Letter: Lords cannot defy pledges in manifestos

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Sir: Robert Cranborne is correct ("A Lordly plot to save their place", 4 December). No party could reasonably defy the Salisbury-Addison Convention which places a de facto limit on the ability of the Lords to reject any proposal that has been supported by the British people in a general election.

The Lords, in my experience, are rightly even cautious in rejecting at Second Reading any Bill which - although not necessarily part of a manifesto - has still been passed by the Commons.

However, this convention bolsters rather than diminishes the role of the Lords as a revising chamber. If any future government wants to achieve constitutional reform, its legislation must be subject to the same level of scrutiny as any other important matter.

They will not find the House of Lords in any way irresponsible or lacking in ideas. I for one would want to put some effective limits on the Lords' ability to amend legislation that results in significant extra public expenditure, in the raising of which they play no part.

Incidentally, my desire to be Leader of the Lords for only about half a Parliament was made known to the Prime Minister before I took the job in 1992. During my time all the Government legislation was secured, the Maastricht Bill by the largest vote (and I believe the largest majority) ever achieved by any government in the long history of the House of Lords.

We certainly had difficulties with the Police and Magistrates Courts Bill and the Education Bill. However, on each of these items of legislation, the amendments made by the Lords were never seriously altered or challenged when they subsequently went to the Commons.

Lord WAKEHAM

House of Lords

London SW1

(The author was Leader of the House of Lords from 1992-94)

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