Historical notes on this page are provided by members and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association.
Lord Sudeley offered the following:
On the subject of the Departure of the bulk of the Hereditary Peers from the House of Lords in 1999, Lord Sudeley, who has been in correspondence with Lord Cranborne (now Lord Salisbury) has written the following historical note:
For over one hundred years, nothing happened over Lords Reform because no one could see what to put in its place. Everything went wrong when the Government split reform into two stages, saying that Stage I must be the removal of the hereditary peers. Owing to the lack of consensus, where is Stage II? On that, the Government has suffered two train crashes in 2003 and 2007.
Lords Reform has always been low on the political genda, so the Lords was in the position of holding up more important legislation without being given a clear vision of Stage II. I am not alone in thinking that if the hereditaries had fought properly in 1999, the Government would have backed off as it did when seeking to remove the remaining 92 hereditaries.
No record of the formation of the 'Cranborne Deal'to spare temporarily 92 of the hereditary peers has been kept by the Conservative Party archive at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Department of Constitutional Affairs or the Cabinet Office. Lord Cranborne made notes which he has kept for his private use, but we know from the Diary of Alastair Campbell that the Deal was accepted by the peers because it was wrongly presented to them. We were not told, as Campbell informs us, that the Deal was made on the initiative not of Cranborne but of the Government as a ploy to split the opposition.
Alastair Campbell writes: " Tony Blair said he needed to talk to me about the Lords. He said the Lord Chancellor had had a lot of contact with Cranborne. How would it be, he said, if we cut a deal with Cranborne under which one tenth of the hereditaries stay for a transitional period; that three Cross-benchers put down an amendment that made it clear all of them would go apart from this block; that there would be a limited number of appointments to balance it up, and then we and the Liberal Democrats would back it. Tony Blair seemed confident that he could get Cranborne to do the deal without Hague. I said it sounded fine and if do-able, the sooner the better. Even better if we could say at the same time that as a result there would be more space for more bills of more relevance to people's lives that we could bring in. Lords Reform was dominating news coverage and becoming a PR battle, so we really had to go for it now."
Hague repudiated the Deal and after he had fired Cranborne for it, Alastair Campbell tells us that Lord Strathclyde refused to take over the leadership of the Opposition in the Lords unless the Deal was complied with. We know from other sources that further members of the Shadow front bench were entertained at Hatfield to be drawn round to Cranborne's way of thinking. Alastair Campbell concludes:" The more I thought about it, the more shocked I was that Cranborne consorted with us. It would always end in tears for them"
Sudeley 27th February, 2008
Page revised 7.04.2008