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British government sounding death knell on hereditary rights in House of Lords

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Britain's Labor government sounded the death knell Monday for the centuries-old right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

But it left the timing vague and said virtually nothing about further reform of the unelected upper house.Lord Ivor Richard told an audience - including many earls, viscounts, marquises and barons - that their days performing an ermine-clad role in Britain's peculiar unwritten constitution were num-bered.

He reminded them that some of their grandfathers had simply bought their peerages from Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George in the early 1900s.

"The continuation of hereditary membership of the second chamber is not for negotiation," he said in an uncompromising speech that signaled the end of backstage attempts to negotiate a compromise with the opposition Conservatives.