Lords come together to oppose elections

MEMBERS of the Lords have put aside party political allegiances to form a united front against proposals to replace them with an elected chamber.

The coalition government wants to have the upper house wholly elected through proportional representation as part of its constitutional reforms.

But the proposals met with resistance from all quarters yesterday.

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Crossbencher Lord Bilimoria, chairman of Cobra Beer, said: "What's being proposed by the coalition government, to rush through wholesale reform of the Lords, is sheer folly.

"This house is the guardian of the nation. Nothing should be done to modify that role of this house."

Tory Baroness O'Cathain warned: "The Government's proposals for an elected house are a recipe for wiping out the strengths of this house."

Labour's Lord Lea of Crondall described deputy prime minister Nick Clegg's committee, which is drafting a reform bill, as "a mad idea of building a Trojan horse".

And he warned that the House of Lords could grow to 1,000 members if it were to reflect votes cast at the general election.

Tory former chief whip Lord Cope of Berkeley said: "If we were to go down this route (of an elected House), the Commons would lose its vital power ultimately to decide legislation."

Liberal Democrat former party leader Lord Steel of Aikwood, speaking in favour of a motion he has tabled calling for interim changes to the Lords, said there was a long process to be followed before full reform was complete.

Leader of the House of Lords Lord Strathclyde, who will have to put the legislation through the upper chamber, told his fellow peers that they could not avoid debate.

"We know that a great debate is beginning and this house, of all places, cannot sit this one out," he said. "This house must be at the heart of the debate."