Prime Minister Tony Blair, hoping to complete a reform project begun a decade ago, on Wednesday urged support for a half-elected, half-appointed upper house of parliament, the House of Lords.
The government proposed a 540-seat house which would finally remove the remaining 92 hereditary peers members who inherit their right to be in the chamber.
Church of England bishops would stay among the appointees, House of Commons Leader Jack Straw told lawmakers. Appointments would be made by a Statutory Appointments Commission which would be independent of the government, and would report to Parliament.
Straw also said that none of the current appointed members of the house would be removed.
"It's important that we try to resolve this issue once and for all," Blair told the House of Commons shortly before the proposals were announced.
"I will back these proposals," said Blair, who had previously favored an entirely appointed house.
The House of Lords has the power to amend legislation, subject to the consent of the Commons, or delay the passage of legislation for a limited period.
Reforming the Lords is difficult - if it is entirely elected it presents a rival to the Commons; if appointed it is open to charges of cronyism by the government of the day.
The Lords is currently at the center of a police investigation into whether appointments were traded for financial support for the two major parties. Police have questioned Blair twice, and arrested, and released, two of his close associates in the probe, which continues.
The Labour government came to power in 1997 promising Lords reform. In 1999, it ejected all but 92 of 600 hereditary peers but has been unable to devise a permanent formula for selecting members which had wide support.
In 2003, the House of Commons was presented with five options, ranging from all appointed to all elected, but each one was voted down.
"Time and time again, the fundamental reform of the House of Lords has failed because, for some, the best has become the enemy of the good," Straw said. "Deadlock this time round would be easy to achieve. The prize of progress means moving forward gradually and by consensus."
Theresa May, speaking for the opposition Conservatives, gave Straw no encouragement, reports AP.
"We want reform that strengthens Parliament. This proposal does not strengthen Parliament. It puts the political parties even more in control of the upper house," May said.
"You say you are looking for consensus. You have not achieved that. Not for the first time there is not even consensus in the Cabinet."
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