of "cronyism" today when the Tories introduce legislation attacking him for creating more life peers than previous prime ministers.

Lord Kingsland, the shadow Lord Chancellor, will call for an independent appointments commission to vet the creation of any future peers. Although the Government has promised to set up such a commission as part of the interim arrangements for the House of Lords, the Tories claim ministers are now delaying its introduction.

Lord Strathclyde, the Opposition leader in the Lords, said Mr Blair had created as many peers during three years of rule as Margaret Thatcher did in 11. He said: "The need for independent control of the use of patronage is obvious and agreed across the political spectrum outside the walls of Number 10. The Kingsland Bill is based on Labour promises that are still unfulfilled.

"It could be the basis of a search for all-party agreement in the Lords on the shape of a commission, which could lead to agreed legislation this year."

The commission would have an independent chairman and ensure a balance between the two main parties. It would also have to protect the proportion of independent peers, which was cut by the Government's removal of hereditary peers last November.

Twenty Labour and four Tory peers were created last month, bringing the totals to 202 Labour and 236 Tory peers.