» Thursday, February 1, 2007

House of Lords Reform

In response to a question, the Leader said that there had been a good discussion in Cabinet earlier. There would be a White Paper, almost certainly published next week, followed by debates and a free vote. Mr Straw drew attention to his party’s manifesto, adding that it was always the case that the free vote on the composition of the House of Lords would extend to members of the Cabinet. Asked if he recognised the Guardian’s report earlier this week on the White Paper, the Leader said that he thought it had been interesting. Answering a further question, he said there would be time for the House of Commons to decide the process separately from the debate on the substance, allowing it to come to a view on how MPs would make their choices and avoiding the difficulties of a previous vote on reform.

Asked about the views of the Speaker on the voting procedure, the Leader said that the questioner was anticipating the contents of the White Paper. Mr Straw said that, at some stage, there would be a vote on the future of the remaining hereditary peers, if and when there was legislation. There was an issue about how they would be removed, in line with the manifesto commitment, which would be covered in the White Paper, with some options. The Leader said that today’s Cabinet discussion had been preceded by very substantial discussion within Government in a Cabinet committee where all Cabinet Ministers were entitled to attend. There had been parallel discussions within a cross-party group, which had met eight times. Pressed on the interpretation of the manifesto, Mr Straw said the commitment was to remove the remaining hereditary peers. The crucial issue of composition – where there would be a chamber which was wholly-appointed, wholly-elected or hybrid – would be the subject of the free vote. Responding to a question, the Leader said that the aim was for debates to take place in both Houses before Easter, although it was for the Lords to determine the timing of its business. Mr Straw declined to comment further on the White Paper.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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